As visitor numbers to Huangshan soar, mammoth challenges emerge for ecology officials tasked with protecting the scenic spot.
Strangely-shaped pine trees, grotesque rock peaks and a sea of clouds all make Huangshan Mountain a special treat for visitors, whether they be hikers, nature lovers or photography buffs.
Located in the south of East China's Anhui province, the mountain range covers an area of 1,200 square kilometers and has long been considered the epitome of classic Chinese landscape scenery.
"You might never understand the beauty of Chinese poetry if you fail to see the scenery Huangshan presents," says Ge Xufang, an official with the Huangshan scenic spot management committee.
Polychromatic trees and flowers carpet Huangshan's vast valleys in late October. Dark green pine trees stand in sharp relief against the rugged milk-white and gray mountain peaks, while clouds shroud some of the lower peaks, all creating a panoramic vision.
The mountain was named a world cultural and natural heritage site back in 1990, and joined the UNESCO-supported Global Geoparks Network in 2004.
There are roughly 90 peaks, each more than 1,000 meters above sea level, and it's a thrilling experience to walk along their precipitous cliffs.
Visitors can opt to take the cableway that takes roughly 10 minutes from the foot of the mountain to one of the major tourism attractions, Yuping or Jade Screen Pavilion, to enjoy the hugely popular Guest-Greeting Pine, which is believed to be at least 800 years old.
The tree has a branch protruding out from the cliff, resembling a waving arm that welcomes visitors from far and wide.
For those with stamina, it takes about three hours on foot to reach the spot.
"It's the perfect time of the year to catch the autumnal scenery," Ge says.
Fresh air and a profound cultural heritage have contributed to the mountain's popularity.
"There are many inscriptions on the precipices and ancient paths and bridges here," Ge says.
Many well-known painters have based their classic artistic creations on Huangshan since the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties, which also adds to Huangshan's fame.
Photography competitions also draw a large number of shutterbugs to the scenic area.
Huangshan received more than 180,000 visitors during the recent National Day holiday (Oct 1-8), an increase of 17.4 percent over the same period last year.
In 2016, the number of visitors broke 3.3 million, more than 30 times the number in 1978, and the scenic spot raked in 2.83 billion yuan ($428 million).
The launch of the Hefei-Fuzhou high-speed railway in 2015 has given local tourism a shot in the arm.
"We've seen a significant increase in the number of tourists from cities along the rail line, especially from Beijing, Fujian and Tianjin," Ge says.
Outbound tourists from countries involved in the Belt and Road Initiative are also increasing, especially those from Europe. Visitor numbers from the United States are also rising.
Given the increase in the number of visitors, tourism officials in Huangshan have taken additional measures to ensure the integrity of the local environment.