Listed as one of the deepest gorges in the world, the Tiger Leaping Gorge is a dream come true for budding hikers and trek lovers. Also known as Hǔtiào Xiá, it sits at the border of Lijiang and Shangri-La, boasting breathtaking views.
The best way to explore its magic is by hiking, unlocking an unforgettable adventure.
The unbeatable rocky trails along the cliffs of the gorge give walkers not only a feel of getting back to nature but also a closer look into the sheer drop of more than 3,900 metres that is not for the faint-hearted.
Once you start your journey, you will find yourself embraced by the grand Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and the Haba Snow Mountain, rising up from the banks of roaring Jinsha River. The world-famous experience drives hikers crazy because of the natural beauty of this and of the interesting legends of trade caravans on this section of the ancient Tea and Horse Road.
As one of the deepest and most spectacular river canyons in the world, the scenery of Tiger Leaping Gorge is unforgettable. Overseas backpackers first came here to walk back in the 1980s. Since then, the Tiger Leaping Gorge Hiking Tour rose to stardom to become one of the most famous hiking tours in the world.
The Tiger Leaping Gorge Trail stretches 25.3 kilometres, a moderately trafficked point-to-point trail located near the Tiger Leaping Gorge (Hutiaoxia), in Yunnan.
Featuring a colossal waterfall, it is rated as difficult and primarily used for hiking, walking, camping and backpacking. Whatever suits you best, you’re guaranteed a unique experience.
(link to Tiger Leaping Gorge)
As the rainy season runs from June until September, this is the most dangerous time to hike. At an elevation of about 2,700 metres or about 8,800 feet, the trail may be too cold for a comfortable hike during the winter.
The best times to walk normally come in the months of October, November and May.
- Day 1: Qiaotou -- Halfway Guesthouse
Total Km: 17 kilometres
Total time: 6 hours
Elevation Gain/Loss: 1906 metres+ / 1406 metres -
The total distance covered on the first day is about 17 kilometres, and you'll hike for about six hours. As its name suggests, the Halfway Guest House is located at the halfway point on the High Trail.
First, hike for two hours to Naxi Family Guesthouse and have lunch. Then continue to hike for another two hours up the steep switchback, called 28-bends, before the next break. The views are mesmerising. After that, you’re invited to hike for a further one or two hours.
You will then arrive at Halfway Guesthouse which has a great view of the Yulong Snow Mountain and overlooks the Jinsha (Golden Sands) River Valley.
If you go to the rooftop terrace, you will have the chance to enjoy one of the best views of the entire gorge. You can sit out on a deck facing the mountain, and there are hot showers and clean beds available to freshen up.
- Day 2: Halfway Guesthouse -- Tina's Youth Hostel -- Middle Tiger Leaping Gorge -- Tina's Youth Hostel
Total Km: 9 kilometres
Total time: 4 hours
Elevation Gain/Loss: 1600 metres+ / 2650 metres-
On day 2, you will start descending for about 1.5 to 2 hours to Tina’s Youth Hostel.
It then takes about one hour or so to travel down to Middle Tiger Leaping Gorge. Tina’s Hostel is settled on the highway. The last part of the trail, which will take you down below the highway to the raging river far below, is not officially built.
It has been created by the locals, so you might be charged a small fee of about 10 to 15 CNY per person on each route. There are three routes for you to choose from and normally hikers prefer the Teacher Zhang’s Path, as it is relatively safer.
If you’re looking a more adventurous experience, you can also try the rickety straight up and down using iron ladders.
After the sightseeing, you need to hike up to the highway and catch a bus near Tina’s to get out to the Tiger Leaping Gorge Scenic Area from Qiaotou.
To get to the trailhead, you can catch a bus from Lijiang’s long-distance Bus Station, leaving for the village of Qiaotou (from 20-40 RMB). From the bus drop-off in Qiaotou, which is beyond the ticket office, walk a few minutes towards the village school where you’ll see signs/arrows marking the beginning of the hike.
Though the trail is quite popular, you’re advised not to hike on your own. It might be best to travel with a partner, in a group or to take a hiking trip organised by a tour operator.
Upon arrival, take into account most people in the area can’t speak English.
There are no ATMs or credit card readers available on the Tiger Leaping Gorge hike. Hence, why you’re advised to bring cash with you.
Check with your doctor before hiking at Tiger Leaping Gorge, before you leave. The elevation rises up and down between 1,600 metres and 2,650 metres.
There are extra charges of about 10 to 15 CNY per person to go down to the Middle Tiger Leaping Gorge from the highway via the trails built by locals.
Bring snacks with you if you think you might get hungry during the in-depth treks, as you’ll find very few shops on the way. You should also have plenty of water with you at all times.
During the trail, beware of occasional falling rocks after rain.