Moon Hill, the reason why Yangshuo was made famous in the west. Without the use of hyperbole - it's unlike anything I've ever seen before.
Moon Hill is a limestone archway at the peak of a mountain. The huge chasm at its centre is entirely hollow. You can see straight through to the sky, clouds and rest of the world on the other side.
Originally, Moon Hill hit the covers of climbing magazines. Tenacious rock climbers battled the hanging 'tufa' (hanging rock formations) in a bid to scale the otherworldly structure. These tufa, coupled with the crescent shape of the archway, are no doubt what gives Moon Hill its name. The surface is entirely alien and entirely perfect for climbing.
Rock climbing on Moon Hill has, despite being at the epicentre of Yangshuo's fame, been banned for a while now. On multiple occasions, climbers sent a moon-tufa earth-bound. I heard tell of one such tufa landing directly in front of a policeman. The policeman tried to seize this unlucky climber's equipment but didn't manage to persuade the climbers to part with their precious gear. Instead, he received a tasty wad of cash as compensation.
It's rare acts like this that may have forced the Guangxi government to ban rock climbing on Moon Hill. As it stands, pro climbers are in talks with the government and hoping to come to some form of resolution.
The day I hiked Moon Hill to take these photos, I was surprised to see a rope hanging from the wall. The climbers were restoring old routes and putting up new ones. For the first time in years, it was legal to climb Moon Hill. It seemed the tide was changing.
Not a week later, Moon Hill reopened to climbers. There was a 50元 charge to climb, which covered insurance. For many, I'm sure this would have been acceptable, but unfortunately - for unknown reasons - climbing on Moon Hill has been banned again. I'm told that papers are being submitted to the government so, with luck, this isn't a permanent ban.
Behind the archway is a viewing platform. Though an eyesore, it does provide a great angle to view the phenomenal limestone structure. Whilst waiting for the sunset to paint the moon red, a friendly tourist struck up a conversation with me. I discovered he had visited 30 years earlier. There was no viewing platform. No climbing. According to him, the amount of houses in the surrounding area has tripled since.
Most people who hike Moon Hill are unaware that a dirt path leads to the true summit. You don't have to exit our atmosphere to walk on the moon. From the top, Yangshuo's iconic hump-like mountaintops can be seen in all directions. Hiking Moon Hill for sunset is never a bad idea. The sun sets over the snaking Yulong river, between mountains to the west and is one of the most wonderful viewpoints in Yangshuo.
If rock climbing on Moon Hill is one of your ambitions for coming to Yangshuo then you may have to wait a while longer. Luckily, there's plenty of great rock to scale here.
Whatever your reasons for coming to Moon Hill, it's out of this world.
Words & Photography: Scott Norris (@radventuresofficial) // Summer 2019
The entrance fee is 11元 as a tourist or 50元 as a rock climber. Parking is 2元. Climbing has been banned here frequently so please prepare for disappointment if your aim is to climb the arch.
Moon Hill is easiest reached by scooter or taxi as it is at the southern point of the scenic area, but it is also accessible by bike if you're feeling fit.
You have two options to reach the trailhead. The busier G321 road leads out of Yangshuo to the south (past Butterfly Spring Cave) and is a more direct route. Or you can head out west along the winding Yulong 066 country road (past Jimacun).
Both routes eventually join as the G321 and go over Gongnong bridge (工农桥), a large bridge where tourists are always taking photos.
Continue over the bridge for 2km. The car park for Moon Hill appears on your right after a long right bend in the road.
Through the 11元 entrance (more if you're rock climbing and it is currently allowed) bare right. Moon hill can already been seen high above. The path begins at a fork. Both paths lead to Moon Hill but the right-hand pass passes a small temple, the Moon Pavillion.
At the next fork head left to take the scenic route to "Dresser" viewpoint or right for the quickest route to the summit.
The paths rejoin one another soon and then lead under the arch of Moon Hill.
Behind the arch is a viewing platform. You can retrace your steps home or continue on to the true summit.
To reach the true summit, come off the main path as you reach the wooden platform and the stone steps end. Join a smaller dirt trail leading around to the left and rear of the viewing platform.
Follow this around and up to reach the twin summits of Moon Hill and 360 degree views.