Close to Jiuzhai Valley National Park north of Chengdu, Huanglong Scenic Area consists of Huanglong Valley and Mouni Valley and is famous for its natural beauty. Huanglong Valley is surrounded by snow-capped mountains and houses thousands of colorful mineral pools. Huanglong was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992.
Huanglong Valley is about 3.6 km in length with an altitude escalation from 3230m to 3576m. The 3,400 colorful mineral pools scattered along the valley floor, which are said to resemble the scales of a dragon, earned the park the name of "Huanglong," meaning Yellow Dragon. The highlight of the valley is no doubt the Multi-colored Pond at its northern end, which resembles the head of the dragon.
Visitors can walk the entire valley up to Multi-colored Pond, which takes around 1.5 to 2 hours. However, considering the high altitude of the area and the length of the walk, which is mostly uphill, we recommend you take the cable car up. Be warned that the cable car only takes visitors to a higher platform, which offers great views of the park, but you still need to walk about 2.5 km or one hour from there to the Multi-colored Pond. That said, the walk from the cable car station to the Multi-colored Pond is relatively easy, since most of the path is on a fairly level boardwalk.
The Multi-colored Pond consists of 693 layered mineral pools with crystal clear water and vibrant colors, making it the prettiest part of the valley.
The walk down the valley, back toward the entrance, takes about 1.5 to 2 hours and there are many scenic sceneries and viewpoints along the way, including the Huanglong Buddhist temple and many other smaller-scale ponds. The most beautiful section is from the middle to the bottom of valley, so allow yourself some time to stop and appreciate the scenery.
The wooden walkway through the valley is well maintained. Considering the high altitude of this area, be sure to pace yourself. Oxygen canisters are sold at the many stalls along the route, at a price from 15 to 30 RMB each. You can also take medication to prevent altitude sickness. There are also plenty of restrooms along the walkway.
It is recommended that you bring your own snacks and drinks since they are sold at high prices inside the park. Comfortable shoes are a must since a lot of walking is involved. Sunscreen/hat and sunglasses are recommended.
It is best to consult with your physician before visiting, as the high altitude and amount of walking required may make Huanglong unsuitable for those in poor health or with mobility issues.
Fall, particularly October, is the best time to visit Huanglong, because the changing leaves and the colorful ponds together make for an amazing sight (and offer great photo opportunities!). However, be sure to avoid the National Holiday, which occurs during the first week in October, because the park will be extremely crowded with tourists during that time. April to early May are the dry season, when many ponds are without water and the scenery is not as nice. In addition, Huanglong Valley is usually closed from December to March every year due to winter weather and slippery roads.
Be sure to wear layers no matter what season you visit, as temperatures can be low even in the summer due to the high altitude.
Opening hours: 8:00am - 6:00pm (Huanglong Valley is closed from December to March every year)
Entrance fee: 170 RMB (April 1 to November 15) / 60 RMB (November 16 to March 31)
Cable car: 80 RMB (Up) / 40 RMB (Down)
Average time for this activity: 5 hours
If you are coming from Chengdu, you can either fly or take a bus, but keep in mind that the bus ride takes about 7 hours. Buses depart from Jiuzhai Huanglong airport and take you first to Huanglong Scenic Area and then to Jiuzhai Valley. There is also a bus departing from Jiuzhai Valley around 7-7:30 am everyday and returning at about 3:30 pm the same day, leaving you about four hours to visit Huanglong Valley. The cost for a return trip is CNY45. The distance is around 110 km and it takes about 3 hours.
Renting a private car to take you from Jiuzhai to Huanglong and back is the most convenient option, since it allows you more time to appreciate the nature of Huanglong and you can stop at popular viewpoints to admire the magnificent scenery along the way. However, be aware that the road is quite curvy and you will reach an altitude of over 4000m while driving in the mountains.