Mt Tàishì

Mountain in Song Shan & Dengfeng

Arguably the best hike in the area, Mt Tàishì serves as a much quieter counterpoint to Shàolín Temple. It's not for slackers, however; like all Chinese mountains, the steps go straight up, and these ascend a leg-busting 1000m in altitude before reaching Jùnjí Peak (1492m). Along the way you'll pass some fantastical landscapes and a host of ravaged temples, the most interesting being Lǎojūn Cave, where according to one legend Laotzu lived for six years while writing the Tao Te Ching.

If you want to make a day of it, it's possible to do a loop, descending past Fǎwáng Temple (法王寺; Fǎwáng Sì) and then Sōngyuè Pagoda (嵩岳塔; Sōngyuè Tǎ), built in the year 509, on the return trip. Ask for directions at Tiānyé Temple. If you don't do the loop, figure on spending four to six hours hiking (return).

The entrance is located at Sōngyáng Academy; take bus 6 or 2 to get here. Don't forget to pick up a map (地图; dìtú) with your ticket.