Huashan National Park
By trainThanks to China's modern train network, reaching Huashan can be a fairly quick trip and is served by two different train stations in the town of Huayin. The city you depart from may also have two separate stations, including the nearby city of Xi'an, where most visitors arrive from.
- Huashan North Railway Station (华山火车北站 Huashan Huoche Bei Zhan), as the name implies, is in the north of the city and serves high-speed trains (G and D trains). Trains from Xi'an depart from Xi'an North Railway Station, take around 33-45 minutes and cost between ￥34.5 and ￥54.5, depending on the type of train.
- is located in the south of the city and serves the slower 'conventional' trains (K and no-letter trains). They depart from Xi'an Railway Station, taking around 1.5 to 2 hours. Tickets are about half the price of high speed trains, ranging from ￥17.5 to ￥19.5, so are great if you have a very tight budget.
For further information regarding trains in China, see the China Get Around section.
Once you arrive at the train station you have the choice of taking a minibus or a taxi to the base of Huashan. During the off-peak season you may find no minibuses are operating and will have to take a taxi.
By busFrom Xi'an: buses (coaches or minibuses) leave from the EAST side of the train station's southern parking lot. Buses leave regularly during daylight hours. These are mixed in with buses to the Terracotta Warriors, and other destinations. Ride time is about two hours and costs ¥33 for one way or ¥55 for a return. Beware scam buses that try to charge 10 times as much. You'll be dropped off in the village near Mt. Hua. From there take a taxi (see the get around section).
Be aware these are independent private companies, or just two guys with a bus. They don't operate on a schedule, but will leave when full of passengers. So For the quickest departure, find a bus already mostly full of people, since if you choose an empty bus you could be sitting in the parking lot a while.
Fees and permits
# Climb the North Peakmain route. Plan for more than four hours to reach the North Peak. There will be plenty of shops by the side of the path selling food and drinks for you to replenish your energy. Eating hot noodles in the cold will be a very pleasant experience.
# Take the cable car (¥80 one way, ¥150 for a return) to the North Peak. The line to enter the cable car often last over two hours - so try to arrive early. Line-cutting is surprisingly rare, and most of the line is blocked from the sun and with water misting, so sans boredom, it's still fairly comfortable even in summer. The cable car is only available from the East Gate.
# Climb the North Peak--alternate route below the cable car. Called "Solider's Way" - it's the more difficult, but faster of the two hiking routes. This takes an estimated 2 hours, and is nothing but steps. It also contains one section with optional ~80 degree steps, for those who have seen the famous photos online. The steepest steps on the mountain (approaching 90 degrees) are also here, though now chained off in favor of a far more forgiving route.
These three routes meet up again just below the North Peak summit. One can of course, take any of the 3 routes up, and then either of the other two remaining down.
From this meeting area (just below the North Peak summit), there is initially only one route to the other peaks. This passes through the area known as the "Heavenly Steps" (上天梯，literally "ascend heaven ladder", "Sun and Moon Cliff" and "Black Dragon Mountain," the latter called that because it looks like a dragon's wavy back. The route is no more than a meter wide at places. This should take about 2 hours.
At the top of this section is the "Gold Lock Pass." Here the route branches. Paths lead towards the East, South, Center and West Peaks, as well as other points of interest. As most of the elevation gain is done, the final ascent to each of the peaks is not too severe. You likely only have time to climb one (probably the South, the highest) or walk a circuit. In this are there are temples, lodges and other sites. This includes the infamous Changkong Boardwalk.
Green Dragon RidgeNarrow rock ridge with vertical cliffs on both sides (not for the faint of heart).
South PeakThe tallest of the 5 peaks and during the day the most popular to reach that is not near a cable car station.
North PeakFor most visitors this is the first peak as it is the closest to the north cable car station. It is only a 5-minute walk up. It has a height of around 1615m.
Central PeakNot very spectacular peak but in the middle of all four directions and you can see the link between all peaks. You can also cut across to the other peaks through here if the road is open.
East PeakJust next to the peak is the sunrise viewing platforms. If you stay on the mountain or climb over night you will want to see it here.
West PeakNear the west cable car station and only 10 minutes up to the peak. Popular for people arriving here or making a circle from the north. Sunset platform is popular near the evening.
- Watch the sun rise from East Peak (Dong Feng) by attempting a night hike. It won't be as crowded as during the daytime, but you will see other hikers ascending as well. Be sure to bring along a flashlight, spare batteries and warm clothing. Such equipment can be rented from a store along the road leading to the West Gate entrance. Check the weather forecast before climbing because a rainy night will result in dense fog in the early morning which conceals the sunrise.
- At East Peak, prepare yourself mentally as you ascend the famous yun ding, which are narrow steps half the length of your feet, carved into the stone, and stacked up at an angle so sharp that you are virtually climbing a stone ladder. Experience the thrill of clinging onto the iron chains by the side of the path with your arms, while slowly groping for a foothold on the slippery steps.
- Next morning, walk from East Peak to the other peaks, where the scenery changes from rock outcrops to lush foliage (in spring). The mist will gradually fade away to reveal a breathtaking expanse of valleys if you look over the edge of the cliffs. Indulge in a sense of satisfaction as you survey the arduously long journey you had completed during the night.
- Rent a safety harness for ¥30 and walk out on the 长空栈道 （Changkong zhandao, "Vast Sky Plank Walk"). Climb a ladder that's nothing more steel rods driven into a crack in the rock, and walk on planks a foot wide along the edge of a cliff dropping thousands of feet, and in places put you trust in footholds carved into the rock.
- The Vast Sky Plank Walk isn't the only vertiginous challenge, Sparrowhawk Flips Over is a more technical descent and climb, with a out and back descent to a pathway using half-hand and foot holds carved into a sheer rock face. From here you can walk to the Chess Pavilion, and admire the view. A safety harness can be rented at the start of the descent for ¥30; the whole descent/walk/climb will take an hour.
One-day route: Climb in the North, descend in the West
A classical route (called 北上西下, Bei Shang Xi Xia) for climbing Mt. Hua in one day takes you across the North, East, South, and West peaks, descending the mountain on the West peak cable car. Depending on your climbing speed, this will take you somewhere between 7 and 10 hours; there are some very steep ascents, so take that into account. Start early but don’t worry as the cable car runs until well after 6PM, and you have some opportunity to take shortcuts along the way. If you do end up running out of time, there is accommodation located near the major peaks.
You start at Yuquanyuan (玉泉院) at the top of Yuquan Road (玉泉路), in front of the temple. Enter the temple and follow the climbing signs to find the ticket office behind the temple. Your ascent now starts on a comfortable cobbled road, growing gradually steeper, until it’s mostly stairs. You reach the junction to the North peak after about 3–4 hours. It’s only a few minutes to the peak, so go and see it, then proceed onwards and follow the signs towards the other peaks. After crossing the pass, which might take another hour, you now have a choice of going straight to the West peak (which might shave some two hours off your trip) or taking the circuit over the East and South peaks, which is of course recommended. Simply take your pick and follow the excellent signage.
Having reached the West peak, you can then follow the signs to the cable car (¥140 summer, ¥120 winter) and descend (there is no footpath down from the West peak), then take the coach (¥40) back to Yuquan Road Crossing (玉泉路口 yuquan lukou) or wherever else you may be headed. Alternatively, if you’re still not satisfied, you can make the full circuit back to the pass and descend from the North peak on foot or via cable car and then the coach from there (¥20) to the visitor center.
A gold or bronze medal that you can inscribe with your name to commemorate your ascent of the mountain.
Yuquan Road (玉泉路 Yuquan Lu) at the foot of the mountain has a number of small restaurants that sell cheap combos such as “four dishes one soup” (四菜一汤 si cai yi tang) for ¥40 (however, these are small and simple dishes and feed 2–3 people at most). It also has some small shops to stock up on supplies such as bottled water, cup noodles, and chocolate.
For a more authentic experience, sleep by the edge of the cliff at East Peak. The ground slopes upwards towards the edge, thus it is relatively safe to sleep near the edge even though there are no railings. Alternatively, huddle up closer to the metal posts away from the edge of the cliff if you would like a safer place to sleep. Prepare enough warm clothes as the temperature drops close to zero at East Peak, with the wind chill.
There are also many accommodation options in the village at the foot of the mountain.
Huashan Baolianshe Youth Hostelphone: +86 913-4368010address: 华山景区荣军医院南五十米或华山小学东30米 Huashan scenic area, Jinbo RoadThis youth hostel is located close to Yuquanyuan (玉泉院), the start of the traditional Huashan climbing path. This makes it a very good base for one-day Huashan tours: You practically walk out the door in the morning and start going uphill. It is also a heart-warming place with a friendly and helpful owner and a cozy common room where the (mostly Chinese) guests share climbing experiences and chat. Breakfast (¥10) and dinner (¥25) are available, simple but tasty and filling; let the owner know ahead of time. However, in winter, your heart is the only thing that will be warmed here, as the only heated room is the common room – with a small coal stove. Dorm rooms and bathrooms are close to outside temperature, but beds are equipped with electric heating blankets. At least the common room has plenty of boiled water available. Bathrooms are very simple and only moderately clean, but rooms are kept clean enough. Expect little English being spoken.
Climbing safetyNo special equipment is needed to climb Mt. Hua. Many of the paths have been renewed, and most of them are fairly wide and comfortable stairs with easier alternative routes around the steepest staired paths. The most notorious paths (Vast Sky Plank Walk/Sparrowhawk Flips Over) are completely optional. This means the whole mountain is incredibly accessible to everyone. Such is the degree of accessibility that local tourists will hike the mountain in heels or work shoes. Some paths can be steep and narrow. Many get slippery when wet. Take special care in wet weather or when the mountain is crowded (especially on national holidays).
In snowy conditions, an army of workers is employed to brush the snow from the paths, so the mountain can be climbed year-round. Simply wear comfortable shoes with good grip as well as warm clothes, tread carefully, use your common sense and good judgment.
Some Chinese tourists prefer to start the climb at night in order to see the sunrise from the peak. This is not a good idea as the path has branches and you can get lost and end up at a cliff. A better idea is to budget 2 days and stay the night in one of the many hotels on the mountain. If you must climb at night, make sure to bring a flashlight.
You will want to bring a pair of gloves because many of the paths require holding onto a railing. Cheap gloves are also for sale at the foot of the mountain or along the paths. There are many toilets and shops on the mountain, as well as excellent signs.