li River Hiking
li River with background of bamboos and mountains

Li River Hiking

When comes to the Li River in Guilin, you might think of a glittering river, breathtaking karst mountains, rural scenery, and wonderful photo opportunities. What else can you expect on a walking tour along the Li River?

We, local hiking lovers who hike the river for over 5 times each year, answered some of the most frequently asked questions about hiking this beautiful trail.

Why Hike the Li River?

With its breathtaking karst landscape, the Li River was listed asone of the world’s 15 best riversfor travelers by CNN. It is the essence of Guilin’s scenery. It is a must-see in China if you are a nature lover.

It's possible to take in the river's stunning scenery via a boat tour or a bamboo raft trip. But they are not the best ways.

Hiking is the best way to enjoy the dramatic river if you want toget closer to the green mountain and crystal water. And you don’t need to bear the crowds and noise on the boat or bamboo raft.

Hiking the river is unique not just in the fact that it’s beautiful andcrowd-free, but also because you canget a close connection with locals.

A review from TripAdvisor:

“Hiking is really the best way to enjoy this scenery (of the Li River). The bamboo boats are noisy and the 'cruises' are big, ugly, and crowded…”-- Matthew J

The Popular Li River Hiking Routes

Li River Hiking

The Li River stretches for 83 km (52 mi) between Guilin and Yangshuo. While the cream of the Li River scenery is the section fromYangdi to Xingping, about 16 km (10 mi).

The 4-hour cruise actually only has 1-hour peak time with the famous scenery and the rest is mainly a repetition of the similar mountains.

The hiking trail goes along the best part of the river. It is the best way to maximize your experience in your limited time.

Yangdi to Xingping (closed)

You might have heard about thehike from Yangdi to Xingpingwhich was once in vogue, but it became unavailable since 2015 due to changes in Li River management.

Fortunately, there are still other hiking routes along the Li River, long or short. We most recommend the two routes as below.

Quanjiazhou Village – Xingping Town

Li River Hiking

  • Distance: 11 km (6½ mile)
  • Duration: 3½ hours
  • Route: Quangjiazhou - Laocuntou Village - Nine Horse Fresco Hill - Lengshui Ferry - Yellow Cloth Shoal - Xingping Town

Li River Hiking Map

The route from Quanjiazhou to Xingping covers the most of the old Yangdi to Xingping Route.

From Guilin or Yangshuo, it is about 1½ hours’ drive to Quanjiazhou and there is no way you can go directly except booking a car with a driver.

From Quangjiazhou, you will follow the river for about 6km before reaching a ferry crossing at Jiumahua Shan.

Afterwards the hike takes you past some local villages and orange orchards, and then reach the popular RMB 20 backdrop viewpoint. It is 20 minutes more to the town of Xingping.

The highlights of this route include:

  • Jiumahua Shan (‘Nine Horse Fresco Hill’ or Mural Hill): It serves as a natural 'canvas' with plants drawing out the profiles of nine horses.
  • Yellow Cloth Shoal: It is the most famous scenic spot along the Li River, where the picture on the 20 yuan was taken.
  • Xingping Ancient Town: It’s like a smaller, quieter version of Yangshuo. It has a nice mixture of new buildings and shopping as well as the old village buildings, open market, and old flagstone-paved lanes.

Xianggong Mountain – Xingping Town

Li River Hiking

  • Distance: 6 km (3½ mi)
  • Duration: 2 hours
  • Route: Xianggong Hill - Laocuntou Village - Nine Horse Fresco Hill - Lengshui Ferry - Yellow Cloth Shoal - Xingping Town

This route is a little shorter than the previous route. It starts your hike from Xianggong Mountain, which is the most famous place for getting sunrise photos over Yangshuo andenjoying the excellent panoramic view of the Li River.

Be prepared for a 20-minute walk up the steep steps which take you from the carpark to the top of the peak where you will have an expansive view of the karst mountain landscape and the Li River bend.

For the above two hikes, you can also start your hiking from Xingping.

What Will I See during the Hiking Trip?

Li River Hiking

The hike is fantastic, quiet, and jaw-droppingly beautiful!

It is fascinating to see the scenes: water buffalo grazing in the field, ducks paddle in the water, fishermen fishing, children playing, peasants working in paddies and ferry boats taking people from one end side of the river to villages.

The peaks are stunningly beautiful in lush green taking different forms and shapes.

How Fit Do I Need to Be?

The hiking along the Li River iseasy. The path along the Li River consists mostly of rice field trails and footpaths, though there are some concrete paths/roads between Nine Horse Fresco Hill and Xingping.

It is one of the best family-friendly hikes in China, including for young kids and seniors.

When’s the Best Time to Hike the Li River?

Li River Hiking

The Li River is beautiful any time of year. The best time for hiking isfrom April to November.

The months from April to June are wet, but the bright greenery, large field of rape flowers and cool temperatures offer you a real treat. After raining, there is mist on the river and you will feel travel in the fairyland.

July and August are sultry hot. One interesting thing is that you can hop into the river to escape the heat.

When the Li River is in flood (a few days a year from May to July), hiking may be undoable.

September to November is the best of the best. The temps are perfect, the hills are still green, and you can get clear views on a crisp day.

December to March is mostly dreary and cold. It is the low water period of the Li River.

What to Bring to Hike the Li River?

You don’t need to bring anything besides some snacks and water. You can have lunch at a simple local restaurant along the way or at Xingping town.

How to Get to the Li River?

Rent a Car (Recommended)

The best way to get to the starting points of the trail is to rent a car. We recommend youbook a private tour packagewhich includes the hotel collection, transfer, an English-speaking guide, a driver and a private car.

Bus + Electro-tricycle

There is no direct bus to get the starting points of the trail. You may take a bus from Guilin Bus Terminal to Yangshuo and get off at Putao Town in the midway. Then charter a local electro-tricycle to get there.

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