12 National Parks In China

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So, you are thinking about heading to China and you want to know more about their national parks. Whether you are planning a trip or are just intrigued about how many national parks such a large country has then you are in the right place. China is vast, beautiful and fascinating and so are its national parks. Owing to the fact it’s the third-largest country in the world there is no surprise that there is a plethora of landscapes to discover. From mountainous national parks to lakes, rivers and the most famous Great Wall of China, there’s so much to see and do on a trip to China. 

National Parks In China

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A New National Park System in China

national parks in china siberian tiger
The Siberian tiger is one of the species protected by China’s national parks.
  • Since around 1994 China has had a scenic park system that is similar America’s national park system. However, the 244 places under this umbrella are called National Scenic and Historic Interest Areas.
  • In 2016, China began reclassifying the largest areas of interest into national park areas.
  • By 2021, the first five national parks had been established: Three-River-Source National Park, Wuyishan National Park, Giant Panda National Park, Northeast China Tiger and Leopard National Park and the Hainan Tropical Rainforest National Park. These areas are mostly protected because of the wildlife that live in the areas. Before the national park system these areas were spread across different counties and provinces all under different authorities. Now they fall under one coherent protection policy.

AAAAA Scenic Areas

While planning a trip to China chances are you will come across sites that are labelled as AAAAA Tourist Attractions or scenic areas. 5As means the place is afforded the highest of accolades. Iconic places with 5A status include the Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, the Summer Palace, Mutianyu Great Wall (all in Beijing), Fujian Tulou (Fujian), the Three Gorges Dam (Hubei) and the Li River (Guangxi).

The Best National Parks To Visit In China

1- Giant Panda National Park

Giant Panda
Giant Panda National Park in China is where you will see pandas.

The Giant Panda National Park is more like a collection of 67 panda reserves spread across Sichuan, Gansu and Shaanxi provinces.

The park covers an area of 27,134 square kilometres.

For some time, China has been working on the protection of giant pandas, the country’s national animal.

The establishment of the Giant Panda National Park has arguably helped in the downgrading of panda’s conservation status from “endangered” to “vulnerable” with a 17% increase in population numbers over the past 10 years.


With the vast Giant Panda National Park there are around 1,631 wild giant pandas.

The park is also home to other endemic Chinese animals like the snub-nosed monkey.

Within the Giant Panda National Park, you can check out some of the existing panda breeding and research centres like Wolong Giant Panda Garden and Ya’an Bifengxia Panda Base.

2- Hainan Tropical Rainforest National Park

hainan national parks china
Hainan Tropical Rainforest National Park is a lovely and lush area.

Hainan Island is the southernmost province of China.

It is a popular tourist destination for foreigners and Chinese people alike owing to the wonderful year-round temperatures.

The Hainan Tropical Rainforest National Park includes several reserves like the Jianfengling National Forest Park.

There are amazing hiking trails in the forest park, including ones around the lakes and up peaks.

95% of the park is covered in virgin forest making it the best-preserved tropical rainforest in the country.

It is also home to the rare Hainan gibbon.

Wander across suspension bridges, admire incredible forest valley views and try your luck at spotting some incredible wildlife; Hainan Tropical Rainforest National Park is well worth a visit.

3- Three River Source National Park

The Three River Source National Park covers an area of 190,700 square kilometres of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau in Qinghai province in the northwest of China.

This was the first national park to be trialled in China’s new system and represents the source of three major rivers: the Yangtze, the Yellow and the Mekong.

The park represents the largest plateau wetland ecosystem in the world, featuring unique topographical landscapes like glaciers, wetlands, deserts, alpine grasslands and snow-capped mountains.

The national park is also home to Chinese protected wildlife like the snow leopard, wild yaks, white-lipped deer and the Tibetan antelope.

Head to the Three River Source National Park for hiking, camping, mountaineering and photography.

4- Wuyishan National Park

Wuyishan National Park China canyon view
Wuyishan National Park in China.

