With vertiginous and dizzying cliffs alongside a deep gorge, this astonishing mountain area is a splendid day trip from Pingyao. Lined with precariously perched temple architecture, scenic gully walks and breathtaking views, the road snaking around the mountain is an undemanding hike, with buses linking the main sights. From the bus drop-off, it's a short walk to Dragon Head Temple (龙头寺, Lóngtóu Sì), from where a long, flat road links to the Shuǐtāogōu Scenic Area (水涛沟景区, Shuǐtāogōu Jǐngqū), a few hours' walk away.
From Dragon Head Temple, the wide road (which accommodates the hop-on, hop-off buses that rattle along the route) hugs the side of the mountain, overlooking a deep and perilous drop into the gorge below. The distant sound of the river at the bottom accompanies you as you hike, with vertical cliffs on either side. You will pass a spring and then the Dàluó Temple (大罗宫, Dàluō Gōng), built up the side of the cliff. Winding around the mountain with a stomach-wrenching view below your feet is Rabbit Bridge (兔桥, Tùqiáo). Recently off limits, you may need to walk through the tunnel. Ahead is Yúnfēng Temple (云峰寺, Yúnfēng Sì) and the Sky Ladder (天桥, Tiānqiáo), a scary-looking walkway climbing up the side of the mountain. Past Five Dragon Peak (无龙峰, Wǔlóng Fēng) is the exhilarating Qīxián Gǔ (栖贤谷), a lovely river-gorge walk. Beyond lie the waterfalls, bridges and water-curtain caves of the Shuitaogou Scenic Area.
Buses run regularly between the sights, so just hop-on and hop-off, although walking between the different areas is not difficult. The first/last bus up the mountain from the ticket office is at 7am/7pm. You must buy the bus ticket (¥50) as you cannot walk up from the main ticket office and the ticket entitles you to free transport between the sights. Pick up a map at the ticket office for ¥5. Take water, sunscreen and, if travelling in the colder months, some warm clothes.
Take a train (¥9 to ¥11, 30 minutes, regular) to Jiexiu (介休) from Pingyao train station or take a bus (¥12, one hour) from Pingyao bus station to Jiexiu bus station. Buses (¥11) to Mian Shan leave from in front of the train station, around 300m east along Xinjian Xilu (新建西路) from the long-distance bus station in Jiexiu. Booking a car from Pingyao would cost around ¥350 for the return trip; this can be arranged at hotels.