Yugu Snow Mountain, Gansu Province
Views from up on the mountain.

Yugu Snow Mountain, Zhangye, and Jiayuguan (5 days)

Hike at high altitude at the Yugu Snow Mountain, visit the Zhangye Danxia Landform scenic area, check out some of the Great Wall around Jiayuguan.

Level 3
Reasonably easy hiking but at high altitude. (Can I do it?)

This trip is not currently scheduled

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Trip overview
Day One main activities Meet up in Jiayuguan for lunch, tour of the Jiayuguan Fortress, drive to Sunan, dinner and overnight in a hotel.
Day Two main activities Drive up to the higher basecamp (4,000m elevation), a hike before lunch and a hike after lunch. Back to the hotel in Sunan, or camping on the mountain if that’s possible.
Day Three main activities Hiking in the Yugu Gorge and valleys, drive to Zhangye. Overnight in Zhangye
Day Four main activities Visit the Zhangye Danxia Landform, drive to Jiayuguan after lunch. Overnight in Jiayuguan.
Day Five main activities Visit First Beacon Tower of Ming Dynasty Great Wall, trip finishes mid-afternoon.


Yugu Snow Mountain

Yugu Snow Mountain, Gansu Province photo #2
Views down to the plains far below.

A newly-opened scenic area on the mountain has high and low basecamps and hiking tracks that show superb snowy scenery—a glacier at 4,000m above sea level, long views down valleys to flat plains far below, and alpine meadows.

We’ll stay in a hotel in the nearest town, and visit the mountain for two days of walks: one day up at high altitude, and one day in the canyons and valleys in the foothills. (If you’re feeling good with the altitude, and the weather permits, we might be able to organise a night in a tent for you at one of the basecamps.)

Zhangye Danxia Landform

The coloured hills of the Zhangye Danxia Landform
A road cuts through the coloured hills of the Zhangye Danxia Landform Geopark. (Click for larger image)

By arrangement with the operators of the Zhangye Danxia Geopark we will visit a beautiful area in the middle of the landform, far away from any crowds. Regular tourist groups don’t go here because it increases their cost, and it’s not an option for solo travellers because of requirements for group size and early booking. It’s worth it, though—the area reminds us of how the landform was naturally before it was developed for mass tourism, a stunning sight.

Danxia landforms are sandstone formations, known for being very dramatic and colorful. The landform near Zhangye City has colourful and magnificent cliffs in a hilly and mountainous land. Danxia refers to isolated peaks, steep pillars, ravines, mountains and hills that have formed after a long period of erosion by wind and running water. Unlike limestone karst, Danxia landforms are composed of red sandstone, which gives them their characteristic crimson colouration. Several Danxia Landforms are listed by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites because of their profound natural and aesthetic value. The area we’re visiting boasts majestic, multi-coloured slopes that give you the sensation of walking into a painting.

The Zhangye Danxia Landform is characterized by magnificently multi-coloured sandstone hills and mountains that ripple away towards the horizon. The area we’ll be visiting was used as the backdrop for the Zhang Yimou film, “A Woman, A Gun, and A Noodleshop.” We’ll visit here on the fourth day of the trip.

The Fortress at Jiayuguan

The fortress at Jiayuguan, seen from the outside
The fortress at Jiayuguan, seen from the outside. (Click for larger image)

Jiayuguan Fortress is known as the westernmost end of the Ming Dynasty Great Wall, and was one of the most important fortifications of its time, guarding the western entrance to China from the Hexi Corridor. The fortress has three defense lines – a moat, an outer city wall, and an inner city wall. There are gates on the east and west side. The fortress looks spectacular, with Great Wall climbing from it to the mountains in the north and south, and multi-storey towers and halls inside the walls and moat. We’ll visit the fortress on the first day of the trip.

In ancient times, banishment was a common form of punishment. If you were banished ‘to the West’, it's out through the west gate of the Jiayuguan Fortress that you'd pass.

Although the fortress at Jiayuguan marked the western end of the main line of Ming Dynasty (1368–1644 AD) Great Wall, more watch towers were built further to the west. Near a deep canyon, we’ll find ‘The First Beacon Tower’, built to give early warning, via smoke signal, of approaching attackers.

Getting to Jiayuguan and back home again

You’ll meet your guides at the airport in Jiayuguan around midday on the first day of the trip.

The itinerary will finish in Jiayuguan at approximately 2:30pm on the last day of the trip, and we’re aiming to have you at the Jiayuguan airport by 3pm.

Please don’t purchase your flights until we are able to confirm the departure of the trip.

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