The Daba Mountains run in the general west-northwest to east-southeast direction, along the border between, on the one side (southwest and south) Sichuan and Chongqing, and on the other side (northeast and north) Shaanxi and Hubei. The mountains of Shennongjia are often considered the easternmost section of the Daba Range.
The southern slope of the Daba Mountains drains into the Sichuan Basin or directly into the Yangzte via short streams that flow into the river in the Three Gorges area, such as the Shen Nong Stream. The northern side drains into the Han River, a major tributary of the Yangtze, which, however, does not join the Yangtze until some hundreds kilometers to the east (in Wuhan).
Daba Mountains' highest points are in the Shennongjia massif in Shennongjia Forest District. The three tallest peaks, located west of Muyu town, are Shennong Deng ("Shennong Peak", 3,105 metres (10,187 ft) elevation), Da Shennongjia ("Great Shennongjia", 3,052 metres (10,013 ft)), and Xiao Shennongjia ("Lesser Shennongjia", 3,005 metres (9,859 ft), on the district's border with Badong County). Laojun Shan, 2,936 metres (9,633 ft) tall, is located northeast of Muyu.
In the southeast, the Daba Mountains are joined to the Wu Mountains, which block the Yangtze's flow out of the Sichuan Basin. In the east, the small Jingshan Range (in the southern part of the Xiangyang Prefecture) can be viewed as the extreme extension of the Daba Mountains. In the northeast, the Wudang Mountains are nearby; some authors even consider them a "branch" of the Daba Mountains.
The natural landscape of the region, the Daba Mountains evergreen forests, is listed by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) as one of the world's 200 ecoregions that should be a priority for conservation. Dabashan National Nature Reserve is located in the Chongqing part of the Daba Mountains (Chengkou County); Shennongjia Mountain Nature Reserve (704 square kilometres (272 sq mi)), in Hubei (Shennongjia Forestry District).
The Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides) is a deciduous conifer endemic to the Daba Shan, whose nearest living relatives are the Coast Redwood and Giant Sequoia of California. Redwoods formerly ranged across the northern hemisphere, but were thought to be extinct outside California until stands of Dawn Redwood were discovered in the Daba Shan in the 1940s.
Plants of the Daba Mountains
A forest mushroom (near Muyu, Shennongjia)
Decaisnea insignis (at about 2000 m elevation, north of Muyu)
- "Wudang Mountains", Atlas of World Heritage: China, Long River Press, 2008, pp. 89–90, ISBN 1-59265-060-0
- "Daba Mountains evergreen forests". Terrestrial Ecoregions. World Wildlife Fund. Retrieved June 5, 2011.
- Saint-Pierre, Claude (1999), "Building a shared view of future land-use in a project area: terraced agroecosystems in China and the Philippines", in Price, Martin F., Global change in the mountains, Informa Health Care, pp. 180–181, ISBN 1-85070-062-1