Why you should hike Mount Heng in China (Hint: It’s kind of beautiful)

Why you should hike Mount Heng in China (Hint: It’s kind of beautiful)

Fanyin Valley is lush, even in December

I’ve hiked all five sacred mountains, but Mount Heng (in the Hunan province, not the one in Shanxi. Confusing, eh?) was where I felt most connected with nature. Not in a hippy type of way, just in a relaxed, listen to the world around you type of way. Or is that hippy? Whatever.

IMG_3261Yes, there are stone stairs, but that’s standard in China, especially when hiking a sacred mountain.

What makes Mount Heng different is the 4.2 km section near the trailhead that follows the river. Known as Fanyin Valley or Buddhist Sound Valley, this area is filled with pavilions perfect for relaxing and contemplating your experiences in China; like how scorpion tastes surprisingly good and why you have to take at least five selfies with strangers a day.

8 Reasons you should hike Mount HengAdditionally, there are some cool accoutrement that you can scope out along the way – namely, weird little elephants and scowling masks. A stone at the trailhead describes this area as a “Fairyland”. And you can’t argue with something written in stone…


To contemplate some Chinese Poetry

At the belly of the mountain, just before the gondola, is the aptly named Rock Passing Poetry Forest. In 1986, at the behest of the Nanyue Administration, over 50 poems were scribbled on the side of some rocks.


If you head off the main trail, you can explore all the words of wisdom. Well, you can at least look at them. I don’t understand a lick of Mandarin so I just pretended they were something very deep, like a tattoo on an NBA player that says “Evil Bird Camphor” or “Can-Do. Okay”.

There are several sections where the administration cut stairs and bridges into the rock faces, making a venture into Rock Passing Poetry Forest a somewhat adventurous side trek.

There are actually a few different paths that wind and cut down the mountain, which allows you to find your own little slice of the mountain – a hidden pavilion or a secret cave.


To check out the sacred part of the sacred mountain

Mount Heng is one of the five sacred mountains of China, so it goes without saying that there are going to be a ton of religious and historical sites along the way.


The mountain has mostly Taoist temples, with a few Buddhist thrown in just to spice things up.

Some of the temples seem a bit glossy and restored.


Others feel older and ooze charm and authenticity.


To take in the view

As you continue up the mountain, there are various lookout points along the way. The temples are home to many of the best views.


You can also take some pretty cool photos on the trail itself, which alternately follows and intersects a curvy road up the mountain.

Due to the high humidity, a special area of the mountain is known for producing tea. You can stop and enjoy a cup with a view if you feel the need for rejuvenation.

To see everything with an ice glaze

If you hike Mount Heng in winter, you will most likely encounter chilly conditions as you near the summit.

IMG_9282-2In December, that means ice starting 4.5 km from Zhurong Peak (the summit).

IMG_9245It may be a good idea to buy some twine booties from a tout along the way; the stone stairs become extremely slick with ice.  Depending on desperation levels, your desperation being to not crack your head open and their desperation being for one more marginal sale, the price will vary between 15 and 30 Yuan.


You also have the option to buy insurance at the entrance to the mountain for three yuan.

IMG_9293The uncaring elements spare nothing, including the regal lions that adorn the front of temples.

IMG_9350-2When you finally reach the summit (officially 1,300.02 meters above sea level), you may not even know it. Dense fog covers the entire top of the mountain, making it difficult to glimpse Zhurong Palace that sits atop it.

No matter, as the cliché goes, it’s the journey, not the destination.

Hey, at least it’s better than “Can-Do. Okay”.




Posted on

January 5, 2015