What a scene to behold! Mr J leaned over slightly for the fullest view of the white stream plunging into the green pool far below. Past this single strand, others fell along the width of the wide cliff face. On the other side of the pool, sheer rock rose to where a trail carved a path towards the wonder. And then the path ended abruptly only to reappear just a handful of feet away from Mr J’s viewing position. In between, the route tunneled behind the entire display of the white curtain. Well, except for where natural cave windows looked out directly into and onto the crashing cascade. For indeed, Huangguoshu treats visitors to an array of angles from which to view its appealing beauty.
When Mr J’s group set out to visit Huangguoshu, they looked for a mighty waterfall. What they found ended up being a whole system of waterfalls. A couple hours south of Guiyang, the capital city of Guizhou Province, sits Huangguoshu National Park. Head southwest bound for Anshun and then continue just under another hour to arrive at the attraction. While China’s entire national park “system” represents an unconnected conglomeration of sites, the oldest start popping up in 1982. Of course, the sites themselves go back for centuries. But the “national park” label began being applied about that time. This makes Huangguoshu one of the oldest national parks in China. Just like in America, “Yellow” parks seem to come first!
Huangguoshu (黄果树) means “Yellow Fruit Tree” in the Chinese language. No, the waterfall is neither yellow nor does it look like a fruit tree. Perhaps, the colorful foliage grew in the area at some time in the past! While the term mostly applies to the biggest waterfall in the area, it also speaks of an entire park filled with waterfalls and waterways. Mr J’s group toured the park at three stops in fairly close proximity. It took the better part of a day to walk around and enjoy all that Huangguoshu National Park had to offer.
One crisp January, language school released students to their extended holiday break. Mr J seized the opportunity to travel around and see sights in southern China. While northern Yunnan retained top “special place” status, this big country unveiled some of its treasures over those few weeks. Mr J toured Huangguoshu just about a week before the launch of the Chinese New Year. This proved an excellent season to enjoy a major attraction with only a minor trickle of crowds. While the largest annual mass migration had already commenced, it largely avoided tourist destinations. Hundreds of millions travel once a year at the holiday. However, their routes take them from their cities of employment back to their rural hometown areas.
The group’s first stop took them to something of a “stone forest” interlaced with streams and waterfalls. Near the start of the visit, smooth stone steps with date plaques on them meandered across still water. Along the way, each member of the travelling party had fun locating the rock bearing their birth date. The stone route soon gave way to paths that slipped past rock walls and stone towers. After a little bit, is passed by an open developed area surrounded by artificial ponds. The group stopped and picked up a quick bite to eat. Eventually, back on the paths, Mr J came to a high stone bridge. At this point, the trail dropped down and paralleled a stream of green. Both pools of water and mossy rocks provided the explosion of color.
The creek eventually led to Galaxy Waterfall. While neither the widest nor biggest falls in the park, they might be the most unique looking. Green waters quickly morphed to white wonder as they spilled over a lumpy stack of bedrock. Sections of the stream converged upon one another from various directions to plunge into a narrower unified route bounded by rock walls. This stop provided nice scenes on the cool morning stroll. However, it was just the warm-up for bigger things to come.
The next stop brought Mr J and friends to the main attraction. Indeed, it was bigger than not only anything in the park but, by some accounts, all falls in China. At 77.8 meters (250’) in height and a 101 (325’) meters wide, it ranks as a big waterfall to be sure. The roar of the falls reached their ears before the view itself. Along with the relatively lower flow of people, a more moderate flow of water awaited that January morning. Mr J has since looked at some pictures at high water. While the roaring power must be amazing to behold, the calmer water makes for prettier and clearer scenes. Of course, January still comes a few months before lowest flows in advance of the late spring rainy season.
This AAAAA national attraction of China delivers nicely. The first views through the trees came from high and in front of the mighty waterfall and got the blood pumping. Mr J’s group stayed high and approached from the left. More scenes opened up providing some excellent straight on viewing. Graceful streams of white plunged into a pool of green waters below. The angle of view shifted as the group moved around the left flank. Mr J has seen some great waterfalls, but perhaps none afforded so many varied viewing angles as Huangguoshu.
One reason for the abundance of angles comes from the trail that goes behind the waterfall. While navigating through a dripping tunnel for much of the distance, a number of “windows” allow for audio and visual access to the amazing falls. Trails behind waterfalls might not be so unusual, but access behind ones of this magnitude prove rather elusive. In some places, the portals provide views of the falls and the cliffs. Other spots, however, look out at nothing but a sheer white curtain of water.
Perhaps the most beautiful views come upon exit from the tunnel to the right side of Huangguoshu. From here, visitors can see top to bottom fall scenes from launch above to pool below. Expect to linger some at this mesmerizing location in the event of any future visit. Mr J considers this the highlight of the trip to Huangguoshu. That being said, the trees also provide nice framing for photographs as the trail works down along the right side.
The route eventually wraps around in such a way as to afford low angle straight on shots of Huangguoshu. During Mr J’s visit, these areas hosted the largest congregation of visitors. However, they still proved pretty sparse by China standards thanks to the upcoming holiday. Many of the pictures available in online searches will come from the spots in this area.
Back again on the left side of the river, the group headed back up towards the return route. But Mr J wasn’t done just yet. For one final angle, Mr J scrambled up some generally ignored trails headed up from the main route. This led to views that took in the whole waterfall including the pool and cascades that feed it. Furthermore, he took in these views all by himself with no other tourists making the trip. This proved the most secluded set of scenes available at Huangguoshu.
For the third main attraction of the day, the group made a quick stop at Doupotang Waterfall. Located upstream of the main Huangguoshu falls complex, it carries the mantle of widest waterfall in the park. Although spilling less than a third of Huangguoshu’s highest drops, it stretches across a width of 105 meters (336’). This gives it the necessary width to barely edge out Huangguoshu as widest of the park’s falls. Unfortunately, many viewing angles come with power lines stretched just behind the top of the falls.
One thing puts Huangguoshu National Park on the map— waterfalls. Mr J recommends stopping by and taking a look when in the area. Waterfall lovers might even put this on their bucket list. For indeed, few places offer so many waterfalls in such close proximity. This map provides nice perspective on where in China Huangguoshu sits. It also shows its position relative to the provincial capital city of Guiyang.
Mr J has only visited Huangguoshu once. However, he recommends visiting a week or so in front of Chinese New Year. He makes this recommendation based on his trips to other places around China and online pictures of the falls in others seasons. For less crowds and prettier water, consider spending a day at Huangguoshu during the early part of the year. That being said, he would happily divert a few hours at any time of year for a visit to the mighty waterfall that is Huangguoshu.