As one of the largest countries in the world, China is home to a vast variety of landscapes, and its diverse terrain makes it one of the best hiking locations on the planet. While hiking is a relatively new pastime in China, the sheer number of natural and ancient wonders within its borders make it a prime destination for those who want to get off the beaten path and experience a truly unique hiking adventure. China is home to trails of various lengths and difficulty levels, suitable for avid hikers and beginners alike. Below are a few of our favorite hiking locations in the Middle Kingdom:
The most famous hiking spot in China is also its most popular attraction. The Great Wall is known the world over for its scenic views and colorful history, and stretching for more than 5,000 miles across northern China, it offers ample hiking opportunities. Whether you’re looking for an easy 2-hour walk or a multi-day trek, the Great Wall is a once-in-a-lifetime hiking destination, with countless routes available.
Many of our favorite Great Wall hiking routes are within an hour or two of Beijing and will provide you with incredible views of the rugged, mountainous terrain that encloses the country’s capital. Some of these routes, like the Gubeikou to Jinshangling route, include unrestored parts of the wall, which will allow you to fully appreciate the rich history of this amazing structure.
Known for its stunning limestone peaks and tranquil rivers, the area surrounding the southern cities of Guilin and Yangshuo is the ideal place to take in some of China’s most memorable scenery via a hike. The countryside along the Li River, which connects the two cities, is dotted with picturesque karst hills, many of which can be climbed. For those who can handle a somewhat steep climb, we suggest heading to Yaoshan Mountain, the highest karst peak near Guilin. After a strenuous one-hour hike to the top of the mountain, you will be rewarded with stunning panoramic views of the surrounding mountains.
The nearby town of Yangshuo is also home to some amazingly scenic countryside, particularly in the Ten-Mile Gallery area, which comprises the famed Moon Hill and the bucolic Yulong River, as well as numerous walking paths. For the more adventurous, you can attempt the 16 km trek along the Li River from the nearby village of Xingping to Yangdi, which will take you through enchanting farmlands and past numerous karst peaks.
Guilin is just a short drive from the beautiful Longji Rice Terraces. The hilly terrain and multi-level rice fields make this area another of China’s most scenic hiking spots.
Also known as the Yellow Mountains, Huangshan is one of China’s most sacred locations, and one of its most beautiful. The Huangshan area’s craggy, pine-strewn peaks have inspired Chinese painters and poets for centuries, and have become one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations. Veer from the most traveled paths, however, and you will find yourself on some of China’s most scenic hiking trails.
There are numerous hiking routes in the Huangshan Scenic Area, some of them more crowded than others, but all of them offering incredible views of the Yellow Mountains’ uniquely shaped peaks. The park is also home to beautiful waterfalls, serene forests, and hot springs, making any hike in this area an amazing experience. Our favorite route is the moderately difficult West Sea Canyon trail, which takes you on a 3-hour hike around a scenic canyon between majestic peaks. The countryside surrounding Huangshan is also dotted with peaceful villages, like Xidi and Hongcun, that make for a perfect stopover during longer treks.
At the edge of the Tibetan plateau in the southern province of Yunnan lies one of China’s most breathtaking scenes. At a depth of 12,000 feet, Tiger Leaping Gorge is one of the deepest gorges on the planet and is widely considered the best hiking destination in the Middle Kingdom. From the rushing waters of the Yangtze to the towering peaks of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and Haba Snow Mountain, Tiger Leaping Gorge affords spectacular views, making it the ideal place for an unforgettable trek.
One of the most popular routes for avid hikers is the two-day, 17-mile trail along the entire length of the gorge between Daju and Qiatou villages. This route is moderately difficult, with one steep climb near the beginning, and though it is one of China’s most popular hiking routes, it does not get overly crowded.
Mount Huashan is one of China’s five most sacred mountains and is located just a short train ride away from Xi’an, home of the famed Terracotta Warriors. Huashan is known the world over for its steep cliffs and thrilling trails, particularly the plank walk of internet fame, also known as the most dangerous hike in the world! The plank walk is just like it sounds: a trail made up of makeshift wooden planks that dangle over the edge of a cliff plummeting hundreds of feet into a valley.
Those who want a less terrifying hike can still enjoy the 12 km climb up the mountain. While less scary, this challenging hike takes you up almost 2,000 meters, including some steep stairs precariously straddling cliff sides. Although Mount Huashan is an oft-visited tourist destination, the popular cable car route up the mountain means the hiking trail is not very crowded. Those looking for an easier hike can also just take a cable car to the top of the mountain and explore the summit.