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Mount Huashan, or simply Mount Hua as it is commonly known… outside of China, is one of the most beautiful hikes in the whole World. It’s also proclaimed to be one of the most dangerous hikes as well. Why dangerous you might wonder? Well, for once it is really high – its tallest peak reaches 2,160 meters (or 7,087 feet). In addition, there are some points which you can only pass by clinging to a rope while moving through a very narrow, wooden ledge. Which could all be fine except for the fact that there’s nothing behind you, but a dizzying and terrifying cliff drop (more on this later).
While I love these exciting, adrenaline-fueled hikes, I did not make it to those ‘dangerous points’ – simply because… I ran out of time. I knew about Mount Hua, its spiritual significance and its breathtaking sights, long before I came to China. I even read about one traveler’s interesting experience there, in one of the many books on this country. Unfortunately, I still failed to prep myself with all the details needed to complete this hike.
So at first, I didn’t even want to share these photos with you, because of the reason stated above. However, I realized that not every post has to be ‘complete and successful’ in order to be interesting, and decided to make one about my mistakes… err lessons! So that when you go to this beautiful place – you won’t repeat my errors, and will be more equipped to make this trip a successful one. How does that sound?
How to Get to Mount Hua:
The easiest way to get to Mount Hua is to take a high-speed ‘bullet’ train from Xi’an. The train departs from Xi’an North Railway Station and arrives to Huashan North Station in 30-40 minutes. From there you can catch one of the free shuttles that will take you right to the entrance of Mt. Hua’s ticket office.
At the end of the day you should arrive to Dongshanmen Parking Lot, from where you can catch one of the inexpensive local taxis to take you back to the Huashan North Station.
It’s also possible to take a ‘snail-train’ (slow regional train) from Xian Railway Station to Huashan Station (please note: these two are completely different stations from the above), but the journey will last between 1,5-2 hours, and then you will have to catch a local bus – number 608.
Thirdly, you can also take a local bus or a tourist bus – however, this option will take the longest time (2-4 hours). I took one, and I am here to share why you shouldn’t use one.
Buying Tickets to Mount Hua:
You will need several tickets to access Mount Hua (you can get them at the main ticket office), and they are:
- official entrance ticket: 180 Yuan (from March-November); 100 Yuan (December-February). The ticket is valid for two consecutive days.
- bus shuttle ticket (there are several options, depending on where you start your hike from).
- cable car tickets – in case you decide not to hike all the way up/down (there are also several options – West Peak cable car (280 Yuan round-trip; 140 Yuan one-way (March-November); or 240/120 Yuan (December-February), or North Peak cable car – 150 Yuan/80 Yuan (March-November) or 80/45 Yuan (December-February).
Cable car hours: March-November: 7:00am-7:00pm; December-February: 9:00am-5:00pm.
Hiking Mount Hua:
There are five main peaks at the Mt. Hua – the South Peak (Landing Wild Geese Peak), the West Peak (Lotus Flower Peak), the Middle Peak (Jade Maiden Peak), and the North Peak (Cloud Terrace Peak). It’s been said that it takes around 6-7 hours to ascend the mountain, and hike around the peaks. Of course, you can do the “easy-way” and just take one of the cable cars to get up and/or down.
As to the hike itself – there are maps and signs everywhere, as well as… thousands of local tourists, marching in groups, in families, in twos, and solos – all competing for the best spots. It can get pretty crowded, though none of that should deter you from going on this hike. The views around the mountains are simply… out of this World.
My Personal Experience (and Observations) – Hiking Mt. Hua:
I wanted to book an organized tour to take me to Mt. Hua (my biggest problem when traveling is that I don’t drive). But all the tours that I found online, before leaving to China, cost way too much (something between $200-$300 per person). So I decided to wait until I get to Xi’an and then maybe either find a local tour, or take the public transportation.
Once I arrived to China, I quickly realized that if you do not speak any Chinese, getting around the country is a… nightmare. Even taking a high-speed train from two of China’s biggest cities can be a problem. So when I finally got to Xi’an, I asked one of the local guides if they offered any tours to Mt Hua. Sure, they did, the guide told me, and named a very reasonable price (around $100 – including a roundtrip bus transportation from Xi’an, a roundtrip shuttle at the site, roundtrip cable-car tickets to the West Peak, and the actual entrance ticket to the site).
On the morning of the tour, the bus that came to pick me up, arrived almost 40 minutes late. I heard that you should get to Mt. Hua very early, in order to have time to hike the entire route. About 30 minutes later, I was told that now we have to… switch buses, because this one was not going to Mt. Hua after all. Then shortly we arrived to a very busy station, packed with hundreds of young Chinese adults. I was told to wait in line for my new bus.
After about 30 minutes, we were loaded onto a new bus, and after another 30 minutes of taking “attendance” and finishing his breakfast, the bus driver finally started to drive. It was after 9am at this point. The sun was very high and shining bright.
We arrived to Mt. Hua at almost 11:30am, at which point our Chinese tour guide (who didn’t speak a word in English), told us to wait while he will stand in line to buy our entrance tickets. At around 12pm, we boarded a shuttle bus to take us to the entrance of the West Peak cable car. 40 minutes later we arrived there. Another 30 minutes passed by while waiting in line to take one of the ‘rollercoaster train rides’ to take us to the cable car’s entrance. When we finally got to the entrance – we discovered another miles-long line, waiting to hop in the cable car.
45 or so minutes later I finally boarded the cable car. The West Peak route is the longest one (hence why it’s more expensive) as well as the highest one. It took 30 minutes of a bone-chilling ride to get us to the start of the hike. When we finally made it to the actual trail – I looked at my watch. It was 2:30pm – time to eat my packed lunch.
On top of that, we were told to be back by 5:45pm to catch our bus back to Xi’an. When I calculated the time needed to arrive at the parking lot, I realized that I had to catch the cable car no later than 4 o’clock. That left me with… 1,5 hours to have lunch and hike the mountain… I think I almost cried.
In the end, I did manage to climb two of Mt. Hua’s peaks – the West Peak and the North Peak. Or maybe it was the South Peak. Hmm. To be completely honest, I was in such a rush that I didn’t stop to enjoy the scenery much, and much less to ponder which exact peak I was climbing up. In addition, the route was overflowing with tourists – from all ages possible, with everyone climbing, shoving and running in all the directions.
P.S. Google Mount Hua and notice the first thing that comes up in all search results. You’ll see many blogs screaming to get attention (khmm) the following statement: “Mount Huashan – the most dangerous hiking trail“. Or is it? Now think about it – can the word “most dangerous hiking trail” also be associated with thousands of people (from toddlers to seniors) parading through its ground? Yeah. Right.
Since this was the epitome of probably the worst “organized” tour possible – I hope it will inspire you to skip one during your own trip, and just hope on that train and come here on your own. Yes, it’s tough to navigate Chinese public train/bus/etc stations without knowing the language – yet it’s still better than to… miss out on the whole experience.
All Photo Copyrights © Daria Silter