Shénnóngjià 神农架

At the tail of the Danba Mountain Range is a place of such natural beauty that it has spawned its own legends and tales. The locals whisper about a large, hairy man-like creature that bothers farmers, but uncannily avoids scientists. There have been over 200 sightings of the Yeren (Chinese for “wild man”), but the only physical traces left behind are a few strands of hair and footprints. Some cynics claim it’s a ploy to encourage a burgeoning tourist market, and the town of Muyu, which is apparently in on the joke, seems to be capitalizing well off of the hype with its mountains of touristy gimmicks.

This beautiful nature reserve is a habitat for more than 336 species of vertebrates (including the rare golden snub-nosed monkey), 200 birds, 30 reptiles and 27 distinct types of insects, and there’s an unusually high occurrence of albinism in the animals here. You are certainly more likely to see a white toad or a white bear than you are to see the elusive Yeren. Besides the unique wildlife here, Shennongjia is a land of rugged yet elegant natural beauty, punctuated by coursing waterfalls, lush forests and stunning mountain peaks.

There are over 20 scenic spots inside Shennongjia. Listed below are the top four sites.

Fengjingya (Fēngjǐng Yà; 风景垭)

Location: About 30 km (18 mi) from Muyu

This site consists of two must-see stops: Golden Monkey Waterfall and Fengjingya Stone Forest. The waterfall is nearly 30 m (100 ft) high and 5 m (15 ft) wide, and a known socializing spot for Shennongjia’s famous monkey residents. The other famous sight is the Stone Forest, where both the wind and the water have sculpted the rock formations for over 7 million years. From a spot on top of the mountain you can look over the edge for a magnificent view. The craggy mountain tops peaking out of the low lying cloud cover are quite an evocative sight.

Dajiu Lake (Dàjiǔ Hú; 大九湖)

Location: 10 km (6 mi) from Shennong Deng

Dajiu Lake is a rare sub-alpine peat wetland located in a mid-latitude area. Bird watchers will be delighted with the variety of birds that inhabit the area.

Source of Fragrant Brook (Xiāngxī Yuán; 香溪源)

This site is a pool surrounded by the fragrant smells of the forest. The source of Fragrant Brook is a wonderful place to stop before continuing the hike to the top of Shennong Deng.

Hongping Valley (Hóngpíng Jǐngqū; 红坪景区)

Location: 20 km (12 mi) from Muyu, 15 km (9 mi) from Shennongjia.

The picturesque Hongping Valley is a small 15 km (9 mi) valley lined with craggy peaks that often explode with color. The valley is home to 36 peaks, three waterfalls and six caves, but the real treats here are the endless hills of blooming azaleas, whose brilliant red color lights up in vivid contrast as they sweep down the green waters of the river. It can be easy to get lost among all of the lovely scenery here, so keep your head up as you hike and consider hiring a guide.





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