Ultimate Travel Guide to Zhangjiajie

Sarah Zhou
- Last Updated: August 7, 2019

Zhangjiajie in Hunan Province, China jumped into world travelers’ eyes thanks to the movie Avatar. The floating mountains, sea clouds, mists and karst pinnacles became appealing to adventurers. Plus the Skywalk in Tianmen Mountain and Glass Bridge, Zhangjiajie has now been a bucket list destination for hiking and adventure fans.

With limited transportation to outside world and even cities inside China, getting to Zhangjiajie could be a hassle. This ultimate guide will offer details for trip planning and great tips that helps better prepare this dream hiking vacation. I will share what I learned from this trip as detailed as I can and I owe a big THANK YOU to my trip planner Elysian Tour for this detailed work.

Map Out the Top Things to See in Zhangjiajie before You Go

  1. Number One must-see goes to Zhangjiajie National Forest Park without any doubt. The Forest Park will feast your eyes with all the wonders you’ve heard and seen from pictures.

In the Forest Park, remember to try the famous Bailong Elevator built along the cliff that transfers travelers from the foot of the mountain to the mountain top within 2 minutes for over 300 meters. And the Hallelujah Mountain which was named after the mountain Avatar will show you its grandeur and unique beauty. Trek the most beautiful hiking route along the Golden Whip Stream that is not only appealing to humans, but also mischievous monkeys. Remember to stay away from them otherwise they will rob your food or attack you. The last spot you cannot miss is the Huangshi Village – Best Viewing Platform for Peak Forest. There are two hiking routes here in Huangshi Village, the big circled one which needs 4 hours and the small circled one which needs 2 hours. Both enjoy enchanting views and painting-like peak forests.

Golden Whip Stream

  1. Be amazed at the weirdly shaped rocks at Tianzi Mountain. As you hike along mountain trails, your imagination will be challenged by the Chinese names of the mountains and peaks. Remember these names and see whether you can recognize them:

Emperor’s Writing Brush Peak: you could tell from its name that this peak looks like a Chinese writing brush.

Fair Offering the Flowers: seen from afar, this peak looks like a fairy giving flowers to ordinaries with a smile.

Platform of Appointing Commander: seeing the peaks rising up from the canyons is like seeing an array of soldiers. Yes, you will be the commander.

Celestial Bridge: an incredible bridge naturally formed to connect the separate two peaks. Crossing that bridge needs some guts!

  1. Walk on the Skywalk and admire Tianmen Cave in Tianmen Mountain.

Challenging the Skywalk will be thrilling. But if you are not good with height, you are not suggested to try. Some shoe covers need to be paid extra here at the cost of 5 Yuan. Though it is only 60m long, it takes a while to finish as you will get lost in the stunning views, or because you are so scared to walk across it.

Tianmen Cave is a naturally formed huge cave high up above on the mountain top that specially enjoys beautiful scenery after the rain with clouds. Chinese call it Heavenly Gate as if it is the entrance to another world. 999 steps were built to get close to the natural gate and a helpful trans-mountain escalator will save your legs from descending. While you are driven down to the foot of the mountain, remember to shoot some wonderful pics of the 99 turns.

  1. Walk the Glass Bridge over Grand Canyon.

After this bridge was open to public, more than 6.2 million travelers have been here. Only wallets and mobile phones are allowed to be brought with you. So leave your backpack and SLR camera in your private vehicle. Don’t try to sneak into the area with other stuff. Chinese are very strict on security check.

What is the difference between Wulingyuan and Zhangjiajie?

Zhangjiajie is a big city and Wulingyuan is a small town that belongs to Zhangjiajie.

Why mention Wulingyuan here? Many travelers are confused while doing research for their trip planning. Zhangjiajie National Forest Park is located in Wulingyuan area and it is one hour drive away from Zhangjiajie City. While Tianmen Mountain is only 15 minutes away from the city. So usually accommodation in Wulingyuan area is recommended for visiting the Forest Park and accommodation in the city makes it easier for visiting Tianmen Mountain.

