Guide National Geological Park

Top choice in Qinghai

In the stunning multicoloured clay scenery of Danxia Canyon (丹霞峡谷, Dānxiá Xiágǔ), this geopark offers walking trails in among red and orange hills that have eroded into otherworldly shapes. Set against the contrasting blue Qinghai skies and teal waters of the Yellow River, this is a lovely spot to spend an afternoon wandering and taking photos, or exploring the peculiar geology of this part of the Tibetan Plateau.

There's a museum with decent signs and maps in English, and well-kept paths allow for easy access to the geological formations, making this a leisurely walk rather than a back-country hike. Admission includes a Chinese-speaking guide (which you can politely decline) and you can also save ¥20 by declining the tourist electric car (观光车, Guānguāng Chē). Once inside, there are opportunities to go off-piste and clamber up the dirt mounds between canyons, but do take care as you're on your own and the wind can really whip up. Water can be purchased at the entrance. You can also hike up the Tongtianxia (通天峡) trail to the top of one of the peaks for views of the Yellow River.

The park is located about 20km north of Guide. Local bus 11 (¥3) stops here, though the last bus is at around 12.30pm, so you will need to wait on the far side of the road for a bus heading to Guide from Xining; the driver will charge you ¥5 for the journey. If you're coming from Xining by bus, you can ask the driver to drop you here. Keep an eye on the landscape on the drive from Guide: there are stupefying rock forms on the way to the park, with dry mountains on one side and lush valley on the other. A taxi will cost around ¥40 or you can wait at the exit gate of the bus station and get on a bus heading towards Xining and tell the driver you're stopping here.

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