Hiking in Yading Nature Reserve

Report by Hans Schaefer, April 2017. This report covers different hiking routes in Yading.

Yading Nature Reserve mountain area is located in western Sichuan in China, south of the town Daocheng. This area is small but beautiful, with three mountains around 6000m altitude.

Link: An excellent web site about this area, maintained by Lobsang, probably a Tibetan.

Inside the Yading Nature Reserve are the 3 snow-capped mountains called Chenresig (Chinese XianNaiRi), 6032 meters, Chana Dorje (Chinese XianNuoDuoJi) and Jampelyang (Chinese YangMaiYong), both 5958 meters. These peaks surround forested valleys, clear and cold rivers, glacier-fed lakes and rhododendron and abundant wildlife between them. The Tibetan name for Yading is ÒNyingdenÓ ཉིང་རྟེན་, however, road signs in the region regularly use the term ÒAdenÓ. The nearest town is Riwa, often called "Shangri-La" of marketing reasons. This area is one of  the most beautiful areas in Western Sichuan

How to get there

By bus:
There is a direct bus Chengdu to Daocheng which uses about 18 hours for the 600 or so kilometers. But because even the valleys in Yading are about 4000m high, you should rather spend a night in Kangding (2600m) to acclimatize. There are many buses between Chengdu and Kangding. The bus Kangding to Daocheng starts at 6:00 and uses 9 to ten hours. You may spend the night in Daocheng (numerous hotels opposite the bus station) or continue immediately. For the last 100 km to Riwa you need to take a minibus. Many drivers wait just inside or outside the bus station. Minibus to Riwa/Shangri-La costs 50 RMB per passenger. Daocheng is 3900m high, Riwa 2900m. If you feel trouble with the altitude, continue to Riwa!

From other places: If you come from Litang or from YŸnnan province, minibuses may be your only option. The bus from Kangding passes Litang about 13:00, but it may be full.

By air:
There is a daily flight to Daocheng airport form Chengdu. In high season there may be other flights (from Chongqing and Kunming for example). The airport is at 4400m altitude. You should be sure you do not suffer from altitude problems going there. There is an airport shuttle bus to Daocheng. From there you have to use a minibus or taxi to Riwa. Be aware that flights may be unreliable due to weather conditions!

At Riwa you find many hotels and the entrance gate for the Nature Reserve. There you pay your entrance ticket and the shuttle  bus ticket. You have to use the shuttle bus. It starts from the entrance every 5-10 minutes during daytime. It is about 37 km to Yading village and 40 km to the park entrance at LongTongBa (sometimes written LonLongBa). The road will wind its way up the mountains to about 4300m altitude. I have seen people who had to be evacuated from here by bus heading down. - Yading village is located at about 3800m altitude and full of guest houses. You may sleep there. Food is available from local restaurants or the guesthouses. Small shops provide the food and drinks you need for hikes and trekking. If you stay at Yading village you may stop shuttle buses en-route or use buses going only between here and the park entrance at LongTongBa (3700m). Buses run during day time (ask the bus driver when the last bus will leave!).

Hiking near the park entrance

You may go to Chong Gu monastery (3800m), 15 minutes, and then to the right towards "pearl lake" at abut 4000m. This is a good acclimatisation trip for your first day. There are boardwalks and stairs and lots of people. If you like it more quiet, continue the path up the mountain on the west side of Chenresig. You will meet very few people, mostly Tibetans returning from their pilgrimage around Chenresig (the "kora").

Chenresig seen from Pearl Lake

This is the north face of Chenresig, as seen from Pearl Lake

Chenresig north face

Chenresig north face in the early morning, as seen from Yading village

Hiking below YangMaiYong to milk lake

From ChongGu monastery you may take the park bus to Luorong pasture, about 6 km. In older references this park bus is said to be battery-driven. However I could only see (and smell) ordinary gasoline-driven small buses. They save you 6 km walking and 200m altitude. If you do not like this, you may use boardwalks along the river. A nice experience, as you will meet nobody or very few people.

From Luorong pasture the further trip  is well described at Lobsang's site. Most tourists go to Milk Lake (Njunaihai) and Five Color Lake (Wusehai). It is a three hours hike up and maybe two hours down. Take your time unless you are well used to altitude! You  may continue to the first col (4700m) to have the scenery for yourself and maybe see mountain goats on your way. In June, the rhododendron here will have flowers (white and blue). On your way down you may also go back to Chong Gu monastery, using the boardwalk and see wild forest, birds, animals and flowers. Below is a picture from that walk with Chana Dorje in the background.

Yading lower area

This is YangMaiYong, the famous view from Luorong pasture.

This is milk lake, frozen. No water in the river during winter. To the right you may see the path leading up to the pass behind.
Milk Lake

Hiking around Chenresig

This trip will most often require two days, which means you need camping and cooking equipment.Many Tibetans do this trip in one day, some of them with babies on their back. But these people live at high altitude and go fast. Much faster than you! Read more at Lobsang's site about this trip and don't think you will use less time than he advises.

Climate, Practicalities etc.

I was there in April. That is low season. Much space in hotels and guest houses, no big crowds in the valley, but cold in the mornings (frost). Small patches of snow around Chenresig, but no real hindrance. But later in April, bus service towards Chengdu got interrupted at least twice. I used ordinary Norwegian winter mountain clothing and had no problems with that. In Yading village I even had mobile phone and Wifi coverage. In Daocheng there was at least one ATM (ABC Bank) where I was able to get money using a visa-card. In May, it will be warmer and more pleasant. From June to September you may experience some clouds and rain, but it will be warm. October brings clearer weather but cold. November to March may be very cold.

Getting out of the area

The park shuttle bus brings you down to Riwa. If you decide to stay longer time, you may use the shuttle bus inside the park for any trips. Your ticket will never be checked.

From Riwa take a taxi or minibus to Daocheng or towards YŸnnan. Minibuses wait at the park entrance and in town.
From Daocheng, buses to Chengdu and Kangding leave at 6:10. They pass Litang about 9:00 and reach Kangding at about 16:00.