A trip to Huánglóng National Park is essentially a three- to four-hour, moderate hike up and down one small valley. However, the valley is stunning, with exquisite terraces of coloured limestone ponds in blues, greens, oranges, yellows and white. The best time to come from is June to October, ideally during mild July and August. Outside of this period, lack of water in the pools significantly reduces the visual impact of the park. At this elevation (3600m), always bring a jacket.
With smaller crowds than Jiǔzhàigōu, Huánglóng is certainly worth the trip in the right season. To see the whole park, walk 800m to the cable car (9am to 5pm), which drops you in a deep forest. The path leads you up a few kilometres to the start of the main sights, and then down again to the entrance – some 8km of long ascents and descents in all.
By the park entrance is a visitor centre with restaurant, teahouse and luggage check. Pack a picnic as bottled water costs ¥10 in the park. There are also a few expensive tour-group hotels nearby, but most people visit as a day trip from Sōngpān or Jiǔzhàigōu.
To get here, two daily buses depart Jiǔzhàigōu (¥48, three hours, 7am and 7.30am); travellers arriving on early-morning flights can take an airport shuttle (¥120, 1½ hours) directly to Huánglóng, where they will wait for four hours before departing for Jiǔzhàigōu. There's also one return bus to Jiǔzhàigōu (¥45, 3pm) and a minibus (¥120, departs when full) by the visitor centre. To get to Sōngpān, take the Jiǔzhàigōu bus and ask the driver to drop you at Chuānzhǔ Sì (川主寺; one hour), where you can catch a shared taxi to Sōngpān (¥60).