The 15 Best Hikes in China
China's landscape is as diverse as it is vast, comprising everything from stunning coastlines and subtropical forests to magnificent structures and arid deserts. Many of these sites are accessible by car or bus, but the best way to really explore and appreciate their beauty is by hiking through them.
So, what's holding you back? Pack your bags and head out for an unforgettable adventure.
#15. Hiking from Ganden to Samye
No hike in China has proven to be as adventurous as the trek between two important Tibetan monasteries in Ganden and Samye. The journey across the 80 kilometer unbound Tibetan wilderness usually takes hikers around five days. You will have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience nomadic culture, explore majestic temples, learn about Tibetan Buddhism, and get up close with the land. The trek will take you through highland pastures, sparkling lakes, and even isolated desert dunes. If you're not a skilled hiker, the trek from Ganden to Samye is an experience often offered by local guides who would be more than happy to accompany you on your journey.
#14. Kanas Nature Reserve Hike
The Xinjiang Kanas National Geopark, more popularly known as Kanas Nature Reserve, can be found within the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region of China but shares borders with Mongolia, Russia, and Kazakhstan as well. The natural ecosystem of the stunning scenic area comprises everything from flowing lakes and rivers to stunning glaciers, grasslands, and forests. Your hike is sure to be one-of-a-kind as you explore this enigmatic natural space. The hike will take you alongside the Kanas River and the China Kanas Lake - both of which originate from the Kanas Glacier in Altay Mountain. Funnily enough, you'll have a unique experience each time you hike through Kanas Nature Reserve as the lake changes color with the seasons.
#13. Nanshan Hike
Nanshan or Southern Mountain, part of Tianshan Mountains, is about 70 kilometers (40 miles) south of Urumqi in Xinjiang, China. Blessed with precipitous peaks, thick forests and meadow-filled valleys with rushing streams and ribbon-like waterfalls, Nanshan is the most popular hiking spot among hikers who are looking for a quieter journey exploring remote lands with stunning scenic views. The Nanshan hiking can be said to be one of the most beautiful one-day hiking routes in Xinjiang. The hiking route is about 20 kilometers, travelling between 1800m to 2200m above sea level. Along the way, you will hike through the forests and grasslands. There are horse tracks that can be traced throughout the journey.
#12. Longji Rice Terraces Hike
The Longji Rice Terraces is one of the most famous rice paddies in China, and rightly so, as its breathtaking beauty must truly be seen in person to be believed. The famed location can be found carved into the side of mountains, resembling extremely beautiful heaven-bound steps. As you plan your journey, you'll find that many locals refer to the rice terraces as the ‘Dragon's Backbone' because of how the terraces look like dragon scales from afar; if you're lucky you'll find a local who'd be more than happy to share legends of the terraces with you. Don't forget to take along your camera because you'll definitely want to capture this moment.
Learn More: Longji Rice Terraces Hiking
#11. Tian Shan Hike
Tengri Tagh, which is more popularly known as Tian Shan, means the Mountains of Heaven. It is actually a linked chain of mountains which stretches across Central Asia, straddling the border of China and Kyrgyzstan. The UNESCO World Heritage Site can truly be described as one of the world's greatest mountain kingdoms, especially from its highest peak at 7,439 meters in Jengish Chokusu. It offers one of the best hiking experiences in China, often taking adventure seekers through glaciated valleys, steep gorges, dense pine forests, grasslands, wetlands, and high altitude pastures.
#10. Hiking along Three Gorges of Yangtze River
The Three Gorges of Yangtze River is one of the prime hiking routes in China; it extends nearly 200 kilometers from Fengjie to Yichang. Journeying through this path will take you through towns and villages with histories that date back over 2,000 years. During the hike you'll come across some amazing views of lush green fields, azure waters, and magical clouds settled amidst the peaks of the mountains. It's also common to see a number of colorful boats, both modern and man-powered, sail on the waters below. Though the fantastic scenery alone is worth the hike, along the way you'll also see the construction of the biggest hydropower plant in the world, which is sure to be an exciting one-of-a-kind experience.
#9. Li River Hiking
The Li River offers some of the most spectacular scenery you'll come across in all of China. There are several parts of the river which can be hiked but the most recommended is from Yangdi Village to Xingping Ancient Town. This route is often considered “the best part of a Li River hike” because you'll be able to see the essence of the river through an array of stunning landscapes, distinct peaks, and gorgeous bamboo groves. This particular route stretches for approximately 15 kilometers and can take around 6 hours to complete. An hour into your journey, you'll come on to a small village where you can meet the people who live there and grab a bottle of water.
