Yangshuo Day 05 – Moon Hill

Moon Hill Approach

Moon Hill (Mandarin: 月亮山) is a hill that has a nicely formed semicircular arch that cuts right through the middle of it. The arch is all that is left of what was once a limestone karst cave that has long since eroded. Moon Cave lies a few kilometres south of the town of Yangshuo and only requires a very short and easy hike to get to. The accessibility of the hill and its iconic status makes it a very popular attraction with tourists.

Getting There

Make your way towards the bridge that spans the Yulong River by first turning off Pantao Road and heading south along the Yangshuo / Gaotian Road. The bridge is approximately 6.5km from the town of Yangshuo. The roads are fairly broad without any turnoffs and there are dedicated red lanes for bicycles. Once you pass the bridge and the Big Banyan Tree park, keep on heading south-west down the main road for another 2km or so. The huge arch of Moon Hill can be seen on the right from the main road. Cycling from Yangshuo should take you 30 to 40 minutes.

Difficulty Rating : 1.4 / 10.0 (Class 1 - Extremely Straightforward)

*Cick here to learn more about the difficulty rating.

**Despite the incline, the rating for the terrain was reduced due to the stairwell that leads to the peak

Elevation Profiles

Elevation Profiles

Elevation profile comparison between Pantao Hill, Moon Hill, and Laozhai Mountain. Analysis done with GPS Visualizer

As we pulled into the Moon Hill carpark , I scanned the surroundings for a place where we could leave our bicycles safely (rental: CNY10). We paid the exorbitant entrance fee of CNY14 per person, and then parked the bicycles under a tree before chaining them all together. We also knew that there was no place to buy a real meal nearby, so had purchased lunch beforehand, right after eating breakfast earlier that morning (CNY10 for both).

The route up to Moon Hill (known as 'Moon Palace' on the signs) was a quick and straightforward walk up a stone stairwell that was referred to as 'Appreciating Moon Path'. The stairwell was equipped with rubbish bins, which was good to see, and passed occasional 'rest' areas which were made up of picnic tables and benches. The number of these rest areas seemed to be excessively high though, considering the short distance and the fact that the trail was deep within the shade of the trees almost the entire way through.

There were also plenty of strange signs everywhere, but just following the signs to 'Moon Palace' took us straight to the arch of Moon Hill. There was also an alternative route that was strangely called both 'Dresser' and 'Vanity', that veers off to the left at the main junction. Some of the signs that we came upon warned us of danger, and stated things like "Mind sliding" or "Warning drop down! No nearing!"; whilst others said things like "The mountains are high steep road". Despite these signs already being written in English, each and every one of them still required a little bit of translating to be understood.

The main junction

The main junction: left to 'Dresser' or 'Vanity' and right to 'Moon Palace'

Bamboo shoots (Tribe : Bambuseae) also lined the sides of the stairwell, and there were plenty of mosquitoes (Family: Culicidae) that were waiting around for a passing meal. Mosquitoes weren't the only blood suckers around though. Women who sell ridiculously overpriced beverages seemed to call the stairwell their home. They follow you up the stairs silently and expect you to buy a drink from them once you reach the top, almost as if you needed to give them something back in return for their 'company'. These people are very persistent and use your guilt and sympathy to get you to part with your money. Tout tricks like this are normally more common in tourist traps like Thamel in Nepal, or temples and structures like the Tamansari Water Castle in Indonesia, but I've even seen these tricks being done in very remote places like the summits of volcanoes!

Moon Hill arch

The magnificent arch

As the stairwell twisted upwards, we eventually emerged out of the foliage and found ourselves on a wide platform that lay directly under the massive arch. The hike up only took us 20 minutes and was certainly easier than Pantao Hill had been. There was also a trail to the left with warning signs that led to the summit of the hill, but we were there to rock climb, and so made our way around to the back of the wall and to the main crag of Moon Hill instead.

Route Playback

Suunto Movescount Stats


Download file: Yangshuo - Moon Hill.gpx

Next : Yangshuo Day 5 (Part 2) - Climbing the Arch

Climbing the Arch

Looking back through the arch, we could see the village of Yueliang (Mandarin: 月亮村) nestled just below a vast landscape of karst towers in the south. Groups of agile swifts (Family: Apodidae) could be seen performing aerial acrobatics, with sudden turns and quick dives, as they skillfully picked out insects from the air one by one. The rain had subsided by then, but layers of mist would occasionally still waft through the arch.

Moon Hill swiftlets

The aerial acrobatics of swifts (Family: Apodidae)

The village of Yueliang

The village of Yueliang seen through the arch

The north-west side of Moon Hill had a fair amount of routes to offer, with almost all of them catering to the more experienced climber. There were a couple of very easy routes with a 5 to 6a grade, but at least half of them had a difficulty of 7b or harder. There have been a lot of issues and uncertainties about whether climbers are even allowed to climb the arch, and this is made quite evident when you arrive at the crag and see that the first two bolts of each of the routes seem to have been removed. This can be overcome however, by either bringing along or making a stick-clip (like is needed when climbing Fairy Cave in Sarawak), or just free-climbing the first 6-8 metres to get to the bolt. We ended up doing the latter, so just stuck to routes that were well below our ability to climb.

Climbing Moon Hill

Ian on the first pitch of Emission Control, 5+, trying to avoid the dark slimy sections as best he can

We decided to head down the other trail ('Vanity'/'Dresser') as we descended. The route was somewhat similar to the first, albeit there was a small rise that gave way to a fairly decent view of Moon Hill's arch. We were quite hungry and it had started to rain quite heavily by the time we began to cycle back, so we keep our heads down and filled them with thoughts of stir-fry (CNY13) in order to get through the soaking ride back to the town of Yangshuo.

The arch of Moon Hill

Looking back towards the arch of Moon Hill

Route Playback

Suunto Movescount Stats


Download file: Yangshuo - Moon Hill Cycling.gpx

Day 5 Expenditure

Next (Day 06) : Xingping