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China’s Zhangjiajie National Forest: Yep, I Hiked the Mountains That Inspired the Floating Mountains of Pandora in Avatar & It Was Awesome!
You’ve seen Avatar, right? What am I talking about, of course you have! Remember those cool floating mountains of Pandora in the movie? Well, did you know that they were inspired from the mountainous landscape of China’s very own Zhangjiajie National Forest? That’s right, and I explored it!
Located in the Wulingyuan Scenic Area of Zhangjiajie City, Hunan Province, my girlfriend, a local Chinese woman, and I set out on a busy 4-day adventure that would include a trip to Tianmen Mountain and Zhangjiajie National Forest in Zhangjiajie City, and a visit to the giant statue of Chairman Mao’s head in Changsha, which was only a hour away by plane.
After landing in Zhangjiajie on the evening of Day 1 we found ourselves starting our first adventure to Tianmen Mountain less than twelve hours later. We’d visit Tianmen Mountain first and then head over to Zhangjiajie National Forest afterwards, and all before 6pm.
Our trip to Tianmen Mountain, outside of waiting in massively long queues, was absolutely awesome. You can read more about my trip to Tianmen Mountain, here.
We arrived at Zhangjiajie around 2pm after taking a mini-bus directly from City Garden Cableway station, which provided transportation to and from Tianmen Mountain.
After a short walk we found ourselves at the entrance of Wulingyuan Scenic Area and were bombarded by hundreds of tourists that had just finished exploring the attraction.
Situated at the entrance was a towering pagoda, Avatar displays, and plenty of funny cartoon posters outlying the rules for hiking Zhangjiajie, which included prohibited activities like taking off your shirt, writing on the trees, and jumping the queues.
Before long we grabbed our entry tickets, made our way inside, hopped on a shuttle bus, and arrived at our first destination: Bailong Elevators.
Bailong Elevator was incredible! It was the first time I had ever seen an elevator attached to the side of a mountain, a towering one at that. Mankind’s innovation never ceases to amaze me.
Without hesitation we bought our single journey tickets for a ride to the top. Hey, why hike when you can travel in style, right?
After the ride on Bailong Elevator we stumbled on an observation platform that offered a spectacular panoramic view of Zhangjiajie’s lush green and pillar-riddled landscape.
The pillars were extraordinary tall and most were almost entirely vertical.
Though I wished we could have viewed all of the area under the clarity of the sun, the grey haze hovering over the mountain range still made way for a quite a mystical scene.
Before long we passed by a waiting area with a couple of food stalls, grabbed a few pancake snacks, and made our way to the start of a trail leading down to the base of the mountain.
The hike down wasn’t too difficult – way easier than Huangshan “Yellow” Mountain – and we managed to stop by several other observation platforms with fantastic views.
Situated on one platform were two painters capturing the mountain’s iconic landscape. If I could draw that good I’d be doing the same thing!
Afterwards we’d have the chance to pass through some thick forestry where we’d receive an up-close look at many of the pillars’ rocky frames.
Some 2hrs later we’d finally arrive on the ground level of Zhangjiajie National Forest.
We quickly found that looking up at the pillars was just as fascinating as seeing them from above.
With a sparkling creek running between the pillars and an abundance of thriving forestation spewing out of every direction, Zhangjiajie National Forest solidified itself as one of my top favorite natural environments in China.
Later we’d pass a resting area consisting of a few children’s amusement rides and more tourists admiring the surroundings before finally catching a bus back to the entrance of the Wulingyuan Scenic Area.
Visiting Zhangjiajie National Forest was an awesome adventure and I highly recommend it for anyone interested in exploring China’s natural wonders. After exploring Tianmen Mountain earlier in the same day we were only able to spend about 4hrs at Zhangjiajie, covering only a significantly small portion compared to its entirety.
If you’re planning your own trip to Zhangjiajie National Forest, just make sure to arrange an entire day to trek the various parts of the Wulingyuan Scenic Area.
Safe and happy travels!