One full day was not enough to cover even one-fifth of the Yuntai Mountain scenic area. Consisting of 11 scenic spots – Red Stone Gorge, Tanpu Gorge, Quanpu Gorge, Cornel Peak, Wanshan Temple, Baijia Cliff, Zifang Lake, Macaque Valley, Qinglong Gorge, Fenglin Gorge and Diecai Cave – the Yuntai Moutain area covers a ground of 190 square kilometres (46,950 acres)!
Yuntai Mountain is located at Xiuwu County, 30km from Jiaozuo in Henan Province, China. It was part of the first group in the world to be named a World Geologic Park under UNESCO back in 2004. It is also the only scenic area in Henan Province to hold the accreditations of a National 5A Grade Tourist Attraction, National Forest Park, National Geologic Park, National Water Conservancy Scenic Area and National Macaque Natural Reserve. The Yuntai Waterfall is the highest waterfall in China, standing at 314 metres high, but it’s summertime now so it is dry with no water.
Gear up in comfortable walking shoes and try to pack as light as possible, to prepare yourself for a long day of walking. I have a 15kg bag of camera gear to lug up and down the mountains, so it was quite a workout for me! I would advise to pack some snacks and water along as well. There are kiosks and rest stops during the 2,000-metre walk up the mountain where you can get drinks, but it would be better to have your own.
At this time of the year – summer – the weather in the mountains is perfect, with the sunrays falling on your shoulders and the wind cool enough so you won’t get sticky and sweaty.
The first spot I went to was the Red Stone Gorge (Hongshi Gorge). This is a valley made of a special stone with ripple marks and is a natural geologic relic of a crustal movement that occurred 1.4 billion years ago. Throughout this gorge, you will see many springs, waterfalls, streams, pools and gullies.
The south side of Red Stone Gorge is so narrow that you have to walk in a single file with towering cliffs facing each other.
The views are stunning and I wish it wasn’t so crowded so I could enjoy it without having some tourist shout into my ear or barge into my photo. When it gets too crowded, you might have to be patient and wait until they clear the walkways so you can get surreal pictures.
Tanpu Gorge (Xiaozhai Valley)
From Red Stone Gorge, I took a 15-minute shuttle bus ride to another scenic part of Yuntai Mountain – the Tanpu Gorge. This place is famous for its series of springs that you can find within the 1.27-kilometre long gorge that is in the North of Yuntai Mountain.
There are several waterfalls to look out for, such as the lover waterfall that falls at three different levels with two waterfalls blending into one. A little higher up is this Y-shaped waterfall that hangs between two mountains with a drop of more than 10 metres.
Further on is the Duxian Pond which is said to give people immortality if you drink its water, so bring an empty bottle along if you want some. I filled up a full bottle and drank it all – let’s see if I’m still around 100 years later!
Try to ignore the overwhelming tourist crowds and just enjoy the cool air with the amazing landscapes that are very Insta-worthy (ie. worthy of Instagram).
I could just walk along and come across a random rock formation that makes for a very good photo!
At the end of Tanpu Gorge – about 2,000 metres in and up – is this Butterfly Rock which you have to strain your neck high up to look at. Once you get there you know it’s time to make the descent.
At the entrance to Tanpu Gorge is the Xiaozhai Valley Square, where there are daily Taiqi performances on a platform in the middle of the water that you can watch and take photos of.
Depending on which time of the year you visit, you will get different landscapes. For example, in winter, the waterfalls and springs will all be frozen and you find yourself surrounded with icicles.
This was all the time I had for Yuntai Mountain and my feet were aching by the end of the day from all the climbing of steps. Please remember to wear comfortable shoes and hydrate well!
CNY 120 (Mar-Nov)
CNY 60 (Dec-Feb)
*Shuttle bus services are at a separate cost
Opening Hours: 0800hrs – 1830hrs
Tickets: Only one ticket is needed to access all scenic areas in Yuntai Mountain. The ticket is valid for two days and has to be presented in each scenic area. Tourists can visit each area only once.
More information at www.channelnewsasia.com/henan.