Introducing Qīngchéng Shān
A holy Taoist mountain some 65km west of Chéngdū, with a summit of only 1600m, Qīngchéng Shān (Azure City Mountain; Y60) is an excellent day trip into the subtropics. It offers beautiful trails lined with gingko, plum and palm trees, boatloads of temples, picturesque vistas and plenty of atmospheric sights along its four-hour return route. The weather here is better than Éméi Shān, so the views are far less likely to be obscured by mist and cloud. It’s also a far easier climb.
Note: the front of the mountain is chock-a-block with Chéngdū day-trippers clamouring for the Yuèchéng Hú (Yuecheng Lake) ferry (Y5) and then the cable car (one way/return Y30/50) to the near-summit.
Thus, the secret: head instead for Qīngchéng Hòushān (Azure City Back Mountain) some 15km northwest of the base of Qīngchéng Shān proper. With over 20km of hiking trails, this mountain offers a more natural environment, with Five Dragon Gorge (Wǔlóng Gōu) offering dramatic vistas. Not a few travellers who come here spend several days. There is a cable car to help with part of the route, but climbing the mountain will still require an overnight stay; you won’t want to rush the trip anyway.