China Adventures

Cangshan Mountain: Black Dragon Pools and Summit Hike - Camping (2 Days)

A challenging 2 day, high-altitude hiking and camping trip on Cangshan Mountain in Dali, Yunnan province, offering stunning views in a pristine alpine environment. Day 1 involves 1750 metres of elevation gain from 2030 metres all the way up to a beautiful campsite at 3780 metres, while day 2 involves climbing up to the summit at 4030 metres!

  • Key Info
  • Discounts & Inclusions
  • Hiking Distance: 15 KM
  • Departure Time: 9 am
  • Hiking Duration: 2 days
  • Back in Dali: 3 pm (day 2)
  • Hike Level: 4 Strong
  • Price: 1200¥/$155

Meeting/drop-off point: hotel pick-up and drop-off in Dali Old Town

Day 1: Hike to 3780 m and Camp

Hiking distance: 7 km/5-7 hrs

Elevation gain: 1750 m

Incl. meals: snacks, lunch, dinner

Day 2: Summit Cangshan (4030 m) 

Hiking distance: 8 km/4-5 hrs

Elevation gain: 250 metres

Incl. meals: breakfast, lunch, snacks


Camp at 3800 metres!

Summit a 4000 metre mountain!

Experience a pristine alpine environment!

Upcoming trip:

Detailed Itinerary

A challenging but very rewarding high altitude hike that begins at the base of Cangshan Mountain at just over 2000 metres above sea level and takes you far up the mountain to a group of pristine alpine ponds located at 3750 metres (12,300 feet)! We camp right next to the ponds and enjoy an epic sunset before continuing up the mountain the next morning to the summit at an elevation of 4030 metres (13,450 feet)! This is a 15 km hike with a total elevation gain of approximately 1750 metres on the first day and 250 metres on the second day, so you need to be in strong physical condition. Serious hikers willing to challenge themselves will be rewarded with spectacular scenery, stunning views and a real sense of accomplishment!

Day 1: Hike to Black Dragon Pools and Camping

From our meeting point in front of the West Gate of Dali Old Town (大理古城西门) our van  takes us 9 km north to a small farming village at the foot of Cangshan Mountain called Heyang Cun (literally “Sun Crane Village”). The hike begins at the top of Heyang Village at an elevation of about 2050 metres above sea level. From our drop off point, it’s a short walk past scenic terraced fields, up into the foothills of Cangshan Mountain. Once in the hills we meander through a tea plantation overlooking Heyang Village and are afforded our first panoramic views of Erhai Lake.


Next we dip down into a little gully before arriving at the mouth of a narrow mountain gorge with a small but fast flowing river gushing out of it.


We cross the river, then start hiking straight uphill through a tranquil pine forest on the mountainside. After a short but vigorous hike, we emerge out of the forest at the edge of an overhanging cliff one hundred metres above the gorge where we are rewarded with spectacular views down to the river and up to the high reaches of the mountain.


From here the trail turns steeply upwards as it hugs the edge of the gorge. As we begin to gain in elevation rapidly, the terrain on this section of the hike is slightly demanding but we continue to be rewarded with breathtaking views deep into the gorge and back towards the lake. The trail eventually turns away from the edge of the gorge and back into the forest where we pass by the narrow opening to a deep cave that seems to suddenly appear out of nowhere. We continue to hike through dense, lush forest for another 30 minutes before arriving at a plateau at about 2,450 metres (8,038 feet). Here we take a short rest before following a well-worn donkey trail used by local villagers who hike into the hills to harvest various wild forest products, such as bamboo, mushrooms and medicinal herbs.


After hiking along the donkey trail for about 2 hours, we emerge onto a small plateau at an altitude of approximately 3100 metres (10,170 feet), which offers spectacular panoramic views of the entire Dali region. Here we rest for a while and have lunch while taking in the views.


This spot offers sweeping views of rural Dali and Erhai Lake. At 250 square kilometers and 40 kilometres in length, Erhai lake is the 9th largest freshwater lake in China. At 1,972 metres above sea-level, it’s also the 2nd largest alpine lake in the entire country.

In addition to spectacular panoramic views of the entire Dali region, this spot also offers fantastic, ever-changing views of the Cangshan mountain range in either direction.


After lunch we continue hiking up the mountain for about 2 hours, before reaching a large forested plateau at approximately 3750 metres (12,300 feet) above sea-level. After a short walk through the forest we arrive at a pond located at the base of a huge cliff face. Surrounded by wind-swept pine trees and massive rhododendron bushes, this high altitude pond is truly a place of serene natural beauty.




We take a much-deserved rest at the first pond before walking over to two other nearby ponds located at the same elevation. The setting of these lakes is absolutely stunning and the views are spectacular. It definitely isn’t easy to get here in one day, but the reward for doing so makes the effort well worth it!

dali 20

Our campsite is in a beautiful, well-sheltered spot surrounded by pine trees, right next to the ponds. We pitch our tents, then prepare dinner as the sun goes down. After 5-6 hours of hiking steadily uphill (and 1750 metres of elevation gain in one day!), you will look forward to eating a nice dinner, watching the sunset and having a much deserved sleep!

Day 2: Hike to the Summit

We wake up in our tents, enjoy a hot cup of tea or coffee and have breakfast. After breakfast, we pack up camp and get ready to head for the summit. Cangshan mountain actually has 19 summits and one of them is directly above and behind our campsite. At 4030 metres above sea level, the summit is about 250 metres above our campsite and takes about 1.5 hours to reach.

From our campsite next to the lakes, the summit is blocked from view by a cliff. Getting to the summit ridge involves first scrambling up a small scree slope to the base of the cliff, then hiking along a narrow path that zigzags up the cliff face to a wide plateau above it.

yunnan 4

In the middle of the plateau is a large pond that lies just under the summit at an elevation of about 3900 metres (12,795 feet). From the pond, it’s a simple hike up a grass (or snow) slope to the summit.

yunnan 8 - 副本

yunnan 11 - 副本

View from the 4030 metre (13,290 foot) summit with several other independent summits overlooking the highest and largest pond of the entire Cangshan mountain range:

yunnan hike 1 - 副本

yunnan 13 - 副本

yunnan 15 - 副本

Standing on one of Cangshan mountain’s 19 independent summits at 4030 metres (13,290 feet):

yunan hike

With Erhai lake more than 2000 metres below, the views from the summit are simply awesome on a clear day! No matter what the weather is like though, it’s always satisfying to stand on the summit of Cangshan mountain!

Depending on pace and conditions on the mountain (for example, snow or no snow), it takes between 3-4 hours to make it all the way back down the mountain to Heyang village. Our driver will be waiting for us in the village to drive us back to Dali Old Town.

Important notice: Snow is common at elevations over 3000 metres (9,850 feet) from November through May, so please remember to dress accordingly. Proper hiking boots, a warm jacket, warm socks and walking sticks are recommended. If needed, gators can be rented for 20 RMB.

Planning a trip ahead or want a private tour?