Emeishan National Park
Mt. Emei stands at 3099 meters (10,167 feet), and is associated with Puxian Bodhisattva (Samantabhadra) - a representation of 'Great Practice' and 'Great Virtue'. Ever since Buddhism arrived in China, it has been an important center of refuge, and the mountain contains more than one hundred temples and monasteries. The mountain is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
There are regular overnight trains between Emei town and Kunming, which cost approximately ¥190 for a hard sleeper (Aug 2013) and take approximately 12 hours. Regular trains also depart from Chengdu to Emei, taking 2 hours and costing ¥23.5 (June 2014). From the exit of the train station, cross the road and take Bus 8 (¥2) which directly transfers to the main gate of Baoguo Temple (last stop). The bus stop is called Tian Xia Ming Shan 天下名山. You will see the large gate bearing those 4 chinese words. Walk straight in for about 500m and you will reach the bus station. Baoguo Temple is the departing point for buses going up Mount Emei and also the starting point for trekking.
Buses to/from Chengdu (Xinnanmen Bus Station) cost ¥48 and travel every 20 min (from 07:20-19:20), and arrive at Emei town main bus station. Buses also travel to/from Leshan (from around 7:30-17:30 for ¥8) and take one hour.
From Emei Shan Bus station get into bus 1 (¥1) at the roundabout with the golden horse statute. From there it takes a while; pass by another roundabout and get of at the next big roundabout with another big golden statue. Cross the roundabout and take bus 5 (¥1), which goes to Baogou Village (报国寺). The Village starts at the stone arch. Watch out, the other bus 5 does not go there.
Two-day entry tickets to Emei Shan mountain cost ¥185 (¥90 concession/student). Several temples do not require an entry ticket, so check before paying.
Maps are available at the mountain, and visitors are free to travel around and enter the monasteries. The mountain is big, but the monasteries offer cheap accommodation (10Y to 50Y per person; this information may be outdated, as some monasteries have asked upwards of ¥200/person). To comfortably see the whole mountain, you'll need at least three days, though you can reach the summit in a day. The more interesting spots are the secluded ones away from the tourist areas.
There are buses that will take you halfway up the mountain (¥40) or to near the top (¥50). From the top bus station, you can also take a cable car (¥60 up, ¥55 down) the rest of the way to the summit. If you want to go down by bus (after hiking up), ticket from Leidong Terrace to Baoguo temple cost ¥50. Restaurants are located at convenient intervals so there is little need to carry food. If you do, be aware of the thieving monkeys, have lost their fear of humans due to unregulated handouts of junk-food from Chinese tourists and note that they can be VERY AGGRESSIVE and dangerous more so than cute. Caution is strongly advised. Some people take sticks for their defense.
There are also buses from Baoguo Temple straight up to Leidong Ping, which is the base of the cable car. Return tickets are ¥90 and each one-way journey is approximately 2 hours. The bus makes through winding mountain roads and a 10min pit-stop to refill its water tank. Motion sickness is possible as the driver uses brakes sparingly. Blue plastic bags can be found on the bus ceilings for commuters to puke into.
Hiking the mountain is a strenuous endeavor; although there are paved step paths to the summit, the trails are very steep in places, and hiking from Wannian Monestary to the Golden summit is about 30 km. Distances between accommodations can be large, so be sure that you'll be near one at sundown. Snow covers much of the top 18 km well into spring, so invest in a bamboo hiking pole and some crampons.
Hiking is one of the main attractions, with trails criss-crossing the park. If you are tired there you can take a sedan chair carried by people (but what you save in strain you'll spend in Yuan). Cable cars go to the summit and there is another one to the south to lessen the strenuous climbs. One of the most picturesque area is located between Niuxin Pavilion and Xianfeng Temple. The beginning of trail from Emeishan is through Leyin temple, cross concrete road, near Lin He restaurant/hotel/shop, between Fuhu temple (entrance fee Y6) & Shanjue temple stairs.
