Zhangjiajie National Forest

About Zhangjiajie National Forest

Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, located in the Hunan Province of China, is a breathtaking natural wonder renowned for its towering sandstone pillars, lush forests, and stunning natural beauty. Covering an area of approximately 11,900 hectares, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is a masterpiece of nature’s craftsmanship, offering visitors an unparalleled experience in awe-inspiring scenery and ecological diversity.

The park is best known for its unique rock formations, known locally as “stone forests,” which are characterized by thousands of towering quartzite sandstone pillars that soar into the sky, creating a surreal landscape reminiscent of a mythical realm. Among its most famous landmarks is the “Avatar Hallelujah Mountain,” which served as inspiration for the floating mountains depicted in James Cameron’s blockbuster film “Avatar.”

Beyond its iconic rock formations, Zhangjiajie National Forest Park is also home to dense subtropical forests, crystal-clear streams, and serene lakes, providing habitat to a rich array of plant and animal species. Visitors can explore the park’s numerous hiking trails, offering panoramic views of the dramatic landscape and opportunities to encounter rare wildlife, including macaques, civets, and various bird species.

Additionally, the park features attractions such as the Bailong Elevator, one of the world’s tallest outdoor elevators, which offers breathtaking views of the surrounding scenery, and the Tianmen Mountain Scenic Area, known for its vertigo-inducing glass skywalks and the “Heaven’s Gate” natural arch.

With its ethereal beauty, diverse ecosystems, and cultural significance, Zhangjiajie National Forest Park stands as a testament to the power and majesty of nature, captivating visitors from around the world with its otherworldly charm and timeless allure.

Physical Characteristics

Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, located in Hunan Province, China, boasts a landscape of towering sandstone pillars, verdant valleys, and mist-shrouded peaks. The park is renowned for its unique rock formations, with some pillars reaching heights of over 200 meters (656 feet).

The tallest pillar, known as the “Southern Sky Column,” stands at an impressive 1,080 meters (3,543 feet) above sea level. These natural wonders are accentuated by dense forests, serene streams, and cascading waterfalls, creating an ethereal atmosphere that has inspired countless artists and filmmakers.

Zhangjiajie’s stunning scenery, coupled with its rich biodiversity, makes it a must-visit destination for nature enthusiasts and adventurers alike.


Zhangjiajie National Forest Park is home to a diverse array of wildlife species, thriving in its lush forests and rugged terrain. Here are ten of the most popular wildlife species found in Zhangjiajie:

  1. Chinese Giant Salamander: A critically endangered amphibian, known for its large size and nocturnal habits.
  2. Reeves’s Pheasant: A colorful bird species native to China, often spotted foraging on the forest floor.
  3. Clouded Leopard: A secretive and elusive cat species, distinguished by its cloud-like coat pattern.
  4. Golden Pheasant: A striking bird species with vibrant plumage, commonly seen in the park’s wooded areas.
  5. Chinese Serow: A goat-like mammal known for its agility in navigating steep cliffs and rocky terrain.
  6. Red-Bellied Squirrel: A small mammal species frequently encountered darting among the trees in search of food.
  7. Chinese Bamboo Rat: A burrowing rodent species found in bamboo forests, playing a crucial role in ecosystem health.
  8. Chinese Muntjac: A small deer species known for its distinctive bark-like call and solitary nature.
  9. Chinese Cobra: A venomous snake species inhabiting forested areas, posing a threat to small mammals and birds.
  10. Mandarin Duck: A colorful waterfowl species, often observed swimming in the park’s ponds and streams.

These and many other species contribute to the rich biodiversity of Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, offering visitors a glimpse into the natural wonders of this enchanting landscape.

Experiencing Zhangjiajie

Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, renowned for its towering sandstone pillars and lush greenery, offers visitors a multitude of ways to engage and experience its natural beauty. Here are some of the key experiences available to visitors:

Scenic Hiking Trails: Explore the park’s network of well-maintained hiking trails, winding through dense forests and offering panoramic views of the iconic quartzite pillars, such as the famous Avatar Hallelujah Mountain.

Glass Skywalks and Bridges: Admire the breathtaking vistas from the park’s glass-bottomed skywalks and bridges, including the Zhangjiajie Glass Bridge, which spans a dramatic canyon and offers heart-pounding views of the surrounding landscape.

Cable Car Rides: Take a thrilling cable car ride to reach elevated viewpoints within the park, providing bird’s-eye views of the towering peaks and deep valleys below.

Photography and Sightseeing: Capture the stunning natural scenery of Zhangjiajie through photography, with numerous designated viewpoints and scenic overlooks scattered throughout the park.

Cultural Experiences: Learn about the local culture and history of the Tujia ethnic minority, who call the surrounding area home, by visiting traditional villages and experiencing their customs and traditions.

Wildlife Watching: Keep an eye out for the park’s diverse wildlife, including colorful bird species, elusive mammals, and fascinating reptiles, while exploring its trails and pathways.

Rock Climbing and Adventure Sports: For the more adventurous visitors, Zhangjiajie offers opportunities for rock climbing, zip-lining, and other adrenaline-pumping activities amidst its rugged terrain.

Nature Interpretation Centers: Visit the park’s nature interpretation centers to learn more about the unique geological formations, flora, and fauna that inhabit this UNESCO World Heritage Site.

From leisurely hikes to adrenaline-fueled adventures, Zhangjiajie National Forest Park provides an immersive and unforgettable experience for visitors of all interests and ages


1. What is Zhangjiajie most known for?

Zhangjiajie is most renowned for its breathtaking natural scenery that inspired the Hallelujah Mountains in James Cameron’s blockbuster film, “Avatar.” Situated in Hunan Province, China, its most iconic feature is Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, part of the larger Wulingyuan Scenic Area—a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The park is famed for more than 3,000 quartzite sandstone pillars and peaks, many of which rise over 200 meters (656 feet) high, alongside ravines, gorges, waterfalls, streams, and limestone caves. The landscape is covered in lush vegetation, providing a stunning contrast to the towering columns of rock.

One of the park’s most famous attractions is the Tianzi Mountain area, offering some of the most spectacular views of the pillars. Another highlight is the Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon Glass Bridge—the world’s longest and highest glass-bottomed bridge at its opening—providing thrilling views of the canyon below.

This combination of unique geological formations, coupled with rich biodiversity and cultural significance, makes Zhangjiajie a destination of awe-inspiring natural beauty and a magnet for tourists and nature enthusiasts from around the globe.

2. What makes Zhangjiajie unique?

Zhangjiajie’s uniqueness stems from its extraordinary natural landscape and geological features that distinguish it from other natural attractions worldwide. Here are several aspects that contribute to its uniqueness:

  1. Quartz Sandstone Pillars: Zhangjiajie National Forest Park is home to over 3,000 quartzite sandstone pillars and peaks, creating a forest of towering stone spires. This is a rare geological phenomenon where years of physical erosion, mainly from expanding ice in winter and the growth of plants, have sculpted these pillars into various shapes and sizes. Some of these pillars reach heights of over 800 meters (2,624 feet), with many standing in isolation, surrounded by deep ravines and gorges.
  2. Inspiration for Avatar: The surreal landscape of Zhangjiajie gained international fame as the inspiration for the floating Hallelujah Mountains seen in James Cameron’s “Avatar.” The striking resemblance of these towering pinnacles to the film’s fantastical landscapes has heightened Zhangjiajie’s appeal and mystique, attracting visitors eager to experience its Avatar-like scenery firsthand.
  3. Rich Biodiversity: Beyond its geological wonders, Zhangjiajie boasts a rich biodiversity within its lush forests, hosting numerous species of plants, animals, and birds, some of which are rare and endemic. This biodiversity adds another layer to the area’s natural beauty, offering a haven for wildlife enthusiasts and researchers.
  4. Cultural Heritage: The region is also culturally significant, with a history of habitation by various ethnic groups, including the Tujia, Miao, and Bai peoples. Their rich cultural heritage is reflected in their traditional customs, festivals, and folk arts, adding a human dimension to the natural splendor of Zhangjiajie.
  5. Innovative Tourism Infrastructure: Zhangjiajie has developed unique tourism infrastructure to enhance visitor experience without compromising its natural beauty. Noteworthy examples include the Bailong Elevator, the world’s highest outdoor lift, embedded along a cliff face, and the Zhangjiajie Glass Bridge, offering thrilling views from high above the canyon floor.

These elements together make Zhangjiajie a unique destination that offers not only stunning natural landscapes but also a deep cultural experience, making it a must-visit location for travelers seeking both adventure and cultural enrichment.

3. What other national parks are close to Zhangjiajie?

Zhangjiajie, located in Hunan Province, China, is surrounded by several other notable natural areas and national parks, each offering its own unique landscapes and attractions. While not all are national parks in the strictest sense, they are protected natural areas that provide similar experiences of outdoor adventure and scenic beauty. Here are a few notable ones close to Zhangjiajie:

  1. Tianmen Mountain National Park: Located just south of Zhangjiajie city, Tianmen Mountain is famous for its towering limestone mountain, which is accessed via one of the world’s longest cable car rides. The mountain features the remarkable Tianmen Cave, a natural archway through the mountain, and a glass skywalk clinging to the cliffside, offering daring visitors breathtaking views.
  2. Wulingyuan Scenic and Historic Interest Area: While Zhangjiajie National Forest Park is a part of this larger UNESCO World Heritage Site, Wulingyuan encompasses other areas as well, such as Suoxi Valley Nature Reserve, Tianzi Mountain Nature Reserve, and Yangjiajie Scenic Area. Each of these areas boasts similar stunning landscapes of sandstone pillars, ravines, and lush vegetation.
  3. Fenghuang Ancient Town: Though not a national park, Fenghuang is a well-preserved ancient town near Zhangjiajie, known for its distinctive stilted houses along the Tuojiang River, traditional Miao and Tujia ethnic culture, and picturesque scenery. It offers a cultural complement to the natural beauty of the nearby parks.
  4. Mangshan National Forest Park: Located in Yongzhou, Hunan Province, Mangshan is known for its biodiversity, including several rare and endangered species, dense forests, and the Mangshan pit viper. It also features one of China’s largest forest-covered areas and offers stunning mountainous scenery.
  5. Hupingshan National Nature Reserve: Situated in Hunan Province, this reserve is notable for its primeval forests, diverse flora and fauna, and significant conservation efforts. It’s a bit farther away but represents another aspect of Hunan’s rich natural heritage.

While these areas are not all national parks in the legal sense, they are significant protected areas that offer visitors a range of experiences from ancient cultural heritage to breathtaking natural landscapes, all within a relatively short distance from Zhangjiajie.