Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, Lijiang, Yunnan - stock photo
The Peak of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain (Yulong Mountain) in Lijiang, Yunnan, China

Tony Shi Photography/Getty

Jade Dragon Snow Mountain


Jade Dragon Snow Mountain soars to some 5596m, and the massif's thirteen peaks dominate the skyline of the surrounding regions. Undeniably beautiful, the national park is also undeniably overcrowded – a classic case of over-tourism, compounded by a lack of any nature trails or hiking areas whatsoever. If you're looking for pristine nature, consider Tiger Leaping Gorge or a day hike out of Baisha. If you just want to get up close and personal with peaks, though, visit Jade Dragon Snow Mountain.

Buses (¥15, one hour) from Lijiang arrive at a parking area where you can purchase tickets for the various cable cars and chairlifts that ascend the mountain, but before you even arrive to the service centre you'll need to pony up ¥100 for the entrance fee. This grants you entrance to the service centre and surrounding Dry Sea Meadow (干海子, Gānhǎizi), but not much more.

This is also where the Impression Lijiang show is held, a mega song-and-dance performance. Note that if you are going to the performance you will also have to pay the park admission fees. Most independent travellers skip this, but those booking an organised tour may find it included in the package price.

From the bus drop-off, a counter on the right sells tickets for separate cable cars to Yak Meadow (牦牛坪, Máoniú Píng) and Spruce Meadow (云杉坪, Yúnshān Píng). Cable-car trips for both Yak Meadow (¥45) and Spruce Meadow (¥40) also require a bus transfer (¥20 round-trip); you could conceivably walk it, but the road to the Yak Meadow cable car is 20km from the visitor centre. Just below the Spruce Meadow cable car station (and served by bus) are the Blue Moon Valley (蓝月谷, Lányuè Gǔ) and the White Water River (白水河, Báishuǐ Hé) that runs through it. In summer, when crowds for the cable cars are long (up to four hours' wait), many travellers just do the trip to the lake and Yak Meadow or Spruce Meadow.

If you have the time to wait for it, the main draw of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain is Glacier Park (冰川公园, Bīngchuān Gōngyuán). Ride up nearly 3km of cable car to an elevation of 4506m, where a 200m wooden pathway gets visitors right up next to the mountain's largest glacier. Buy cable car (¥120) and bus transfer (¥20 round-trip) tickets from a separate ticket office east of where buses from Lijiang drop passengers, across from the Impression Lijiang theatre. In the high season, expect to wait an hour or more for a bus transfer to the cable-car station and then a further three to four hours for the cable car itself. It can get cold and windy at the top in midsummer; you'll see plenty of domestic tourists wearing rented down jackets, and you'd be well advised to pack your own warm clothes for the trip.

Buses (¥15, one hour) returning to Lijiang leave every 20 minutes until 5pm from a parking lot just between the Glacier Park ticket office and the Impression Lijiang theatre. The line is not numbered, so look for Yulong Xueshan (玉龙雪山, Yùlóng Xuěshān) in Chinese.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Lijiang attractions

1. Jade Peak Monastery

8.31 MILES

This small peaceful monastery at the foot of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain was established in 1756. Once home to Kublai Khan during his military travels…

2. Dabaoji Palace

10.26 MILES

The main historical draw of Baisha is the impressive collection of frescoes located inside the small complex, the earliest of which date to 1385. In…

3. Viewpoint

11.65 MILES

Vantage point over Tiger Leaping Gorge.

4. Tiger Leaping Gorge

11.88 MILES

Scenic spot where a tiger is said to have leaped across the river, thus giving the gorge its name.

6. Tea Horse Road Museum

13.05 MILES

Exhibits here are heavy on artefacts and historic photos of the Tea Horse Road era, but light on English signage. The main reason to visit is the building…

7. Museum of Dongba Culture

14.7 MILES

The Museum of Dongba Culture houses displays on Naxi dress and culture, Dongba pictographic script, Lijiang's old town and the dubious claim that the…

8. Black Dragon Pool Park

14.97 MILES

On the northern edge of town is Black Dragon Pool Park; the view from here of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain is an obligatory photo stop in southwestern China…