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My heart was pounding as they hastily tightened a flimsy harness around my chest. My DSLR weighed heavy on my neck as I clipped myself onto the wire and slowly descended down what can only be described as the world’s sketchiest ladder.
My whole body was shaking as I unclipped my harness around the first bolt in the rock. Is this sane? What am I doing here? WHY did I forget to pack my tennis shoes?!
We came to an abrupt halt as they stopped the line ahead of me. Perched precariously on a metal bar, I watched as exhilarated adventurers clamored up the rock, squeezing past me. I tried to become one with the rock wall beside me to allow my fellow climbers enough room, but it was a tight fit.
For about thirty minutes I crouched, trying to distract myself so I wouldn’t panic from the vertigo-inducing view of the cliffs waiting hundreds of feet below. I wished more than anything I had a harness around my hips.
After the longest wait of my life, I began to lower myself down, facing away from the mountain as if the “ladder” were stairs rather than thin metal bars nailed to a cliff crevice. More than anything I wished I had real shoes.
Legs shaking, I stepped onto the plank. I’d been dreaming about this experience for YEARS and I was finally here. Granted, I always pictured a better harness that I didn’t have to unclip around every bolt in the wall.
I took a big look down. My heart thundered in my chest as I thought about how long it would take for me to die if I slipped off the plank… No, don’t think about that.
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I looked up and saw an eagle soar through the cliffs and into the sun. I smiled at how beautiful it all was. But I only had a moment to appreciate the splendor before I had to slip under another climber’s harness. After all, the traffic on the tiny plank goes two ways!
Eventually, I gathered my composure and the nerve to take a few silly photos. When I finally made it to the end, I couldn’t contain my excitement. Who would have thought this girl would complete the world’s most dangerous hike?!
Want to see it in person? Check out Sarah from Coffee With a Slice of Life’s video of our trip hiking in China!
Huashan and the Plank Walk
Huashan, or Mt. Hua, is located not too far from Xi’an, the ancient capital of China. Most people come to Xi’an for the famous Terracotta Warriors, and then promptly leave. But in my opinion, any trip to Xi’an is incomplete without hiking Huashan.
Huashan is one of five sacred mountains in China, and it’s so much more than just the infamous plank walk. There are five peaks which you can reach via stairs carved into the stone, the most famous being the South Peak where you can catch a glimpse of the Yellow River and embark on the dangerous plank walk.
The World’s Most Dangerous Hike?
Many sources claim that 100 people die per year hiking Huashan, but these deaths occur from slipping off the side of the mountain, rather than hiking the plank walk. While the plank feels extremely dangerous, you do have a harness. Just be sure to only undo one clip at a time, so you’re securely attached by at least one clip!
From a bit of research online, I’ve found the biggest dangers are overcrowding on the narrow staircases in summer months, and people focusing too much on their cameras and phones rather than the stairs ahead of them. In some spots, one small slip can be the end of you.
What if I don’t want to do the plank?
Huashan is well worth visiting even without the plank walk. The view is absolutely stunning, especially the cable cars you can take to get up the mountain. There are tiny Daoist temples lining the hike, and incredible views at every turn. Also, just watching people embark on the plank walk is an adventure in itself!
How to Hike Huashan
There are three ways to hike Huashan, which are all varying in difficulty.
Easy: Huashan’s West Peak
The easiest way is to take the main cable car to the West Peak, which is the highest of all the peaks. From there you can hike 30-40 minutes to reach the South Peak and the plank walk. The West, East, and South peaks are all pretty close to one another, so it’s not too difficult of a hike if you want to explore. However, to get to the North Peak and the second cable car, you’ll need at least an hour to hike down the thousands of stairs it takes to reach this lower area. My friends and I did it in a little less than an hour, but we were in a hurry and took no breaks.
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Medium: Huashan’s North Peak
For the more adventurous, try taking the cable car to the North Peak and hike your way up. It’s a pretty strenuous hike, so be sure to allow yourself about four hours to get to the East Peak if you want to take rests. My friends and I tried to do it in about 2.5 hours and we almost died. Seriously, we took no rest stops, and it was not enjoyable.
Since the North Peak cable car is shorter, this trip will be a bit cheaper than heading all the way to the West Peak, which is great if you need to save some money. Just leave early in the morning from Xi’an to make sure you have enough time to explore.
Hard: Hike From the Bottom!
Do you want to really challenge yourself? Are you on a strict budget? You can forgo the pricey cable car and hike the entire mountain instead. From what I’ve read, it takes 6 hours to hike from the base to the first cable car. If you do this you’ll probably want to stay in one of the guest houses on the mountain overnight. Either that or start climbing at night so you can reach the top by sunrise.
If you stay overnight there are six hotels, and a few hostels on the mountain which charge about 50 yuan ($8) for a bed… prices are negotiable. There are also plenty of hostels and hotels right outside the park.
Getting to Huashan
You can get to Huashan from Xi’an via car, bus, or train! Renting a car is pretty easy (just ask your hotel), but also the most expensive. If you’re looking to save some cash, here’s how to get there on your own.
Frequent high-speed trains leave Xi’an North station and arrive at Huashan North station in 30-45 minutes depending on which train you take (CNY 34-54). If you want to take a cable car up the mountain, take the free green #1 minibus, which comes every 20 minutes and can be found right outside of the train station. If you want to hike to the top of the mountain, take a taxi (CNY 25 ) to Yuquan Yuan where there’s another ticket office for walkers.
You can also take a regular train from Xi’an, which departs every 20-30 minutes and arrives at Huashan station in about 1.5-2 hours (19 yuan). From there you can take bus 608 to Baoliandeng Square (Huashan Shengtai Square), which is near the entrance. Again, walkers can take a taxi.
Take subway line 1 to Xian Fangzhicheng Bus Station and take the regular bus to Huayin. The bus runs every 30 minutes between 07:45 and 19:00 and takes about 2 hours (CNY 37).
If you want to make sure you can get back to Xi’an on time, be sure to take the 6pm cable car home to avoid being stranded in Huashan town!
Huashan Ticket Prices*
Entrance Fee (valid 2 days)
- March 1- Nov 30: CNY 180
- Dec 1- Feb 30: CNY 100
- Student Price: CNY 90
Fun Fact: Many Chinese ticket tellers can’t read English so you can hand them your drivers license instead of your Student ID. It worked for me at Zhangjiajie! Some will deny you if you’re over 25 years old, but you can always give it a go and see what they say.
*Ticket prices accurate as of November 2016
West Peak Cable Car
- Wengyu Tourism Bus (CNY40 one way, CNY80 for a round trip) leads to the cable car
- March 1 to Nov 30: CNY 280 (round trip); CNY 140 (one way)
- Dec 1 – Feb 30: CNY 240 (round trip); CNY 120 (one way)
North Peak Cable Car
- Huangfuyu Tourism Bus (CNY 20 one way, CNY 40 round trip) leads to cable car
- March 1- Nov 30: CNY 150 (round trip); CNY 80 (one way)
- Dec 1- Feb 30: CNY 80 (round trip); CNY 40 (one way)
Be sure to purchase all of your tickets in the ticket office at the base of the mountain before you depart. Feel free to mix and match if you want to take the West Peak Cable Car up and the North Peak car down.
- 30 CNY for a harness at both the plank walk and chess pavilion
So…. Is it Worth It?
Absolutely. Honestly, I did not give myself enough time to hike Huashan, and I’m dying to go back. Thankfully trains to Xi’an from Beijing only take about four hours….
What do you think? Would yo try the world’s most dangerous hike??
30 comments on “The Huashan Plank Walk: World’s Most Dangerous Hike”
OMG that looks terrifying haha! Even though my belly was flipping reading it, those views make me wanna go!
That’s how I felt! I’m not really afraid of heights, but I was still terrified. I would definitely recommend coming just for the views, and you’ll feel so accomplished after you do it.
It’s a two-hour drive from Xi’an, then a long, winding bus ride up pretty spectacular winding mountain roads built specifically for this purpose, then many flights of stairs up to the cable car entry point. (You would be well advised to take the roller coaster for 30 RMB.) I will not describe the cable car ride because everyone should discover it for themselves. Suffice it to say that it is worth every penny you paid (bus ride both ways, cable car ride both ways, and entry to the mountain are 720 RMB per person) and then some! I’m afraid of heights, and it was so amazing I couldn’t even close my eyes. It easily compares in majesty to the views on the cable car from Lauterbrunnen up to Murren in Switzerland. Don’t do this trip unless you are reasonably physically fit. There is a lot of walking and many stairs before you get to the top, and once you do get to the top, there are many more stairs and the hike around the peaks is taxing. This will definitely be a highlight of any trip you take to China!
