Huanglong Waterfalls (黄龙的瀑布 [Huánglóng de Pùbù])

Huanglong, Sichuan, China

About Huanglong Waterfalls (黄龙的瀑布 [Huánglóng de Pùbù])

Hiking Distance: 4km round trip
Suggested Time: 1 hour

Date first visited: 2009-05-02
Date last visited: 2009-05-02

Waterfall Latitude: 32.74598
Waterfall Longitude: 103.82874

Waterfall Safety and Common Sense

The Huanglong Waterfalls (黄龙的瀑布 [Huánglóng de Pùbù]; Yellow Dragon’s Waterfalls) are the waterfalls I’m putting into this page to highlight the sloping nature of the namesake yellow terraces and mounds.

While such yellow features were interesting in and of themselves, they also gave rise to some waterfalls as well as glorious pools.

Huanglong_050_05012009 - One of the dry waterfalls during our visit to Huanglong National Park
One of the dry waterfalls during our visit to Huanglong National Park

Huanglong means “Yellow Dragon” and I’d imagine that had we seen the landscape from the cable car here under decent weather, it would become obvious how this park got its name.

Overall, I thought this reserve was really a side attraction (though it was kind of a bit out of the way) to the more spectacular Jiuzhaigou Nature Reserve.

That said, we definitely thought it was worth making the time to visit Huanglong despite the detour.

As you can see from the disappointing waterfall photos on this page, we showed up at the wrong time of the year (in early May).

During our trip planning, we didn’t realize that the snowmelt here would not be substantial enough to feed the waterfalls at this time of year.

Huanglong_163_05012009 - The gorgeous pools and terraces at the very top of the hike
The gorgeous pools and terraces at the very top of the hike

Therefore, based on our experience, I believe that we should have come immediately after the Summer rains to make this a really worthwhile park for both waterfalls and for colorful pools in the terraces.

Speaking of terraces, they totally reminded Julie and I of those found in the northwestern part of Yellowstone National Park though Huanglong’s terraces were not geothermal in nature.

Among the names of the falls that would’ve been here were the Lotus Waterfall, the Marvelous Flying Waterfall, and the Golden Wall Waterfall among others.

I didn’t bother singling out each dry wall we saw even if they were signposted. So we’ll just have to come back here to give this place its due (and to adjust the low scenic rating, as a result).

Huanglong_080_05012009 - This temple was about two-thirds of the way up to the terraces and pools at the top of Huanglong National Park
This temple was about two-thirds of the way up to the terraces and pools at the top of Huanglong National Park

Speaking of side attractions, I’d argue that the waterfalls here would’ve taken a back seat to the terraces and pools comprising Huanglong anyways.

The creme de la creme was at the very top of the strenuous high-altitude walk (which would’ve been less strenuous had we shelled out money for the cable car ride to the top).

That was where we saw gorgeous light blue and yellow pools that were every bit as reminiscent of the Minerva Terrace in its prime in Yellowstone‘s northwest corner.

We couldn’t linger at the colorful terrace pools for much longer because we were besieged by the onset of a snowstorm.

Huanglong_159_05012009 - Closer look at the pools and travertine formations resulting in the signature terraces at the top of Huanglong National Park
Closer look at the pools and travertine formations resulting in the signature terraces at the top of Huanglong National Park

So we hastily had to make the long downhill hike to rejoin our tour guide and driver.

In hindsight, this probably could’ve been an all-day excursion had the lower pools also been filled with water (which most of them were not due to the low water).

But as it was, we spent around a half-day, and most of that was spent hiking.

Since we didn’t take the cable car up, we can say that it took us about 4 hours round-trip to hike up to the pools at the very top and then come back.

Huanglong_025_jx_05012009 - Dealing with a snow storm as we were trying to hike back down from the terraces to exit Huanglong National Park
Dealing with a snow storm as we were trying to hike back down from the terraces to exit Huanglong National Park

We were fighting the thin air on the way up, and we really wished that we didn’t take the advice of our tour guide who discouraged us from taking the cable car.

In any case, after being caught in the snowstorm, we were somehow fortunate enough to make it out of the storm to the Jiuzhai Airport safely (about an hour or so away).


The Huanglong Waterfalls reside in the Huanglong National Park near Songpan in the Sichuan Province, China. To my knowledge, I have not found a reliable official government authority administering this area, but it has been gazetted as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Thus, in order to inquire about the current conditions, while I can’t recommend a particular government website, you might want to give the UNESCO website a try.

Huanglong_006_05012009 - At the entrance area for Huanglong National Park
Huanglong_015_05012009 - Looking over what would have been cascades and smaller terraces near the entrance for Huanglong National Park
Huanglong_017_05012009 - On the boardwalk at the base of Huanglong
Huanglong_023_05012009 - Only some of the travertine pools were filled with water at the bottom of Huanglong
Huanglong_043_05012009 - Closer look at some of the pools that were filled in at the bottom of Huanglong
Huanglong_054_05012009 - Closeup look at the first dry waterfall that we saw while hiking up Huanglong, but its name escaped me
Huanglong_057_05012009 - More direct look at that dry waterfall near the bottom of Huanglong
Huanglong_060_05012009 - Looking back at the profile of a dry waterfall near the bottom of Huanglong
Huanglong_063_05012009 - This brain-like formation caught our attention while we were hiking up Huanglong. In wetter times, I'd imagine this would be another cascade or waterfall
Huanglong_067_05012009 - Another dry waterfall as we were hiking up Huanglong
Huanglong_070_05012009 - Profile view of dry terraces as we were nearly half-way up Huanglong
Huanglong_075_05012009 - Continuing on the climb up towards the terraces and pools at the top of Huanglong
Huanglong_077_05012009 - Panoramic view of snowy mountains in the distance with a temple below for scale
Huanglong_090_05012009 - Continuing on the boardwalk beyond the temple at which point we were starting to feel the thin air
Huanglong_091_05012009 - Getting closer to the temple further up ahead as we also got closer to the pools and terraces atop Huanglong
Huanglong_108_05012009 - Our first look at the beautiful pools within the terraces atop Huanglong. We were very glad that we had made it this far!
Huanglong_111_05012009 - Another more zoomed in contextual look at the entirety of the pools atop Huanglong
Huanglong_119_05012009 - People on the boardwalk opposite the pools of Huanglong providing us with a sense of scale
Huanglong_122_05012009 - Another contextual look of the pools atop Huanglong with some temples
Huanglong_124_05012009 - Context of the boardwalk, the terraces, and the pools atop Huanglong National Park
Huanglong_140_05012009 - Even though we worked real hard to get here at the top of the Huanglong National Park, there were still a lot of people
Huanglong_154_05012009 - Looking downstream from the top of Huanglong
Huanglong_018_jx_05012009 - Looking across the terraces as we were about to head back down Huanglong

We were driven here from Jiuzhaigou taking about 2 hours 15 minutes (though our driver drove quite fast).

And between Huanglong and the Jiuzhai Airport, it was about an hour drive.

We arrived at the Jiuzhai Airport from Chengdu, which was 424km away (a 1-hour flight or 7.5-hour drive). Chengdu was a 2.5-hour flight from Hong Kong, 1,963km (21 hours drive or over 3 hours flight) west of Shanghai, and 1,818km (20 hours drive or over 3 hours flight) southwest of Beijing.

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Tagged with: huanglong, jiuzhaigou, tibetan plateau, springs, pools, colorful, yellow dragon, chengdu, sichuan, szechuan, nature reserve

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Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of the award-winning A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
Read More About Johnny | A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls.