The Huanglong Scenic Area can be defined as nothing short of breathtaking.Â Occupying the northeastern stretches of Songpan County, within the Minshan Mountains, the region possesses an astounding natural beauty for which it was recognized by UNESCO in 1992 as a World Heritage Site.Â Encompassing the Huanglong and Muni Valley, the area is most widely noted for its spectacular travertine formations.
Covering 3.6 kilometers and reaching a width of nearly 70 meters, the Huanglong Valley is the regionâ€™s most fascinating attraction.Â The karst landscape, virgin forest, stone mountains, and glaciers surrounding countless shallow, colorful ponds highlighted by golden limestone make Huanglong Valley a remarkable visual experience.Â The calcium carbonate deposits of this area continually form due to a mixture of melted snow and limestone water flowing down mountainsides and settling on rocks, stones, and tree branches.Â It then develops into chemically responsive solid travertine banks.Â In the sunlight the water that flows through the banks takes on a vibrant golden hue as a result of organic and inorganic chemical reactions with calcareous deposits.Â The golden hues that reverberate from the surface as a result of this natural phenomenon create the illusion of a yellow dragon moving swiftly through the banks of the valley.Â It is from this imagery that the area was named because Huanglong Valley translates to Yellow Dragon Valley.
Composed of Erdao Lake and Zhaga Waterfall, the Muni Valley contains an intriguing collection of limestone caves.Â Erdao Lake occupies the northern region of Muni Valley.Â Underneath the lake exist numerous caves connecting Erdao with nearby lakes.Â Vistas of the lake transform from season to season, reflecting the colorful beauty of the surrounding limestone.
Known as the largest calcified waterfall in China, Zhaga Waterfall covers an area of nearly 5 kilometers (3 miles), harmoniously flowing amidst trees deeply rooted within the water.Â The area is also home to Xuebaoding, the highest point within the Minshan Mountain range, measuring 5,588 meters in elevation.Â The Huanglong temple lies just north of this magnificent snow-capped peak.
Huanglong Scenic Area is located about 60km east of Jiuzhai Huanglong Airport. Most of the region’s scenery is concentrated within a 3.6 km-long valley, which unfurls between the surrounding mountainsides, creating a natural path for travelers. Travelers who are keen on making their way through the entire valley should set aside at least four to five hours, though you can cut down an hour or two if you take the cable car. Huanglong’s average altitude is 3,550 meters, so you should explore at a leisurely pace in order to avoid altitude sickness.
Upon entering the scenic area, your eyes will immediately fall upon the Yingbin Colored Ponds, a small cluster of crystal-clear ponds which present you with a dappled and interwoven reflection of mountains, clouds, and verdant foliage. From there, slowly make your way along the valley’s designated walkways, passing by a series of waterfalls and bridges, as you gradually make your way to the far end of the valley, where Huanglong Temple and Shitazhenhai await.
For centuries, Huanglong has been renowned for its mountainous landscape, hidden hot springs, and most importantly its whimsical limestone formations, of which Shitazhenhai is the crowning jewel. Local legend claims this area is the manifestation of a yellow dragon after its victory over a local demon. In fact, Shitazhenhai got its color from the terraced land, where runoff snow melt, rich in calcium carbonate, flowed down the snow-capped mountains bordering the region, gradually solidifying along the ridged landscape. Over millions of years, geographical sedimentation and natural oxidation gave shape to Shitazhenhai’s iridescent form, and from afar the limestone terraces resemble a shimmering yellow dragon, slumbering peacefully beneath a rustling sheet of silk.