Wenhai Hiking Guide, Lijiang, Yunnan



Located on the southern slope of Yulong (Jade Dragon) snow mountain at an elevation of around 3100m, Wenhai is an area of wetland some 25km west of  Lijiang,accessible by foot or horse or vehicle through a rough dirt road. It is part of the Lashihai provincial level Alpine Wetlands Nature Reserve.

The rustic charm of Wenhai Village is enhanced by a seasonal lake, also named Wenhai. During the summer rainy season, the lake fills and endangered black storks and black-necked cranes, as well as many other migratory birds, fly in for the winter. In early spring, the waters drain into underground limestone caves, leaving a luxuriant bed of thick grass on which horses and cattle graze.

The unique climate and soil in the area nourished a variety of vegetations, including virginforests, shrubs and meadows. The area is also impressive for having an exceptional variety of rhododendrons. More than 20 of the world's 850 or more species bloom on the mountains in the late spring, and the hills were speckled with brilliant patches of purple, pink and white.

Even more gratifying was the view of Wenhai Village. The Naxi people build homes of wood and roof them with gray tiles. None of the uninspiring concrete buildings that so often mar Chinese landscapes are present. Instead, there are intricately carved gates and huge wooden racks used to hang barley to dry in the fall. 

Getting there

Take a bus/taxi or charter a van from Lijiang to arrive at Baisha Old Town and start a 1~3 days hiking to Wenhai village

Trekking to Wenhai

Starting from Yuhu of Baisha, the town where Joseph Rock lived for 17 years in the 1930's and 40's, a steep uphill climb followed by a traverse through a shallow bowl and a sharp descent to the Wenhai Ecolodge takes about 4 hours, which gives hikers time to enjoy the scenery. The forests surrounding Wenhai Village are home to many species of plants and animals, including musk deer and Lady Amherst's pheasants.

For the more adventurous, Wenhai can be the starting point of a three-day trek through the Tiger Leaping Gorge, which tracks an upper stretch of the Yangtze River through one of the world's deepest ravines. (Environmentalists are fighting plans to dam the gorge for a hydropower project that would flood much of the area, but not Wenhai, which is at a higher elevation.) Other activities include horseback riding, visiting local schools and, from November to March, bird-watching.Rhododendrons blossom in April and May; in July and August, it rains most afternoons.

Three days (two nights) is the recommended minimum stay, although the trek can be completed in two days (one night).


  • Wenhai Ecolodge - Located in a converted Naxi courtyard house,  the Ecolodge is a scenic, peaceful mountain retreat. It faced the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain's 13 peaks, which rose in icy majesty reminiscent of Joseph Rock's story titles. It provides a great base for day hikes around the lake, to the upper slopes of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain or to more remote Yi villages in the area.  It can also be a starting point for 3 day trek that brings you to the entrance of Tiger Leaping Gorge.
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