The famous Tiger Leaping Gorge in Yunnan, China, is one of the most recommended destinations to visit in this province. Legend says that a tiger jumped across the Jinsha River at its narrowest point to escape a hunter, which is where the gorge got its name. Tourists enjoy views of the canyon at a viewing platform, and standing there, one can behold the magnificent power of the roaring Jinsha River. There is, however, another “viewing platform”, one that is more majestic and natural and can only be viewed by trekking for a few hours or two days…
During the Summer, my partner and I decided to add the two-day hike through the Tiger Leaping Gorge to our Yunnan itinerary. This hike has remained unpopular to most tourists visiting the area, which allows for a more private and peaceful experience. It was the perfect option for us- travelers willing to go the extra mile to experience this natural wonder in the most pristine way. The actual path of the hike was easy to access and follow, with clear signs and trails throughout the terrain. Our trek felt incredible as we walked through the diverse landscapes of the Upper Trail, along trailing cliffs and rice terraces, and in between the spectacular limestone mountains- the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and Haba Snow Mountain. We crossed streams, trailed along with pine trees, and climbed long, winding rocky paths.
This hike has been one of my favorite experiences while exploring China. If you are a traveler that seeks out more lasting and authentic experiences, that are off the path of the usual tourist traps, this is another one for you!
Here are some important things to note about our two-day trekking experience:
1. Weather: The weather in this region varies according to the time of the year. It is recommended to visit the trail during the months of April-June or September-October. We visited in August, during the rainy season, but thankfully the weather gods showed up for us and we experienced two gloriously sunny days, with temperatures that were perfectly comfortable for hiking.
2. Accommodation: Even though most online articles stated that the hike began from Qiaotou, we opted to begin our hike at Mama Naxi Family Guesthouse. We contacted the guesthouse and confirmed that vehicles could get past the tourist booth and arrive directly at their guest house. The Upper trail, which is located at the entrance of their guesthouse, makes it a convenient place to spend the night and have a seamless start the next day.
*Entrance tickets at the tourist booth cost 65rmb.
3. Transportation: Getting to the T.L.G entrance is simple when departing from towns like Lijiang and Shangri-La. One can seamlessly take a shuttle bus that leaves from either town and arrive in Qiaotou. As we departed from Shaxi, we hired a driver that took us directly from our hotel in Shaxi to Mama Naxi’s Guesthouse. After our T.L.G hike, we continued to Shangri-La via shuttle bus, which turned out to be a lot more convenient than expected. I would also recommend renting a car, as driving yourself offers more flexibility and mobility in one’s travel plans.
4. Baggage Storage: We only needed a small backpack each for the two days and arranged for the rest of our bags to be stored and collected at the end of our hike. I highly recommended that you arrange for your bags to be stored and collected as we did. Staying at Naxi Guesthouse the night before made it convenient for our hosts to deliver the bags to Qiaotou, where they were stored until the next day. At the end of our hike, we grabbed our bags and continued to Shangri-La. If you do not stay at Naxi Family Guesthouse, you can also arrange to store your bags at the ticket entrance booth in Qiaotou.
5. Things to include in your small backpack: A change of clothing for day two of the hike, sunblock, a hat, a light jacket/sweater, raincoat, healthy snacks, water, torchlight (of course, these items would vary depending on the time of year you decide to hike).
6. Upper Trail Hike Day 1, 6-8 hours hiking: We were hypnotized by the beauty of the Tiger Leaping Gorge throughout our entire hike, and the infamous 28 Bends proved to be easier than forewarned. Most of day one was spent breathing in the fresh mountain air, being in awe of marvelous views, towering snowcapped mountains, streams, trees, and small animals.
7. Lunch Stop: As we followed the trail and enjoyed breathtaking views, we noticed many signs that indicated the guesthouses ahead. We stopped at the Teahorse Guesthouse, a famous lunch stop along this trail, and spent about an hour there refreshing ourselves with food, views, and beers.
8. One-night Accommodation at the Halfway Guesthouse: The plethora of guesthouses along the hiking trail allow for comfortable accommodation options for the one night spent in the mountains. We booked a private room at the highly recommended Halfway Guesthouse (highly recommended for its views), and I must agree with that! I also suggest staying here if you can hike to this point on day 1, it is comfortable enough for one night, the food is standard, and the hosts speak English. The views from their viewing deck are stunning and waking up in a room facing the mountain also felt like an indescribable, once-in-a-lifetime experience.
9. Day 2, 2-3 hours: Day two continues from the Halfway Guesthouse and ends at Tina’s Guesthouse. We first walked along a paved road, and eventually followed signs that put us back on the dirt trail and deeper into a more forested area. Wearing comfortable shoes with grips proved to be a great decision, as most of the day 2’s hike was mainly a downhill one.
We ended our exhilarating trek at Tina’s Guesthouse, guided by the many signs that led to it. At Tina’s, we had a well-deserved meal while we waited for the bus. We then decided to hire a private car with two other hikers to take us back to Qiatou. Upon arrival to Qiatou, we then learned that we would have to take the same shuttle bus (that we avoided taking at Tina’s) to Shangri-La, so we waited with our luggage, eventually boarded, and continued to Shangri-La. We easily purchased tickets to continue to Shangri-La at the shop where our bags were stored. If you end your hike at Tina’s, simply, take the shuttle bus to Qiatou, where your bus driver will wait for you to grab your bags and continue to Shangri-La- if that’s the plan.
Have you ever been on this two-day hike? What has been your favorite hiking experience in China? Feel free to let me know in your comments below!
Until Next Adventure,