Zhangjiajie Itineraries

For a 3-day trip, you will cover the essence of the Forest Park. To take in the beauty of both the Forest Park and Tianmen Mountain, 4 days are recommended. I will list the recommended trip itineraries which are clearer and easier for you to choose the preferred one based on your interests and schedule.

3-Day Itinerary Suggested:

Day 1. Arrival in Zhangjiajie. (2 nights’ Accommodation in Wulingyuan Area).

Day 2. Zhangjiajie National Forest Park Tour: Yuanjiajie Scenic Area (Take Bailong Elevator to get on top) – Tianzi Mountain(Forest of Weirdly-shaped peaks). Glass Bridge.

Day 3. Golden Whip Stream Hiking – Huangshi Village Hiking. Depart from Zhangjiajie.

Or another route if you have only 3 days:

3-Day Itinerary Suggested:

Day 1. Arrival in Zhangjiajie. (1 night Accommodation in Wulingyuan Area)

Day 2. Zhangjiajie National Forest Park Tour: Yuanjiajie Scenic Area (Take Bailong Elevator to get on top) – Tianzi Mountain(Forest of Weirdly-shaped peaks). Glass Bridge. (1 night Accommodation in Zhangjiajie Downtown Area)

Day 3. Tianmen Mountain (Skywalk & Tianmen Cave). Depart from Zhangjiajie.

4-Day Itinerary Suggested:

Day 1. Arrival in Zhangjiajie. (2 nights’ Accommodation in Wulingyuan Area).

Day 2. Zhangjiajie National Forest Park Tour: Yuanjiajie Scenic Area (Take Bailong Elevator to get on top) – Tianzi Mountain(Forest of Weirdly-shaped peaks). Glass Bridge.

Day 3. Golden Whip Stream Hiking – Huangshi Village Hiking. Back to Zhangjiajie City. (1night Accommodation in the city)

Day 4. Tianmen Mountain(Skywalk & Tianmen Cave). Depart from Zhangjiajie.

Entrance Fees

  1. Entrance fee for Zhangjiajie National Forest Park

It covers Yuanjiajie Area, Tianzi Mountain, Golden Whip Stream and Huangshi Village. Yet you will need to pay for extra fee for Bailong Elevator and cable cars you might want to take.

  1. Tianmen Mountain

This entrance fee covers Skywalk and Tianmen Cave with half trans-mountain escalator. Shoe covers are extra fees need to be paid on spot.

  1. Glass Bridge

Shoe covers are provided free for travelers.

As Zhangjiajie National Forest Park is a large park, the entrance ticket is valid for 3 days upon purchase.

Hotel Accommodations

Now Zhangjiajie area has hotels of different classes for travelers to choose. For a comfortable hiking trip, I stayed at Pullman Zhangjiajie. The hotel enjoys international standards with excellent service and American buffet breakfasts. Since food on top of the mountain is limited, I usually had a big breakfast every morning and brought some snacks with me. Another good 5-star hotel is the Crowne Plaza.

There are also 3-star ones and hostels in the area which can be easily booked through Booking or Agoda. I met a young lady who was staying at the hostel and she said it was pretty good and absolutely best value.

Food in Zhangjiajie area:

Located in Hunan Province in southern China, the food here in this area is spicy. So if you are into spicy food, you will love this place. Remember to try the area’s famous snack Stinky Toufu. You will either love it or hate it. I loved it, not its smell though.

As mentioned above, for hiking on the mountains, you are suggested to bring your own food. There are KFC and Mc Donald on top of the mountain that are busy with travelers. And they are more expensive.

Nightlife in Zhangjiajie Area:

Most of the time, you are staying at Wulingyuan Area where the Forest Park is. The Xibu Padestrian Street with lots of local bars and snacks is a must. Relaxing after each day’s hike here is a wonderful choice.

How to get to Zhangjiajie

Zhangjiajie is a small mountainous city with limited transportation from other parts of China. Flights are available to/from some big cities including Beijing, Xi’an, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and Hangzhou. And some flights are only seasonal. Be sure to check before you go.

Zhangjiajie is about 5-hour drive to Changsha, capital of Hunan Province. From Changsha, it is easy to get to almost everywhere in the country.

Hope this guide is helpful. Enjoy your hiking!

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Zhangjiajie National Park

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