A guide to visiting Zhangjiajie national park with kids
The boys have had a few bucketlist items ticked off in China.. now it’s our turn! Zhangjiajie national park! This is our guide to Zhangjiajie national park with kids!
Keith and I were both struck by the photographsp displaying such natural beauty of mountains and karsts. If this is on your bucketlist and you plan to go then read this blog!!!
Preparing for Zhangjiajie national park with kids
We were so excited! There is lots of information available. However, most of it didn’t make sense. Where’s best to stay? where is there to go? How long does it take?! There was conflicting information everywhere. Don’t even get me started on how similar the names are or that some places have 2 names!!! Even the signs didn’t make sense?!?
So we just decided to go for it and work it out while we were there!
Before I go into where we stayed and what we did I want to explain about the national park itself and the 3 areas to explore… yes, I did say 3! That’s kinda the key part we were missing before we left 🙈.
I will say, this is not an area for buggies or really young children. I’m not sure they would enjoy the hustling and bustling or narrow, steep steps! My boys are 8 and 9. They coped well but started to tire and get bored towards the end of day 2!
Here’s our guide (as best i can) about visiting Zhangjiajie national park with kids…
Zhangjiajie national park
So firstly, the national park is huge, in fact so big I would recommend you stay 2 days in Yuanjiajie and 1 day in Wuylinian and 1 day in Zhangjiajie city if you have the time. So first, the areas:
There are 3 main towns around the Zhanjiajie National Park:
Yuanjiajie – a much quieter area for now (although they are building a motorway at the moment and soon this will be as busy as the other park entrances!) with access up the mountain via a cable car. This starting point gives you access to wulong village, He long park (including Hallaleiugh/avatar mountains, no1 bridge to heaven & emperors pavilion etc..) and covers the north west region of the park.
Wulingyuan – This area is much busier and, i read it’s more touristy, but it gives you quicker access to the Ten-miles Gallery, Yellow Dragon Cave, Baofeng Lake, Bailong elevator etc… and the same He long park area mentioned above.
NOTE: Yuanjiajie and Wulingyan give access to the same forest area but it’s so massive that it would take at least 2 hours on the shuttle buses (once you are on the mountain to reach one side to the other), which are very windy! Hence why I have recommended stay 2 days on one side and 1 day on the other.
You will also see an area called, Golden Whip Stream mentioned, this links these two areas along the valley floor. It is possible to walk from one side to the other, but it will take around 1 ½ hours to walk one way. The stream runs from beyond the Huangshi village cableway up to the Bailong Elevator.
Zhangiajie city – the longest cable car in the world will whip you up to the Tianmen Mountain. This is a separate mountain with different attractions from the two mentioned above. However, still forms part of the Zhangjiajie national park! Confusing eh!
From what we saw and what we read Yuanjiajie is the most beautiful and least touristy, so that’s what we plumped for.
What is there to see?
- Hallelujah mountains: other known as avatar mountains
- Wu long village
- He long park
- Enchanted park
- No. 1 bridge to heaven
- Emperor pavilion
- Yuanjiajie (I know… same name as the village, but this area is on the mountain)
- Golden whip stream
- Yellow Stone Village (Huangshi Village)
- Glass Bridge over Zhangjiajie canyon
- Glass walkway on Tianmen mountain (yes there are 2 glass walkways!)
In essence, these are the main view points around the national park with varying beauty and access. If you only have a short time then pick which areas you would most like to visit. It takes a few days to see all of it! But try not to do too much if you are visiting Zhangjiajie with kids as there’s lots of walking!
Generally though, there are just lots of walking trails which the kids enjoyed. But what we didn’t realise is that many of them are spread so far out that you have to take shuttle buses, some are 45 minutes long! But all the toing and froing made it more of an adventure for the kids!
Itinerary – Zhangjiajie national park with kids
Our hostel were great at providing suggestions and as we were staying in Yuanjiajie this is the itinerary that would be suitable for the kids (not too young) that we did.
First, you catch a bus up to the cable car base station. Then take the cable car ride up the mountain (or walk 2 hours steep climb up!). At the top here you will find signs to the viewing areas. But you are not yet there.
You need to catch a shuttle bus to Wu Long village (signs in English). This is around a 45 minute ride and windy.
When you get off you just follow the crowds to the walkways. The views are just all around you and they are absolutely amazing!
You don’t necessarily have to wait for the viewing platforms. But these are the clearer views. Just take it all in… well, when you are not being shuffled along by the crowd!!
