When we got to the top of the gondola, 4,506 meters above sea level, it was hard to believe that we had been sweltering in Southeast Asia only a week before. Dressed in our warmest clothes, which consisted of little more than sweatshirts and thin pants, we looked in amazement at the snow that coated the rocky ground, while doing our best to breathe in the thin air of the mountaintop.
We had reached the highest accessible point of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain which sits just outside of Lijiang, China. The peak itself soars to 5,596 meters above sea level, but, seeing as there as been only one successful summit of the mountain, we decided to stay put at 4,500 meters.
As we assended that cable car that took us up the final 1,200 meters to the top, we passed through cloud cover so thick that it was impossible to even see the cable above us that was hopefully still holding the car into place; however, once we reached the top, we had passed through the first layer of clouds and had a wonderfully clear view of the mountains still towering above us.
After checking out the nearby glacier and having our pictures taken by hordes of curious Chinese tourists, my wife and I headed back to the visitor center and caught the bus out to Spruce Meadow.
Our Lonely Planet guide advised us to get to the Spruce Meadow cable car prior to 8:30am or face an hour wait; however, when we arrived at the cable car, the worker was surprised to see us, and we were two of the very few people at the meadow when we arrived.
Spruce Meadow sits 3,200 meters above sea level and features a large meadow flanked with tall peaks on one side, and a beautiful forest on the other. It is also the place to go if you want to try on traditional local costumes or write a wish on a small piece of wood. This meadow is so beautiful that it was featured on the 18th season of the Amazing Race.
After exploring the meadow, we made our way down to the White River. The river meanders its way through the parks valleys and cascades through a series of lakes and waterfalls as the crystal-clear turquoise water reflect the snow covered mountain above.
While here, it is even possible to don traditional clothing and take a ride across the river on a saddled yak.
If you ever visit Lijiang, China, I would highly recommend a visit to Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. It is truly one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited.
How to Get to Jade Dragon Snow Mountain
Getting to the mountain’s visitor center from Lijiang is fairly simply. There a many mini-buses that ply the route and some even wait for passengers near the old city’s water wheel. The cost for the trip depends on the number of passengers, but should be around 20 Yuan for a full load.
The park itself is rather expensive. It has an admission fee of 185 Yuan ($31), and on top of this fee, you have to pay for the cable cars and buses. The cable car to Glacier Park (the highest point) is 150 Yuan ($25) an the cable cars to Spruce Meadow and Yak Meadow cost 55 Yuan ($9). Add onto that a 20 Yuan charge to use the buses (you only have to pay this once), and it adds up to an expensive day.
As expensive as it is though, it’s hard to say that visiting the park is not worth the money.