National Parks are perhaps not the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of China. However, the country boasts over 200 unique national parks within its borders. In recent years, the Chinese government has made a real effort to expand the national parks system. Largely in an effort to offset pollution, protect its natural resources and the epidemic animals that live within the confines of these areas.
Due to its size, China is one of the world’s most biodiverse countries in the world. As such these national parks offer an unparalleled assortment of plant and animal life, unique geological formations, and stunning waterways.
The national parks in China are also areas of great historical preservation. Relics of yesteryear, religious temples, and spiritual landmarks within these national parks remind visitors of China’s long history, in a delightfully natural setting.
Map of national parks in China
12. Huangguoshu National Park
Located in Western China, Huangguoshu National Park is home to one of Asia’s largest waterfalls. The park’s namesake, Huangguoshu Waterfall, is approximately 250 meters in height and width. There is a splendid naturally carved cave, hidden behind the falls curtain of water.
Visitors are free to explore the cave without getting wet. On sunny days, the mist from the waterfall even creates an alluring rainbow set against the lush greenery of the parks backdrop.
There are a number of viewing platforms, and walkways situated around the falls, including one that delivers a bird’s eye view of this natural spectacle. Year-round the temperature is a comfortable 16 degrees Celsius which makes this park an appealing attraction regardless of the season.
11. Lushan National Park
Spiritual leaders have flocked to this area for centuries. It is revered for its classical Chinese landscape, which is made up of rivers, mountains, and forests. Today over 200 ancient Buddhist, Taoist and Confucius relics and temples remain.
The protected area runs from the Yangtze River to Lake Poyang Basin, and is home to a number of mountains gorges, valleys, and caves to discover. The park is well connected by trails, and fairly quiet, which makes it the perfect place for a peaceful weekend away in an enchantingly natural landscape.
10. West Lake National Park
West Lake is the beautiful centerpiece of this serene national park. Here visitors can take a stroll along one of the many trails that snake around the lake. In some areas the vista gives way to the surrounding mountain range, and the Hangzhou skyline. Otherwise temples, pagodas, and various gardens are scattered throughout West Lake park.
The gardens and lake itself have inspired poets, painters, and other artists throughout history, and today it is regarded as one of the best preserved examples of classical gardens in Fuzhou. For another perspective, a boat ride is a highly recommended way to soak in the natural surroundings of West Lake National Park.
9. Potatso National Park
Potatso was the first national park inaugurated in mainland China. It is hailed for its unique ecological makeup which is made up of two lakes, rolling pastures, forests and marsh lands. Wild yaks are seen lazily grazing around the park, as are wild horses. The park is part of the Tibetan plateau, which rests at 3500 meters above sea level.
For the Tibetan people this area is of high spiritual significance, and many devotees make pilgrimages to the park each year. In fact, in the Tibetan language the name of the park loosely translates ‘to ferry people away from suffering’.
In the summer, hundreds of flowers come into bloom, while the fall brings colorful changing leafs to park. Regardless of the season, this park remains picturesque.
8. Sanqingshan National Park
The granite peaks and pillars that form the landscape of this gorgeous national park are other worldly. Intermixed with them are forests, cavernous valleys, and waterfalls. The three main summits of Mount Sanqing, the parks namesake, are known as the ‘one pures’. They represent the Taoist trinity: Yuhua, Yushui, and Yujing. As such the park has been a place of pilgrimage for Chinese Taoists for over 1500 years.
Ancient temples, and relics dot the landscape of the otherwise natural setting. Over 2000 types of planet species reside here, including ancient rhododendrons which surreally cover the mountains in May and June.
7. Huanglong National Park
This national park is truly special. It features a series of colorful, calcified pools and lakes tucked between mountain valleys and dense forests. The pools themselves are magnificently swathed in colors of turquoise, deep blues, and vivid yellows.
The water that fills the pools, runs down from the surrounding glaciers, and mountain ranges. Caves and waterfalls can also be explored within the park. As well as two famous Taoist temples: Back and Ancient Temple. Sometimes the surrounding mountain range is capped with snow, which only adds to the parks already incredible aesthetic.
6. Emeishan National Park
This delightful park is home to the highest of the four sacred Buddhist mountains in China, Mount Emei. At 3099 metres above sea level visitors are sometimes treated to a sea of clouds from its peak. The mountain itself is regarded as a traditional place of enlightenment and is home to over 100 temples and monasteries.
The most famous sites include: the Golden Summit, Baoguo Temple, Wannian Temple and Qingyin Pavilion. All of which offer stunning views of the surrounding natural landscape. Due the mountains deep spiritual importance to the Buddhist community, it is a place of pilgrimage for hundreds of Buddhists each year. Rare floral species can be found within the park as well as indigenous animals such as the Tibetan Macaques and a multitude of monkeys.
5. Shilin National Park
This unearthly national park is known for its ‘stone forest’. Many of the parks bizarre rock formations look like petrified trees, which give the park its nickname. There are endless paths leading around the park, and diverse bird life that call the park home.
The most famous stone of all is ‘Ashima stone’. Legend has it that a beautiful girl of the Yi People, was turned to stone within the forest when she ran away from home. She did so when she discovered that her parents would not permit her to marry the man she loved. Aside from the stone forest, caves, lakes, and waterfalls fill the park.
4. Huangshan National Park
Huangshan is a very fitting name for this national park, as it means yellow mountains. The brightly colored mountain range is made up of steep granite peaks, which are shrouded in pine trees. Many of these trees seem to be barely holding on.
The park has captured the imagination of countless artists over the past few centuries, especially water and ink painters, and continues to do so today. Many of these artists have declared the Huangshan mountain range as the loveliest in China. Hot springs are another feature of the park, which offer thrilling views. Although the landscape changes with each season, the park never loses its unique charm.
3. Guilin Lijiang National Park
Guilin Lijiang National Park is unlike anywhere else on earth. Located in southern China, it is one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations. From the Lijiang River, visitors are treated to striking vistas of the karst formations that Guilin is famous for. Each hill was given a name by the ancient Chinese based on what they perceived the formation looked like.
This resulted in playful names such as Elephant Trunk Hill, Cock-Fighting Hill, and Dragons Head Hill. A popular Chinese saying states, “that Guilins scenery is best among all under heaven”, and many visitors tend to agree. Likewise, there are series of famous caves to explore within the confines of the park.
2. Jiuzhaigou National Park
This national park is a true natural wonder. The breathtaking natural scenery is made up of cascading waterfalls, crystal clear lakes, and limestone hills. It is a part of the Min Shan mountain range, and on the edge of the Tibetan Himalayan Plateau.
The name of the park means nine villages in honor of the Tibetans who live there. As such there are many Tibetan places of worship within the park that are connected to the natural landscape. Jiuzhaigou also features incredible biodiversity, and is home to a number of endangered animals including Chinas black and white panda, the Sichuan golden monkey, and takin.
1. Zhangjiajie National Forest Park
This first-rate national park is known for its unique, staggering beauty. It is comprised of immense sandstone pillars, rich wildlife, and greenery. Evergreen shrubs cling to the sides of the sandstone pinnacles as they reach skyward. 98% of the park is covered in natural vegetation which is home to over 150 species of wildlife including animals under considerable protection such as the rhesus monkey, golden pheasant, musk deer and giant salamander.
There is an abundance of streams, and waterways which run through the park, and valleys to explore which only adds to the beauty of the park. There is truly no other place on earth quite like Zhangjiajie National Park.