The most popular part of Zhangjiajie. Unofficially called Avatar Mountains because the landscapes here were the inspiration behind Hallelujah Mountains in James Cameron’s Avatar movie. It’s a good place to start exploring the national park but be prepared for a lot of tourists. The easiest way to get there is taking the Bailong Elevator up and then a short bus. Bailong Elevator is actually the highest elevator in the world but going up was super fast, so not much time to enjoy the views. Hiking to Yuanjiajie is also possible and should take about two hours.
Once up there, you can walk on the path with amazing views and doing a loop. You will pass the famous Hallelujah Mountain at some point (named after the Avatar movie of course) and walk across the Natural Bridge (First Bridge under Heaven).Tip: Once you have finished the main tourist path, ask around the bus area to be taken to the Natural Bridge Observing Point. Buses stop there but not many people seem to know about it. You will have a great view of the bridge from the distance and no crowds to fight.
Huangshi is located near the west gate to Zhangjiajie National Park. You can just enter the gate and start hiking up or you can take a bus to the cable car station. It’s not necessary to use the cable car though. It’s a lot of stairs leading through a forest but manageable. It took less than two hours to walk up in a relaxed tempo and we didn’t see almost anyone else along the way.Huangshi is much less crowded than Yuanjiajie but just as beautiful! You can also walk on top of the mountains in a loop, enjoying the stunning views. The main thing to see up here is the iconic Five Fingers Peak (and lots of other peaks).
Tianzi Mountain has more stunning views but the top can get very busy. However, once you take the bus towards Yuanjiajie (takes about 1 hour if you want to do these two areas in one day), you can get off at a few scenic spots only about 5-10 min drive away. Most people don’t bother doing that but these were the best viewpoints and almost empty! You can ask or look for the “Nod-to-the-General Platform”.
Down in the valley, you can take a 7.5 km stroll along the Golden Whip Stream. It’s an easy walk connecting the west and east parts of the park. No spectacular views this time (though you can look up at all the mountains above you), just a lot of nature. There are many monkeys on this path. There can be a lot of tourists on both ends of the path but most of them don’t bother walking the entire route.
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