Zhangjiajie National Park, Hunnan
This was China’s first recognized National Forest Park and is located in the northern Hunan province in south-eastern China. The rock formations that make up this park have come to be known as the “Avatar Mountains” (because they inspired the scenery in the movie Avatar a few years back) and are out of this world.
HuangShan (Yellow Mountains), Anhui
Don’t let the name of these mountains fool you – they aren’t at all yellow! The area was named after the famous Yellow Emperor. Legend has it that he resided in these mountains, and it is here that he became an immortal being.
Tiger Leaping Gorge, Yunnan
If you’re looking for the ultimate trek in China, look no further than the Tiger Leaping Gorge.The trek starts in a tiny town called Qiaotao located 60 kilometres (37 mi) north of Lijiang City in Northwest China. Depending on how much time you have, it can take 1-3 days from start to finish.The more time you give yourself, the more opportunity you have to take in the incredible scenery and see all that the Gorge has to offer.
Yangshuo and Li River, Guanxi
Located just a short train ride from Shenzhen (in the south of China, near to Hong Kong), Yangshuo is considered to be one of the top outdoor destinations in all of China because of the variety of scenery and activities available. It would be easy to spend a week here and experience all the region has to offer.The Li River is a beautiful destination that is highly regulated – the only way to get into the water is bamboo rafting. Alternatively, you can venture to Li River’s “Secret Beach” from town and spend a day lounging and swimming.You can rent a bike for cheap in Yangshuo and explore the Yulong River and karst mountains nearby. You can also rock climb and go caving at these destinations. There are countless outdoor companies throughout Yangshuo that are able and willing to help you explore as much of the region as possible.
Stone Forest (Shilin), Yunnan
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is named after its peculiar rock formations. They look like something in between petrified trees and stalagmites – but these limestone formations have been created through millions of years of erosion.There are countless hiking trails available all over the Stone Forest – the entire area is over 300 sq km! A few of the most popular destinations within this region are Naigu Stone Forest, Ashima Rockand Suogeyi Village. You could easily spend an entire day hiking around looking at the formations, underground rivers, caves and waterfalls.
Hua Shan Mountain, Shaanxi
Not to be confused with HuangShan, or Yellow Mountain, described at the beginning of this article,Hua Shan Mountain is located in the Shaanxi Province, about 120km east of Xian. To get to Hua Shan, you can take a high-speed train from Xian to Hua Shan – they leave multiple times a day and take a maximum of 45 minutes – or 2-hour bus from Xian to Hua Shan.This destination is not for the faint of heart. Dubbed the “world’s most dangerous hike,” this mountain clocks in at over 2000 meters, and features five peaks. It’s considered one of China’s five most sacred peaks – there are many Taoist temples all over the mountain.
There is a cable car that you can take a bit of the way up the mountain – so those of you who still want to experience Hua Shan without the danger, have no fear! But the real trek starts just after the cable car station. There are countless steep staircases, narrow pathways and even the infamous 50m plank walk.
Emei Shan, Sichuan
Emei Shan is a National Park surrounding Mount Emei. The park and mountain are both pretty massive, but there are loads of monasteries to visit inside the park. Many of them charge as little as $2USD a night (and it’s recommended you stay at least 2 days in order to experience the whole park).The main attraction in the park is the Golden Stupa located at the summit inside the park, but for many, the journey to the top and the views along the way are just as big of an attraction as the stupa. The summit can be reached in a day for fast-movers – two days for a more leisurely pace, and you can stay at one of the monasteries at the top.
The Great Wall of China
Without a doubt, the Great Wall is the most famous attraction in China. While there are places you can visit it easily (like a quick excursion from the Beijing Airport) – there are also more outdoor-friendly, adventurous ways to experience The Wall.There are two distinct parts of the wall – the easily accessible tourist side, and The Wild Wall.This unkempt, overgrown part of the wall is where you should head if you’re looking to hike and explore a bit farther. Though unpreserved, the Wild Wall is still easy to hike – no guide necessary!
A few key sections of the Great Wall that are worth a visit are Mutianyu (upkept, but lesser visited) Huang Hua Chen, Jinshanling, and Simatai (which is the only part of the wall completely preserved in its original form). Along much of the Wild Wall, you can hike for hours without running into any other tourists.