Shan (山) in Chinese means mountain.

The Wuyi Mountain National Park in Fujian, south-eastern China is a biosphere reserve and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Wuyishan National Park is also a National AAAAA Tourist Area.

This national park displays mountains, rivers, and forest alongside protecting 1,000 rare species and showcasing historical and cultural sites from the Han Dynasty.

Wuyi Mountain itself plays an important part in three religions: Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism.

Visit the park and you can take a bamboo raft downstream, discover hanging boat coffins on the river and uncover ruins of the Han Dynasty.

5- Northeast China Tiger and Leopard National Park

china national parks amur leopard
The Amur leopard is one of the protected species in China’s national parks.

Another of the first national parks in China is Northeast China Tiger and Leopard National Park.

This park is more than 1.41 million hectares in both Jilin and Heilongjiang.

The park is made up of rich temperate forest with species like oak, pine and beech.

Of course, as the name suggests this national park’s primary aim is the protection of the Siberian tiger and the Amur leopard.

The Siberian tiger is found in Russia, China and Korea.

The tiger is afforded national first-class protection because owing to deforestation and human interference, the tiger population has been in decline for many years.

Between 1998 and 1999 between 12 and 16 Siberian tigers were found in China.

Through conservation efforts and with the help the park tiger numbers have increased to around 55.

The Amur leopard is another animal that falls under China’s first-class protection.

Between 1998 and 1999 there were only 7 to 12 Amur leopards but now the figures are believed to be around 50.

6- Jiuzhaigou National Park

Five Flower Lake Is Lake In Jiuzhaigou
Jiuzhaigou National Park is one of the best national parks in China for lakes and waterfalls.

Another national park that is a biosphere reserve and a UNESCO World Heritage Site is Jiuzhaigou National Park in Sichuan.

The park is based around a network of valleys nicknamed Nine-Village Valley but was only discovered by a lumberjack in 1972 because it’s so remote.

If you are looking for somewhere to appreciate China’s incredible natural beauty but without the crowds, then this is a great park to visit.

Its natural scenery and protected animals are what make this park so special.

Imagine colourful lakes, waterfalls, forests and picturesque Tibetan villages.

There are five major waterfalls, the widest of which is Nuo Ri Lang.

Five Colour Lake is one of the best lake spots for epic photographs.

7- Jade Dragon Snow Mountain National Park

Road In Jade Dragon Snow Mountain National Park
Jade Dragon Snow Mountain National Park is one of the fantastic national parks in China.

Jade Dragon Snow Mountain is a small mountain range around one hour from Lijiang, Yunnan province.

The highest peak is Shanzidou which is 5,596m (18,359 ft) above sea level.

Jade Dragon Mountain is the holy mountain of the Naxi people (descendants of the Qiang tribe).

While at the mountain you can observe the Impression Lijiang show, which is a singing and dancing performance showcasing the traditions of the local ethnic people.

From glaciers, to mountains, waterfalls, and meadows there’s so much to see in the park.

You also don’t have to hike all the way up the mountain!  There’s a cable car that will take you up the mountain.

There’s an observation deck that is one of the highest platforms in the world at 4,680 m (15,350 ft).

As well as visiting Jade Dragon you can also check out Tiger Leaping Gorge which is an excellent hiking spot.

8- Zhangjiajie National Forest Park

Waterfall In Golden Whip Stream At Zhangjiajie National Forest
Zhangjiajie National Forest Park is on the list of national parks in China to visit.

You’ve heard of the Avatar movies?

Well, how about seeing the real thing? 

Zhangjiajie National Park is set in the majestic forests of northwest Hunan province.

What makes this park so remarkable is the quartzite sandstone pinnacles that are not found anywhere else in the world.

The park is home to 243 peaks and over 3,000 pinnacles.

When the morning mist rolls in around the pinnacles it can almost look like they are floating, just like in the movie.