For a two day hike, start at the golden pavilion and follow the street in the direction of Baogou Temple. When the road splits take the left-hand side in the direction of Fuhu monastery up the hill and take the steep right-hand way at the begining of the little village (watch out, hard to find). This road passes by some houses and leads you to the entrance where you have to buy your ticket. Follow the path in the direction of Guangfusi and Qingyin Pavilion (3h). Walk up the hill through the Natural Ecology Monkey Reserve to the Xianfeng Temple (5-7h) where you can stay for the night or move on to the Elephant bathing pool (3h). There, above the clouds, you may have a nice view of the sunset and sunrise. A dorm in the monastery is ¥50, privates are around ¥200 (Dec 2012). Another "easier" route leads from Qingyin Pavilion via the Wannian Temple (1h) up the hill to the Elephant bathing pool (5h). On the next day walk up to Leidong Ping (2h) and either take the cable car or walk up to the Golden Summit (2-3h).
For a sweat-free excursion, take the bus from Baoguo Temple up to Leidong Ping (2hrs), take the cable car up to the Golden Summit.
During winter there is a skiing area, close to the summit.
Hawkers sell straw or bamboo poles and crampons to attach to boots, which will be necessary when paths are slippery in the winter and / or spring
The monasteries all offer delicious vegetarian fare for around ¥15 a person though breakfast options might be a disappointing bowl of rice with water and a steamed bun for ¥10 a person. If you want a meat based Chinese meal, there are restaurants close to the tourist temples. Cooked food at pit stops and the restaurants can be wildly expensive (¥40 for a plate of fried noodles), so check prices and consider pot-o-noodles if you're the budget-conscious type. You can also get snacks at several places along the trails.
Do not drink from the mountain streams. There are several shacks along the way that sell bottled water for ¥5. They are frequent enough that you don't need to worry about water when hiking. And there's boiled water in almost every temple.
The best places to stay are the monasteries. Most of them offer accomodation but as of April, 2012 this may no longer be a cheap bet with prices of ¥120 or more for a very basic twin room with no heating or electric blankets. Like Xianfeng Temple, Elephant Bathing Pool, Hongchun Ping, Huayan Peak, Jieyin Hall and Wannian Temple. Again, you can find regular hotels close to the tourist spots that are expensive. There are guesthouses along the mountain for around ¥60 a person, though they offer frigid rooms and not much else. Baoguo Village is the closest place to the foot of the mountain. Here you'll find the popular Teddy Bear Cafe & Hotel. They will hold your luggage until you return. Note that accommodation at monasteries closest to tourist spots tends to be more expensive. Bathrooms tend to be primitive and not for the faint-hearted. Don't expect any wifi or power outlets in rooms. Hotels prices at the top are around Y200-400. In best case, can find one and bargain down to Y100+50 for key deposit. Hotels can have electric blankets.
There are decent (albeit more expensive) guesthouses at Leidong Ping, the start point of the cable car. Prices range from ¥260 to 400 depending on season. These guest houses service almost exclusively domestic tourists, and their rooms can only be booked from chinese portals like Ctrip. If you are able to read Chinese, book a room in advance as the walk-in rates are high and if you arrive in the evening, there is a high possibility that there won't be rooms available.
Note; if you've a room at the hotel at the top of the mountain and you are at the skiing area, check the departure time for the last bus leaving either up or down the mountain to avoid being stranded for a very cold stay at the mid-mountain hotels. They are pretty much not heated. The heat they do have is so little that it will be below zero in your room. During this time of the year much of the plumbing is also shut down so do not expect running water anywhere Including the toilets! Instead, toilet bowls are lined with plastic garbage bags which get carried off in the morning.
Aside from being careful at the top of the mountain, one main thing to remember are the aggressive monkeys who pester hikers for handouts, keep food packed away. These monkeys have been severely teased by many tourists so their behaviour is unpredictable. If you come across any monkeys outside of the temples, do not stop to take pictures or stare as they will bite if provoked. Just walk briskly away and talk in a soothing voice to calm the monkeys enough to leave you alone. Pack rain gear and wear stout footwear as the paths get slippery, especially from October to April. Hawkers sell straw poles and crampons to attach to boots. Warm clothing is essential at the summit year round. Don't forget that even though it's touristy, it's still a mountain. Staircases can be tiring, and the distances are quite far (120 km in two tracks). It isn't Everest, but at 10,000 feet, it's at the lower limit of altitude sickness inducing heights. You're more prone to headaches and exhaustion, so drink water, pace yourself on the upper staircases, and stop ascending if you feel faint or nauseous.