Tiger Leaping Gorge is considered one of the deepest gorges in the world going as far down as 62 miles (100 kilometers) and is just a few hours away from the city of Lijiang in the Yunnan Province. It’s part of the Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan Protected Areas and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Legend has it that a tiger had leaped across the river to the other side, hence the name. The gap across the river is fairly large for any animal to make across. It’s also well known for it’s intensive hike to catch some stunning views.
From the start of the trail, it takes approximately 2 days to get to the Tiger Leaping Gorge where the tiger leaped. You do have the option of just driving directly to where Tiger Leaping Gorge trail starts but that’s just no fun. Along the way you’ll find many waterfalls, beautiful scenery’s, rivers, and animals roaming around. The trail itself is not for the weak. One misstep leads to a long way down. The trails are narrow and sometimes hardly noticeable. A few months prior to my visit, there was a group of trekkers that had lost their way and was never found. The first day of the trek required roughly 6 hours of steep up hill hiking. The most brutal being the famous ’28 bends’ part of the trek. It was hardly a trail and mostly rock climbing up several bends for 2 hours. Along the way however, their are outstanding views which makes it all worth it. At the halfway mark, fortunately there’s a guest house to rest in.
At the halfway mark, by now you’re basically above the clouds. As your starving to eat your meal cooked by the kind folks of the guest house, the surrounding area is mountainous with a fantastic view around you as you notice the clouds moving above and below you. There were a few other guests staying there that had doubled the fun for us. By the end of the night, I ended up hanging out with the locals and owners of the guest house drinking baijiu alcohol (Brewed locally by them) and eating peanuts till 2am. Luckily we had an expat with us that could translate and speak on our behalf. Sleeping will not be an issue due to all the drinking and hiking. What a fitting resting area. The name of the guest house is Naxi Family Guest House and I highly recommend them for their super well maintained guest house and kindness they gave us.
Day two wasn’t as aggressive as the first day was yet still another 6 hours long. There’s a view point that hangs off the edge to see nearly a full 350 degrees of the gorge, river, and mountains around you. Highly recommend going for a panoramic shot. There was a lady that had requested I paid 5Yuan for every picture I took, I hid the camera and took pictures anyway without paying. I’m bad like that. It seemed too much of a scam. The rest of the trek is usually a steady up and down path.
Though you can keep going, most hikers stop at Tina’s Guesthouse which is where the road comes in for transportation out of the area. From Tina’s Guesthouse, it’s a thirty to an hour minute steep downhill walk to the actual Tiger Leaping Gorge. There are actually three Tiger Leaping Gorge stones, the one I’m familiar with is the last one. It gets slippery and dangerous during some moments and only maintained by locals. There were moments of just having to hang on chains and walking sideways and jumping down to the next platform (very Chinese in hikes). At the end, you’re in the middle of the river exactly where the legend was created on top of a boulder where the tiger had leaped on over to the other side. The feeling of accomplishment is fulfilling.
- Go light: Seriously light. Toss the guidebook and only bring what you really require. Leave your bigger bag back in Lijiang or at the first guest house before starting the trek. Clothes, toothbrush/paste, smell good stuff, extra clothes, snacks, and water is all you need. You won’t be gone long anyway.
- Guest house in Lijiang: I had the best experience at a guest house called Mama’s Guest House located in Old Town. She’ll help you plan the whole trip with a van to escort you in and out. Extremely helpful old lady. Though her nickname is Crazy Mama’s, you’ll see why.
- It’s serious: But most of you can do it. Don’t hold back on this experience unless you have a serious medical condition.
- Go early: You certainly don’t want to be trekking in the middle of the night. Best thing to do is wake up as early as possible so you can take your time during the trek not having to worry about it getting dark.
- Go with a group: Though the views are great, it gets a bit repetitive and boring without a partner. Find someone at the guest house if you don’t have a partner already. It adds a lot to the whole experience.
- Getting out: From Tina’s Guest house, you can get a taxi out and head back to Lijiang or the beginning of the trail.