A road with 99 bends. A Cabelway with a length of over 24,000 feet, taking passengers on the longest cable car ride in the world with gradients as sharp as 37 degrees. Pathways built on the face of cliffs over 4,000 feet up, with some areas having glass floors. A mountain with a natural hole in the middle of it with a height of over 400 feet. Can this be a real place? Indeed it is! All of these amazing and fantastical features are part of the experience of visiting Tianmen Mountain (Tianmen Shan).
For anyone spending time in China, Tianmen Mountain is a must see and an experience that cannot be missed. There have been several major events at this location do to it’s unique offerings. In 2013, the “Road To Heaven” was turned into a raceway. The 99 bends in the road provided an excellent and daring venue for the Red Bull Road Drifting Challenge. Previously, in 2011, an American made headlines by flying through the hole on the side of Tianmen Mountain with a wingsuit.
Our hotel arranged a ride for us so that made it quit easy. However, there are plenty of taxis on the street for you to catch. If you are staying in Zhangjiajie Town, it should be under 10 minutes and not very costly for a taxi ride. As I mentioned before, you want to get to the cable car ticket line as early as possible in order to make sure they don’t run out of tickets.
We were at the station around 8 in the morning and the hotel owner took our passports and purchased the tickets on our behalf. It took him about 30 minutes to purchase the tickets for us (he said he was able to get them faster for us than we would be able to on our own.) Once we had the tickets (¥258 each or about $39 USD), we had to wait for our section to be announced (this is written on your ticket). When our section was called we were directed to get in line. This line is the one that takes FOREVER. You stand outside the building for about an hour and half before you start moving inside, and then, finally to the area where you catch the cable car. The wait is ABSOLUTELY worth it!
Top Attractions In Jiangjiajie, China
Tianmen Mountain Cable Car Ride
Claiming to be the longest passenger cable car ride in the world, the ride on this attraction is not for the faint of heart. The ascent to the top on Tianmen Mountain is quit long and, at some points, extremely steep. If you are thrill-seekers like us, or are willing to do this for the sake of experience, you won’t regret a second of it. Starting at the city and making it’s way through valleys and the surrounding hills and countryside, providing you with amazing nature scenery along the way, the ride is nothing short of spectacular.
Your breath is literally taken away each time the cable car starts to climb higher, at a steeper angle. As if the pod is a flying bird, giving itself an extra push with more power just to be able to make it up to the top. Panoramic views all around make it difficult to choose where to look and what to take photos of.
You are overwhelmed with so much to take in that you feel almost paralyzed and captured in a trance. One that you never want to escape. After a while you are awakened by the click-clack of the cable car as it goes through another station. But this is not the end. It’s only the halfway point at which the cable car is given a final push.
With more power, climbing at even more of an angle, you are no longer able to make out any of the city buildings. At this point, the city behind seems more like a mirage, something that you could have imaged, but no longer existing as you enter this world up in the sky.
Once you have taken the cable car ride to the top of the Mountain, you may feel a bit disoriented from all of the adrenaline and excitement. Don’t worry. Catch your breath and get ready for it all to come pumping back into your blood again.
Not all of the walkways on the mountain have glass bottoms. In fact, you don’t even have to walk over them. You have the option of taking the trails on the mountaintop. For those choosing to witness the spectacular and thrilling heights, you will be able to walk on regular paths that are constructed on the cliff face. Now, these are pretty scary at first. I mean, they are walkways just hanging on the side of the cliff! They twist and turn, winding and hugging the cliff-side at heights of around 2300 feet!
As you walk over these cliff-hanging walkways be sure to stop and gaze at the incredible views. At times, clouds will roll through, creating an enchanting atmosphere. The kind that will be reminiscent of a fictional movie scene. One of the most exciting and picturesque sections of the walkway is the U-bend. The walkway in this part goes inward with the face of the cliff and juts out again in a shape of a U, creating a mirror effect.
Once you reach the glass walkway sections (there are three total), you will have to purchase “booties” for your shoes. This is to protect the class, as so many people walk on it on a daily basis. As you enter the glass pathway, you may start to feel a bit weak in the knees. It is no wonder they have coined it “The walk of faith.” Some tend to walk as they hug the side of the cliff (as if this may save them from a fall??). Whatever your method of walking over the glass, you will certainly be captivated by the magnificent drop below and the lush valleys meandering the crevices of the mountain.
Stairway To Heaven & Heavenly Gate
As we made our way around this phenomenal mountaintop, we crossed over 2 of the glass walkways and some sections that were within the forest. Stopping along the way at such points as the temple to observe the jaw-dropping scenery that surrounds this mountain. We were so entranced by what we were witnessing that it was hard to believe we had been walking (and climbing stairs) for several hours.
Our trek on the mountain concluded at the famous Heaven Gate, sometimes referred to as Tianmen Cave. This is a natural hole that has been created from a part of the mountain falling off hundreds of years ago. It looks as though it is a giant hole in a needle. Walking through this “Gate” is a surreal feeling. This mountain is of cultural and religious significance in this region, so those that do make it to this “Heavenly Gate” have the opportunity to pray at this very spiritual location.
99 Bend Road
As your time to leave approaches, you’re still in for one last treat from this place. Whether you choose to make your way down from Heavenly Gate on the escalators (¥32 each, about $5 USD) or the stairs (there are lots of them, 999 to be exact, so make sure you have the energy!), buses are awaiting your arrival at the bottom. Don’t rush just yet. Stick around at the bottom for more photo opportunities as well as a look at the magnificent structure from below. Once you’re ready, get on one of the many buses waiting there to take visitors back to the city. As the bus swerves and weaves it’s way down this winding road, take a glimpse out the window to catch more views of the Heavenly Gate from different perspectives.
Beware, if you are prone to getting motion sickness, take a pill before getting on the bus. The ride is one you don’t want to be sick on or fall asleep through. Be careful not to stick your hand out the window as the buses coming back up the mountain are close on this narrow road. The driving is skilled, however, they do tend to make their way down in a speedy fashion. Slowly, the mountain starts to fade into the distance and the road becomes less curvy. As you approach the city again, the experience starts morphing into something of a memorable dream. But the time spent there is absolutely priceless.
Where To Stay In Zhangjiajie
If you’re looking for a convenient, clean, and comfy place to stay when visiting Tianmen Mountain, we recommend a little guest house in Zhangjiajie called Yijiaqin. Their location is easily walk-able to the main street where you can catch a taxi to the cable car entrance. You can also easily get to the bus station if you plan to make a trip over to Zhanjiajie National Forest. The owner of this guest house is extremely helpful in giving you directions to everything as well as guiding you on when to visit which attraction. He provides transportation to and from the airport as well as a ride to the cable car entrance at Tianmen Mountain. He assisted us with purchasing the tickets and making sure we were in line for the cable car on time, to ensure that we would be able to get on (there are only a limited number of tickets sold per day for entrance to Tianmen Mountain).
Zhangjiajie Yijiaqin HotelNo.25 Pengjiapu Neighbourhood, Yongding District, Yongding, Zhangjiajie, China 427101