Have the cameras ready and just snap away. Once you start, you can’t stop!
At the end of the walkway we caught another shuttle to He Long park. The place was so busy. But this is mainly because the two areas converge here. So people have travelled up the elevator from Wulingyan or caught shuttle buses from Yuanjiajie.
There are eateries and restaurants everywhere, including McDonald’s and KFC! We found the stalls to have a good selection of food and are some pancakes, breads and jianbing!
This is the start of the famous hallelujah/avatar mountains. It’s extremely busy and walkways were absolutely packed, especially with it being summer. There’s a massive difference from this side to the Yuanjiajie side of the park!! It wasn’t that enjoyable in all honesty!
After we had finished at He Long park, we worked our way back towards Yuanjiajie. By now it was late afternoon and we had done a fair amount of walking. However, rather than pay again for the cable car RMB 80 each, we opted to walk down. It’s only an hour and a half and all down hill. But all manageable along established pathways.
When you reach the bottom, look for this sign to take the shuttle bus back to Yuanjiajie entrance.
We caught a shuttle bus from the bottom of the cable car up to the next bus stop.
There’s not alot here, but you need to get off and walk quite a distance downhill to another shuttle bus that will take you to the golden whip stream.
The hostel owner recommended we only walk about half way along the golden whip stream, as this is the prettiest. When we suggested walking all the way to the bailtong elevator (1 ½ hour walk). She said ‘no, no – big queues. Too busy!’. So we took her advice and turned back halfway.
Actually the Riverside walk was lovely and after a tough day walking yesterday it was a nice stroll. The boys played in the river and on some balance pillars.
Get the shuttle bus back up to the cable car and visit Wu Long village.
I expected this to be similar to He Long park, but actually it’s much smaller and much quieter. Unfortunately, we’d banked on there being food outlets but there were hardly any. And those we found were basic and not very appetising! We ended up buying some crisps and an ice cream.
You can hike up to the village to save money. It takes around 2 1/2 hours (you need to be reasonably fit) to get up and 1 hour to get down Huangshi Village.
It was nice to be able to roam around here without huge crowds. However, there was a thunderstorm rumbling around us and I’d read that the cable cars stop! But the rumbles didn’t amount to anything.
The turning point for us was when Ethan got stung! A black bug decide to have a nibble. Luckily, there was a medical station near by and he was given some bite cream. After a few tears he soon calmed down!
We caught the cable car back down, albeit I had my eyes shut for most of it as it was very, very high! I’m normally ok, been on lots of cable cars in ski resorts but this one gave me the heeby jeebies!
Maybe I’m getting vertigo as the mountain edges were giving me wobbly legs too!!!
After the cable car, we got another shuttle bus and walked back up the long pathway (it’s quite a climb) and reached our final bus stop back to the bottom of Yuanjiajie cable car!
Thankfully the sign posts are also in English so it helped. But you really need to know where you are going and where you want to get to!!
We didn’t need to catch a train until late afternoon so if we’d had the inclination we would have got an early transfer back to Zhangjiajie city. Left our luggage at he ‘left luggage’ outside the train station. Then walked to the cable car and visited tianzi mountain with the glass walkway /plank and 100 steps to heaven.
But as it was we were all a bit shattered and decided to have a relaxing day and take the, much cheaper, but rather bouncy bus ride back to town. It wasn’t very comfortable and if given the choice I’d pay extra for the hostel transfer!!
Walking around Zhangjiejie
Whilst there are options to catch the cable cars, walking up is also an option. The walk up under the Yuanjiajie cable car takes 2 hours.
The walk up to Wu long village from golden whip stream takes around 2 ½ hours. You need to be fairly fit to be able to manage this as it’s very steep!
We opted to save our legs, which I’m thankful for, as the walkways at the top (although relatively flat) are long.
Zhangjiajie National Park Tickets
These are EXPENSIVE… for china! However, the ticket price is for 4 days. So if you want to get your money’s worth then plan to stay in the area for the full days. Oh! and bring your passports as you need these for the tickets & cable car.
The cost is RMB 245 per adult or RMB 160 for kids (slightly cheaper in winter). However, on top of this you may also need to pay for the cable car, elevator or train if you desire. These are RMB 80 (or more) per person for each leg. It certainly adds up!
I was grateful for the cable cars up though, which saved our legs and allowed us to wander the mountain tops without too much whining!