Are you looking for something to do on a day trip from Lijiang? In this article, I explain how to visit the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain National Park.
In a previous article, I explained why is it worth visiting Lijiang and what are some of the things you can do if you have some time left. This includes a day trip to the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain 玉龙雪山. As soon as you get to Lijiang you can’t help but notice it: with a height of 5596 meters, it’s one of the highest peaks in Yunnan (here is my Yunnan travel guide).
When is the best time to visit the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain
Remember that this is a very popular destination, which can be crowded. If possible, avoid all national holidays and the month of August.
The summer months are generally quite rainy, and it will be very difficult to see the peaks of the mountains. It can get a bit cold during winter, although not as much as you would expect at these elevations.
I recommend visiting during the spring and autumn months, although, honestly, you can go all year round.
How to get to the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain 玉龙雪山
The mountain is located in the national park, and the entrance fee is 100 RMB. The area is pretty big and includes several tourist spots.
To get there, take the minivan n° 7 parked in front of the square with the huge statue of Mao Zedong right after the north gate of Lijiang Ancient Town.
The price of the ride to the park varies greatly and, especially for foreigners, is a bit high. I managed to pay 25 RMB per person. Maybe take this as a reference, although things might change.
Alternatively, you can take the public bus n° 101, a bit slower but much cheaper: 3rmb. It takes 25 minutes from Lijiang to the entrance of the park.
Don’t forget to take your passport with you. You’ll need it to buy the tickets.
Once in the park, you will have different places you can decide to visit. This is the map with the main tourist spots to help you visualize where they are located since it can be pretty confusing:
- You can take the cable car to the Glacier at an elevation of around 4000 meters 冰川公园
- You can visit the Blue Moon Valley 蓝月谷
- You can take the cable car to the Spruce Meadow 云杉坪
- You can take the cable car to Yak Meadow 牦牛坪
- You can visit all of the above
Jade Dragon Snow Mountain Glacier Park 冰川公园
The mountain peak was climbed only once, on May 8, 1987, by an American expedition. They rated the maximum technical difficulty of the rock at YDS 5.7, one of the most difficult in the world.
Fortunately, you can take a much more convenient cable car that will take you to an elevation of 4300 meters. Unfortunately, the convenience of getting there also means you’ll find many tourists.
The ticket to get to the summit costs about 160RMB. Look for these four characters 冰川公园 to find where to take the cable car. Glacier Park allows no more than 10,000 visitors a day.
Blue Moon Valley 蓝月谷
The Blue Moon Valley is a series of four crystal clear blue lakes with the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain as the background. The melting glacier water feeds into these lakes, giving them this unique color.
The landscape is beautiful and includes several submerged trees, which can be seen underneath the lakes.
To get to the Valley, you can take one of the buses that leave from the main building every few minutes between 07:00 – 17:00 and cost RMB 15. Follow the 蓝月谷 signs to find the bus. It only takes about 5 minutes to get there.
A wooden path follows the river, and a few bridges cross it. Usually, on the opposite side, there are fewer people.
If you can, plan to visit the area early in the morning before most tourists arrive.
Spruce Meadow 云杉坪
Right after the Blue Moon Valley, you can continue on the bus and get to Spruce Meadow, a vast grassland area with an easy wooden path.
The ticket for the cable car costs 40RMB.
Yak Meadow 牦牛坪
The last area is called Yak Meadow, and it takes about 20 minutes by bus from the ticket area to the cable car. To find the right bus, look for this sign 牦牛坪.
The area takes its name from the grassland on the plateau where herds of yaks placidly roam the area. Like in the previous spot, there is a wooden path to follow and, at the end of it, a small lake. You can also find a Tibetan temple and a few Tibetan prayer flags (not sure why since this is still a Naxi area and not Tibetan).
If you want to visit a Tibetan area, Shangri-La (read my travel guide here) is only about 2.5 hours from Lijiang.
Final thoughts about Jade Dragon Snow Mountain
If you find it a bit difficult to explore the area, you can book a tour in Lijiang (it costs about 500 RMB), but honestly, it’s not necessary. Just be prepared to read a few Chinese signs (as mentioned in this article) because there aren’t many in English.
The national park is lovely, but, as it often happens in China, the ease of access means it’s a super popular destination. It’s often very crowded, especially in summer, when the rest of China is sweltering. If you visit during winter, you’ll probably find fewer people.
Jade Dragon Snow Mountain is an AAAAA sight, the highest ranking a place can get. Sites in China get rated from A to AAAAA (with AAAAA being the best), and most Chinese people want to see these places, so it gets EXTREMELY busy. Be prepared for that.
If you are looking for a hotel in Lijiang, I recommend Trip.com since it has way more options than other search engines. It also allows you to book tickets for the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain.
If you want a less crowded place, you can head to Shaxi, an old town between Dali and Lijiang, or to Baima Snow Mountain, where you can see the Black Snub-Nosed Monkeys. Here, you can read my Kunming travel guide.