Wudang Shan


Wudang Shan attracts a diverse array of climbers, from Taoist pilgrims with knapsacks and porters shouldering paving slabs and sacks of rice, to tired parents piggybacking young kids and bright-eyed octogenarians hopping along. It’s a gruelling climb but the scenery is worth every step; several Taoist temples line the route (where you can take contemplative breathers) and you’ll see the occasional Taoist inscription or trees garlanded with scarlet ribbons.

Ascents start from the huge Tourist Centre complex (游客中心, Yóukè Zhōngxīn) near the east end of town. From the ticket office you need to board a shuttle to either the cable car (24km, 45 minutes) or to Nanyan (26km, one hour), from where you can hike up a very steep 4km trail to the top – figure on at least two hours. The cable car gets you close to the summit, but you'll still need at least half an hour of steep climbing from here.

If you're hiking, consider getting off the shuttle before Nanyan at the beautiful, turquoise-tiled Zixiao Palace. From here, a small stone path leads up to Nanyan (45 minutes). At Nanyan, you have the choice of two paths, the more direct route, or the slightly longer path that passes by the cliffside Nanyan Palace (南岩宫, Nányán Gōng).

About halfway up is the red-walled Cháotiān Temple (朝天宫, Cháotiān Gōng), housing a statue of the Jade Emperor and standing on an old, moss-hewn stone base. From here you have a choice of two ascent routes, via the 1.4km Ming dynasty route (the older, Back Way) or the 1.8km Qing dynasty path (the ‘Hundred Stairs’). The shorter but more exhausting Ming route ascends via the Three Heaven’s Gates, including the stupefying climb to the Second Gate of Heaven (二天门, Èrtiān Mén). You can climb by one route and descend by the other. Temple ruins, fallen trees, shocking inclines and steep steps misshapen by centuries of footslogging await you.

Near the top, the Nanyan trail passes by the cable car exit; from here, you'll need to ascend to and pass through the magnificent Taihe Palace and Forbidden City, with its 2.5m-thick stone walls hugging the mountainside and balustrades adorned with lovers’ locks. You can then stagger to the summit and magnificent views outside the Golden Hall, constructed entirely from bronze, dating from 1416 and in dire need of some buffing up. A small statue of Zhenwu – Ming emperor and Wudang Shan’s presiding Taoist deity – peeks out from within.

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Nearby Hubei attractions

1. Wǔdāng Museum of China

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This is a great opportunity to get a grip on Wudang Shan history, lore and architecture. There’s a whole pantheon of gods, including the eminent Zhenwu …

2. Zixiao Palace

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From this beautiful, turquoise-tiled temple, a small stone path leads up to South Cliff (45 minutes).

3. Forbidden City

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The walled Forbidden City encompasses the very tip-top of Wudang Shan and is accessed from the Taihe Palace near the cable car exit. The Chinese name…