The Jade Dragon Snow Mountain is a small mountain range in Yunnan province just north of Lijiang city. Towering over the head waters of the Yangtze River, the mountains are famous for their incredible views and are part of a high altitude nature reserve. If you are in Lijiang, a trip to the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain is highly recommended.
Size & scope
The mountain range is 35 kilometers long, 20 kilometers wide and the highest peak in the range is Shanzidou which as a height of 5596 meters. All together there are 13 peaks in the range. The nature reserve is on the southern and eastern sides of the range and the Yangtze River and the Leaping Tiger Gorge the river runs through are on the western side.
The mountain is often covered in clouds with just the peaks being visible. The snow covered peaks above the clouds resemble a jade dragon lying on the clouds so the mountain has been known as Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. The mountain range is in the heart of the Naxi minority’s homeland and is an import part of their religion.
The Legend of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain
In ancient times, two twins Haba Snow mountain and Jade Dragon Snow Mountain lived in the area and panned for gold in the Golden Sand (Yangtze) River. One day an evil demon started to terrorize the river. The twins fought the demon and Haba died in the ensuing fight and Jade Dragon wore out 13 swords to defeat the demon.
After the fight Jade Dragon Jade Dragon stood guard over the local people with his 13 swords. Over time the two brothers turned into snow covered mountains and the 13 swords became the 13 peaks.
Grounds & Attractions
Ganhaizi Meadow – The meadow was originally a lake created by erosion from glacial ice. The lake dried up over the years to create a flat open area or meadow now known as Ganhaizi which means dry lake. The meadow is used for the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain tourist center and ticket office.
Glacier Park – This area is the most popular area in the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain reserve and has an altitude of 4,500 meters. Glacier Park is reached by cable car that has a line 2986 meters long. The park is below the Shanzidou Peak and the glacier itself is the most southern glacier in China.
If you go to Glacier Park be aware that you are likely to experience altitude sickness. Oxygen canisters can be bought in Lijiang and in Glacier Park to help you deal with the effects of high altitude and oxygen deprivation.
Spruce Meadow – This area of the nature reserve has an altitude of 3,200 meters and is much less crowded than Glacier Park. Spruce Meadow is alpine grassland and surrounded by spruce trees and flower shrubs. It is the place where young Naxi lovers were said to go to commit suicide to escape arranged marriages.
Yak Meadow – Yak Meadow has an altitude of 3,650 meters and is also accessed by cable car. This part of the nature reserve is one of the most isolated and the least frequented by tourist and also the largest meadow on the mountain. The meadow is used by farmers for grazing their yaks and has a lovely little Tibetan temple. Yak Meadow is one of the best places for hiking and has marvellous views.
Blue Moon Valley – This valley is formed from the melting snow that runs of the mountains and holds four lakes, the Tingtao lake, the Lanyue lake, Jingtian lake and the Yue lake. The lakes in the valley are an amazing shade of green/blue and walking around the valley is one of the best hikes in the nature reserve. The head of the valley is one of the main tourist sites where you can ride on yaks and have your picture taken holding an eagle.
The entrance to the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain is 15 kilometers from Lijiang and there is no public transport to the entrance. The best way reach the entrance is catch one of the many private buses around Lijiang that go to the reserve or join a tour.
I recommend you take the number 7 private bus which you can catch at a small bus stop just to the right of the Old Town’s northern gate. The cost of the number 7 bus if it is full is 15rmb. For tours you can see many companies in the Old Town that advertise tours and buses to the reserve. The price of tours varies and most prices can be reduced with a little bargaining.
Entry into the reserve is not cheap and a complete trip to the top of Glacier Park will cost 375rmb. This is the most expensive site or attraction in China that I know of.
The entrance fee for the reserve is 105rmb with an 80rmb Lijiang Old City protection fee. The 80rmb ticket is used for both the Black Dragon Pool and the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain reserve so don’t throw it away. There is a 20rmb fee for using the reserve’s eco friendly buses and a 170rmb ticket for the Glacier Park cable car. The Yak Meadow cable car ticket is 60rmb.
Tips and Advice
Visiting Jade Dragon Snow Mountain when it is covered in cloud is disappointing and expensive. A good way avoid this is to have a look at the mountains in the morning from Lijiang before you set off. If the mountains are clear and cloud free, you should have a great day there. If the mountains are covered by heavy cloud, find something else to do for the day such as a bike ride in the country.