Cang Shan (Cáng Shān 苍山), also know as Diancang Shan, provides a stunning backdrop to the west of Dali Old Town. A trip out to the mountain itself is rewarded with superb views of the surrounding countryside in addition to a number of hiking trails complete with picturesque temples, rushing streams and waterfalls that transport snow run-off to Er Lake (Erhai) far below.
Consisting of 19 peaks (the highest of which is Malong Peak at 4,122 m or 13,524 ft), Cang Shan is lush with vegetation and is particularly well known for its flourishing azaleas. Designated an official Scenic Area in 1991, the park can be accessed via chairlift from the west of Dali Old Town (RMB 40 round trip, approximately 25 minutes), or for those with a bit more puff, by foot (1.5 hours).
A new cableway, opened in September 2011 (RMB 100), spans a total of 5 km (3.1 mi) and stops at two scenic points along the way: Seven Dragon Pool (Qī Lóng Nǚchí, 七龙女池) and Horse Washing Pool (Mǎ Xǐ Chí, 马洗池).
The old cable car and footpath deposit you at Zhonghe Temple. A charming temple with a great view of Erhai Lake, Zhonghe Temple is the starting point for several of the hiking trails that criss-cross the area. Home to a small Bai-style eatery, there are also options for stocking up on snacks and drinks.
A paved trail known as the Cloud Pass starts here and runs across the mountain from north to south, ending at Gantong Temple where another cable car can take you down to the valley floor. A relatively flat 20 km (12.4 mi) walk, the Cloud Pass is a good option for a leisurely stroll in the fresh air through gorgeous scenery as it snakes its way around peaks and sheer cliffs, past temples and waterfalls. Keep an eye out for small pathways that branch off and ascend to a number of cascades, clear pools and yet more breathtaking vistas of the Yunnan countryside.
The many other walking options available range from easy forest trails to two-day steep mountain hikes. The Higherland Inn, located 100 m (110 yds) above Zhonghe Temple, is a good place to seek information, maps and a guide if necessary.
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