Most people will say that you haven’t been to Wuyi Shan 武夷山 if you didn’t go on the bamboo raft. For me, a meaningful trip to Wuyi Shan should include a trek on the many forest trails within the park. The highlight of this trek has to be the ascent of Tiayou Peak 天游峰.
The foot of Tianyou Peak is some 800m from the bus stop. From here, you would need to cross a bridge over the Nine Bend River 九曲溪. Some people linger here to fantasize about what they would do to the enormous fish swimming under the bridge. Others call out to strangers on the bamboo rafts. You would then enter a forested area before entering a field in front of a river and backed by soaring, rocky peaks. The path up Tianyou Peak is clearly marked.
When the path ascends, it ascends very steeply with steps cut into the rock and some sturdy handholds. Note that the path is effectively “one-way”. This means that there is another path for descending which starts right at the top. Crowding can still be a problem as too many people who have overestimated their strength/endurance attempt the climb. The steps are narrow and with quite a number of people turning back after about 20 mins into their climb. But as you climb higher, the men are separated from the boys, so you’ll encounter fewer people descending against the flow of traffic.
There are a couple of viewing platforms 观景台 before the summit. You can take a breather and admire the stunning scenery of strings of bamboo rafts floating down the Nine Bend River from above. Be sure to take pictures as the view from the summit is not better.
The name Tianyou (heaven tour) was inspired by the clouds swirling around the peaks. Of course, when temperatures are high, without any prospect of rain, a little imagination on the part of the traveller would be in order. Near the top, the path becomes exposed to wind and sun. It can get scary and uncomfortable. At the end of your relentless ascent, is a rather uninspiring temple and a convenience store selling drinks and ice cream at inflated prices. I took about 1 hour to do this climb. Your speed will depend not only on your own fitness level but also the volume of human traffic on the trails.
The way down is a lot more pleasant than the way up. Paths are wider and it’s cool and shady in most places. Occasionally, you may catch the fragrance of osmanthus 桂花 blooms. This path leads you back to the field with an amphitheatre of rocky peaks. Note the signposts along the way, the various sites at Wuyi Shan, like Dahongpao Garden 大红袍, Water Curtain Cave 水帘洞, Tiger Roaring Rock 虎啸岩, Maiden Peak 玉女峰, Wuyi Palace 武夷宫， 一线天 etc are all connected by forested walking trails. It’s certainly possible to trek to all the sites in one full day.