Siguniangshan, or Four Sisters Mountain (sometimes known as Four Maidens Mountain) is a series of four peaks near the village of Rilong in the Aba Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan Province, China.
The highest of the peaks, known as Yaomei Feng stands at a staggering 6,250 metres (20,500 feet) and its snowy peak dominates the landscape for miles around. The mountain is situated in Mount Siguniang National Park which also comprises three valleys surrounding Siguniangshan.
I was to be travelling with a friend and we met at Chadianzi Bus Station in Chengdu early one Saturday morning in November. The bus left at 8:00am and we were stuck in heavy traffic leaving the city.
After we passed through the first mountain tunnel near Zipingpu Reservoir the roads became clearer, but evidence of the damage from the 2015 earthquake was still abundant and diggers and workmen were still making repairs.
Beautiful Sichuan Province
The route follows the fast-flowing Yuzi River which was a sandy grey due to the amount of sediment. As we went higher into the mountains the water became a pristine bluey-green and lush forest covered the hillsides.
We passed through small villages and towns before stopping at Wolong for a rest break. The place had an almost alpine feel to it with wooden log cabins nestled between cliffs and peaks. Down by the river vegetable patches took advantage of the fertile soil and cabbages and other plants jostled for space on the banks.
After leaving Wolong we headed higher up into the mountains to over 4000m (13,000ft) at one point and the scenery was majestic. Huge snow-capped peaks towered in the distance under an azure blue sky.
The bus driver stopped a couple of times to let us all get off and take photographs, much to the annoyance of other traffic on the road.
We arrived in Rilong at around 2pm, nearly five hours after leaving Chengdu and contacted our guesthouse who came and picked us up. The room was very basic, but this far off the beaten track, I wasn’t expecting 5* accommodation.
After settling in we took a walk around the small town which was nestled at the bottom of a valley. A small river flowed down from the mountains next to the main road and on the other side yaks and horses grazed.
It was early November but the sky was blue and the sun bright. The air had a crisp chill to it. Prayer flags fluttered in the wind and at one end of the valley Siguniangshan’s impressive snow-white peak could be seen rising above the other mountains.
We dined at one of the many restaurants on the main street and the food was good and cheap. Sichuan and Tibetan food was the mainstay of Rilong and you could get a good meal for two for under 100RMB ($10).
That evening we visited the Iced Rock Bar next to our guesthouse, run by a friendly long-haired musician from Xi’an. The bar was a beautiful rustic affair with a log burner, walls covered in pictures and books and a large but friendly dog lazing by the fire. It was the perfect place to spend a cosy evening in the mountains.
On our first full day, we wanted to get out to one of the valleys to explore the mountains properly. The weather was perfect; again bright blue skies and sunshine. As we were already at 3,000m it was important to keep hydrated so we bought plenty of water and snacks for our hike.
We went to the ticket office across from the guesthouse to buy our pass to Changping Valley (70RMB) which included a short twenty-minute minibus drive to the entrance near Changping Village.
As we left the village behind and climbed higher into the mountains the altitude was really noticeable and I was struggling when we ascended some wooden steps up to view one of the many waterfalls. Shortness of breath and a slight headache meant resting frequently as we climbed higher.
We followed the river along pasture meadows and up into the forest. I can truly say I have never experienced such stunning scenery; it was breathtaking both literally and metaphorically (however since I have just returned from Tibet proper, I have to say that the scenery there was more magnificent)!
Every now and then the trees would part to reveal one of the 6,000-metre peaks towering from above. Grey granite gave way to dazzling white snow and pine trees lined the ridges. As it was autumn the colours of the valley were spectacular.
Dead Forest Lake
After a few hours of walking we came to a large lake with dead pine trees jutting out of the water; a strange yet awesome sight. We disappeared from the path and followed the cool river for a while looking for a nice place to sit and eat our packed lunch.
We found such a spot on a log next to the river between two giant mountain peaks to our left and right flank. A more perfect spot could not exist I’m sure and we whiled away a good hour or two there, drinking in the view and atmosphere.
It was getting late so we decided to head back as we couldn’t be sure if there would be any transport at the other end of the valley and it would be a long trek back if not. We reached the Lama Monastery exhausted but happy and spent the evening back at the Iced Rock bar next to the fire sipping hot chocolate and a locally made cherry spirit that banished the cold very well.
The next day we spent around the town of Rilong as the weather had started to turn. When we awoke on the third morning a blanket of snow covered the ground.
Getting to Siguniangshan (Rilong Town)
First, you need to get to Chengdu in Sichuan Province which has good air and rail links to the rest of China including Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong. See the Trip.com website for more information and to book tickets online.
Read: My guide to buying train tickets in China (including the new e-tickets).
Buses leave from Chadianzi Bus Station in Chengdu at 09:00 and 12:00. The ticket is 95RMB and the journey takes four to five hours depending on conditions. The region was the site of a powerful earthquake in 2015 that rendered a lot of the roads impassable, but most have since been repaired.
The bus is the Chengdu to Xiaojin bus and for Siguniangshan you must get off halfway at Rilong. Tell the driver first so he knows to stop there.
Chadianzi Bus Station – (Chadianzi Metro – Line 2).
The Three Valleys of Siguniangshan
Shuangqiao Valley – The entrance to this valley is about 7km from Rilong and you need to take a bus or taxi to get there. Ticket price: 80RMB.
Changping Valley – Roughly 30km in length and covering over100 square kilometres, this scenic valley includes the Lama Monastery, lakes and waterfalls and spectacular views of the mountain range. A tourist bus will drop you at Lama Monastery and you can hike or hire a horse from there. Ticket price: 70RMB including bus.
Haizi Valley – Known for its many alpine lakes. The valley is 19.2km long and there is no transport here. You must hike or hire a horse. Ticket price: 60RMB
There are many guesthouses in Rilong but most are very basic. There are lots of Sichuan and Tibetan restaurants with cheap and delicious food. There is a bar (the Iced Rock Bar) and shops selling basic supplies (water, fruit and snacks).
Need a place to stay in Rilong or Chengdu? Check Booking.com for locations and prices.
Ensure you have travel insurance before you head out into the mountains. Our partners at World Nomads specialize in cover for adventurous souls.
Other Destinations in China
Looking for more off-the-beaten-track destinations in China? Check out the Silk Road town of Dunhuang on the edge of the Gobi Desert, or the impressive sandstone canyon at Yuntaishan, both far from the beaten tourist trail.
Another of the wildest and most beautiful areas of China is Yunnan. Check out this two-week itinerary to Kunming and Shangri-La or if you are looking for more great hiking, check out this hiking guide to Tiger Leaping Gorge!
About the author:
Steve Rohan is a writer from Essex, England. He has travelled to over 60 countries, lived in China and Hong Kong, and is now living the digital nomad life on the road.
Steve prefers “slow travel” and has covered much of Europe and Asia by train, bus and boat.
Where I am now: Yerevan, Armenia 🇦🇲