First published on 9 May 2012. Updated on 9 May 2012.
Kevin Woolford is a Hangzhou resident and an expert on wild hiking and biking trails in Zhejiang province. As he prepares to launch his own private tours, he gives a sneak preview of some of his hiking secrets. Warning: these are for intrepid travelers who speak Chinese
Longwangshan, or Dragon King Mountain, in the southwest corner of Anji county, is famous as the source of the Huangpu River, and is worth a trip for its steep climbs, dramatic scenery and places to swim.
If you're starting from the base, the best option is to follow paths beside the creeks with the heaviest flowing water. The ones up to Laoying and Waipai are good, with plenty of swimming holes. The River Source Scenic Area itself (80RMB entry), close to the peak, is beautiful, but often packed with tourist groups. The road up the mountain, often used as a practice course by the Chinese Olympic bike team, is spectacular. It?ˉs a tough ride up with breathtaking views, and a thrilling ride down.
Get there Buses run from Shanghai South Long Distance (LD) Bus Station to Xiaofeng, with the 165km journey costing 30-50RMB. Buses run from Xiaofeng to Zhangcun/Changtan at the bottom of the mountain for 10RMB, or you can take a taxi for 60-80RMB.
Where to stay Changtan has farmhouse-style restaurant/guesthouses for less than 100RMB/person with meals. The scenic zone has a hotel, costing more than 250RMB/night in the summer.
In the mountains between Anji and Linan counties, the south-facing side has the best scenery and villages. Longwang Mountain’s south side butts up against the northwest side of Tianmu Mountain, with some excellent hiking trails in the area where the two mountains meet.
It’s tricky to get to, though. One of the best ways is to hike from the Huangpu River Source Scenic Zone (see above). Head due west from the ticket office along the stream until you reach the bamboo trucking road, then head due south on the bamboo trucking road until you reach the village of Pingxi. This walk will take a full day, skirting between two 1,200-metre peaks. Once you get to Pingxi, you may or may not be able to stay at a farmhouse in this increasingly small village, so bringing camping gear is recommended.
Pingxi is located at the top of the Tianmu Gorge, one of the busiest scenic spots in the area. While Pingxi itself is fairly peaceful and worth spending the night, if you follow the cascading water for a few kilometres, you will eventually reach the Tianmu Gorge Tourist Zone and increasingly crowded civilisation. The best scenery here has been ruined by bridged walkways and pavilions.
Check out the bonus hike in the southwest corner of the area, too. There’s a small reservoir at 900m elevation which always has cool water; we’ve also seen ten-foot snakes nearby. Tianmu Gorge tickets are at least 100RMB, but this is avoidable if you enter via Pingxi.
Get there Buses run from Shanghai South LD Bus Station to Xiaofeng, with the 165km journey costing 30-50RMB. From there, taxis to the Huangpu River Source Scenic Zone cost around 150RMB. To return from Tianmu Gorge, taxis to Linan cost around 200RMB, where you can catch a bus to Hangzhou for 10RMB, which takes 45 minutes.
Where to stay There are several farmhouse-style hotel-restaurants along the road near the Tianmu Gorge ticket booth, with rooms from 50-200RMB.
Western Zhejiang is an excellent stop for food. Most mountain streams flow into protected reservoirs, so pesticides are banned on the slopes. The vegetables are fresh, and there could be three or four different species of bamboo to eat in May and June. Many of our trips result in bags loaded with vegetables and quasi-wild chicken eggs; one May weekend saw wild raspberries growing on the mountains of southern Anji. We highly recommend the walnut-sized wild kiwis which grow on trees in the 72 Peaks of Dahan in Anji county in September and October.
The English name of this scenic area on the Anji-Linan border (officially ‘72 Charming and Pretty Peaks of Dahan’) is a misnomer – there are actually only a couple of peaks, and with lower altitude and more people, the hikes aren’t strenuous. In Baofu, a small town in Anji, there are two roads heading south into the mountains to different villages: one dead-ends at Shiling and another ends at Dongling. In between Shiling and Dongling is the main 72 Peaks of Dahan scenic zone, with paintballing, cliff climbing, rope bridges and hiking trails. Shiling is a convenient place to base yourself, but Dongling is more picturesque.
There are other ways to get between Shiling and Dongling. We suggest heading up the road past Shiling, making a left at the small hydroelectric plant, and following the aqueduct uphill to Dongling. The mountains in Zhejiang are full of these aqueducts, an intricate series of dams that bring the water down the mountain to hydro power stations. Some of them even tunnel through the mountains. If you are ever lost, follow an aqueduct downhill – they are paved and lead to civilisation. The aqueduct makes it easier to walk to Dongling if you have your bike with you – from Dongling, the bike ride back to Baofu is 25 kilometres of downhill bliss.
Get there Buses run from Shanghai South LD Bus Station to Xiaofeng, with the 165km journey costing 30-50RMB. Buses from Xiaofeng to Baofu cost 1RMB or taxis are 20RMB.
Where to stay There are around 20 farmhouse-style accommodation options between Baofu and Shiling, most near the 72 Peaks ticket gate and costing 50-200RMB.
In ancient times, the trade route from the rich salt merchants of Huizhou in Anhui to Hangzhou’s Grand Canal went via the Hui-Hang Ancient Road. This historically significant area still has ancient Ming buildings and old temples. To the south, it borders Qingliang Peak, which is the highest in northern Zhejiang province.
The Hui-Hang Ancient Road and Qingliang Peak straddle Zhejiang and Anhui provinces, and they are the furthest west we’d travel for a stress-free weekend from Hangzhou. The area is vast, but there are plenty of English maps of the region available online.
There are camping facilities and ranger stations, and hiring a guide is recommended going up for Qingliang Peak. Because this region is getting into Yellow Mountain territory, Qingliang Peak has a lot of Huangshan-esque features, such as trees clinging to huge rocks and the ‘sea of clouds’ sunrise. The Hui-Hang Ancient Road has more lodging options than Qingliang Peak, but they are few and far between, with rustic amenities.
We suggest approaching from the north, and walking a section of the Hui-Hang Ancient Road paths and up the north side of Qingliang Peak. This area is easy to get to with a car, because they have built a new road to higher elevations. Qingliang peak has some of the cleanest air and most dramatic views of anywhere in the eastern park of China.
Get there This is difficult unless you are on a tour. Buses from Hangzhou West Bus Station are slow, and you have to transfer in Changhua. By car, take the Hui-Hang Highway to Jiakou, then take the Jizhe Line westward until the road ends.
Where to stay Camping gear is recommended. Otherwise, a good base is Yinlongwu Village on the Jizhe Line. The Hui-Hang Ancient Road, and good scenery, starts here.