Cycling in Yangshuo: The Yulong River Scenic Route

cycling in yangshuo top things to do in yangshuo bicycle countryside

Without a doubt, the best part of our trip to Yangshuo was cycling through the countryside.  We had no idea when we left our hostel that we were about to embark on one of the most insane adventures of our three years in Asia.  Cycling in Yangshuo is a popular activity, we had read and heard only good things about the beautiful rides through the countryside.  It’s safe to say we weren’t disappointed.

We set off from town without any particular route or direction and stumbled upon the Yulong River Scenic Area; in our opinion one of the most picturesque places in all of China.  What ensued was an incredible 35km bike ride through tranquil farms, past stunning karst rock formations, and over ancient bridges.

To ensure you don’t miss out on the best cycling in Yangshuo, I’ve created a complete guide to the Yulong River Scenic Area bike route, with detailed instructions and photos to point you in the right direction every step of the way.  This route is an absolute can’t miss.  Bring your camera and plenty of water and prepare to spend the several hours picking your jaw up off the ground as you gaze awestruck at the beauty around you.

Happy pedaling 🙂 

Yulong River Scenic Area

Although the most popular cycling route is through the Ten Mile Gallery just south of town; far and away the most scenic place to go to go cycling in Yangshuo is through the Yulong River Scenic Area.  It’s a 20km stretch along the Yulong River between the Gongnong and Jinlong (Dragon) bridges. We found this area to be far less busy and developed in comparison to the Li River.  Here is where you can experience the quintessential beauty of the Yangshuo countryside.

The prevailing feature of the Yulong River Scenic Area is undoubtedly its pure, natural beauty.  There are no motorized boats on the river, and few cars drive on the road (many stretches of the route are only navigable by bicycle).  There’s an overwhelming sense of calm and tranquility as you cycle along the river.  The Yulong River Scenic Area bike route winds in an out of quaint villages and picturesque farmland, all the while being totally encompassed by stunning karst formations.  The Yulong River moves at a lazy pace and you are often graced with incredible views as everything from the smallest flower to the largest mountain is reflected off its glassy surface.  We were constantly in awe of just how beautiful the Yulong River Scenic Area was.  At every turn, we felt compelled to stop, take out our cameras and exchange speechless looks.

Getting a bike

Cycling in Yangshuo is big, so you won’t have any problem renting a bike.  Most hostels have bikes for rent and there are countless rental shops, especially near West Street.  We rented ours from Yangshuo Backpackers for 20RMB ($3).

Most of the bikes we saw were in fairly good condition, just be sure to check the gears, brakes, and tires before handing money over.  The Yulong River Scenic Area route is mostly flat, therefore a bike with gears isn’t a necessity.  Ashley did it on a single-speed cruiser without too much difficulty.  There are times when the route turns from a paved road into a gravel or dirt path and it definitely helps to have a mountain bike with gears for those bumpy portions.

One thing to be aware of is that most of the bikes are intended for the average Chinese person, and were a bit small for my 6’ 1” frame.  If you want a proper sized bike that’s been well-maintained try Bike Asia, just off West Street.  We were told that’s the place to go if you’re a serious cycler.  You’ll have to pay a premium though; one-day rentals are 70RMB ($11).  We were just fine on our 20RMB rentals.

Cycling in Yangshuo-the Yulong River Scenic Area route

cycling in yangshuo yulong river scenic route

If you’re looking for the best cycling in Yangshuo, The Yulong River Scenic Area bike route is definitely it. The route is an unbelievable 35km loop through the Yangshuo, and you will pedal past some of the most breathtaking scenery you’ll ever see.

In all, it took us about 6 hours to complete the loop.  Our pace was definitely what you would call “leisurely”.  We were just cruising along, listening to music, stopping frequently to take photos and bask in the majesty.  Though this is how we would recommend going about it, if you are pressed for time or prefer to just smash it out, you can probably finish the loop in under four hours.

Route details

cycling in yangshuo yulong river scenic route overview

At first, Head west out of town via Longyue Road.  You will pass through the west gate and the road turns in to county road 066.  It will soon become very clear that you are in a scenic area.   After about 15-20 minutes the road forks, the left fork will take you away from the Yulong River Scenic Area and back towards the Gongnong Bridge and Moon Hill. The right fork takes you deeper into the Yulong River Scenic Area.  Take the right fork.  If you pass Yangshuo Wada Hostel soon after turning right, you’re going in the right direction.

cycling in yangshuo yulong river scenic route detail 5

After taking the right fork, follow the river north for about 7km.  Stay on this road until it intersects with a large main road (321 National Road) and you cannot go straight any farther. Turn left on the main road.  Before long you’ll see a large sign for the Dragon Bridge, take the left fork and then follow that road to the bridge.

cycling in yangshuo yulong river scenic route detail 2

The Dragon Bridge marks roughly the halfway point of the Yulong River Scenic Area bike route.  It’s a great place to take a break.  You get some awesome views from on top of the bridge and you can see how much life here relied on the river in ancient times.  If you need water or something to eat, I would recommend doing it here.  After crossing the bridge, you dive deep into the countryside and there is little in the way of shops or services for a couple of hours.

