Eighth stop on the journey, Zhangjiajie national park. This place was absolutely amazing and might be the single most interesting places I’ve ever seen with my own eyes! I’ve been trying to stick to trains and buses in China but there wasn’t an easy way to get here from Chengdu without jumping on a plane. Not upset about it at all, as the view flying into this area was incredible.
I spent two days in the park and could’ve used another to see everything. There are five sections of the park and I was able to see four of those sections. The first day was overcast and rained for about an hour or two. Luckily, the second day was all blue skies and sunshine.
I woke up early the first day and got into the park right when it opened, before the massive crowd arrived. For the first two hours, I saw only a handful of people, mostly park workers. I started with a hike up the Ten Miles Nature Gallery, which should be called Ten Miles of Stairs! As I made my way to the first viewpoint, I ran into a fairly large monkey chilling on the stairs. As I reached to take a picture, he took off down the stairs, towards a park worker carrying food. She dropped her bag and the monkey immediately grabbed a few carrots and darted into the trees! It was pretty damn funny! Throughout my two days, I saw lots of monkeys, snakes, colorful lizards, large spiders and all sorts of colorful bugs and butterflies.
After that, I hiked up Tianzi Mountain, AKA Emperor Mountain. Even though it rained while I was here, the views were breathtaking. From top of Tianzi Mountain, the view of warriors riding horses was unbelievable. Hundreds of narrow stone pillars shooting up from the valley below. While the clouds weren’t quite low enough to make the top of the pillar appear to be floating, I understand how these mountains inspired the floating mountains in Avatar.
Later, I took the bus to Hallelujah Mountain and Bridge to Heaven, the most popular area of the park. The crowds here were insane! I’ve never seen so many people at a national park in all my travels. However, I totally understand why, this park of the park had the best views by far. I had walked over the Bridge to Heaven without realizing it, as one wouldn’t until you cross the bridge and turn the corner and look back. Then you see the natural bridge that connect two pillars. Shortly after that, you get to Hallelujah Mountain, the actual pillar that inspired Avatar. Not sure why this single one was the inspiration, but they’ve even renamed the viewpoint “Avatar Viewpoint” lol. While amazing, I thought it looked very similar to all the other pillars. A bit bigger but not sure I would’ve picked it out from the others!
It was at this point that I ran into a few people from the hostel that I had a beer with the night before. They got to the park a bit later in the day and told me of the massive queue they had to wait in to get into the park. Glad I got up early! I spent the rest of the day with them. We spent the rest of the day exploring the Golden Whip & Yellow Stone parts of the park, which were much less crowded but nearly as scenic! As it got dark and the park was closing, we decided to pay the 65 Yuan and take the cable car down the mountain. Glad we did! I’ve taken a ton of cable car rides in my travels, but this takes the cake! After leaving the park we grabbed some awesome street food and beers and headed back to the hostel.
With the others leaving on my second day, I spent the entire day in a newly found part of the park, which was a much steeper hike! The hike didn’t have as many viewpoints as other parts of the park, but I also ran into less than twenty people, so I won’t complain! It was pretty amazing starting in a valley and trekking up to the top. I never saw any rock climbers, so guessing it’s not permitted in the park, but this place would be a rock climbers dream!
Overall, this has been my favorite stop in China. Even though it’s difficult to get to, the park is an absolute must if you visit China!