I completely agree! I’m so glad you enjoyed your trip to Huashan. It’s such an incredible experience! I would say that if you take the cable car all the way to the top you don’t need to be super fit, but I took it to the lower spot and I was DYING hiking up to the top in the heat.
Wow, this looks incredibly scary and definitely NOT a hike/ climb for someone afraid of heights! Just looking at your photos looking down the side of the mountain is making me dizzy!
hahaha I’m not even afraid of heights and I just about died looking down! Even before I got on the plank I was freaking out!
Oh my goodness you are WAY braver than me. I am actually spinning out just looking at your pictures. Big respect.
hahaha I wouldn’t go that far. I was freaking out the whole time!
Wow! Amazing picture of the ladder/stairs. If I am ever there I will definitely be trying that. How long were the line ups? They are usually the killers to any amazing attraction.
The line was actually the worst. There’s a tiny path carved into the cliff with a guard railing where you wait, but since the plank is one way, people need to come back that way as well, and push past you. Then once I had the harness on, I had to wait crouched on the stairs for about 30 minutes! They should have people wait further back so it’s not as crazy, but it’s China so I guess no one has thought of that yet lol
This just looks amazing! Hoping to hit Asia after NZ, and even though China wasn’t in our list, it seems to amaze us lately!
This is DEF something which interests us! I will probably have my legs shaking though too! Such cool pics too!
You should definitely let me know if you’re heading to China! There are tons of cool hikes here like the Avatar Mountains and Tiger Leaping Gorge!
This looks absolutely terrifying! Good to know there are a few different options for doing the hike, I’m not sure I could ever attempt the hard route overnight though! Sounds like a once-in-a-lifetime experience!
Next time I might just take the expensive cable car up and the less expensive one down… the hike was intense! Either that, or I’d leave super early/ spend a night below the mountain. We arrived in the afternoon and it was way too rushed!
I love a good hike, but this is out of this world! I do have a fear of heights and looking at your photos is making me freak out!!
hahaha well at least there’s a harness??
That looks so awesome but totally agree with you on the sketchy ladder. I bet your heart almost skipped a beat when you first looked down.
My heart was skipping a beat before I even put the harness on!! hahaha But you should definitely go if you have the chance. It’s actually probably one of the safest parts of the mountain since you’re strapped in.
Thank you for your great blog. I’m planning on a trip to Huashan in October and will certainly brave this trail.
Nice! Have a great trip and be sure to let me know how it goes!
Wow, Beautifully written Blog. Although I was in China for 5 years from 2007-2012 and again came back for study purpose on 2017 March, I had never heard about this place. And now I am definitely going for it soon. Thank you.
Wow that’s about as long as I lived in China! You should definitely head back to Hua Shan if you have the chance. It’s such an incredible mountain and the plank walk is awesome!
You’ve inspired me to go to China :) What is a good time of the year to travel around China?
Wow that’s so great! I definitely think Fall is the best time to go (September or late October). Just avoid the first week of October, because there is a huge holiday and everyone travels. I also think Spring is a pretty good time for many areas of China. Look into April and May! Again, just avoid the first 3 days of May because there is also another big holiday then.
Look great to do it :)
Do you know if I can buy enterance tickets for Huashan mountain online/ahead?
Not that I know of. I’m pretty sure you have to buy them at the gate unfortunately :(
Omg! that’s really scary and tough hiking place..
Definitely scary, but thankfully you have a harness!
Hi Richelle !
Can you please tell me how to make sure that I’d find the plank walk available when I go there as I’ve been there before only to find out that it was closed .. needles to tell you that it was a real dissapointment so please tell me how to make sure I can do it as I want to visit it again very soon
Hi Hasan. I’ve actually never heard of it being closed for a full day! There must’ve been a weather problem or they were improving it? If you’re really worried you can ask your hotel or hostel to contact the office or search online to make sure it’s open. It shouldn’t be a problem, but better safe than sorry!