Jun 14, 2023
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The Heaven’s Gate of Tianmen Mountain, China

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The Tianmen mountain route, also known as the Heaven’s Gate, is a road located within the Tianmen Mountain National Park in the Hunan province of northwestern China. This impressive engineering feat began construction in 1998 and took 8 years to complete. It is one of the most popular tourist destinations in China, and is known for its natural beauty and its unique geological features. The most famous feature of Tianmen Mountain is the Heaven’s Gate, a natural arch that spans the mountain’s summit. The arch is 131 meters (430 feet) high and 98 meters (322 feet) wide, and is said to have been formed by the collapse of a cave roof millions of years ago.

The Heaven’s Gate can be reached by a variety of means, including a cable car, a gondola, and a 999-step staircase. The cable car is the most popular option, and takes about 12 minutes to reach the summit. The gondola is a slower option, but offers more scenic views. The 999-step staircase is the most challenging option, but is also the most rewarding.

What is the Tianmen route like?

Heaven’s Gate, China

The road is particularly narrow and has a total of 99 curves from its starting point to the summit. The road is well-maintained as it has been built for tourism purposes, ascending from the base of the mountain to the top where the famous Tianmen Cave or Heaven’s Gate is located. The journey to the summit takes approximately 20 minutes. However, it is not recommended for those who suffer from vertigo due to its tight curves along vertical cliffs.

If you don’t have your own vehicle, you can choose to take one of the tourist buses that take visitors from the cable car station along these 99 curves to the mountaintop. Keep in mind that the bus does not stop during the journey, so you won’t be able to take photographs if you choose this mode of transportation.

Tianmen Cable Car

Heavens Gate Mountain Cable Car

Although ascending the mountain by road is a wonderful experience, the most recommended way to capture stunning photographs of the road’s curves is from the cable car. The cable car is the most popular means of transportation to access Tianmen Mountain. China proudly claims that it is the longest mountain cableway in the world. It has 98 cabins, covers a distance of 7.5 kilometers, and overcomes an elevation difference of 1,200 meters, with sections featuring slopes steeper than 35%. This astonishing feat leaves a lasting impression on the thousands of tourists who visit it each year.

Getting to Tianmen Mountain

Pedestrian walkway at the top of Tianmen Mountain

Impressive aerial view of the road leading to Tianmen Mountain and the Russian “birds” Ratmir Nagimianov and Gelb Vorevodin freefalling with their wingsuits.

The Tianmen mountain is accessed from a station near the center of Zhangjiajie, a few minutes’ walk from the city’s train and bus stations. Buses and trains from Changsha take approximately four hours to reach Zhangjiajie. There is also an airport on the outskirts of Zhangjiajie, but with a somewhat limited flight schedule.

More roads in China: The Floating Bridge of Shiziguan

In Zhangjiajie, you purchase a ticket that entitles you to a cable car ride to Tianmen Mountain and a bus ride back down. The cable car takes about 15 minutes to ascend or descend the mountain. The bus takes 40 minutes, including changing buses halfway through the journey (where the winding part of the road begins). Keep in mind that this is a very popular site, and you could easily wait an hour in line for both the bus and the cable car. On peak dates (such as Chinese New Year), you could wait 4 hours.

999 Stairs to reach Tianmen Mountain

Tianmen Mountain Aerial View

Tianmen Mountain Aerial View

In addition to the cable car and bus, another way to reach Tianmen Mountain is through the “999 stairs” that lead to the summit. These stairs are known as the “Stairway to Heaven” and are an iconic attraction in the area. The 999 stairs are a series of steep and zigzagging steps that lead from the lower station to the entrance of the Tianmen Cave, one of the main attractions at the mountain’s summit. These stairs offer visitors a challenging and thrilling experience as they ascend to the peak.

The name “Stairway to Heaven” comes from the sensation of ascending to the sky as you climb the stairs. Along the way, visitors can enjoy breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding mountain landscape. The stairs can be exhausting due to their steep incline and the number of steps, but they also provide an opportunity to enjoy the natural environment and marvel at the scenic beauty of the place. Many visitors consider the ascent through the 999 stairs as a personal challenge and a memorable experience.

Here are some other things to do at Tianmen Mountain

  • Visit the Tianmen Temple, a Buddhist temple that was built in the 4th century.
  • Take a walk along the Glass Plank Walk, a 60-meter (197-foot) long walkway that juts out from the side of the mountain.
  • Ride the Tianzi Mountain Cable Car, the longest passenger cable car in the world.
  • Visit the, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Tianmen Mountain is a truly unique and unforgettable destination. If you’re looking for an adventure in China, be sure to add it to your list!

Tianmen in Google Maps

Versión en español: Puerta del Ciela, China


Asia · China

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