Western Steps information
The 15km western steps route has some stellar scenery, but it’s twice as long and strenuous as the eastern steps, and much easier to enjoy if you’re clambering down rather than gasping your way up. If you take the cable car up the mountain, just do this in reverse. The western steps descent begins at the Flying Rock , a boulder perched on an outcrop 30 minutes from Běihǎi Hotel, and goes over Bright Summit Peak (光明顶; Guāngmíng Dǐng; 1841m), from where you can see Áoyú Peak (鳌鱼峰; Áoyú Fēng; 1780m), which resembles two turtles!
South of Áoyú Peak en route to Lotus Flower Peak, the descent funnels you down through Gleam of Sky (一线天; Yīxiàn Tiān), a remarkably narrow chasm – a vertical split in the granite – pinching a huge rock suspended above the heads of climbers. Further on, Lotus Flower Peak (莲花峰; Liánhuā Fēng; 1873m) marks the highest point, but is occasionally sealed off, preventing ascents. Liánruǐ Peak (莲蕊峰; Liánruǐ Fēng; 1776m) is decorated with rocks whimsically named after animals, but save some energy for the much-coveted and staggering climb – 1321 steps in all – up Heavenly Capital Peak (天都峰; Tiāndū Fēng; 1810m) and the stunning views that unfold below. As elsewhere on the mountain, young lovers have padlocks engraved with their names up here and lash them for eternity to the chain railings. Access to Heavenly Capital Peak (and other peaks) is sometimes restricted for maintenance and repair, so keep those fingers crossed when you go!
At the halfway point is Bànshān Temple (which literally means halfway temple). At the bottom of the steps is Mercy Light Pavilion , which has been repurposed as the cable car station. From here, you can pick up a minibus back to Tāngkǒu (¥19) or continue walking 1.5km to the hot springs area.