Zhangjiajie, a city in the northwest of China’s Hunan province, is home to the famed Wulingyuan Scenic Area, a protected zone that encompasses thousands of jagged columns, many rising hundreds of feet into the sky. Below, forests, rivers, and waterfalls, as well as countless endemic plants, birds, and animal species, thrive.
Zhangjiajie National Forest Park is the first national forest park in the People’s Republic of China and was declared so in 1982. Covering over 50 square miles and serving to protect some 243 peaks and more than 3,000 pinnacles and spires. These prehistoric towers began forming around five million years ago, leaving two large natural land bridges that hang above verdant valleys filled with crowning trees, dripping moss, and fragrant blossoms. The effect is otherworldly and the area is said to have inspired the sensational 2009 Hollywood film Avatar.
The world’s longest passenger cable car to Tianmen Mountain drifts unassumingly up from the outskirts of Zhangjiajie City and after 30 minutes has you surrounded by rocky outcrops and green slopes. The sight of the grand canyon from the impressive glass bridge is an experience to behold. Wooden steps lead from the bridge into the canyon where you’re treated to snaking walking trails that meander past gushing streams and waterfalls. Throughout the park are strategically placed viewing platforms and glass walkways that offer impressive views across the sandstone peaks, which are often shrouded in mist, adding to the mystery.
Facts. Fauna and Flora
The exuberant Zhangjiajie provides an excellent living environment for wildlife, birds, and plant species. You’ll see Rhesus monkeys on the trails, while the endangered Chinese giant salamander, pangolin, Chinese water deer, and elusive clouded leopard that lurks deep in the park’s wilderness are more likely to see you. One of the 500 tree species is the dawn redwood, believed extinct until re-identified in 1948. The dove tree — considered a living fossil at more than 2.5 million years old — lobster flowers, and Chinese chestnut trees
** This post forms part of my 100x Magical Places series which offers an introduction to my favourite destinations.