Everything You Need to Know About Climbing Mount Hua Shan in Xi’an

I went to Hua Shan in Xi’an back in 2016 when I was on the cusp of closing my service as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Mount Hua Shan, or Flower Mountain as I like to call it, is one of the many places I wanted to see when I moved to China to be a Peace Corps Volunteer.

I decided to go during the Chinese Lunar New Year. We had weeks off from teaching and so I planned a two week trip around China as my last hurrah in Peace Corps.

Now, Chinese Lunar New Year was in February in 2016, meaning it was cold as hell. But I wasn’t going to let that stop me from visiting Hua Shan. The day after arriving in Xi’an, I took a bus from the train station to the base of Hua Shan mountain. Getting off the bus, the little town there seemed nearly deserted. After all, it was their low season.

The bus dropped us off at a stop and I dad herded inside to hear about climbing the mountain, ways to get up the mountain, and ways to get down the mountain. I was determined to climb that mountain, and no one was going to tell me otherwise.

Mount Hua in Xi'an China

The being said, the last time I actually climbed a mountain was summer of 2009, Music Pass in Colorado’s Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

I walked through arches and courtyards that looked incredibly Chinese with pagodas and remnants of red candles and incense, and somehow found my way to the path that led to the North Summit of Hua Shan.

I want to say, I did not plan this well (and I had a habit of doing such in China). I climbed the mountain basically in winter and without the proper gear and I could’ve been in serious trouble with my health. But, I wouldn’t have changed it because I reached the top of that mountain, and I did it alone.

I cried when I reached the to because it was when I knew just how strong I really was.

Hua Shan is known for incredible steep climbs and in some places, you have to cling to chain handles to keep from falling backward. The entire pathway up is made of stone steps, you will never find your way to the peak on a dirt path.

Stone Path at Mount Hua in Xi'an, Shaan'xi

It is a magical experience climbing Hua Shan, and it will test you, especially if you’re not accustomed to climbing mountains. But below are things you should be aware of before you decide to climb the mountain no matter what season you decide to visit. Below are my tips, and while they seem to be common sense, it still doesn’t hurt to keep them in mind.

Bring Plenty of Water

Winter or summer, water is important. Just because it will be cold climbing a mountain in February, doesn’t mean you won’t sweat or lose fluids. You want to stay hydrated as you climb so you don’t. Pass out or anything.

Bring Snacks

It took me about 3.5 hours to climb this mountain by myself. It’s literally like a 14’er. So bring a snack that is high in protein so you have the energy to keep going. If you’re just visiting, make sure to bring your own protein bars. If you’re living in China, try bringing some other high protein snacks like nuts, since proteins bars like what America has are not as popular (unless you hit up and market that imports these items).

Shed Clothes as You Climb

Part of the reason that I got as cold as I did was because I didn’t shed clothes. If you climb in the winter and you don’t shed your clothes, you’re clothes get soaked with sweat and once you stop, they freeze back to your body and you start to shiver. You won’t be as cold if you are shedding some of your clothes as you climb. As your clothes get wet, you need to take them off so they can dry. And once you’re done with the climb your clothes will be dry so you can put them back on to warm up.

Wear Good Shoes

While this entire pathway is made of stone steps, flip-flops, high heels, flats and anything else other than hiking shoes or sneakers are not good shoe options. You’d be surprised with how many host country natives wear high heels to climb these mountains. With steep areas on this path, I wouldn’t recommend it. 

Bring a Good Camera

The trek up is absolutely beautiful and worthy of many photos taken. Whether it is an iPhone X, Samsung Galaxy, Go Pro, or CamPark, bring something and capture to the journey. You’ll want to have it for later.

Getting Down From the Mountain

Climbing Mount Hua in Xi'an China

Once you get to the top, you’ll have to make the trek back down. Lucky for you, at the North Summit, there are cable cars that take you down from the summit. After 3.5 hours of climbing, it’s not the worst idea. It Is insanely cheap to take the cable car down and the view is breathtaking. Once you get to the bottom, you’ll need to purchase a bus ticket that gets you safely back to the bus that dropped you off in the first place.

If you were able to climb this mountain, then you’re a rockstar! Try not to go in February when it’s freezing (unless that’s your thing) and remember safety is everything. Don’t put yourself in a situation where your health of life is in danger. Watch your footing, stay warm, stay hydrated, and enjoy the climb.

For other blogs posts on my adventures, visit my post about my favorite things to do in Chongqing, or my mess of a trip to Santa, Hainan.

Have you been to Hua Shan? Tell us about your experience in the comments!