Learn More: Li River Hiking
#8. Meili Snow Mountain Trek
Also known as Prince Snow Mountain, Meili Snow Mountain is considered to be one of the most sacred mountains in China and is one of eight special mountains which Tibetans worship. The Kang Karpo Peak is the tallest mountain in Yunnan and is surrounded by thirteen other peaks. Plan to go on the Dequin/ Feilaisi hike to get some of the best views of the Meili Snow Mountain range; the hike can take a few days depending on your level of skill and experience. The hike to Yubeng is extremely interesting as well, and along the way you'll pass sacred waterfalls and other unique points of interest.
#7. Mount Siguniang Trekking
Mount Siguniang, or the Mountain of Four Sisters, is a popular hiking destination in China. Gaining its nickname from its four towering peaks, you'll find people of all ages (most often 12 or older) trekking to the various summits. The trek to the Dafeng summit is the more favored choice as it is the lowest of the four peaks, but still offers hikers stunning views of the surroundings. During your journey, you're bound to come across local Jairong Tibetans, who are extremely experienced when it comes to the hike and in pointing out the lesser-known points of interest. While you're there, be sure to take advantage of their mountaineering training base as it is one of the top ten training camps in all of China and has a suitable landscape for people to learn easily.
#6. Emeishan (Mount Emei) Hike
In Buddhism, Emeishan or Mount Emei is considered to be one of the four “Sacred Mountains of China”. The towering structure plays an important role in Chinese Buddhism and is believed by devotees to be a place of enlightenment. Hiking at Emeishan is the best way to truly familiarize yourself with the natural beauty and culture of this place. You can follow the stone-step path which goes from the foot of the mountain all the way to the top. Hikers can also follow a different path to the Leshan Giant Buddha, which is the largest stone Buddha statue in the world. The mountain, along with the nearby Leshan Giant Buddha, were declared a UNESCO Natural and Cultural Heritage Site in 1996.
#5. Mount Kailash Hike
Surrounded by panoramic views of lakes and peaks, Mount Kailash is a sacred site for not one, but three religions: Buddhism, Hinduism, and followers of the Bon religion. It attracts thousands of pilgrims annually, all of whom come to conquer the challenging trek around the mountain in accordance with their spiritual beliefs. Many Tibetans can make the journey in a single day, but most people take up to three days to finish the 52-kilometer walk. Though climbing its summit is not allowed, you don't need a theological reason to circumnavigate the breathtakingly beautiful Mount Kailash. Along the way, you'll be able to see unparalleled views of lush green valleys, pristine blue lakes, and snow-capped peaks. It is a true test of both the mind and body.
#4. Huangshan (Yellow Mountain) Hike
Literally translating to ‘Yellow Mountain' in Mandarin, hiking through the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Huangshan, should be on everyone's bucket list. The 250-square-kilometer space resembles what you would see in a classic Chinese ink painting: pine trees against granite peaks, hot springs, blankets of snow, and everything shrouded in mist! Due to its incomparable beauty, it's no wonder that it has become a popular destination with hikers. In addition to enjoying spectacular views every step of the way, hikers will also be able to explore several ancient villages which they'll come across during their journey.
#3. Mount Huashan Hike
Mount Hua can consistently be found on lists of the most dangerous hiking trails in China. Thrill seekers and adrenaline junkies come from far and wide to conquer this spine-tingling expedition which can only be described as exhilarating. The internationally famous Plank Walk comprises a creaking wooden path that's less than a foot wide, but before you even reach that you'll have to overcome steep steps which are carved into the mountainside. Soon after, hikers will come across Gold Lock Pass - which is the official entrance to the rest of the peaks. You can then choose to take a detour to the Chess Playing Pavilion or continue on to the death-defying Plank Walk to reach a temple and spectacular views of the surroundings.
#2. Tiger Leaping Gorge Hike
Tiger Leaping Gorge, which gets its name from a local legend of a tiger who leapt across the river to escape hunters, is one of the deepest canyons in the world. The scenery is spectacular, and all around you, you will find views of the rushing Yangtze River and majestic snowcapped mountains. It is considered to be one of the best hiking trails in China, and though it is extremely popular with both locals and tourists, it is well spaced out and can be a very secluded and peaceful journey. Even those who aren't very skilled when it comes to hiking are sure to have an amazing experience which they'll treasure; the views you'll see of Habra Snow Mountain and Jade Dragon Snow Mountain alone are worth the trip.
#1. Hiking Great Wall of China
Made of brick, wood, stone, and earth - and spanning 21,196 kilometers - the Great Wall of China is one of man's greatest architectural creations. Originally built as a defense structure, the wall attracts history buffs but also hikers and other adventure seekers who journey through it to see several appealing attractions along the way. Some of the more popular sections to hike are from Gubeikou to Jinshanling, Mutianyu to Jinshanling, or from Jinshanling to Simatai. In addition to seeing mysterious ruins and an endless expanse of valleys and peaks, hiking through the Great Wall of China will give you the opportunity to meet local people and hear lesser-known stories about the wall.