The 2,154-meter-tall mountain, true to its reputation as the “most precipitous mountain under heaven”, is a cluster of five peaks with breathtaking cliff faces and a tough challenge to walkers. Hua is popularly known by tourists as the “Most Dangerous Hiking Trail in the World” because even though the climb does not require any technical climbing skills, the trail contains a few steep ascents with cliff-like staircases and two optional via ferratas. The biggest danger to safety is often due to overcrowding in the Summer months. Hua was historically the location of several influential Taoist monasteries, and was known as a center for the practice of traditional Chinese martial arts. It is also one of the five holy Taoist mountains of China.
Huashan Village at the base of the park is a small city more than it is a village. The park lies immediately south of town. Peaks and important points of access are mostly named with cardinal directions:
East Gate: the new visitor’s center and ticket office are located here. The East Gate provides access to the North Cable Car. The North Cable Car goes to North Peak. A trail called the “Soldier’s Path” also ascends North Peak beneath the North Cable Car.
Yuquan Yuan (Jade Spring Temple): this is the start of the hiking trail to the top of North Peak. Yuquan Yuan is located at the south edge of Huashan Village. There is a ticket office here but no visitor’s center.
The West Cable Car ascends West Peak from the west side of the park.
There are now two train stations that serve the town of Huashan. Huashan North (bei) is served by high speed trains while Huashan Station is served by regular trains. From Xi’an, frequent (16 x day) high speed trains leave Xi’an North station and arrive at Huashan North station (30-45 minutes, ￥34-54). Very frequent (every 20-30 minutes) regular trains depart from Xi’an station and arrive at Huashan station (1.5-2 hours, ￥19).
From Huashan North station, you have two options to get to the mountain. If you want to take a cable car to the top of the mountain, take the free green minibus to the new East Gate visitors center/ticket office south of the big roundabout. If you want to hike to the top of the mountain, take a taxi (~￥25) to the Yuquan Yuan (Jade Spring Temple) where there’s another ticket office for walkers.
From Huashan Station, take a taxi to the East Gate visitors center (~￥10-15) to take a cable car, or to the Yuquan Yuan (~￥15-20) if you’re planning on hiking. Alternatively, take the public bus (￥3) to Yuquan Yuan. Note that the metered taxi fare between Huashan Station and Yuquan Yuan is about ￥15, but most taxi drivers won’t use the meter and will insist on ￥20 (December 2015).
From Xi’an: Tourist bus 1 leaves from the east side of Xi’an station (￥22 , 2 hours). Buses leave regularly during daylight hours. During peak season there are buses starting at 6am. Look for a sign saying 华山 (Huashan). If you not sure then just ask the other buses and they will direct you. The bus will drop you off at new visitor’s center (East Gate, access to North Cable Car). Other private buses range between ￥30 to ￥50 and may end up in Huashan Town (within walking distance of Yuquan Yuan and the start of the hiking trail). Beware scam buses that try to charge 10x as much.
Buses also leave from the Xi’an East Bus Station (Zhong Tong) for ￥35. More importantly, the last buses from Huashan to Xi’an in the evening arrive here rather than the train station. This is the last station on the Xi’an subway line 1 and can be used to get back to the central city (￥3 to Bell Tower). Apparently bus 42 will take you back to the train station (needs confirmation).
Be aware if these are independent private companies or just two guys with a bus. They don’t operate on a schedule, but will leave when full of passengers. So for the quickest departure, find a bus already mostly full of people, since if you choose an empty bus you could be sitting in the parking lot a while.
Fees and Permits
Park entrance fee: mandatory for all visitors
Busy season (1 March to 30 November): ¥180, or ¥90 with student card. (Note: it is worth trying any foreign ID card in lieu of a student card as the attendant likely won’t check it too closely.)
Off season (1 December to 28 February): ¥100, or ¥50 with student card.
Cable cars: alternative to walking to the summit
North peak cable car: ￥80 yuan one way.
West peak cable car: ￥140 one way (lasts 20 minutes). With a student ID card it is 10% cheaper.
Access to the cable cars: mandatory for all visitors using a cable car
North cable car station: shuttle bus from East Gate visitors center, ¥20 one way.
West cable car station: shuttle bus from East Gate visitors center, ¥40 one way.
- Sunrise : Refreshing Terrace, Shuguang Pavilion, Lion Peak, Jade Screen Pavilion, Bright Peak
- Sunset: Paiyun (Cloud Dispersing) Pavilion, Red Cloud Peak
- Cloud Sea: Jade Screen Pavilion, Refreshing Terrace, White Goose Ridge, Paiyun Pavilion, Bright Peak
- Snowscape: Jade Screen Pavilion, North Sea, Pine Valley, Cloud Valley, Hot Spring
- Watch the sun rise from East Peak (Dong Feng) by attempting a night hike. It won’t be as crowded as during the daytime, but you will see plenty of other hikers ascending as well. Be sure to bring along a flashlight, spare batteries and warm clothing. Such equipment can be rented from a store along the road leading to the West Gate entrance. Check the weather forecast before climbing because a rainy night will result in dense fog in the early morning which conceals the sunrise.
- Below East Peak you can optionally ascend the famous yun ding, a narrow ladder of steps half as deep as the length of your feet. The steps are lines with chains to hold onto.
- Walk from East Peak to the other peaks, where the scenery changes from rock outcrops to lush foliage (in spring). The mist will gradually fade away to reveal a breathtaking expanse of valleys if you look over the edge of the cliffs.
- Complete the via ferrata known as the Plank Walk or Plank Road in the Sky The walk starts from the south face of the South Peak. A safety harness will be rented to you for ¥30 at the start of the walk. The path takes you down a vertical ladder for about 15 m, then along a very solid and well-reinforced platform of “planks” along the cliff face for about 30 m. The walk ends at an unremarkable rock outcrop with a little shrine. On the way out and back you’ll have to work around other tourists on the path. If you’re comfortable with heights the walk will take no more than 10 minutes one way.
- Another via ferrata descends from the east face of the East Peak to the famously picturesque Chess Pavilion. This is the only way to get there, and, like the Plank Walk, there is now a harness for rent (¥30). In the very beginning of the climb down it is 90 degree steep but in overall it’s a little less frightening than the plank walk and the Chess pavilion is a far greater reward for your efforts and money.