This is another tempting but mostly unrewarding destination in China. The pictures of Heaven Lake were enticing enough to draw me all the way to the fairly remote border region with North Korea. The time and money it took to get here though made the disappointing reality of the park all the more painful.
Catching a snap and feeling the serenity of this scene is what drove me to the park.
But those rewards were eclipsed in my mind by the long hours on trains, busses and vans for this sight: another tightly-controlled play-corral for the Chinese masses.
The beauty of the landscape at Changbaishan and the novelty of seeing North Korea on the other side of the lake make it a place of interest. But the remoteness, expenses and the rules of the park that even block its visitors from taking a small hike are all hard pills to swallow.
To get here I took an overnight train from Beijing to Changchun and then another overnight train to Songjianghe for 110 kuai, hard sleeper. From Songjianghe you can access the Western slope of the mountain and Changbaishan Canyon, an easy 40 minute hike. Busses (around 45 kuai) and trains (11 kuai, hard seat) run between Songjianghe and Baihe, where you can access the Northern slope. To get to the park in Baihe, take the circular route city bus (1 kuai) and ask for the stop at the Changbaishan Bus. This bus costs around 15 kuai. You can stop before the park for access to the 68m waterfall that runs off Heaven Lake, and also hot springs where vendors boil eggs in the water for sale. In between the park’s entrance and the waterfall turnoff is a 30 minute walk to the Underground Forest, a crater filled with trees. The park’s admission fee is 100 kuai, 75 kuai for students. Busses to the other areas of each slope are included in the admission, but the vans to the top of the corralled Heaven Lake viewing area cost another 80 kuai return.