When I was looking at the itinerary for Xi’an, I have stumbled across many people mentioning Mount Hua Shan. They were posting pictures of the epic plank walk. So the second I saw them I was totally in!
Mount Huashan (Chinese: 华山; pinyin: Huà Shān) also knows as “western great mountain,” is one of the famous Five Great Mountains in China. It has a long history of religious significance. The mountain has five main peaks, of which the tallest is the South Peak at 2160 m. This peak also had a well-deserved reputation as having the World most dangerous hiking trail.
How to get there
Getting to the mountain was straightforward. The area is around 40min train ride or 2h bus ride from Xi’an. As I was quite pressed for time, I took the train.
To get to the train station from the center of Xian, just take the metro. It goes straight to the train station.
The first train leaves at 6.29 ish, so you need to get tickets before that.
I found the ticket office, but there were no humans, so I asked a guy to help me out with an automatic machine. Yeaaah, found out the machines are not for foreigners. You need to scan your ID, and because I had a passport, I did need humans to sell me tickets after all.
As I was waiting for anyone to show up, my first train left… Only then I noticed that the counters had numbers. The one I was standing next to was 14 or something like that, so I figured, I might as well try finding counter 1 somewhere.
Yup, I was right. There were multiple counters in different parts of the station, and they had humans in! So finally I got my ticket.
After arriving at the Hua Shan North station, I followed a crowd and entered a green bus that took everyone to the mountain base for free.
When you are at the ticket office, you have to make a choice: North cableway or West one.
The decision can be based on your love for stairs 😀 If you can’t imagine your day without going up 1000 stairs, go for North Peak. The ticket is for the North one is cheaper as the cableway is older (~80¥ one way). You will also get an unforgettable chance of climbing stairs for half a day in a queue!!
If you are as lazy as me, go for West Peak. It takes more time to get there with a bus, the ticket is more expensive (~140¥ one way), but there are fewer stairs.
One remark, at the entrance, when you ask for a ticket, you will get two paper tickets. One is the entrance for a park (~160¥), the other one for the bus to cableway. Even if you want to hike, you have to take a bus as the entrances to hiking trails start with the cableway. That also means you need to buy a cable car ticket when you get out of the bus.
I assumed that I had everything, went to the cableway, up so many stairs and found out, that those were not the ticket to take cableway. Thankfully, a lady took my money and bought the ticket with WeChat.
I started my hike on the West Peak and went through all of them to get down to cableway on the North Peak. The whole hike took me 4h, but I was walking quite fast as I had to catch a plane at 6 pm! Let’s say; I was as wet as a pig when I was done!! But I still had enough time for breaks and pictures. I think if I went the other way round, it would have taken me so much more time… When I saw those people hiking up the stairs, called Heavenly Steps, oh irony, I felt really sorry for them. They had no idea how much suffering they are into. Let’s picture it like that: it took me an hour of literally running down the stairs to get from the top of the peak to North cableway. Now imagine the other way round.
South Peak – is the highest peak (2,160 meters) among the Five Sacred Mountains of China and during the day the most popular to reach. This is a peak, where you will find a start to the plank walk.
North Peak – closest peak to the North cable car station. It is only a 5-minute walk up. It has a height of 1615m.
Central Peak – in the middle of all peaks allowing you to see the rest of them from there.
East Peak – best peak to watch the sunrise. It has an altitude of 2,090 meters. This is where you will find a start of the trail to Chess Pavillion.
West Peak – near the West cable car station and only 10 minutes up to the summit. Sunset platform is popular near the evening.
How to move around
You don’t need a map while on top. The route is well marked, with the signs at every crossroad. Just follow them to where you want to go.
The plank walk
As I mentioned before, plank walk was the reason I wanted to go there. It is also called the World most dangerous hiking trail.
I got to the place where I could start the walk, stood in a queue for 30 minutes without moving an inch. Afterward, I decided to check how far the queue goes….. And that when I had to make an excruciating decision of skipping the walk ;( The line was really long, around three hours of waiting time and was almost not moving at all. I guess the terrified selfie obsessed Asians didn’t have to make it to the plane 😀
You need to rent a harness to be able to do this walk.
Chess Playing Pavillion
This was another place I wanted to go to. Looked epic standing all alone in the middle of the mountain. To get there, you need to rent a harness as the first steps are steep. Afterward, it didn’t look like it is much of a problem. I had to skip this one as there was a queue again and no time… Seems like a pattern now, huh? But the line was much smaller on this one.
I also heard this trail is more rewarding than the plank walk as it is not as crowded.
The mountain was really cool. The views were amazing. My only problem was crowds… During the whole hike I was in a queue, and usually, I had to overtake. Most of the Asians were terrified of anything that was not flat, so it took forever for them to hike it. Plus I was disappointed I did not manage to do plank walk and Chess Pavilion. Bad planning on my part ;(
If I were to redo the whole hike, I would stay on top for the night, watch the sunset and sunrise, do the hikes I wanted and get down at the time when everyone was going up.
Nevertheless, I was still lucky. There weren’t that long queues for the cable car. I saw what they have prepared, I was terrified !!