Muni Valley Day Hiking — Songpan
Muni Valley (牟尼沟), composed of Erdao Lake and Zhaga Waterfall, is one of the best kept secrets in Sichuan. It is often overshadowed by Jiuzhaigou and Huanglong National Parks so many people are unaware of the park. It is rarely crowded and allows for one of the best national park experiences in Aba.
Half-day trip: (standard option):
Experience the tallest karst or travertine waterfall in all of China, Zhaga waterfall. It is 93.2 meters (306 ft) high and about 35 meters wide at an elevation of 3,270 meters (10,728 feet). While it is still a boarded walkway area, it is worth the visit. There is a staircase that goes from the viewing platform at the bottom of the falls all the way to the top, across the water, and down the opposite side. The minerals from the spring-fed river that creates the falls causes it to continually build upon itself. In addition, the colors of the mineral deposits have a golden hue, especially when the sun is shining.
Near Zhaga Waterfall is a Tibetan Monastery which belongs to the Yellow Hat Sect of Tibetan Buddhism. The scenic grounds of this monastery can be taken in with a 30-45 minute visit. During our guided Muni Valley Experience, our guides give an introduction to local Tibetan customs in their religious practices at monasteries.
Available when water levels permit, usually around late July through October. Enjoy the morning hiking around Er dao Lake. The Er Dao Lake Scenic Area is a nice 5km loop that contains forests, lakes, and a thermal spring at the highest point in the park. Many locals in Songpan advertise it as a hot spring but we would not go so far as to call the water hot. It is a thermal spring so the water remains the same temperature year round, but it is only about 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit) .
The lakes in the park are often referred to as crystal or jade-like. The fresh air and scent of the forest instantly evokes a peaceful feeling. The natural surroundings are revitalizing for every city-dweller who visits.
In the afternoon experience Zhaga Waterfall and the nearby monastery.
If Erdao Lake is a gentle, beautiful lady, then Zhaga Waterfall is best described as youthful and energetic.
Zhaga Waterfall’s namesake is the nearby stone mountain that towers over the west side of the Songpan Valley. The steady, spring-fed volume of water creates a thunderous sound as it cascades over multiple sections in the falls. If you visit on a rainy day, the intensity of the falls more than makes up for the grey skies!
Seasonal Note: Zhaga Waterfall is spring fed and flows with a steady rate all year long, even in the winter. The staircase to the upper part of the waterfall is closed in the winter due to ice buildup on the staircase. Er Dao Hai is dependent upon rainfall so we suggest not entering this region until mid-July because of very low water levels in the lakes. Water levels are best from late July – October.