Hunan province -> Zhangjiajie city
Wulingyuan scenic area, better known as Zhangjiajie after a neighbouring city, lies in northwest Hunan Province. China's "Yellow Stone Park" can be divided into four regions: Zhangjiajie National Park, Suoxiyu Nature Reserve, Tianzishan Nature Reserve and Yangjiajie Scenic Area. The whole area is a primitive limestone landscape, home to more than 500 species of trees and animals. Rare trees include the gingko, dove tree and dawn redwood; fauna ranges from civet cats and monkeys to gamebirds and salamanders. It is also home to three ethnic minorities - Tujia, Bai and Miao, which together make up 70% of the local population. Though influenced by China's dominant Han culture, these groups maintain much of their traditional culture, including the language, festivals, clothing and architectural styles.
These days, the area has been extensively developed as a tourist destination; witness the cap-wearing tour groups that swarm the more popular sites. However, if you want to escape the crowds, there are still plenty of less-travelled paths to follow.
The scenic area is listed with UNESCO World Heritage.
|Tianzishan, the northern section of the Zhangjiajie Scenic Area, is another great hiking site. Named after the highest Tianzi Peak in the region, (at 1262.5 metres), legend has it that Xiang, the Song Dynasty Tujia Chief, declared himself the son of heaven here. Every peak, cliff, cave, waterfalls and even ravine in the vacinity has been given an elaborate moniker and a touching story. Nearby Helong Park (RMB10) has the best spot from which to view the cloudscape down the 100-metre valley. From the Peak, the First Bridge Under Heaven can be reached within 40 minutes. Organized tour groups seldom stop off here, because it's not easy to access. But the scenery makes it well worth the effort. The bridge is actually formed by two peaks joined at the top with a thousand-foot drop to the valley below. Walking along the stone bridge is a truly nerve-wracking experience.|
| The Yellow Lion Village|
|The Yellow Lion Village (Huangshi zhai) is the highest village in the Zhangjiajie area. At its peak, the village is actually a 1,200 metre high plateau. Stone steps lead to the top, a quiet area relatively free of tourists from which you can witness the beautiful karst formations of the local crags. Below lie the waters of Jinbian Creek and the primitive forest of Heizongnao.|