Yuanjiajie, our next destination within the park, and final for the day, is probably the most popular and crowded section of the park. Hordes of bus tours crowded the trails squawking and barking and littering their way through. There were occasional moments of calm, but for the most part, visiting this area is an exercise in meditation to tune out those around you and just appreciate the beauty of nature before you.
There is a reason the masses flood Yuanjiajie. The views are spectacular. The trail is perched right on top of the cliff overlooking the karst forest scenery. This is also the part of the park with Hallelujah Mountain, a stone column renamed after the popularity of Avatar. After all, the scenery of Pandora, park officials claim, was inspired in part by Zhangjiajie even though James Cameron says it was Huangshan in Anhui that receives that praise.
Whether the scenery inspired a contrived story’s scenery or not doesn’t matter and shouldn’t be what draws you to this place. The stone column now named after a fictional floating mountain would still be magnificent if it were just name Stone Pillar #378.
Number 1 Bridge
Another point of interest in this section of the park is the “World’s No. 1 Bridge.” The moniker changed to various other English translations on signs along the path. However, nowhere along the way did it say in what way this was the number 1 or best natural bridge in the world. A sign at the bridge tried to explain, but it still wasn’t clear in what way it was the “First Bridge on Earth.”
The natural bridge is large and beautiful, but according to The Natural Arch and Bridge Society I’m not sure this would even be considered a bridge, which is a kind of natural arch formed primarily by water erosion of a current of water flowing under it. What’s ironic is the natural arch/bridge that is considered to the largest in the world is in China, but it is in Guangxi Province. It is called Fairy Bridge.
Anyway, the “First Bridge under the Sun” is spectacular, especially with clouds and mist cutting through it. This is, however, an extremely crowded point on the trail. You can walk across the bridge and up the peak it connects to. This offers some less crowded views as well.
From here, we hopped on one of the many shuttle buses within the park headed to the Wulingyuan neck of the woods. We took the cable car down and another shuttle to the park gate at this little city. Our hotel was a five minute walk from the gate and there is fantastic food all around. It was time for some rest and sleep before hitting the trails early the next day.