Emeishan

This 10,000-foot mountain is a famous Buddhist pilgrimage site, dotted with temples. You can hike the 25 miles of stone staircase to the Golden Summit of Emeishan in two to three days. It's a difficult climb—the stairs up the mountain somehow make it seem more arduous. On the first day, hike until a bit before nightfall and walk into one of the temples along the way to sleep for Y20 to Y40 per person. Most hikers can reach the summit by nightfall of the second day or sometime on the third day. Stay a night near the top of the mountain and rise early: the clouds that often obscure views during the day are bathed in a breathtaking amber color at sunrise.

The most common route to the top is past Long Life Monastery. This route takes you past the Elephant Bathing Pool, once used by Bodhisattva Puxian to wash the grime off his white elephant. Once you ascend from here you will be mostly free of the madding crowd. A recommended route down is the long shoulder of the mountain past Magic Peak Monastery, where the scenery is beyond compare. Sharing a simple meal with monks in the courtyard and then staying the night in the monastery is magical.

For an easier pilgrimage, take advantage of the Y40 minibus service from the Mount Emeishan Tourist Transportation Center below Declare Nation Temple up to the Leidong Terraces, from where your climb will take about two hours. To avoid climbing altogether, ride the cable car (Y70 round-trip) to the summit from Jieyin Dian.

Regardless how you ascend, the best times to climb are in the spring or fall. Bring a change of clothes for the sweaty part of the journey and a warm jacket for the summit. Water and food are available on the mountain, carried by pipe-puffing porters to the stalls along the way.

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