Changbai Mountain – Jilin Province China

Destinations — By on 24/04/2011 5:42 am
heavenly lake 300x225 Changbai Mountain   Jilin Province China

Changbai Mountain's Heavenly Lake

With volcanic mountain lakes, snow capped peaks, cascading waterfalls, vast ancient forest, hot springs and abundant wildlife, the Changbai Moutain is one of China’s most stunning natural attractions. The Chinese name Changbaishan (长白山) means long white mountain. An apt name given the size of the mountain range and the cold weather that keeps the peaks covered in snow for most of the year.

Located in Jilin province, Changbai Mountain is a part of a mountain range on the border of China and North Korea that stretches from Heilongjiang province in China to Chagang in North Korea. The Changnai mountain is the center piece of the Changbai nature reserve that was established in 1960 and covers over 2,100 square kilometres. The wildlife and vegetation in the reserve is so rich and diverse that the Changbai reserve is considered as one of the world’s gene banks.

If you visit Changbai mountain you will see amazing and beautiful sites such as the Heavenly lake, the Baiyun mountain peak, Changbai water fall and wild mountain rivers.

Heavenly Lake (Tianchi)

The heavenly lake is the center piece of the Changbai nature reserve and is visually breathtaking. The Heavenly lake was formed in the volcanic crater of Changbai mountain 2189 meters above sea level and is surrounded by a ring of 16 mountain peaks. The lake itself covers an area of 9.2 square kilometres and has a circumference or border of 14 kilometers. The depth of the lake is 380 meters which makes it the deepest lake in both China and North Korea and one of the deepest lakes in the world. The border between North Korea and China cuts the lake in half with the northern part of the lake being in China.

map 300x250 Changbai Mountain   Jilin Province China

A map of Changbai Mountain and the Heavenly Lake

Koreans attach special importance to the lake which is the mythical birth place of Korean civilization. According to legends, Hwanung the son of god and a bear that transformed into a woman started the Korean people in 2333 BC. So don’t be surprised if you see many North and south Koreans making a pilgrimage to Changbai Mountain

The Heavenly Lake is also the source of the Songhua river (2434 kilometers long), Tumen river (521 kilometers long) and Yula river (790 kilometers long).

Baiyun (Heifengkou) Peak

With a height of 2745 meters, the Baiyun peak is the highest point in the Changbai mountain range. Baiyun peak is one of the 16 peaks surrounding the Heavenly lake and provides the most stunning and magnificent views in the reserve.

Strong winds blow constantly on this peak and it is only accessible from June to mid September when there is no snow. Strangely enough it does not feature on the itinerary of local tour companies and most local Chinese tourist have no interest in climbing it. Go figure.

Changbai Waterfall

North of the Heavenly lake is the beginning of the Changcha river that has calm waters for the first 1.2 kilometers before it becomes wild with rapids and plunges down a 68 meter cliff to create a beautiful water fall. The Changbai water fall is the highest volcanic water fall in the world.

The best place to watch the Changbai water fall is from Baiyun peak. The only way to see this water fall is to enter Changbai reserve from the northern gate.

Changbai Hot Springs

These are a collection of hot springs two kilometres north of the Heavenly lake that cover over 1000 square meters. The average temperature of the springs is around 60C with the hottest being 82C. Some of these hot springs are reputedly hot enough to boil eggs so you don’t want to randomly jump in the first hot spring that takes your fancy.

Chemicals from surrounding volcanic rock cause bright colors in many of the hot springs. Body paint any one? Locals say that the hot springs can help medical conditions such as arthritis and dermatosis. Bet they can’t help with burns or scalds so be very careful here.

aerial photo of Heavenly lake Changbai Mountain   Jilin Province China

The Heavenly Lake and surrounding 16 peaks

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The Heavenly lake in Spring

Slopes of Changbai Mountain

Northern Slope

This slope is the most popular and developed part of the mountain, the easiest slope to visit and the place you’ll find Chinese tour groups. This slope includes Small Heavenly lake, the Heavenly lake and the under ground forest. Access to the Northern slope is through the reserve’s north gate where admission tickets cost 100 RMB.

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The Changbai waterfall with a 68 meter fall

Western Slope

This slope is much less popular than the Northern slope and much more visually spectacular with more impressive views. From the Western slope, the Heavenly Lake can be reached by a 1365 step climb. This is one reason why local Chinese tourists prefer the easier Northern Slope.

The western slope sites include Great Valley, Jinjiang waterfall, Jinjiang canyon, Tiger’s back and the Tizi river. In July this slope is carpeted with flowers in full bloom creating awesome views. The Jinjiang Canyon, together with the Heavenly Lake, is one of Changbai mountains must see attractions. The canyon was formed by an earthquake when the volcano erupted.

Admission is from the west gate near the Songjianghe town and cost 60 RMB

Southern and Eastern Slopes

Not much to say about the Southern slope because it is in Korea and mainly used by smugglers. No one I spoke knows anything about the eastern slopes and there is no tourism there.

Getting There

Changbai mountain is in a remote part of Jilin province far from any major cities so getting there is not easy. My recommendation is to catch a plane or train to either Changchun or Jilin city then join a tour group to the mountain. Many tour companies in both cities have tour groups leaving daily for Changbai mountain.

For the more adventurous solo travellers, you can catch a train from Changchun to Yanji city which takes 10 hours then a bus from Yanji to the northern entrance of the mountain.

I’ll update this part later with more information on how to independently visit Changbai mountain.

Best Time to Visit

June to September is the main time to visit when Baiyun peak is accessible and July is the best time to visit when the flowers are in bloom.

Changbai mountain is open all year round and every season provides uniquely different and spectacular views. Winter though is incredibly cold though with temperatures as low as -45C so I recommend you stick to the June to September period.

长白山天池 Changbai Mountain   Jilin Province China

The magnificence of the Heavenly Lake in Winter

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  1. louise wilders says:

    best way to get to chanbaishan and enjoy its features ? not, definatly not an arranged tour ! They are rip off superficial and based on the chinese conception of why to visit this mountain ie to clock up a shot straddling the border with north Korea, to clock up a "holy mountain" longevity bonus, to hang out in air conditioned buses streaming constant tourist fodder… You will get no info on the volcanos history, no info on the flora and fauna and definatly no opportinity to encounter any siberian tigers or even aa asian chipmonk ! Better book a train to Dunhua (once daily direct service) a hostel at Erdaobaihai (great place to meet like minded travellers, wild life and volcano freaks) and make at least 2 trips based on your own interests and shared transport! there is a spectacular canyon with weird formations of pink/yellow grey fan shaped rocks rearing up from black ash coated steep canyon side slopes all viewed thro feathery green fronds of beautiful ancient conifers some of which obviously survived the last 1903 eruption ! The hot springs feature and waterfall on the main tourist track is unfortunatly almost spoilt by defunct concrete ramparts lining its flanks, no accessability to get close enough to experience the power of the water cascade and no effort to educate the visitors. The narrow channel carved in vocanic rock further down near a bus dropping off stop is however very dramatic and expressive of the power of the natural forces shaping the region over "deeptime". The combo volcano (shield, strato with explosive history on the subducting plate connected tro the Kamchatka penninsular) has implications for the whole region and the power to significantly effect global climate! You would never guess any of this frm tourist fare ! As to tigers dream on – there are no facilities even refering to this endangered species – no interest from the population apart from harvesting remedy potions. if I ever visit again I will first assemble a party of enthusiasts – possibly gathered from the wilds of icelandic hinterlands – where volcanoa are really cherished and tourist runs prevented from destrying the natural beauty !  Wildsage

    • Brendon says:

      Hi Louise, thankyou for some excellent information on visiting Changbaishan

    • D Lynn says:

      Dear Louise, 
      any tips on the best way to travel to Changbaishan? we are intending to visit late december and understand it will be crazily cold… We will be setting off from Dalian and any info will be useful. 

  2. Stanley says:

    Hi Brendon,

    You mention the best time to visit is June to September but how is the lake scene like during those months ? Is it the same as the one you posted above…blue lake surrounded by snow mountains ? I read about your 2 visits which you joined a group tour but you also mentioned paying for the eco-bus trips to go up the mountain, are they seperate charges ? How about the entrance fee to Changbaishan ? Have you updated any info on how to visit independently ? Thanks again.

    • Brendon says:

      I can’t say when that photo was taken because I “borrowed” it. I’ve heard the peaks surrounding Heavenly Lake are covered in snow all year round so it could easily be taken in summer. Most tours will include the park entrance fee and the bus fee but you need to double check this before you sign up and pay the tour fee.

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