Mount Hua’s Plank Path

For two thousand years, pilgrims, emperors of dynasties, and tourists have hiked along Mount Hua’s stone-cut narrow paths and steep, jagged cliffs, visiting ancient temples while enjoying spectacular views. Changkong zhandao, the “vast sky plankwalk”, is purely for thrillseekers. Here you’ll find two thin wooden planks, nailed into solid vertical rock with a 1000m drop below. Accessed via the South Peak, you descend down a chasm in the rock, holding onto cold iron rods, before arriving on the foot-wide planks. Hugging the cliff, expect some knee-shaking as you make your way to a modest Taoist temple. Although you wear safety harnesses, the biggest danger is overcrowding, as everyone must walk and climb the same way, unclipping from the safety line in order to pass each other.

Length of Trip : Full day outing from Xi'an

Cost :
From the parking lot, pick up your two-day entrance pass (180 Yuan) and a return ticket on the 1500m long cable car (150 Yuan), unless you plan on hiking 6-8 hours uphill just to reach the starting point at the North Peak. Optional insurance is also for sale, a telling sign of what you can expect ahead.

Best time to go : The best seasons are spring (March to May) and autumn (September to October). It’s always busy, but you’ll want to avoid intense crowds on Chinese national holidays (May 1-3, October 1-7).

Wheelchair friendly : No

Family friendly : The mountain is fascinating for the family. The Cliffside Plank Path is not recommended for children.

Where to eat :
Small shops and teahouses located along the paths sell snacks, cakes, noodles, water, and small cans of non-carbonated Red Bull. Hotels are attached to basic restaurants serving simple Chinese fare.

Official Site :
You can find more information about visiting Mount Hua here.

Where to Stay :
There are six small, rustic hotels, and several hostels located at various points on the mountain, especially close to the peaks. Expect shared toilets, limited or no hot water, no heating, no showers, and dubiously clean sheets. Prices range between 60 and 120 Yuan. If you don’t feel like making the return trip to Xi’an in one day, the Lotus Flower Hotel is located just one kilometre from the entrance parking lot, and offers deluxe suites and villas.

Getting There :
Take the 30-minute Xian-Zhengzhou bullet train from Xian’s North Railway Station to Huashan Bei, where special green minibuses will take you directly to the mountain’s parking lot. Alternatively, take Tourism Bus Line 1 at Xian Railway Station, which leaves each morning at 8:00m, and takes about 3 hours. Check train and bus schedules for return times, or consider a 90-minute taxi.

Note from Robin :
Although temperatures may be pleasant at the mountain’s base, you’ll likely find snow, ice and high winds atop its 2000m-plus cliffs. The average temperature on the trails is just under 7°C, so bring layers. Gloves are essential for dealing with the iron pathway chains, and a raincoat and flashlight are useful. You can check baggage at the mountain’s base and just carry a light overnight bag if you plan to spend the night. Comfortable walking shoes will suffice. Bring plenty of snacks and water, as there’s never a teahouse around when you need one.

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