There are plenty of walking trails in the park as well as fun cable cars with incredible views.

Zhangjiajie National Forest Park is a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site.

Take a tour to the park and you will see that there’s plenty of things to see in this large park.

The main draw is Wulingyuan Scenic Area while other sites include Yuanjiajie, Tianzi Mountain and Yangjiajie.

You can walk along the Zhangjiajie grand canyon glass bridge (which is the longest and highest bridge of its kind).

Only in China would you find an elevator on a mountain.

You can take the Bailong elevator which takes just 1 minute and 28 seconds to go up or down the site of one of the pinnacles.

9- Guilin and Lijiang River National Park

This national park is in northeastern Guangxi (an autonomous region) in southern China, close to the border with Vietnam.

The Li River flows for 102 miles (164 km) and is surrounded by incredible landscapes.

The park covers the area between the cities of Yangshuo and Guilin City.

Limestone karsts flank the river making for impressive viewing.

The fengcong and fenglin karsts are the most iconic mountains in the area.

If you visit this national park, you absolutely must take a cruise down the river.

There are also some incredible trails including the Yangdi Xingping trail, the Reed Flute Caves trail and the Ping’An Rice Terrace trail.

10- Huangshan National Park

View From Refreshing Terrace In Huangshan Mountain
Huangshan National Park is one of a number of national parks in China to tick off your to-visit list.

Also known as the Yellow Mountains (Huang shan in Chinese literally means “yellow mountain”).

This park is in southern Anhui province in eastern China and is one of the most visited parks in China.

The park is defined by its mountain range which reaches heights of 6,115 feet (1,864 m).

The three highest peaks are Lotus Peak, Bright Peak and Celestial Peak.

Lotus Peak is the highest in the park.

You can take a cable car from the base of the mountains to the summit area and enjoy some incredible views.

If you are up for a challenge, it is possible to hike!

11- Lushan National Park

Pine Tree Stand Towering On The Cliff In Lushan
Lushan National Park is another China National Park to see.

Head to Jiujiang City in Jiangxi province in southeast China and you will find Lushan National Park.

This park covers an area of 30,200 hectares bordered by the Yangtze River and Poyang Lake.

Mount Lushan is important in both Buddhist and Taoist temples as well as playing a part in Confucianism, where the most well-known masters taught.

The area was a popular place for the cultural elite for 1,700 years.

With forested mountains and soaring peaks, it’s easy to see how this landscape has inspired Chinese poetry.

12- Beijing Great Wall National Park

China, Great Wall Of China
Beijing Great Wall National Park of China is one of the most well known.

Of course, you’ve heard of the Great Wall of China, but did you know it is classified as a national park?

Though the Great Wall of China is 13,170 miles (21,196 km) long, the Beijing Great Wall National Park covers around 23.2 square miles.

The Great Wall of China took 2,000 years to construct.

It is also not technically one long wall but rather a series of fortifications that include beacon towers, barracks, garrison stations and fortresses.

This national park provides protection to over a half a mile of land either side of the wall.

The Badaling section of the Great Wall is the most popular part of the national park.

While visiting the national park you can take the Great Wall loop trial which is around 3.4 miles (5.5 km) long, with 1,010 feet (308 m) elevation gain.

While on the wall you will be able to discover beautiful rolling tree covered mountains that flourish in all seasons.

The Beijing Great Wall of China National Park can be visited year-round, with each season having its unique charms.

However, the best time to visit is arguably late March to May and September to early November.

The conditions during this time are dry and less humid.

For more things to do in China read:

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Harriet Comley
Harriet Comley is a travel enthusiast, freelance travel writer and a lover of safaris. Since 2017 she has been travelling the globe living in the UK, Canada, Vietnam, China and now Zambia, where she is completing her PhD in Sustainable Tourism. For 3 1/2 years she taught English in Vietnam and China. Now she has turned her attention to writing, having contributed to a number of travel blogs and websites always focusing on what she loves most…exploring!