Zhangjiajie is an ideal place to explore on foot as it is renowned for its stunning mountain views. No matter which scenic area you visit, some hiking is required.
If you want to enjoy some beautiful scenery and to avoid the hordes of Chinese tourists, the following guide can help you.
The first three hikes are in Zhangjiajie National Forest Park (within Wulingyuan Scenic Area) and the other two hikes are on Tianmen Mountain and in Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon.
1. Hiking Around Yuanjiajie and Tianzi Mountain
- Difficulty rating: easy or medium to hard depending on your choice
Zhangjiajie National Forest Park is huge and offers a lot of hiking options. A medium level of fitness is required for walking around the national forest park.
The most popular hike is undoubtedly the one covering the two must-see attractions: Yuanjiajie and Tianzi Mountain.
There are three hiking levels to choose from when visiting these two attractions, depending on whether or not you use the cable car/elevator to ascend and descend the mountains. Choose the one that fits your ability and schedule.
1) Easy regular hike: Use the elevator and cable car to ascend and descend the mountains, and hike around Yuanjiajie and Tianzi Mountain (4–5 hours).
As this is a regular hiking route, it is often crowded with Chinese tourists. The best way to beat the crowds is to arrive very early (the park opens at 7 am) and try to be the first to reach the top at Yuanjiajie.
Ride the Bailong Elevator up the mountain and hike around Yuanjiajie to visit the highlights, such as the Lost Souls Platform, Avatar Hallelujah Mountain, and the First Bridge Under Heaven.
Afterward, take a free shuttle bus to Tianzi Mountain. Hike around it to see 'The Emperor’s Pens', 'Nod-to-the-General Platform', and other highlights. Then, take a cable car ride down the mountain.
2) Medium level hike: Take a cable car ride or the elevator to ascend the mountains, then hike back down them (4–5 hours).
If you want to do some more hiking, you can choose to take the Bailong Elevator up to Yuanjiajie, then hike down Tianzi Mountain, and eventually walk along the Ten-Mile Natural Gallery.
If the elevator is crowded, you can go in the reverse direction.
An extra 2 hours of hiking requires more energy but you will be rewarded with quietness and amazing photo opportunities.
3) Challenging hike: Hike up and down the mountains (6–7 hours).
If the above hike is still easy for you, challenge yourself to hike up and down the mountains. The hike is steep but, on the way, you will be rewarded with the wonderful silence, amazing views, and a feel of nature that you won’t experience anywhere else in the park.
2. Hiking Alongside Golden Whip Stream
- Difficulty rating: easy to medium
Golden Whip Stream is in the valley. Surrounded by spiky rocks, this place is well-known for its crystal clear water and fresh air.
The hike alongside it is very easy and flat. It is 7.5 kilometers (5 miles) long and takes about 2–3 hours. It allows you to enjoy the national park’s stunning scenery from below.
With the Option to Hike to Huangshi Village: The trail takes you to Oxygen Square where you will find a sign marking the entrance to the trail up to Huangshi Village, also known as Yellowstone Village (it is not a village but a scenic plateau opposite Yuanjiajie).
The hike includes about 1½ hours of steep staircases and then 2–3 hours of walking around the edges of the plateau. You will enjoy the amazing ‘Avatar’ mountains without any crowds, enjoying the silence and atmosphere of the park.
After completing the tour of Huangshi Village, you can take a cable car ride or walk (1 hour) back down to the Zhangjiajie entrance.
3. Hiking Around Yangjiajie
- Difficulty rating: hard
Yangjiajie is rarely visited by tourists as it requires a lot of challenging climbing. You may find that you have the whole area to yourself in some places.
You can enjoy a 1-day hiking tour that combines Yuanjiajie and Yangjiajie. Visit Yuanjiajie in the morning and then take a shuttle bus to Yangjiajie. Alternatively, you can take a cable car ride straight up to Yangjiajie.
The entire walk around Yangjiajie takes about 2 hours, including many steps and a vertical iron ladder. You will enjoy views of the Natural Great Wall, Wulong Village, Tianbo Mansion, and One Step to Heaven. At the end, take a cable car ride down the mountain.
4. Hiking on Tianmen Mountain
- Difficulty rating: easy
Tianmen Mountain offers different mountain views from Zhangjiajie National Forest Park as well as many adventurous activities. You can spend half a day or a whole day hiking on the mountain.
You are unable to hike up and down the mountain but can take a cable car ride or travel in a shuttle bus instead.
The trail at the top forms a loop and most of the trail is at the edge of the cliff. There are two lines: West Line and East Line.
If your time is limited, you can use West Line, which takes about 4 hours in total. Along the way, you'll pass landmarks, such as the glass walkway and Tianmen Cave (Heaven’s Gate Cave).
If you complete the loop, two more hours are required.
5. Hiking in Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon
- Difficulty rating: easy
If you have an extra day in Zhangjiajie, another recommended place to visit is Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon, which is more popular because of its glass bridge.
Many travelers go there just for some pictures with the world's longest glass bridge but it is worth spending some time in the valley and doing some hiking.
After the glass bridge, you can take a scenic walk down into the valley, lasting for 2–3 hours. You will start by walking down thousands of stairs built into a thin crevasse in the canyon wall, then travel alongside the river at the bottom. Finally, you will take a boat ride to the exit.
Get your camera ready for the overhanging cliffs, waterfalls, the lush green forest, and the running stream.
Enjoy a Zhangjiajie Hiking Tour with Us
Due to the lack of English signs and huge crowds, it is a challenge to hike there on your own. If you don't have a local guide, you will waste time learning the bus system, finding your way around, and being hampered by Chinese tourist groups.
The best way to travel is to book a private tour with a local guide and a private transfer. See our Zhangjiajie tours for inspiration.