The views from the Dragon Bridge are stunning. 

After carrying your bicycle across the bridge, turn left and head south.  Before long the road will fork, with the main road continuing to the right and a smaller road to the left.  Take the left fork!  This is very important because the main road moves away from the river and if you follow it by mistake you’ll eventually get spit out waaaaaay far south of Yangshuo.

cycling in yangshuo yulong river scenic route detail 3

Shortly after the fork, you can either veer left or continue straight.  Make sure you continue straight.  If you take the road on the left it will eventually dead-end and you’ll have to turn around.  After that, there’s pretty much only one road you can take.  Follow it as it winds and bends in and out of farms, orchards, and villages.  This is hands down the most scenic stretch of the ride.  The road isn’t always right along the river, so don’t worry if there are times when you can’t see it.

The road eventually turns into a small, bumpy dirt path cutting through a local farm. Don’t fret when you reach this point, just continue on down the path.  The farm is beautiful, and after about 5-10 minutes, the dirt path ends, and the road picks up again.

Once you are back on the road, bike for about 20minutes until you see a small gravel road on your left.  Turn left here and follow it to the crossing that will get you back onto the east side of the Yulong River.  The gravel road is easy to miss because it’s not well marked and doesn’t seem like that natural way to go.  We zipped right past it and had no idea.  If you miss the turn, the road will dead end at a pier that is still under construction. To get back across the river, turn around and then take your first right down the gravel path.

cycling in yangshuo yulong river scenic route detail 3

The river crossing is a “bridge”.  It’s not so much a bridge as it is a dirt mound semi-submerged in the river.  Local farmers use to it to cross the river on bicycles and motorbikes.  It’s a pretty trippy experience as you bike across with your tires half submerged in water.  From the center of the bridge, you get the most mind-blowing view of the river.  The river’s placid surface reflects even the most minute details.   We definitely had one of those “oh shit, this is insane” moments as while losing ourselves in the reflection.  We could have stayed there for hours but we were holding up traffic and had to move on.

cycling in yangshuo yulong river scenic route

The water crossing was definitely the highlight of the trip for us. 

After taking the local crossing, turn right and head south.  From here it’s about 8km to the Gongnong Bridge and the main road back to Yangshuo.  If ever in doubt about which way to go, choose the road to the right, or the one that keeps you closer to the river (they should be the same).  This will take you past some gorgeous flower fields and eco-resorts before intersecting with the main road (G321) at the Gongnong Bridge.  If you time it right, the bridge is a great spot to watch the sunset.

After reaching the bridge, it’s an easy cruise back into town, just head north on G321.  Another 20 minutes or so from the Gongnong Bridge and you’ll reach West Street.  At which point you should pat yourself on the back and grab a beer in celebration of completing one of the most epic loops in the history of loops.

Final Thoughts

The cycling in Yangshuo is world class.  Ashley and I love to cruise around on bikes a little bit, but we aren’t by any means training for the Tour de France.  That’s why we are so obsessed with this route through the Yulong River Scenic Area.  It’s a nice long, flat loop through some of the most stunning scenery you’ll ever see.  This is the kind of bike ride that you WANT to spend all day on.  Every minute is so damn beautiful that you hope it never ends.

If you read this post and find your way to the Yulong River scenic route, then congratulations, you’ve made it to the best cycling in Yangshuo.  Settle in and enjoy the ride!

All throughout the ride your are encompassed by the dramatic karst formations iconic to the region. 

Tips

-Yanghsuo can get really hot, especially in the summer.  Bring lots of water or a filter to purify some water along the way.

-When you rent a bicycle, ask for a tourist map. It serves as a rough-guide to point you in the right direction

-The tourist map is a great starting point, but it’s not drawn to scale and does not show all of the roads on the route.  Use it as an overview but use Google Maps or Maps.me for more accurate maps on the road.

-If you do find yourself lost or unsure of where to do here are some useful Chinese phrases:

– Where is Yangshuo?:  Yángshuò zài nǎlǐ?

阳朔在哪里

– Which way to Yangshuo?:  Nǎ tiáo lù qù yángshuò?

哪条路去阳朔

– If attempting to actually say these fail, try showing the characters.  If that doesn’t work, just say “Yangshuo?” And kind of look around confused.  We did this a couple of times and it worked perfectly.

If you read this post and find your way to the Yulong River scenic route, then congratulations, you’ve made it to the best cycling in Yangshuo.  Settle in and enjoy the ride!

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