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October 17, 2011

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Home » Feature » Travel

Golden season for leaf peeping

THE golds, oranges, ambers, reds and purples of autumn leaves draw visitors to many scenic spots in China for a "red" extravaganza.

A sharp temperature drop causes the colors to "change," but what actually happens is that green chlorophyll is gone and no longer masks existing yellow and orange pigments. In addition, new red and purple pigments are manufactured.

The places with the most vivid autumn colors are those where the sunlight is strong and the temperature cool.

Science aside, there are many places for leaf peeping in China, such as Beijing's Xiangshan and Badaling areas, Sichuan's Daocheng area and Jiuzhai Valley and Jilin's Jiaohe Valley. All offer splendid "red" views and beautiful scenery.


Sichuan Province

Some visitors have called Daocheng, an ethnic Tibetan area, a Shangri-la in the shadow of three snow capped mountains, around 6,000 meters high.

The tranquil scene has brilliant red, golden and orange foliage; there are forests, vast grasslands, rivers and rice paddies. Cattle and sheep graze and eagles fly overhead.

Around 95 percent of the population of 30,0000 is ethnic Tibetan.

The place has become popular with newlyweds.

A famous spot is Red Grassland (Hong Cao Di) in Sangdui town, around 30 kilometers north of Daocheng. For 15 to 20 days a year, the place is filled with red bushes.

Rubuchaka Hot Spring is just 4 kilometers outside Daocheng.

How to get there:

From Chengdu, Sichuan, take a bus to Kangding, then change to another bus to Daocheng. The trip is around 800 kilometers, 48 hours by bus.

Plan to stay overnight; there's no nighttime bus service.

Red Leaf Valley

Jiaohe, Jilin Province

When you want to see the autumn leaves, seeing an ocean of tourists can definitely diminish the pleasure.

One of the best and least visited places for leaf peeping is Jiaohe Red Leaf Valley. It's one of the top 10 autumn views in China, rated by experts in forestry, biology, geography, photography, meteorology and other fields.

Here it's a visually dazzling red, red, red, with sapphire-blue sky and white clouds. When the wind blows the leaves shimmer in shades of red and purple.

Unspoiled Red Leaf Valley lies between Laoye Mountain and Changbai Mountain. It was discovered around 30 years ago by a group of photographers who lost their way in the Changbai Mountain area and came upon the spectacular spot that seemed to glow a brilliant red. Hence, the name.

The spectacle lasts for just a few brief weeks.

How to get there:

In Jilin City, Jilin's provincial capital, take a regular tour bus to Changbai Mountain. Hiring a local guide is recommended. It takes around six hours to reach Read Leaf Valley.

Tip: It can get very cold in the Changbai Mountain. Dress warmly.

Badaling Forest Park


For many Beijing people, a red leaf tour along the Great Wall is a tradition in Badaling National Forest Park. Standing on Badaling peak, one looks out at a sweeping panorama that takes in the Great Wall in a sea of red, orange and gold.

Forestry officials say this year that around 55 percent of the leaves have now turned red, a 10-percent increase over last year. The vivid red is caused by a big diurnal temperature difference, intense sunshine and low pollution. The average age of the trees is 20 to 30 years.

Mid-October is the peak time to appreciate the leaves; the leaf peeping seasons lasts from late September through around November 5.

A 2-kilometer-long wooden walkway takes visitors through the red woods where the sun shines through crimson leaves above and the ground is like a red carpet.

The Beijing Transport Department has launched a special red leaf bus tour. Bus No. 877 goes direct from Desheng Gate Station to Badaling National Forest Park.

How to get there:

Take Bus No. 877 from Desheng Gate Station direct to the park. Ride takes around 50 minutes.

Bashang grasslands

Zhangbei, Hebei Province

These grasslands used to be special hunting preserve for the emperor during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). Today the region is a protected eco-system where sheep and cattle graze. One popular grassland is in Zhangbei.

The area is still pristine, unspoiled by tourism or development. It's a place for horseback riding and camping. It's best to take a tent.

It is more convenient to get there from Beijing and from which it takes more than six hours by bus to reach the grassland area, about l,700 meters above sea level. The weather can suddenly change from sunshine to drizzle.

Horseback riding over the grasslands is very popular. At night, people gather around a campfire where locals sing and dance. In some areas locals don't allow outsiders to spend the night, so tents are advised.

How to get there:

It takes a 6-hour drive to reach Zhangbei Grassland from Beijing.

Kunyu Mountain

Yantai, Shandong Province

Yantai is one of China's most beautiful coastal cities and in autumn Kunyu Mountain is covered with flaming red maple trees and green pines. Kunyu, at around 1,000 meters, is the highest mountain on the eastern Shandong Peninsula and it overlooks Yantai and neighboring Weihai.

Kunyu Mountain area is covered by dense, ancient forest and the scenery is spectacular, with deep and mysterious gorges and river. The area contains more than 1,000 kinds of plants and wildlife.

Kunyu Mountain is also a famous pilgrimage site.

Yantai City also offers the Changyu Wine Museum and wine cellar covering 2,600 square meters. The museum describes grape wine making in the area since the 18th century; videos are shown.

Yantai Hill is famous for interesting Western architecture, as well as 700-year-old Beacon Tower, the Stone Ship and Dragon Temple, where many people pray and make wishes.

How to get there:

From Yantai, there is tourist bus to Kunyu Mountain. It takes around half an hour.


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