A trip to Ningbo in Zhejiang Province usually means strolling around the ancient town, tasting seafood by the port, or touring numerous museums. Few people realize the city is also a great destination for outdoor activities on a weekend excursion during the autumn.
Whether it’s a relaxed hike through a forest with waterfalls, extensive outdoor exercise, or adventure sports like rafting and zip-line rides, Ningbo offers plenty to do and see.
Danshan Chishui Park 丹山赤水
This national park in Yuyao is at the center of the Siming Mountain range approximately 65 kilometers west of Ningbo. The park is famous for its beautiful mountain and valley scenery.
Siming Mountain lies between Ningbo and Shaoxing. The altitude of the mountains vary from 400 to more than 1,000 meters above sea level with Jinzhong Mountain in the southeast corner topping out at 1,018 meters.
The area is generally cooler than the city and numerous fast-flowing rivers and streams snake through the area.
Hiking is a must when visiting Danshan Chishui. A valley hike is good for those not up to the strain of ascending the mountains. It gets the heart pumping faster and leaves plenty of time to enjoy the scenery and the clean air.
The easiest trail starts in Shilin Village and goes down to Chishui Bridge, following the waterfalls and natural ponds to the rafting base. Or one can take a shorter trip from Shilin Village to the main entrance.
The harder route is from Chishui Bridge up to the main cliff, passing by Red Cave and Siming Taoist Temple.
There’s also an adventure trek, the Siming Challenge, for those wishing to test their courage and try something more difficult. The challenge involves climbing steep ladders, walking on narrow rope bridges and flying above the river on a zip line.
Completing the trek generally takes about two hours. Bring a group of friends as it’s more interesting when completing teamwork tasks. The staff will make sure the safety equipment is being worn properly and a guide will walk you through the challenge.
The last task in the challenge is the zip line. It’s slower than other zip line rides, allowing you to take out a camera and snap a few shots while sliding above treetops.
Shilin Village is in the heart of Danshan Chishui. With a history of more than 650 years, the village looks it as most of the buildings have the traditional black-tiled roofs common in the Yangtze River Delta region. The name Shilin literally means “persimmon forest” and it doesn’t disappoint as persimmon trees are everywhere. Visitors can pick the sweet fruit in the autumn.
Don’t be shy about exploring the village’s alleys and courtyards as they provide a glimpse into the lives of locals.
There are plenty of options for room and board, including simple home stays, inns and cozy mountain lodges.
Camping is also an option in Danshan Chishui. The camp site is at the bottom of the reserve, where Chishui Creek meets the Beixi River. There is also a barbecue area next to the camp site.
Zhedong Big Bamboo Urban Leisure Base 浙东大竹海
Known as the “Sea of Bamboo” for its bamboo forest, the base is not for acrophobic types. The theme here is thrilling activities and entertainment. If you are looking for something to challenge the courage, this is a good place. The base offers rafting, speed chute and high altitude zip-line rides.
An 800-meter-long zip line ride has a 100-meter vertical drop as gravity gets riders moving at a fast clip. But the reward is worth it. While gliding across the valley, one can feel the tops of bamboo leaves touching the feet. The return ride is even higher than the first, taking riders from one mountain to another almost in the blink of the eye.
The speed chute is much more relaxing, allowing riders to pass through the forest. The ride covers 1.2 kilometers with riders seated in small sled-like cars that have hand brakes.
At the end of the speed chute, there is a lavender flower garden. The best time to see them is in mid-June. The bamboo forest also has a barbecue area not far from the main entrance.
After the heart pumping and adventurous activities, unwind on a river raft cruise. The 40 to 50-minute leisurely trip includes a few drops over small waterfalls, but nothing dangerous or scary. Rafters may be required to do some paddling at times. Also, remember to use your helmet to start bailing out the water if too much gets in the raft.
The leisure base is in Dalei Village in Yinzhou District. It’s a 40-minute drive from Ningbo and sits on the northern side of Siming Mountain.
Xuedou Mountain Scenic Area 雪窦山风景区
The waterfalls in this national park at Sanyin Tan are splendid. Hikers will encounter many waterfalls, large and small, and can get close enough to feel the water splatter gently on the face. The area is divided into three sections — Shangyin Tan, Zhongyin Tan and Xiayin Tan.
The upper section features 216 stone steps and a bridge providing a great view of the magnificent waterfalls. The sound of roaring water is almost deafening. The middle section has winding routes while the lower one has many giant stones.
The hike in Sanyin Tan is slightly more challenging. The mountains are steeper and the stone steps are often wet, which makes them slippery.
Near the top is Miaogao Terrance, an ideal spot for views of the entire area.
Xuedou Temple is in the center of Xuedou Mountain and it was built in the Jin Dynasty (AD 265-420) near Qianzhangyan Waterfall, but was later moved to its current location during the Tang Dynasty (AD 618–907).
The scenic area in Xikou Town of Fenghua is the highest in the Siming Mountain range at an altitude of about 800 meters.
If you go
1. The weather in the mountains can change quickly. Pack raincoats and umbrellas.
2. Pack additional clothes if you plan to partake in the adventure trek at Danshan Chishui or the raft ride at Zhedong Big Bamboo. You are likely to get wet, especially on the raft.
4. No matter what, safety always comes first. Be careful out there.