Introducing Huanglong National Park
The name describes the tail of a yellow dragon slithering through a valley, helping the King of the Xia kingdom, Xiayu, create the Min River here at Huánglóng (Huánglóng Jǐngqù; Yellow Dragon Valley; www.huanglong.com; admission Y200; 7am-6pm). A national park, it is indeed laced with a golden-hued calcium carbonate which, in the right light, certainly could lead one to conjure an altruistic mythical beast.
All the colours of the rainbow are here, actually, the landscape studded with waterfalls and terraced, coloured limestone ponds of blue, yellow, white and green. Consequently, it has earned the nickname Wǔcǎichí (Five-coloured Pool). To see the pools in their full rainbow glory, the best time of year to visit is September and October.
The most spectacular ponds are behind Huanglong Temple (; Huánglóng Sì), deep in the valley and 7.5km from the road. (The temple was built to honour the dragon.) A round trip along a footpath takes about four hours, with the trail returning through dense (and dark) forest. While some people rave about the valley’s beauty and love the peace and quiet here, others find it disappointing and prefer an extra day at Jiǔzhàigōu. If you do visit, there are no vendors, so bring some water and supplies.
A great time to visit is during the annual Temple Fair (; Miào Huì). Held here around the middle of the sixth lunar month (usually July), it attracts large numbers of traders from the Qiang minority.
No lodging is allowed in the park anymore, and outside you’ve got one super-pricey option. Chuānzhǔsì has almost all places to stay.
Around 56km from Sōngpān, Huánglóng is almost always included on the itinerary of the seven-day Jiǔzhàigōu tours that run out of Chéngdū, as well as on the horse-trekking tours out of Sōngpān. Unfortunately, unless you’ve signed up on a tour, the valley can be difficult to reach. Currently, there is one bus a day from Jiǔzhàigōu (Y41, three hours, 7.10am) but this would leave you hung up, as the bus returns the next day with nary a cheap pillow for your head.
However, as Jiuhuang Airport has been expanded, more buses may at least operate between the airport and the national park (though you’d still have to shell out Y700 just to save money on a bus!).
Last updated: Feb 17, 2009
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