Keketuohai (aka Koktokay): Visiting China’s Yosemite Park

January 15 | 12 Comments

Located on the tip of northwest China’s Xinjiang province, near the border of Mongolia, sits one of the most fascinating and little-known national parks in all of Asia – Keketuohai Geological National Park, known locally as Koktokay.

The mountain of God in Xinjiang's Keketuohai National Park

Nicknamed “China’s Little Yosemite” after the famous US national park, Keketuohai National Park also goes by the local Kazakh name “Koktokay”.

Towering walls of granite rock protrude from the ground surrounded by beautiful white birch forests and the gorgeous Irtish River. It’s a true sight to behold and thankfully, it’s not terribly difficult to visit.

If you’re planning a visit to Keketuohai National Park in Xinjiang, you’ll find much of the information you need here as well as in the FarWestChina Xinjiang Travel Guide, the most comprehensive, up-to-date guide on the region.

Northern Xinjiang | Home to Kazakh Nomads

For centuries this land of northern Xinjiang has been used by the nomadic Kazakh people to sustain their cattle, sheep and other animals.

A Kazakh yurt in the Keketuohai National Park

Every spring many of them would pack up the family, search for green pastures and set up their yurt (ger) in the mountainous area of the Altay region. Every fall they would retrace their route back down for the winter months.

A few entrepreneurial Kazakh have exchanged the cattle herding life for that of a businessman or woman, allowing visitors to Keketuohai National Park to stay in the yurt for a small fee.

When the evening comes and the tourist buses leave, there’s nothing quite like the sound of a moving river or the sight of a starry heaven to make you think you’ve reached paradise.

Development of Keketuohai National Park

It is unbelievable to learn that such a remote location like Keketuohai can be so developed and modernized. Over 10 miles of concrete paths, air conditioned buildings and golf carts are just a few of the amenities you’ll find – and there are plans to build a nice 4-star hotel in place of the yurts!

Wide concrete paths of Keketuohai Geological National Park

Commercial development within national parks isn’t a Chinese creation (Yosemite and Yellowstone in the US are the same way) but there is a certain loss of “outdoor” feel when you’re walking along a concrete path.

It’s not enough to overshadow the incredible beauty of nature, however, and there are still plenty of opportunities to veer off the paved road.

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Travel Information for Keketuohai National Park

One thing is for sure: if you want to be herded like tourist cattle from one scenic spot to another, feel free to join a China tourist group.

If you at least want the option to walk around on your own and veer off the beaten path, take a bus or hire a car to get you to Keketuohai.

A concrete path for tourists at Keketuohai National Geological Park

As with many of these remote locations in Xinjiang, experiences vary by traveler. Many adventurous travelers have been able to enjoy hiking, camping and even climbing (see video below), while others have complained of being forced to lodge at the local hotels.

For those older travelers or those with children, you’ll enjoy the fact that you can be chauffeured around on a golf cart and still enjoy the beauty of the National Park.

  • Entrance: ~50 RMB
  • Phone Number: 0906-8781188
  • How to get there: Specific tours can be arranged through Urumqi which would also go to Kanas and other Altay hot spots. Aside from tours, it is possible to take a bus from Altay or provide your own arrangements.

Keketuohai Park Map (English)

Below is a map of Keketuohai National Park in English. There are plenty of signs once you get to the park, but this should help you plan a bit more of your trip.

Additional Pictures of Keketuohai

A monument inside the Keketuohai National Geological Park
A calming river in the Keketuohai National Geological Park
Photo credit: This is Xinjiang
A nomadic Kazakh family from Keketuohai moves camp
A view of the Keketuohai canyon from above
Bixiang Peak at Keketuohai in the fall season

Check out this video of a mountain climbing expedition to Keketuohai. Amazing!

About Josh Summers

Josh is the author of Xinjiang | A Traveler's Guide to Far West China, the most highly-reviewed and comprehensive travel guide on China's western region of Xinjiang. He lived, studied and run a business in Xinjiang, China for more than 10 years, earning recognition for his work from CCTV, BBC, Lonely Planet and many others.

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  1. This looks like a fantastic place to visit. Any idea how camping works in here? Can you pay the entrance fee and camp inside with a tent, or is that not allowed?


    Josh on January 17th, 2013 at 11:48 am

    Camping here is pretty much like any other place in Xinjiang. It’s not forbidden, but it’s not encouraged. So yea, I’m pretty sure you’d have to pay the entrance fee, just hike around and camp somewhere – hoping that no park official is having a bad day and decides he doesn’t feel comfortable with you doing that. Ha!


    si on February 5th, 2013 at 2:25 pm

    We tried camping there a couple of years ago. The park staff let us in with the intention of camping but after a full day of walking, we were just about to set up camp when the police arrived. The police informed us that camping was not allowed (due to the proximity of the border) and drove us back to the entrance and effectively booted us out for the night. The park staff were good about it, gave us a full refund. Some friends of mine visited last year and said that they were able to stay in the yurts in the park.

    Josh on February 8th, 2013 at 7:12 pm

    Thanks for sharing your personal experience, Simon! I think that’s about par for the course – it all depends on which staff and police are on duty that day. Just hope for the best and hike as far in as possible!

  2. Wow, I have never even heard about this place… mind you I have never been up north, I am much more of a southern girl. I will have to make a trip.


    Josh on January 17th, 2013 at 11:49 am

    Never been up north!? I’m shocked, stunned and disappointed :)

    This place is actually a bit out of the way – I would recommend the Kanas area if you’re limited on time – but you definitely need to find some vacation time to travel to the north. The Kazakh can be just as interesting as the Uyghur in my opinion!


  3. This place looks truly awesome. I am planning on taking a trip through China from mid december to end-june. I will be arriving in Hong Kong and am planning on going to Yangshuo, Getu, Kumming, Dali and Li Ming. I would LOVE to go to Keketuohai. Is there a climbing community there? If I go alone will I be able to find a partner to climb with? Any tips for Keketuohai or any other location would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!



    Josh Summers on July 23rd, 2015 at 5:11 am

    Hey Alejandro…just to be clear, Keketuohai is nowhere near the itinerary you laid out, so you’ll have to make a long detour to get here.

    Climbing isn’t a big thing out there yet. Not only will you not be able to find a climbing community, you’re also likely to get resistance from park officials if you arrive with climbing gear. You’ll probably want to hide it from view and just hike around to a quiet spot. In this case, forgiveness is better than permission. :)


  4. Hello Josh. My husband and I are from Wellington, New Zealand. We are plannning a trip to Xunjiang (and Keketuohai) in mid-Oct. Could you please advise :
    1. Is it too late for the autumn colours?
    2. How can we arrange transport (car with driver) from urumqi-Buerjin-Ghost City-Kanas-Keketuohai and etc and back to Urumqi…total one week
    3. How much would it costs?
    4. Any tips on accommodations?

    We’d really appreciate your guidance and advise as it is reallly FAAAR from NZ and it seems quite difficult for us to get info and organize things from here. Thanks heaps.

    – Pam.


    Josh Summers on July 17th, 2017 at 10:38 pm

    Hi Pam, sounds like you have a fun adventure planned! First things first, I recommend you grab a copy of the FarWestChina Xinjiang travel guide. I know it’s a bit self-serving for me to say that, but it will be helpful – I promise!

    Second, I’ll add that you’ll be at the tail end of autumn colors but you should be able to see some. As for car arrangements, costs and accommodation tips…that’s just a small part of what the guide I linked to above helps with ;)