Cuiping Hill (五指山) : Five Peaks, One Mountain

Trail Map

Seen from a drone, the cliffside perch of Xianrentai, the Li River below and mountains behind

Cuiping Hill is a real jewel in Yangshuo. The mountain itself (also called Wuzhi Shan (五指山)) is unlike most karsts in the area. Typically, a karst is a steep-sided limestone mountain, but Cuiping Hill is a sprawling beast by comparison.

It’s five peaks stretch languidly. In between each is thick brush. Brambles and shrubs poke their way out of every crack in the limestone. What Cuiping Hill lacks in height, it makes up for in views. The spectacle from the man-made viewpoint is famous for a reason.

A photographer photographs the horseshoe bend in the Li River

One of my favourite things about visiting Cuiping Hill is scootering through the town of Putao on approach to the mountain. The villagers are incredibly friendly - you’ll hear shouts of “Hello!” Over and over as you wind through the houses and rice paddies. They seem to live simple but happy lives here and it feels like you’re passing through a very special place in the world.

Rendered in red and pink, an infrared image of viewpoint. People look on in awe.

From the viewpoint at the top of the mountain, you can see a huge number of karsts. Layer after layer. They go on into the horizon. Like waves cresting on a great, green sea. Below, two rivers weave between the peaks. They unite and continue their winding passage around Cuiping Hill itself.

You may see villagers fishing on their rafts below or the feathers of white cranes sparkling in the sunlight. If you visit at sunset, you'll see the sun completing its descent and the world burn under a soft yellow glow.

A lone figure whoops as the sun rises behind him and the epic display of mountains and river

If you're prepared to take the ride out of Yangshuo, I highly recommend Cuiping Hill. The pace of life here is one notch down from Yangshuo town and though similar, the smaller mountains have a cosy, welcoming feel to them. They don't want you to leave.

Or at least that's how they make me feel.

        Words & Photography: Scott Norris (@radventuresofficial) // Summer 2019