Cangshan Mountain range is situated, neighboring the ancient city of Dali in the Yunnan province. At its foot lies Erhai lake and the whole area is a well of gorgeous scenery and a treasure trove for sightseeing and hiking with its numerous activities, temples and history.
From the moment you step in to Dali, till the time you say your farewell, Cangshan is a brilliant looming presence in the background. The range comprises 19 summits, with the highest one, Malong Peak, at 13,524 feet. Streams flow through these peaks, making 18 prominent streams for 19 peaks, which are besides the many small streams and tributaries that can be found during hikes there. But if you find the streams interesting, wait till you set your sights on the flowers populating the hill sides! There is an abundance of varied and precious flora, which is a delight to take in. Zhonghe and Gantong Temples, as well as treading along Jade Cloud road are also well worth your time.
Though there is no admission fee, but similar to the Erhai Lake, there is a charge for Resource Preservation of RMB30. The mountain is sprinkled with chairlifts that take you halfway to the top, with one taking you almost near the summit during calm winds. The oldest one and closest to town is Zhonghe Cable Car. This takes off from Sanyue road in Dali, with its destination at Zhonghe Temple. The cost is RMB70 return and RMB40 for a single trip and the carriages are dual person closed door ones.
The southernmost or towards the left, is the Gantong Cable Car. This also takes you midway to Gantong Temple and the wow-some of all 18 streams, the Qingby stream. The fare is RMB80 for two ways and RMB50 for one journey. Closed door cabins carry 6 persons per ride.
The newest third and last is the one in the center, that also goes to the top, with a stop in the middle. There are different rates for the seasons and half way and full way routes but roughly the fare for Ximatan Cable Car is RMB340 for a bottom to top round trip and it costs RMB200 to make a halfway round trip. At the mid-point you can enjoy a hike across Jade-Cloud road (in fact, all three cable cars have access to this road) and at the top you can take pictures with Ximatan Lake.
Beware when buying round trip tickets that chairlifts are run by separate companies so tickets can’t be used interchangeably. Timings are from 08:30 to 15:40/16:10 (winter/summer)
Despite the ever-present snow caps on Cangshan, its name literally means ‘Dark Green Mountain’. This maybe because of the splendid flora that it supports. Swing around from March to May to find the azaleas in bloom as far as the eye can see. The views of Erhai Lake and nearby Dali city is equally mesmerizing, and you will not find a better angle for a shot to rival those in National Geographic.