Jade Dragon Snow Mountain (玉龙雪山), or also otherwise known as the Yulong Snow Mountain is perhaps one of the most famous mountains in China. Its peak reaches a high of 5,600 meters (18,360 ft). For most tourists visiting, the highest you’ll reach is 4,680 meters (15,354 ft) which is still an incredible altitude!
The mountain is located in western China, near the famous old city of Lijiang. You can even spot the mountain in the background from the city on a clear day.
Every year, tens of thousands of tourists visit the legendary mountain and we were one of them when we visited recently. If you’re visiting Lijiang, be sure to slot Jade Dragon Snow Mountain into your itinerary.
About the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain
The Jade Dragon Snow Mountain is a holy place for the Naxi ethnic people. It was first recorded in the 7th to 8th century where they populated the area.
The Naxi people believe the mountain to be a reincarnation of the 3 Petals God. This reincarnation is a huge event celebrated every year on February 8th. The mountain appears in many of Naxi’s traditional folklore.
The mountain peaks at 5,596 meters with an elevation prominence of 3,202 meters. There is constant snow above 5,000 meters throughout the year.
What to do at Jade Dragon Snow Mountain
Blue Moon Valley (蓝月谷)
Every visit to Jade Dragon Snow Mountain will not be complete without visiting the Blue Moon Valley. The lake here is renowned for being exceptionally clear and blue. It rivals the incredible beauty of Malign lake and Lake Louise in Banff which we visited earlier!
The snow mountain towers over the lake like a majestic backdrop.
If you’re travelling here, especially during the summer seasons, be prepared for a massive crowd of tourists! It’s almost impossible to take any photos without somebody photobombing you.
Even though we visited during early summer in May, the weather was cooling and enjoyable to walk in due to the high elevation.
You can take a sightseeing bus from the visitor’s centre to get to the valley. From the drop-off point, take a stroll along the boardwalk towards the next sightseeing bus stop.
Glacier Park observation deck
The observation deck is the highlight of the visit to the park. From the observation deck, it is the closest you’ll get to the peaks of the mountains. Even during summer, there’s plenty of snow here.
As you look down from the observation deck, you’ll get to see the vast landscapes of the Naxi region. At the highest point of the observation deck, you’ll be at an altitude of 4,680m! That’s higher than most places on Earth.
The only way to get up to the observation deck is to take the official cable car. It will bring you to an altitude of 4,506m. You’ll have to climb up the remaining 174m yourselves.
This is a short but strenuous hike up due to the lack of oxygen and almost constant elevation increase. Give yourselves plenty of time to complete the walk up and do not strain your bodies. Your body might not have gotten used to the rapid increase in elevation.
For people who are concerned, there are oxygen canisters available for purchase at the cable car station. These are very useful whenever you’re feeling lightheaded or too tired from the hike.
For travellers intending to plan their own trip to the park, tickets for the glacier peak cable car is incredibly difficult to get.
Firstly, it’s almost impossible to purchase tickets at the park physically due to the high demand. They tend to sell out a couple of minutes after their release online.
Secondly, the tickets will only be released on the park’s official WeChat channel every day at 7 am. Most foreigners would not be able to have access to WeChat payment functionalities, and therefore would not be able to purchase tickets online themselves.
Therefore, we will highly recommend foreigners to join an organised tour if they want to visit the observation deck.
Lijiang Impression Show
The Impression Lijiang Show is one of the most famous outdoor theatrics in the whole of China, and it’s located right in the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain area.
The Impression show is a creation of famous Chinese director Zhang Yimou and performed at an altitude of 3100m with the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain in the background. It involves hundreds of local ethnic people, dressed up in their respective colourful costumes and accessories.
The show’s timings are 13:00 to 15:00 for off-peak seasons and 11:10 to 12:10 for peak seasons. You can pre-purchase tickets here. Unfortunately, most ticketing platforms for the show are in Chinese. Alternatively, you can also purchase the tickets at the park’s entrance.
How to get to the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain
A trip to the snow mountain is completely doable by yourself if you choose to.
You have to first book a driver for a day in Lijiang. Your place of lodging should be able to do that for you. This typically runs for ¥200 for a 5 seater. From Lijiang, it is a 15 km drive to the park entrance, which usually takes 40 minutes.
Although you can call for a Didi (China’s Uber equivalent) car in Lijiang, we will not recommend that as it is very difficult for you to get a return trip from the mountains.
Once you’ve reached the park entrance, you can head to the main counter to purchase tickets.
Jade Dragon Snow Mountain entrance tickets: ¥130 (US$20)
Glacier Park cable car: ¥180 (US$27.78)
Park shuttle bus: ¥20 (US$3.09)
Purchasing a shuttle bus ticket is necessary to explore the park. As the park is very large, it’ll take a long time to walk between the different attractions.
Joining a tour
Although we typically do not like an organised tour, we believe that a visit to the snow mountain is best done through one, especially if you’re a foreigner.
This is due to the fact there is very little English at the entire park. Most people there will not know how to speak English. Also, the purchase of tickets will require you to use the WeChat or Alipay payment apps which are not easily available for foreigners.
You can sign up for a day tour to the park in Lijiang town. They typically depart on the next day, meaning you can sign up for one today and visit tomorrow. As there are so many agencies in town, talk to a couple to compare prices. You can try to haggle the tour prices with the agencies if you’re booking for a couple of people.
Typically, a day trip package will include a return bus trip from Lijiang, cable car tickets, park entrance fees, park shuttle bus fees, lunch, winter clothes and oxygen canister. This package will allow you to visit the Observation Deck and the Blue Moon Valley and goes for between ¥300 and ¥400.
The impression show will set you back an additional ¥250 if you’re going for it.
Overall, we feel that joining an organised tour not only saves you time and effort but also money.
Planning out your epic cross China trip? Another destination we’ll highly recommend is the magical region of Guilin!
It is home to the famous limestone karst that even made its way onto the country’s ¥20 bill. Check out our guide to Guilin here!