Trekking Tiger Leaping Gorge
If you want to experience the true power of nature on a trek, then Tiger Leaping Gorge in Yunnan Province, China is one of the best opportunities to do so. From the white-capped rapids of the river to the towering snow-capped peaks of the surrounding mountains, there are challenges lurking around every corner on this trail. Make sure you bring some comfortable shoes that are suitable for climbing, plenty of water, and your camera because you are going to see some amazing sights.
There are ticket booths on either side of the trail that require trekkers to purchase an open-ended ticket. You may notice a few folks trying to sneak past the guard or arriving early to avoid the fees. The hike along Tiger Leaping Gorge high trail can be completed in about a day at a fast pace, but it is recommended to take 2-3 days to enjoy this trail fully.
Where Is Tiger Leaping Gorge?
You’ll be able to find this trail on the journey from Shangri-La to Lijiang. It’s a 3-hour journey by car to get to the base of the Yulong Snow Mountain. Upon entering the gorge, you’ll eventually see a large stone in the center of the river. This is where the tiger once leaped from Haba Snow Mountain to Yulong Snow Mountain according to tradition, hence giving this gorge and trail its name.
The beginning of the trail is the most difficult portion of it. There are numerous switchbacks and a series of steps and ladders that must be navigated. It is important to take the initial portion of the trail slowly to prevent strain and to keep a sure footing, especially if the weather is less than favourable.
June thru September is considered the rainy season in Yunnan Province, so consider trekking Tiger Leaping Gorge outside of that window.
Buses run regularly to the start of the trail from Lijiang. A public bus route runs from Lijiang to Shangri-La regularly and will drop you off at Qiaotou with payment and instruction. Private cars are also available, but for a substantially higher cost.
Rockslides Are Common Along the Trail
The one danger that trekkers must always bear in mind while trekking the Tiger Leaping Gorge are the rockslides that occur during rainstorms and gusty winds. They occur frequently and navigating the trail when a fresh slide has occurred can sometimes be a bit difficult. Because there are portions of the trail that hug the side of a cliff, a group trek is considered the best option for this trail.
There are modern accommodations that are sprinkled here and there along the trail. Trekkers can choose to stay in inns that provide 40-50 beds. You can bring a tent to pitch in the yard of the tent, but campers may not have access to hot water or electricity. There are cafes along the trail which offer internet access.
The inns along the trail have a reputation of not providing travelers with clean sheets, so if you are travelling lightly and intend to stay in an inn, you may wish to consider packing in your own linens.
Or You Could Take the Tourist Trail
The high trail above the river may be popular, but it is not busy. Expect to pass about one group per hour while trekking. Part of the reason for this is the fact that there is a road that goes a couple of kilometers into the gorge and offers a flat artificial trail that runs right along the river and allows for the entire gorge to be experienced in about 2-3 hours. Most local guides will recommend this trail, so if you’re looking for adventure, take the high trail instead.
Statistics of the Trail
Length: 16 kilometers
Maximum Height: 2,700m with very little change after the first climb.
Weather: April-May are the best months to visit. June-July are rainy. The altitude makes winter treks too cold for some trekkers.
There’s no denying the fact that the Tiger Leaping Gorge high trail can be difficult at times for even experienced trekkers. There is also a great reward in seeing the incredible scenery of this deep gorge, the constant sound of the roaring rapids and whirlpools in the river, or seeing local farmers herd their livestock along the trail.
This is one of those trails that everyone should navigate at least once in their lifetime. It will be an unforgettable experience.
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