Changbaishan National Nature Reserve

For North Korean half of the mountain, see Mount Paektu.

Changbaishan National Nature Reserve (长白山自然保护区) is in Jilin province.

Understand

Covering a total area of 2,000 square km, 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.

TianChi lake is 13 km in circumference but cannot be walked around owing to the border with North Korea (Mount Paektu).

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.

History

Changbaishan was long considered to be a source of both the Manchurian and Korean cultures. Climbing the mountain was considered taboo for most of China's history, with violators often being beaten to death.

Landscape

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 A.D.

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.

Climate

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.

Get in

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.

By car

Fees/Permits

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 (Northgate) you pay only one time the park admission and the transportation fee - irrespective of the duration of your stay.

Get around

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. Westgate 07:00-16:00, Northgate 07:00-18:00)

Northern Slope:

Western Slope

From Northern Gate to Western Gate - approx. 100 km, 2 hours. From waterfall to the canyon - approx. 4 hours.

See

Northern Slope:

Western Slope

Do

Idea for a Daytrip at Northern Slope:

Idea for a daytrip at Western Slope:

Buy

Honey and Ginseng

Eat

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.

Sleep

Lodging

Northern Slope: Several hotels operate within the park of the, e.g. International Tourist Hotel (Guoji Lüyou Binguan) Tel. 04335746001 or the Grand Dynasty Hotel/Changbaishan Daewoo Hotel Tel. 0433 5746666. Prices for a double room start at ¥700.

Pros:

Cons:

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

Camping is forbidden in the park.

Stay safe

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.

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