Tiger Leaping Gorge
The Tiger Leaping Gorge is one of those hikes you have to do when you travel in north Yunnan.
The Tiger Leaping Gorge is a canyon on the Yangtze River, which is known by the locals as Golden Sands River. It's located 60km north Lijiang.
The gorge is about 15 km in length and at it's narrowest point only 25 meters wide. Local legends claim that a tiger trying to escape from a hunter jumped across the river hence the name. If the story is true or not, fact is that the river runs fast and dangerous on some points and the mountain slopes are steep.
There are two ways to do the trail. You can hike, the path is very well marked and can easily be done without guides. It is still in use by local Naxi people
The trail can start in either Qiaotou or Daju. Both town are accessible by bus. There are two buses daily from Lijiang to Daju: 8:30 am and 1:30 pm (Y30), while Qiaotou has more buses (including ongoing buses to Shangrila - Zhongdian).
In Daju there are two guesthouses in case you want to stay overnight (Tiger Leaping Gorge Hotel and Snowflake Guesthouse). There are also guest houses in Qiaotou.
The trail can be done in one day by Superman but for ordinary people it takes at least two days.
There are several guest houses on the trail. Sean was the first to build a basic guest house right in the middle of the trek. His guest house became a hideaway from the mainstream tourists. With his daughters and his wife he runs Sean's Spring Guest house.
The trail itself is about 22 km long. It goes from Qiaotou straight up but once you are on the altitude, it's a gradual path with no real difficulties.
On the trek you will see plenty of signs to either Sean's Spring Guesthouse or other guest houses. You can stay in several making the trek stretched out over a couple of days.
Sean's Spring Guesthouse is located in Walnut Garden (He Tao Yuan), an area where the mountains "hang a bit to the back". This has generated possibilities for locals to do some farming. Here you can enjoy some spectacular views over the mountains.
The trail is never dangerous nor difficult. But if you don't have the time to hike the gorge, you can always take the lower road. There is a bus service to Qiaotou. The lower road is a decent sealed road, Sean (and other guest house owners) use for supplies and pick up guests from Qiaotou. (give Sean a call 0887-820 2222, he will pick up).
Personally I prefer to hike. Especially the second part, if you come from Qiaotou is spectacular. Here the mountains are steeper, wilder and less vegetation. Once you reach the small ferry, and you are on the river, one of the few safe places to cross, you can see how high the mountains tower over you.
This is one of those place you will feel small compared to the giant stone masses around you.
The ferry itself takes only a few minutes, so have your camera ready to shoot some photos.
Once you reach the other side it's a short walk to Daju, where, as said above there are two guest houses or you can take a bus back to Lijiang.
Trekking in the mountains
An interesting option when you visit the Tiger Leaping Gorge is to do some additional trekking to Haba Mountain. If you are interested in doing so, be prepared for some serious mountaineering but Sean is able to guide you to the almost 5400 meter top. I can't comment further on this trek as I haven't done it. However, Haba Mountain looks impressive enough!
Cycling to Tiger Leaping Gorge?
The upper path is certainly a no go for cycling, besides you will be stopped at the entrance of the trail where you pay your entrance fee (Y50). The lower road may bring you close to Walnut Garden (some call it wrongly Walnut Grove) but you still need to hike up. So cycling here is a no go.
Thus, leave your bike in Lijiang and take the bus to Qiaotou. I hope you enjoy the Tiger Leaping Gorge as much as I did.
Accommodation in the Gorge
Although it is possible to hike the gorge even in one day, it's pretty nice to stay at least one night in one of the several guesthouses. Sean's Spring Guesthouse and Woody's are long time favorites.
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The Tiger Leaping Gorge, if you would trek it all the way, would lead you to Zhongdian. Few do it, as it is a 10 days trek at least. Most people take a bus or bicycle.
Lijiang is the spectacular little, uhmm... not so little anymore ... starting point of the Tiger Leaping Gorge.
Map of Yunnan
Entrance Tickets in China
The Chinese give you value for your money when you buy an entrance ticket to visit a sight. Here's some results: