Unaffected by the earthquakes that have so impacted nearby Jiuzhhaigou National Park, the lesser known but almost equally gorgeous Huanglong National Park is a stunning valley with 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.
Visiting the park essentially means a three- to four-hour moderate hike up and down one small valley on wooden boardwalks. The walk starts by taking a cable car (9am to 5pm), which drops you in a deep forest. A path then 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 a couple of restaurants, 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 Songpan or Jiuzhaigou.