Sep 072011
Hanging off the Hua Shan cliff walk

2000 meters in the air, I peer over the edge of the rickety wooden planking and wonder why I am on this insane cliff walk. Moments before, I had been carefully stepping in small footholds carved into the side of the mountain. I pause a moment to catch my breath. Hugging the cliff face, I slowly inch my way across the planking. Small careful steps take me the few hundred yards to solid ground. I have completed the first half of the Hua Shan cliff walk.

Hanging off the Hua Shan cliff walk

While in Xi’an, I made the journey to Hua Shan, one of China’s Five Sacred Taoist Mountains. Known as the “most precipitous mountain under heaven,” Hua Shan has also been named the “Most Dangerous Hiking Trail in the World” by tourists. Despite the dangers of almost vertical steps carved into the mountain, countless people make the climb to share in the beauty of the mountain’s peaks. There are five peaks to climb, the North, South, Middle, East and West peak, but the South peak is the highest at 2154.9 meters or 7069 feet. Spectacular views reward those who make the climb.

View from Hua Shan South Peak

Looking off the South peak

View from Hua Shan South Peak

Looking out from top of South peak

The South peak is also home to the Cliffside Plank Path, No. 1 Steep Road in Mount Hua.

Hua Shan Cliff Path Entrance

Entrance to path

Having previously seen videos and pics of this cliff path, the Hua Shan cliff walk was a bucket list item. I was obligated to complete the walk.

I pay the 30 yuan ($4.69) entrance fee and prepare for the walk. Thankfully, two straps attach you to the cliff wall. The straps hook on a wire set into the cliff. I hook up and set down the smallest set of stairs I’ve ever encountered. They are literally small steel rods hammered into the rock.

Descending the Hua Shan cliff walk

Carefully descending the steps

Hua Shan cliff walk

Making my way down the steps

As I fight down my fear of heights and descend one slow step at a time, an older Chinese gentleman appears below and starts climbing up. I take the time to note that he has no safety straps. We meet and he gestures for me to move aside. I make myself as small as possible and he scampers up the metal stairs. Continuing down, I find myself at the actual path. It begins with the footholds carved into the mountain and then continues with a thin wooden plank path attached to the cliff.

The Hua Shan cliff walk path

The empty path

The few hundred feet to the end take over ten minutes. As I find myself stepping on solid ground, I realize I was at a dead-end. I would have to cross the path again.

I’ve been skydiving and bungee jumping, but, for some reason, this cliff walk was more frightening than either of those activities. Yes, two cables secured me to the cliff. Yes, I watched several people cross the path quickly and safely. However, my brain wasn’t accepting those facts. I knew it was thousands of feet to the bottom if I somehow fell off. I knew I was going to make a misstep at any time. However, I also recognized this was an incredible experience. I knew the plank path was wide enough to safely walk across. I realize I must finish the walk.

I take a deep breath and step back on the planks.

Walking the Hua Shan cliff walk

Going back would be easier. I had done it before. I calm myself and force myself to enjoy the experience. I take it slow, not out of fear, but in order to soak in the views.

View from Hua Shan cliff walk

View from the cliff walk

Ten minutes later, the experience was over. I had successfully completed the Hua Shan cliff walk, and, despite my fears, I had loved every minute of it. It was an accomplishment I will always remember.

If you find yourself in Xi’an, I highly recommend taking the 75 mile journey to Hua Shan to complete the cliff walk. It’s an experience you’ll never forget.

Hua Shan Information:

  • Hua Shan entrance fee is 100 yuan ($15.63).
  • There are several ways to Hua Shan including train, taxi, and bus. The bus is easy and how I arrived. Take Bus 1 from Xi’an Railway Station. It leaves at 8:00 am and is 22 yuan ($3.44). It will also return to Xi’an at 5pm.
  • You can also get a bus from Hua Shan to Xi’an after 5pm. It will cost 30-35 yuan and will leave when the bus is full. This is what I did.
  • If you don’t want to hike up or down, there is a cable car. It is 80 yuan ($12.50) one way or 150 yuan ($23.45) round trip.The cable car runs until 6pm or 7pm based on the season.
  • As with any outdoor activity, drink lots of water. Be aware, there are vendors on all areas of the mountains so there will always be a chance to buy food or drink.


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  14 Responses to “Conquering the Hua Shan Cliffside Plank Path”

Comments (13) Pingbacks (1)
  1. Wow, what can say other than awesome? Love the “empty path” photo.
    Rob Bloggeries recently posted..Traveling? Be Frugal, NOT Cheap

  2. Hi, good write up of this amazing place. I just did the Huashan Cliffside Plank Path a few days ago and it was amazing. Here is a video if you want to check it out:

    Huey Ly recently posted..Learning Chinese: Things You Shouldn’t Say In Polite Company

  3. Can you get the harnesses on site or do you need to bring your own? I am going to do this in about 3 weeks.

    • Sorry for delayed reply, but, no, you don’t need to bring anything. The safety ropes are already there. Have fun, it’s an incredible experience.

  4. really inspiring

  5. These pictures are just spectacular. I’m being dragged by my bf to do this in a couple of weeks and just thinking about it makes my palms sweaty. Why is this a two way traffic thing? Does the harness at least give an illusion of safety? It looks fairly dinky.
    Natalia | Always Trekking recently posted..Welcome to China – First Week in Shanghai

    • Have fun! It is spectacular. No idea why they made it a two way thing. Maybe to add to the terrifying fun. The harness does help. The cables seem to be firmly mounted into the mountain so you are attached fairly securely.

  6. Hi!
    Some friends of mine and I would like to do this hike. I’ve completed a similar one in Japan, but this seems even more amazing! Can you tell me how to get there- From the best airport to land at in China to the bus?
    Thanks and keep up living to the fullest like you are!!

  7. My hands got so cold just by reading this post. I’m doing some ‘research’ on the plank walk and see if I could conquer the fear and do it in this lifetime. This post has been helpful. I just don’t know about the conquering my fear part.

    Amazing picture you got there btw. And your bucket list. You have a handful. But the Philippines’ not included. :)

  8. Hey what time of year did you so this in? I notice you’re just wearing a t-shirt. If I plan on going in July, will it be too rainy? Or an alright time.

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