Tianmen Mountain is one of the world’s most beautiful mountains. Why should you travel here? To ride in one of the world’s longest cable cars, walk the narrow, plank paths attached to vertical cliffs, walk on the glass skywalk, and climb the 999 steps to Heaven’s Door.
Tianmen Mountain is located in Zhangjiajie, in the Hunan Province of China. Most people travel to Zhangjiajie to visit Zhangjiajie National Park, where the landscape served as the inspiration for the movie “Avatar.”
Tianmen Mountain is a beautiful, thrilling place to visit and it is worth an extra day on your itinerary if you have the time.
Best Things to Do at Tianmen Mountain
Tianmen Shan Cable Car
Some sources state that the Tianmen Shan Cable Car is the longest cable car system in the world (others list Ba Na Hills Station in Da Nang, Vietnam). Spanning 7 kilometers, it takes 30 minutes to travel from the city of Zhangjiajie to the top of Tianmen Mountain. The journey is stunning and much more thrilling than we were expecting.
For us, this cable car journey was the highlight of our trip to Tianmen Mountain. At first, the cable car passes over the edge of the city and then over farmland. About halfway into the journey, the cable car begins its ascent. Tianmen Mountain looms in front of you, and from the cable car you have a perfect view of Heaven’s Door, the oval opening in the side of the mountain.
At the end of the journey the cable car makes a sharp turn upwards, making our ears pop as we approached the final station.
The Cliff Hanging Walkway
For another thrill, walk the narrow plank paths tenuously attached to the side of Tianmen Mountain.
It is called a plank road (maybe it was made from wood at one point) but now it is a poured concrete walkway with a railing. There is nothing underneath of the pathway except for air. Let me tell you, it is a long, long way down to the ground below. In fact, the walkway sits 1,400 meters off of the ground.
For a good thrill, we would stick our heads out over the railing, looking down at the valley far, far below.
Red ribbons were hanging from the trees here. Each red ribbon symbolizes a wish. People write their wish on the ribbon, hang it from the tree, hoping it will come true.
The Walk of Faith…Do you Dare?
There is a portion of the Cliff Hanging Walkway that is constructed with thick glass. During our visit, this was the most crowded area of Tianmen Mountain. It seemed that everyone wanted to stand on this glass walkway with a chance to see down to the valley below.
It sounds scary and dangerous, right?
So, is it really that thrilling?
Maybe we are a little jaded by now, or maybe it’s just really not that great, but the four of us were not impressed with the Glass Skywalk. Even during the offseason, this very small section was overcrowded. The glass has gotten scratched and scuffed up, so much so that we could barely see through the glass. The thrill that we were hoping for turned out to be a disappointment.
I would still recommend doing it just to see what all of the fuss is about. But the cable car ride beats the Glass Skywalk in the thrill department, no doubt about it.
Coiled Dragon Cliff…the Newest Glass Skywalk
This was added after our visit. This is another glass skywalk that looks down at the 99 bends, the winding road that leads up to Tianmen Mountain.
Tianmen Cave, aka “Heaven’s Door”
Tianmen Cave is a natural cut out in Tianmen Mountain. Believe it or not, men in wingsuits and fighter jets have flown through this narrow opening.
Visitors can climb the 999 steps to Heaven’s Door.
Is it worth it? Our answer is “maybe.” We never went to Tianmen Cave. To get there, you must take the bus or a series of elevators and cable cars to get to the staircase. Views from the cave are mediocre and it can be overly crowded. We were here at the end of winter. We were freezing cold and did not want to prolong our visit for something that may turn out to be a disappointing hassle. We decided to give Heaven’s Door a pass.
Drive one of China’s Most Dangerous Roads
With 99 curves, Tongtian Highway is considered to be one of China’s most dangerous roads. The best view of it is from the Tianmen Shan Cable Car.
For those visiting Tianmen Cave, buses make the winding, somewhat nauseating drive on this road.
Planning a trip to China? Read this before you go: China Travel Tips: Things to Know Before Traveling to China
How to Have the Best Experience at Tianmen Mountain
Best Time To Go to Tianmen Mountain
The best time to visit Tianmen Mountain is between September and November when temperatures are pleasant and the weather is dry. During the spring season (mid-March through June), the weather can be rainy and foggy. Peak season is between July and August. Expect large crowds and long lines for the cable car, buses, and the chair lift. The winter season has chilly, dry weather and the lowest crowds.
We visited Zhangjiajie in early March. For five days, it was always overcast with temperatures ranging from 40°F to 50°F (5°C to 10°C). Crowds were low and we never had to wait in queues to get on the cable cars.
Do Not Visit Tianmen Mountain on a Rainy, Foggy Day
If the weather is not clear, there is no point in visiting Tianmen Mountain. There are numerous reports of travelers ascending to the top of Tianmen Mountain on foggy days and having zero visibility.
Expect Long Queues for the Cable Car
Lines can be long to get on the cable car, even outside of peak season. To avoid long lines, arrive first thing in the morning, preferably a half hour before opening time. It is not unusual to wait several hours in line just to board the cable car.
The Cable Car can Close in Bad Weather
If the weather forecast calls for storms or high winds, the cable car can shut down. Keep an eye on the weather when making your plans.
About Tianmen Mountain
Hours: 8 am to 4 pm; the Tianmen Shan Cableway runs from 8 am to 5 pm
Cost: CNY 258, this includes the admission fee, a single journey on the Tianmen Shan Cableway, the shuttle bus, and the escalator to Tianmen Cave.
Additional Fees: Peak Forest Cableway (chairlift) CNY 25; shoe covers for the glass skywalks are CNY 5; lower escalator to Tianmen Cave is CNY 32
Click here to view a map of Tianmen Mountain.
How to Plan Your Time
- Ride the cable car to Tianmen Mountain
- Walk the trails, plank roads, and glass skywalks (1 – 2 hours)
- Ride the chair lift from Cherry Village to Yunmeng Fairy Peak and enjoy the view
- Take the elevator or walk back to the cable car station
- Take the escalators to Tianmen Cave
- From Tianmen Cave, take the bus down the 99 curves of Tongtian Highway (skip this if you get car sick!) or take the escalator back to the cable car station and take the cable car back to town
Watch Our Video about Tianmen Mountain
More Information about China
ZHANGJIAJIE: Take a photo tour of Zhangjiajie National Forest Park and explore the market in Zhangjiajie.
CHINA: Learn more about Beijing and Shanghai, what it is like to cycle the Li River Valley and explore beautiful Yangshuo, and how we spent four days in Hong Kong. We also wrote about our first impressions of China.
TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY: For more information about the camera gear we carry, check out our Travel Photography Gear Guide. And tips and tricks for taking great photos in our article How to Take Better Photos while Traveling.
TRAVEL INSPIRATION: For more travel ideas, here are 10 unique destinations to put on your travel wish list and 10 bucket list destinations from around the world.
Traveling to China? Read all of our articles in our China Travel Guide.
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