ultimate guide to huanglong national park

How to Visit Huanglong National Park [the Yellowstone of China]

Our driver was late. We arrived in the lobby, bags packed, grabbed some bread from a local restaurant and checked with the staff that our car was on its way. Google translated their response as our 0900 driver as arriving for us at 6pm.

There was a moment of shocked silence.

No, no, now and after a stressy 20 minutes he arrived. Not quite screeching to a halt outside the hostel, but not far off, his small red car emblazoned with “Devil May Cry” perhaps a sign of what was to come. Devil May Cry might have been plastered on one side of the car, but he’s obviously got a deal on a second sign, as yrC yaM liveD on the other side of the car took me a moment to figure out.

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For 400 Yuan he was going to take on us the spectacular drive over the 4,000 metre mountain pass to Huanglong. He’d wait for us and at the end of the day get us to the Jiuzhaigou – Huanlong airport, where we’d take a flight to Chongqing for the next part of the Chinese adventure.

It is a glorious drive out of the Jiuzhaigou valley, and then over the mountains to Huanglong. Just magnificient. Once you get out of the 9 bends of the Jiuzhaigou valley and you’ve overtaken a bus, a Range Rover and everything in between then the roads are quiet, the scenery awe inspiring and just vast.

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2 hours and 20 minutes later we arrived in Huanglong, our drive helped us purchase cable car tickets, National Park Tickets and made sure that we knew where to meet him at 4pm. It’s not necessary to get the cable car, you can walk into the area, but this is all at altitude.

We’d been at altitude for a while, steadily climbing, from our entry to China in Hekou at 100 metres, to Kunming, at 1,900 metres, then onto Dali (2,200 metres) , Lijiang (3,000 metres ), then Shangri La (3,300 metres), our flight to Chendgu meant we were down at 500 metres for two days, but the bus journey to Jiuzhaigou took us back to 2,000 metres. Huanglong base is at 3,200 metres, the top of the park is at 3,600 metres. We were taking the cable car up.

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It’s another not cheap day, with tickets to the park standing at 230 Yuan and the cable car a further 80 Yuan. But it’s worth it. Step out of the cable car, walk a few metres and you’ll find the first oxygen station. Oxygen is free, you just need to pay for the bag to carry it in. This was the first of three that we spotted. There are also toilets everywhere. I’ve never seen so many toilets. Perhaps the oxygen and the toilets are because of the age of the visitors. This was definitely an older persons park and after weeks of bringing up the average age we were taking it well down.

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A few more metres saunter and you reach the first viewing platform. Wow. Just wow. And silence. There weren’t too many people here, and those that were here were helpful, there was always someone offering to take a photo, they were polite and folks waited for others to take photos before they took their own. It was quiet. There were no yelled conversations. no barging around. Quite the opposite to yesterday in Jiuzhaigou.

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Huanglong is likened to Yellowstone because of the colorful pools of water cascadng down the hillside. And it truly is lovely. The water here is cold, not sulphur heated like the US National Park, its clear. It’s plentiful. There are the usual food vendors throughout the park, but a distinct lack of tacky things to buy. Horrors, no Chinese swords.

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After the first viewpoint, its a couple of kilometres walk along flatish boardwalks. There’s a climb of a few hundred metres to reach the colorful pool, but taking it slow meant it was pretty easy and then it’s downhill all the way to the exit.

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We took a very very leisurely 4 hours to wander down. Photographing everything, stopping and just looking and enjoying the peace and quiet.

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Huanglong is well laid out. It was quiet when we went. You don’t need more than 4 hours to see it (unless you plan on walking in and up to the top and back down again). The scenery was magnificent, the fellow park goers quiet, polite and hiding their inner Chinese tourist incredibly well. I’ll let the pictures of the park tell you the rest.

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