Tai Shan (Mount Tai), pride of all Shandong province and standing at an imposing 1,545 m above sea level, is the most venerated of China's five sacred Taoist mountains. Some 6 million tourists a year come to follow in the footsteps of Confucius and other great leaders and thinkers of China.
There are a few different ways to get to the summit. Hiking from the base in Tai'an city should take the best part of a day (assuming you want to stop a while at some of the attractions) on either the central route or western route. The more popular of the two is the central route, which encompasses many of the mountain's pavilions, bridges, stone inscriptions and other cultural relics.
On the first leg of the journey you can take in the Rock Valley Scripture, the North Prayer Rock and Guandi Temple, erected to enshrine the Taoist God of War. Continuing on, you'll pass through the First Gate of Heaven, where Confucius began his ascent to the summit, followed by Red Gate Palace, Wanxian Lou Gate and Doumu Hall.
The western route takes in fewer cultural attractions but offers much in the way of natural beauty. The trail often runs beside and crosses the main road to the Midway Gate to Heaven, where the western and central routes converge. You can take a cable car pretty close to the summit from here but you'll miss the God of Wealth Temple, Five Pine Pavilion, Opposing Pines Pavilion, and the Path of Eighteen Bends.
The South Gate to Heaven is final gateway to the summit. Places worth a look beyond the gate are Emperor Wu's Wordless Monument, Confucius Temple and Jade Emperor Temple perched atop the mountain's highest peak. The panoramic views are undoubtedly the highlight of the trip up.
Public and tour buses to the mountain's three cable ways are available from various places in Tai'an city. Click the Tai Shan transportation tab for full details. All travelers, hikers or cable car riders are strongly advised to take warm clothing regardless of the season. Weather conditions on the mountain are changeable and can be very different from those at the base.