This mountain, which makes the Dali Old Town so attractive by providing a stunning backdrop, offers some great treks. In fact, Cangshan is probably Dali’s best attraction. Cangshan’s easiest walks are along Jade Cloud Path – a largely flat, paved walkway that runs north to south along the mountainside. The most common way to reach this walkway is by taking the chair lift (¥30 one way; ¥60 return) up to Zhonghe Temple, which is just below the path. Alternatively, you can walk up the stairs behind the Dali Movie City. It’s a steep, hour-long hike up, but the advantage is that it’s free, and you might even avoid the entrance fee to Cangshan Mountain as the guy in the ticket office spends much of the day napping.
Once on the Jade Cloud Path, options include a three to four hour hike south to Gantong Temple, where there’s another cable car to get you back down the mountain (¥50 one way; ¥80 return). Along the way you’ll pass Phoenix Eye Cave and about halfway through this walk you can take a detour to the Seven Dragon Maidens Pools. This is a lovely spot in itself, and also offers great views of Cangshan’s highest peak. The temples and few other attractions on the mountain are nothing special – the main reason to visit the mountain is to enjoy the nature and the wonderful views over Dali and Erhai Lake.
Stretching for some 50km and with 19 peaks, the tallest of which is 4120m high, Cangshan also offers many possibilities for longer and more arduous hikes. The best place to seek advice or a guide is at Higherland Inn, which is about 100 meters uphill from Zhonghe Temple.
Admission: ¥30. Open: The cable car runs until about 6pm.
Directions: From the west gate of the old town, cross the highway and keep heading straight (directly west). When you come to the end of the street, go right to reach the cable car to Zhonghe Temple or left to reach Dali Movie City. Bus #4 towards Xiaguan will get you to the Gantong Temple cable car.