China may be home to photogenic and easily climbed mountains, but what about those of you who are feeling more adventurous? What can China offer seasoned hikers eager to push themselves to their limits in the great outdoors? Here are five of our favorite challenging hikes in China for the brave of heart.
From the crumbling, unmaintained “Wild Wall” to the desolate mountains of Tibet to the Himalayan wonderland of the true “Shangri-La,” challenging trails and epic adventure can be found all across China, and the raw beauty of it all is sure to leave you speechless.
Here are five of our favorite hikes for those brave enough to walk on the wild side.
The Great Wall at Jiankou, Beijing
Unrestored, crumbling and impossibly steep in parts, this section of the Great Wall twists about a precipitous ridgeline, making it both magnificent and terrifying.
Source: Cassius Wortmann
Fearlessness is a must – as are appropriate shoes – as some sections feature treacherously skinny ledges, or have been reduced to scree slopes. Worth noting is the aptly titled “Stairway to Heaven”, which boasts an 80-degree ascent.
Hikers can choose from a popular four-hour hike to a restored section of the wall, or even make a two-day hike from the furthest western sections. Either way, jaw-dropping vistas await the bold.
A hike along the wildest of all walls in Beijing can be organized with WildChina’s great wall expert, William Lindesay.
Tiger Leaping Gorge, Yunnan
Cut tightly between towering Himalayan peaks, Tiger Leaping Gorge is China’s deepest gorge, and one of the most accessible treks in the country.
No matter where one looks, spectacular scenery is visible in all directions, from lofty snowcapped mountains to the glint of the rushing river thousands of meters below.
The gorge takes its name from a local legend, in which a tiger is said to have once leapt across the river to escape hunters.
This 12km trail can be enjoyed as a two-day adventure, thanks to the many well-run guesthouses that line the path. What’s more, it’s relatively peaceful, with only the odd farmer and the rush of the river to keep you company.
The gorge can be traversed the WildChina way as well, where you’ll spend time with a local family in a village after your long day of hiking on our Tiger Leaping Gorge tour.
Hua Shan, Shaanxi Province
Mount Hua is known as “the number one steep mountain under heaven,” and for good reason, as it regularly tops online rankings of the world’s most dangerous hikes.
It is also one of China’s great holy peaks, and has been an important site of pilgrimage for Tao Buddhists over the millennia. Nowadays, however, most people come for the raw scenery and death defying trails.
Source: Ian Armstrong via Flickr
The South Peak boasts the world-famous Plank Walk, a hair-raising traverse of a creaking plank path that well and truly stares oblivion in the face – perfect for adrenaline junkies.
China’s number one peak for thrill-seekers can be climbed with our Xi’an: Warriors and Emperor tour. After braving the plank walk, you’re sure to be hungry, and our local WildChina guide will take you inside the best restaurants in Xi’an’s fragrant Muslim Quarter.
Ganden to Samye, Tibet
With desolate high passes, lakes and even desert dunes, this trek offers genuine adventure among the unbound wilds of Tibet.
The trailhead begins just 50km east of Lhasa and offers a four- to five-day, 80km hike between Ganden and Samye, two important Tibetan monasteries.
Exploring the majestic temples along this route offers fantastic opportunities to learn more about Tibetan Buddhism, and you’ll get to experience nomadic culture up close and personal on the highland pasture.
The trail climbs to over 5,000m in altitude, so it’s always best to pace oneself to avoid mountain sickness, as there is no medical help in the high passes. Yet while the thin air may be breathtaking, we’re confident that the scenery will be too.
Spending several days acclimatizing in Lhasa is the ideal way to prepare for this epic expedition, made easier with our Escape to Lhasa tour. Here you’ll enjoy special extras like a picnic by the freshwater Yamdrok Tso Lake, a holy lake of clear blue surrounded by softly rolling mountains.
Yading Nature Reserve, Sichuan
When James Hilton penned Lost Horizon, he never did name the exact location of his fabled Tibetan utopia, creating speculation that Yading Nature Reserve could be the true “Shangri-la”.
Yading matches his descriptions well: evergreen forests teeming with life, sparkling lakes and rivers, lying in the shadows of soaring, snow-crowned peaks.
Source: Raymond Ling via Flickr
This trek follows the same path as a two-day 35km kora, a holy Tibetan pilgrimage route. You’ll trek around the base of 6,000m Mount Chenresig, the highest peak in the park. Stiff necks are guaranteed, as hikers struggle to keep their eyes from the mountain’s majestic slopes.
Attractions include verdant grasslands, together with the green and blue waters of the park’s glacier-fed lakes. Good preparation and camping gear is essential, as there are no hotels in the reserve.
Shangri-la or not, our On the Trail of Pilgrims tour offers hikers unforgettable experiences in this little-known jewel of southwest China.
With your piqued sense of adventure and challenge, now is the time to organize an expedition on China’s most challenging trails. We can customize any of our journeys to meet your each and every whim. Get started planning your trip.