Promoter mutations in telomerase reverse transcriptase (TERT) and telomere length have been studied in various tumors. In the present study, the frequency and clinical characteristics of TERT promoter mutation and telomere length were studied in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). TERT promoter mutation and telomere length were analyzed in 162 tumor samples of the patients with HCC by sequencing and real-time PCR, respectively. The TERT promoter mutation rate was 28.8% (46/160) in HCC and was associated with males (P = 0.027). The telomere length was not significantly different in the presence of a TERT promoter mutation but was shorter in high-grade tumor stages (P = 0.048). Survival analyses showed that poor overall survival was associated with longer telomere length (P = 0.013). However, the TERT promoter mutation did not have a prognostic value for HCC. Multivariate survival analyses demonstrated that the telomere length was an independent prognostic marker for poor overall survival (hazard ratio = 1.75, 95% confidence interval: 1.046–2.913, P = 0.033). These data demonstrated that TERT promoter mutation is a frequent event in HCC; however, telomere length, but not the presence of a TERT promoter mutation, might have potential value as a prognostic indicator of HCC.