This post was last updated on April 20th, 2020 at 02:04 pm
For the active traveler who enjoys an adventure, a visit to Mount Hua (Hua Shan) is a great option. This is a mountain in China, near the city of Xi’an where you can also find the Terracotta army. Although it is certainly not the highest mountain (the top is 2,155 meters, about 7000 feet), it is one of the most extraordinary mountains in China.
The mountain is part of the Qinling Mountains and is one of the five holy mountains of China. It plays an important role in the Taoist tradition and besides tourists, you will also find many pilgrims here.
The Sacred Mountain
If you have the opportunity to visit Mount Hua you will find a giant staircase at the foot of the mountain that is so high that you can hardly see the end. This highlight is also not reserved for people with a poor condition. The view of this mega staircase is actually already worth a visit to Mount Hua.
TIP – The best base for visiting this mountain is the village of Hua Shan.
The surroundings of the mountain are of fairy-tale-like beauty. It is not surprising that the Chinese have chosen this mountain as one of the five Sacred Mountains. In the mountains, there are ancient temples and life-threatening (but beautiful) hiking trails that monks used to get to the temples. Today the paths are mainly populated by day-trippers.
Huashan Plank Walk
In addition to beautiful views, you will also find one of the most challenging (or dangerous, depends on how you want to read it) climbs in the world at Mount Hua. The “Huashan Plank Walk” takes you to the top of Mount Hua through a narrow and dangerous track over thin boards. Google a photo of the Mount Hua plank walk and you will find more than enough photos that will make you sweat.
Although the track is known as one of the most dangerous in the world, the moment you are at the top is a moment to remember. The view is phenomenal and (literally) breathtaking! If you climb towards the top you will pass villages built on the mountain until you finally reach a gondola that brings you to the southern tip. The challenging and bizarre climb awaits you from there.
There are stories circulating on the internet that a number of people lose their lives every year, but you can question this. It seems more like a marketing strategy to make the Huashan Plank Walk even more popular. That does not mean that the trail is not scary.
From the moment we arrived at our hostel, we knew we wanted to walk the planks. Once in line, we did scratch our heads a few times. While you are waiting in line, you can glance into the ravine several times and realize that it is indeed quite deep. One of us had to swallow hard while we were waiting in line.
He wanted to put on some sunscreen to protect himself from the sun rays but the tube accidentally shot out of his hands and fell very far down. Now we weren’t so scared that we would fall down ourselves, but holding our phones and cameras did get some extra attention from that moment on.
At the start of the Huashan Plank Walk, you get a kind of harness around your upper body. At that moment you don’t think about it, but afterward, we realized that if we fell off the boards, a harness around the upper body does not give much support. In Chinese, you will get some explanation about the system with two hooks. We didn’t understand much of what they were saying, but logical thinking helped us realize that one of the two hooks should always be clamped to the chains.
After a few meters, the plank walk really starts. The way there and back run via the same path and you have constant oncoming traffic. You should, therefore, share that single step at your disposal. After the stairs, you reach the part with the planks. At that moment your life depends on a harness and planks that are about 50 centimeters wide.
Once you start shuffling on the boards, there is no turning back. In our case, the summer high season was underway and we shared the boards with about 30 Chinese tourists. We didn’t even know what we were doing anymore. Staring at the gaping hole under us or the sweaty armpits we had to crawl under to get one step further. Probably the latter.
The trail itself takes 30 to 45 minutes. Halfway through the trail, a small temple has been built where you can rest from the tension. Because you are constantly taking it a step further, we found that the enormous height does not even really sink in yet.
Fear of Heights?
If you are afraid of heights, going for the Hua Shan Plank Walk may not be such a good idea. However, that does not mean that Mount Hua Shan cannot be climbed. Although you are sometimes dabbling on small mountain paths, you always have the feeling that you are safe with both feet on the ground.
Of course, there are viewpoints where the height of the mountain is clearly visible, but if you don’t want to, you don’t have to stand on the edge. Below you will find some more options to get to the summit.
Climbing to the Top
Climbing to the top is the best thing to do, it is the reason that many people come here. There are three options for getting to the North Peak. This is the first of the 5 peaks.
Cable Car – The first way is to take a cable car on the east side of the mountain. This is useful if you do not want to climb. Within 8 minutes you will arrive at the top, and you will see a lot of beautiful things along the way. It will cost you 150 Chinese Yuan (US$21.25) for a roundtrip or 80 Chinese Yuan (US$11.30) if you just want to go there (and walk back).
Soldiers Path – This sounds the most exciting, and that’s because it is! You walk/climb under the cable car route to the top. It takes approximately 2 to 3 hours. Along the way are two 50-meter stretches where there is nothing else than a steel cable as a “handhold”. Try to Google Soldiers Path Huashan and start sweating!
Walking – The most popular option is to follow the 6-kilometer (3.7 miles) path to the North Peak from the village of Hua Shan. This takes around 3 to 5 hours. The last 2 kilometers are quite tough.
If you don’t like extreme mountain climbing, the route to the northern summit (1,561 meters) is a must. This original route is 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) long and winds towards the top. You will also find a cable car that takes you to the top. Other routes are more extreme and certainly not suitable for the inexperienced climber or people with a fear of heights. From the top on the northern part, a number of buildings run to the various peaks of Mount Hua.
TIP – There are different peaks where you can go; the East, South, and West Peak. South is the busiest (and highest). East is the quietest. You can take beautiful pictures from all three peaks.
A Breathtaking View
Once you reach the top, you know that you have risked your life for a reason. First, the view is breathtaking. Second, you will find an old Taoist temple that has been converted into a Chinese teahouse. Without a doubt, the summit of Mount Hua is one of the most beautiful places in the world where you can drink a cup of tea. You do have to pay well for it. From Xi’an, excursions to Mount Hua are organized.
How to Get to Mount Hua
Mount Hua is easy to reach from the big city of Xi’an. You can take one of the buses. It takes 2 hours and costs around 36 Chinese Yuan, around US$5.10. The buses run between 6:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. and depart from the Xi’an Train Station. Please note that you will be dropped off at Yuquan Lu. You can ask the bus driver if they can drop you off in Huashan.
If they don’t, take a taxi. Never pay more than 10 Chinese Yuan (US$1.40) for the taxi to the village of Huashan.
Do you also want to climb Mount Hua? Then read this practical information in advance.
- You can climb Mount Hua all year round. The disadvantage of winter is that it can be extremely cold and slippery at the top due to strong wind and snow. The summer has the disadvantage that many Chinese tourists come to climb the mountain in their own country and it can, therefore, be very busy.
- Western tourists often choose to stay in the city of Xi’an. In this city are also other tourist attractions such as the Terracotta army. You can book an excursion to Mount Hua, but you can also take the train to the town of Huayin and buy tickets for the cable car. This way you spend less money and that is great because the trail is already a considerable expense. Train tickets, cable car, the trail… all in all, you can lose around US$80 per person.
- Do not be surprised if you encounter a lot of Chinese people in the summer with covering clothes and gloves. Most Western people like to get a tan but tanned skin in Chinese culture is still a sign of poverty. They do everything they can to have and keep a white, tanned skin.