Introduction Zhangjiajie National Forest Park

Nestled in the northwest of Hunan Province in China lies the stunning Zhangjiajie National Forest Park. Known for its towering sandstone pillars, pristine forests, and iconic mountain peaks, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of China’s most remarkable natural attractions. Spanning a massive area of 1,980 square kilometers, the park contains some of the most breathtaking scenery in the country. With its mix of strange rock formations, dense vegetation, waterfalls, caves, and temples, Zhangjiajie offers visitors a multitude of ways to experience the power and beauty of nature.

Zhangjiajie National Forest Park: China's Natural Wonderland

Zhangjiajie National Forest Park: China’s Natural Wonderland

History of the Park

The history of Zhangjiajie National Forest Park is deeply intertwined with the local Tujia ethnic minority group. For centuries, the Tujia people have lived in harmony with the natural environment, developing agricultural techniques suited for the mountainous terrain. In 1982, the core area of Zhangjiajie was officially designated as a forest park by the Ministry of Forestry. Just 8 years later in 1992, Zhangjiajie was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This brought further protection to the area and also increased tourism. Today, the park is governed by Zhangjiajie City and continues to draw visitors from around China and the world.

Zhangjiajie National Forest Park: China's Natural Wonderland

Zhangjiajie National Forest Park: China’s Natural Wonderland

Famous Attractions

The Quartz Sandstone Pillars

The most iconic feature of Zhangjiajie National Forest Park are the towering quartz sandstone pillars that seem to sprout up out of nowhere. These natural skyscrapers were formed over hundreds of millions of years through geological processes like erosion. The tallest pillar is the Southern Sky Column which stands an impressive 1,080 meters tall. In total, there are over 3,000 of these sandstone columns scattered throughout the park. Sunlight filtering through the mist around these stone giants creates stunning visual effects.

Golden Whip Stream

Named after its winding shape like a golden whip, this 6 kilometer stream flows through a narrow valley surrounded by sheer cliffs. Walking along the paved pathway following Golden Whip Stream, visitors are treated to gushing rapids, small waterfalls, pools, and limestone cave formations. Lush plant life grows on the rocky overhangs above. One of the top attractions here is the “First Bridge Under Heaven” a beautiful stone bridge with three arches spanning the stream.

Zhangjiajie National Forest Park: China's Natural Wonderland

Zhangjiajie National Forest Park: China’s Natural Wonderland

Tianzi Mountain

As one of the major peaks in Wulingyuan Scenic Area, the towering Tianzi Mountain provides incredible panoramic views over the surrounding forest and sandstone pillars. Getting to the top requires an ascent of 1,262 stone steps along the mountain path. The exhausting climb is well worth it to see the sea of green canopy and scattered rock towers from above. The sums rises dramatically over the landscape here, making it an excellent spot for sunrise and sunset.

Yuanjiajie Scenic Area

This section of the park is home to the iconic Hallelujah Mountains that inspired the floating mountains in the film Avatar. Scattered among these surreal looking peaks are towering sandstone columns, ravines, caves, sheer cliffs, and waterfalls. Visitors can take a breathtaking glass elevator ride up to the highest point for unbeatable views. One of the most stunning sights is the sea of clouds that rolls in through the mountains on cloudy days.

Zhangjiajie National Forest Park: China's Natural Wonderland

Zhangjiajie National Forest Park: China’s Natural Wonderland

Exploring the Park

With such a massive area to explore, Zhangjiajie National Forest Park offers a variety of ways for visitors to experience it:


There are over 800 kilometers of hiking trails that wind through the various scenic spots and past major attractions. Hiking is the best way to fully immerse yourself in the natural beauty and really witness the park’s iconic landscapes up close. Trails range from easy walks along streams to challenging ascents up stone staircases on the mountain peaks.

Cable Cars

To help tourists access the peaks and enjoy aerial views, there are cable cars running throughout the park. Cable cars are available going up Tianzi Mountain, Yuangjiajie Scenic Area, and other spots. Though not as authentic as hiking, cable cars provide a comfortable way to admire the scenery from new heights.

Boat Tours

Drifting along the waters of Golden Whip Stream on a bamboo raft tour allows you to sit back and soak in the lush green valley. Boats also provide another vantage point to see the towering sandstone columns rising on either side of the waterways. You’ll glide through dripping caverns and by small riverside villages on these relaxing rides.

Zhangjiajie National Forest Park: China's Natural Wonderland

Zhangjiajie National Forest Park: China’s Natural Wonderland


With its abundance of breathtaking natural scenery, Zhangjiajie is a paradise for photography enthusiasts. Capturing the mist swirling around the towering columns, the sea of clouds below mountain peaks, and reflecting pools at the base of waterfalls will provide amazing images. Photographers flock here to catch the vibrant sunrises and sunsets over this epic landscape.

When to Visit

Due to its subtropical highland climate, Zhangjiajie National Forest Park experiences distinctive seasonal weather patterns that determine the best times to visit:

Spring (March – May)

Temperatures are mild and rainfall is moderate, making spring a popular season. Blooming flowers like azaleas add vibrant colors. However, spring is also the busiest tourist season so expect crowds.

Summer (June – August)

The lush green forests are beautiful but this is also the rainy season. Sudden downpours can put a damper on outdoor activities. Summer is extremely hot, humid, and wet.

Autumn (September – November)

Pleasant temperatures in the 60s or 70s F along with less rain and crowds make fall an ideal time to visit. You’ll get clear views and enjoy nature’s painting of autumn foliage.

Winter (December – February)

The low season due to cold temperatures around 45 F and possible snowfall. But the lack of crowds and icy landscapes could make it worthwhile for some.

Staying in the Park

Zhangjiajie National Forest Park has a variety of accommodation choices for an immersive experience:


Several luxury resorts allow you to wake up amid the mystical scenery. Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon Glass Bridge Resort has floor-to-ceiling windows and walkway views. Tianzi Mountain Nature Reserve Resort blends into the surroundings with wooden architecture. Both offer 5-star amenities.

Zhangjiajie National Forest Park: China's Natural Wonderland

Zhangjiajie National Forest Park: China’s Natural Wonderland


Scattered cabins blended into the forest provide a rustic and quaint lodging experience. Expect basic amenities but huge windows and balconies that integrate the natural environment. Golden Whip Stream Ecological Cultural Village is popular.


For the truly adventurous, camping is allowed in certain designated areas. It’s a rare opportunity to sleep under the towering columns and vivid stars. But you’ll need to bring all your own gear and prepare for very basic facilities.


There are also hotels located in the towns just outside the park entrances. Here you’ll find more budget-friendly accommodation and dining options. Consider hotels in Wulingyuan City or Zhangjiajie City.

Final Thoughts

With its unreal looking mountains, iconic sandstone pillars, pristine streams, and lush forests, Zhangjiajie National Forest Park showcases some of China’s most remarkable natural beauty. Adventurous travelers will love exploring this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Just wandering through the fantastical landscapes feels like stepping into a world where giant stone skyscrapers blend into the clouds and forests cling to sheer cliffs. As one of China’s most famous scenic areas, Zhangjiajie deserves a spot on every nature lover’s bucket list.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *