Changbaishan National Nature Reserve (长白山自然保护区) is in Jilin province.
Covering an area of 2,000 km2, the Changbai Mountains National Reserve is a large natural zoo and botanical garden, part of the UNESCO's Man and Biosphere Program. The Tianchi Lake (Heaven Lake), vertical scenery, aerial park, hot springs, and waterfalls are among the six local natural wonders. The mountains, covered with primitive forests, make an excellent tourist destination.
Changbaishan has two separate areas- the northern slope and the western slope. Heaven Lake is accessible from both sides of the reserve. The north and west entrances are separated by 100 km.
If you want to hike besides the tourist routes you have to have a guide. Just don't hike alone, and bring food and medical supply. It should be strongly noted that the border with North Korea is not clearly marked and there have been arrests by North Korean border guards of foreigners.
Changbaishan was long considered by Manchus and Koreans to be the origin of their civilizations. Climbing the mountain was considered taboo for most of China's history, with violators often being beaten to death.
Chang Bai Shan (Eternally White Mountain) is the tallest peak in Dongbei (Northeast China). It is a dormant volcano with a lake in the crater named Tianchi Lake and this lake is the source of the Songhua River. Latest eruption was in 1702 AD.
Flora and fauna
Below the lake in the crater, the mountain offers a very large selection of flora, such as the rare Chang Bai larch. There are 80 species of trees and over 300 types of medicinal plants in the reserve.
From early October to late May, access into the park will be very difficult due to the amount of snow that falls in the winter. Early September seems to be one of the better times to visit and a whole lot of South Koreans agree. Finding availability around this time can be difficult.
Access into the Nature Reserve for non-Chinese is mainly through Baihe. Baihe can be access by bus through Yanji or train through Tonghua. From Baihe, buses travel frequently to Chang Bai Shan to the vehicle switching station, 27 km past the main gate. From the vehicle switching station, 4WD vehicles take you the rest of the way to the hot springs at the base of the mountain.
Buses stop at the main entrance. Then you pay another fee for the "eco-bus" operated by the park concession. To get to the summit, you must take an 4WD to the upper camp building, and then hike about 150 m to the top. In June 2011, the snow was solid from camp to summit. The summit is quite cold and windy. Surplus Red Army jackets are available to borrow, apparently for free. In summer, the view down onto the lake is often obscured by clouds.
An alternate access is via Songjiang He, a village 40 km west of the Nature Reserve. The western approach offers more beauty with forests of trees gradually changing to meadows and flowers (in spring and early summer).
The easiest way to get to Changbaishan is by booking one of the three-day tours arranged through CITS in Jilin (at the Dongguan Hotel) costing ¥620 (¥420 for Chinese), which include all fees and accommodations, and which stop at all the major sightseeing spots, including Tian Chi.
- For navigation enter Erdao Baihezhen for destination.
- Changchun to direction Airport/Jilin G12 to Jilin (1.5 hours)
- Jilin to G12 to Dunhau (1.5 hours)
- Dunhua to G201 to (pass by Xiaoshahexiang, Yougqingxian) Erdao Baihezhen/Bai he (3 hours)
- In July 2011 all the roads where new and easy to drive. Petrol stations and toilets were available.
- In Erdao Baihezhen to the North Gate (20 km) follow the signs
- In Erdao Baihezhen to West Gate (80 km) follow the signs Baihe Forestry/Westgate
- From North Gate to West Gate: coming from North Gate, before you enter Baihe there is a sign, "West Gate", on your left hand. Follow the small road until you come to a bigger, new road. Turn left and follow the road.
Fees and permits
- Park admission ¥100
- Transportation fee ¥85 (which pay for the shuttle busses inside the park)
- 4WD tour to Heaven Lake ¥80 (North Gate - since there is no walking path to Heaven Lake you have to take a 4WD.)
- Chinese and student-card holders may receive discount.
Park admission and transportation fee have to be paid as soon as you enter the park. If you sleep outside the park you have to pay daily for the park admission and transportation. If you sleep in one of the hotels inside the park (North Gate) you pay only one time the park admission and the transportation fee - irrespective of the duration of your stay.
Cars are prohibited in the parks. Shuttle buses bring the tourists from the north/west gate to the different sightseeing spots in the park and run frequently. Ask for the operating times of the buses and the opening hours of the park. (approx. West Gate 07:00-16:00, North Gate 07:00-18:00)
- From Baihe to the parking area of the Northgate entrance (20 km) by car, buses, or taxi
- From entrance to the waterfall (20 km) by shuttle bus
- From entrance to the parking area (16 km) where you can board a 4WD for journey up to Heaven Lake
- From parking area with the 4WDs to Heaven Lake approx. 20 minutes
- From parking area with the 4WDs to waterfall approx. 4 km
- From waterfall to the Green Deep Pool or Small Sky Pond/Silver Ring Lake 2 km
- From Songjianghe to parking area of the entrance (approx. 40 minutes) by taxi or with a tour
- From entrance to Heaven Lake or to the canyon (approx. 50 minutes/40 km)
From Northern Gate to Western Gate - approx. 100 km, 2 hours. From waterfall to the canyon - approx. 4 hours.
- Tian Chi/ Heaven Lake is the Highlight of Changbaishan, this deep-blue volcanic crater lake at the top of the mountain is surrounded by 16 mountain peaks. In some years, it is frozen even in June. The lake marks the boundary of China and North Korea. The mountain belongs to the five holy mountains of Korea. You have to take a 4WD to get to the mountain (16 km). The walking path from the waterfall to the Heaven Lake is closed. It is less crowded in the afternoon hours - ask for the operating hours of the 4WDs. (last one from the mountain in July 2011 was around 18:00)
- Changbai Waterfall (68 metre) Erdaobai River runs off Heaven Lake and creates the longest volcanic waterfall in the world. Snowmelt from the Heavens Lake cascades down a volcanic landscape.
- On the way to the waterfall there natural hot springs- you can enjoy a bath in the bathhouse. The springs are hot enough to boil eggs and corn, which can be purchased for local vendors.
- Green Deep Pool. The Pond is surrounded by trees and cliffs. A 25 m high waterfall flows into the pond with green water.
- Small Sky Pond/Silver Ring Lake is a small lake where you can start walking tours along the river (e.g. 1.5 hours to the waterfall).
- Underground forest (12 km from the north gate) is a nice walking area. Discover in a 30 minutes' walk a crater filled with trees.
- Tian Chi/ Heaven Lake (over 900 stairs to the top)
- Changbaishan Canyon (Changbaishan Daxiagu) discover in a 40 minutes' walk the main attraction of the western side - the impressive Changbaishan Canyon.
- The shuttle bus stops at several more attractions
A daytrip at Northern Slope:
- Get to the park (from Baihe 20 km) and buy tickets
- Take the shuttle bus and drive from entrance to Green Deep Pool (approx. 35 minutes)
- Start your day at Green Deep Pool (approx. 20-45minutes walking time)
- Take the Shuttle Bus to the waterfall (approx. 10 minutes driving time)
- At the parking area of the waterfall, turn right, go over the bridge, turn left and follow the path on the right side of the river to the waterfall (approx. 30 minutes walking time)
- From the waterfall follow the main path down to the parking area - enjoy the natural hot spring scenery and stop at a vendor to buy boiled eggs.
- At the parking area of the waterfall, go over the bridge, turn right and follow the path along the river to Small Sky Pond (approx. 60 minutes walking time). The path was closed in July 2011, but still good to walk.
- From Small Sky Pond walk through the forest to the snack bar/big parking area to catch the shuttle bus and drive to the parking area for the 4WDs.
- Buy a ticket and climb up the mountain with a 4WD. Beware of the operating hours of the 4WD. A trip up the mountain and taking pictures takes time (approx. 1.5 hours.) (July 2011, last 4WD from the mountain 19:45)
- Take the shuttle bus back (beware of the operating hours)
- Enjoy a soak in one of the hot springs at the base of the mountain - the bathhouse offers hot spring baths for ¥40 per person
A daytrip at Western Slope:
- Get to the park (Songjianghe to parking area of the entrance approx. 40 minutes) and buy tickets
- Take the shuttle bus and drive from the entrance up to the mountain where the stairs start (approx. 50 minutes drive)
- Buy some drinks - climb up the stairs to see the Heavens Lake and the North Korean border (approx. 60 minutes)
- Take the shuttle bus to the canyon (all the buses stop here and you have to get out of the bus) and enjoy the great scenery (approx. 40 minutes walk)
- Take the shuttle bus back (beware of the operating hours)
- There are some more attractions between the mountain and the canyon. The buses stop here also.
Honey and ginseng.
The shops inside the park and along the road might be closed during low season (September–June) - you might need to bring your own provisions for the trip e.g. fruit, bread, nuts, cereal bars, chocolate and drinks.
During high season you can buy small snacks (e.g. boiled eggs) and drinks inside the park and at the gates - prices are high. There are no restaurants inside the park. You might want to bring some provisions.
Northern Slope: Several hotels operate within the park, e.g. International Tourist Hotel (Guoji Lüyou Binguan) Tel. 0433 5746001 or the Grand Dynasty Hotel/Changbaishan Daewoo Hotel Tel. 0433 5746666. Prices for a double room start at ¥700.
- Price includes breakfast, dinner and hot spring bath
- Receptionists speak English
- You pay the park admission and the transportation fee once only - irrespective of the length of your stay.
- Some rooms have waterfall view.
- In the morning and evening you can enjoy the silence of the park without other tourists.
- Shuttle bus stop right in front of the hotel.
- Save travel time (from Baihe to waterfall approx. 40 minutes).
- Behind the hotel you can find in a 5 minutes' walk the river, the Green Deep Pond (with waterfall) and the Small Sky Pond/Silver Ring Lake. From there you can walk to the waterfall (approx. 2 km) or you take the shuttle bus.
- Take a rest during the day in your hotel room.
- No shops (drinks can be bought at the hotel) or other restaurants
- High room rates
- Since you are not allowed to enter the park with your car, you have to catch the shuttle bus at the Northgate to get to your hotel. Please ask for the operating time of the buses (19:45 in summer) and the opening hours of the park.
In Baihe you can find inexpensive and mid-range lodging (from Baihe to the Northgate 20 km; 40 km to the waterfall and 45 minutes/80 km to the West Gate)
Western Slope: Several hotels are located outside the park gate (e.g. Days Hotel Landscape Resort - 5 minutes' walk to the gate). In Songjianghe you can find inexpensive and midrange lodging (around 40 minutes from Songjianghe to the Westgate).
Camping is forbidden in the park.
The Tian Chi lake is split between China and North Korea. The border is not clearly marked and foreigners have been arrested and detained in the past by North Korean border guards on 'espionage' charges. Take every precaution not to get too close to North Korea, even if you think you are still in Chinese territory.