Zhang Jia Jie’s landscape might well have inspired the shamanistic poems of the classic collection Songs of Chu. Unlike most famous sights in China, the area remained remote and little visited until relatively late. To the ancients, that part of northwestern Hunan (at the southern periphery of the Chu Kingdom) was an inhospitable wilderness—mountainous terrain populated by wild animals. And unlike the sacred Buddhist and Daoist mountains, it did not draw pilgrims.
But that’s all changed. Zhang Jia Jie Scenic and Historic Interest Area (also called Wu Ling Yuan) became China’s first National Forest Park in 1983, and in 1992, its core zone was inscribed as a World Heritage Site. The natural beauty of the region—dominated by quartzite sandstone peaks and pillars — remains stunning and unusual; and opportunities to see rare plants and insects in this dense, subtropical forest still abound.
Zhang Jia Jie National Forest Park
Huangshi Zhai. At the first fork after the entrance to the park, take the left road; hike 2 hours to this former mountain stronghold that is 1,080m (4,542 ft.) high and affords a panoramic view of forested peaks and jagged sandstone pillars. A cable car also goes to the plateau. Another path that leads through beautiful jade-green forest and passes a tight cluster of sandstone columns is reached by taking the right road at the first fork. Follow the path along Jinbian Stream. At the next fork, either take the left to Mihun Tai (and return the same way), or take the more traveled right-hand path to Zicao Tan. From there, take the right-hand path at the next two forks to return to the entrance.
Yuanjiajie, located on the north of the park, is another scenic spot that shouldn’t be missed. Head to the right path of the park, where the Jinbian Si (Golden Whip Stream) starts. Follow the path; there is a small road going up to Yuanjiajie. The hike takes another 21?2 hours. Or you can walk farther to Shui Rao Xi Men (Stream Winding Around Four Gates). From there, take a bus to the Bailong Tianti (Bailong Tourist Lift), which runs 356m (1068ft) vertically. During 2-minute journey, you can enjoy the magnificent panoramic view of hundreds of sandstone pillars. After that, take a bus from Bailong Tianti to Mihuntai (the Platform of Lost Mind) of Yuanjiajie. The huge quartz sandstone mountain has breathtaking landscapes of sandstone pillars.