The 13-mile Tiger Leaping Gorge trail in China’s Yunnan Province is one of the country’s most popular hikes. Interestingly, it’s especially favored by foreigners. I learned about this trail when I was preparing to attend a work conference in China and was researching the best hiking trails in the country. Unfortunately, the trail was on the opposite end of China as my conference (southwest versus northeast). But I booked a ticket anyway.
On a positive note, my conference was in October, which is one of the best times to take this hike. November and May are also good months to go. But you’ll definitely want to avoid a visit in June to September, which is the rainy season. During China’s rainy season, hiking in the mountains can actually be dangerous.
Tiger Leaping Gorge Logistics
Most travelers heading to Tiger Leaping Gorge fly into the tourist town of Lijiang and use that as their base, which is what I did. Fortunately, there’s a great inn here, The Bivou, which has comfy digs, great food and helpful, English-speaking staff. During our visit, my husband and I arrived at The Bivou in the evening. The next morning, staff happily helped with the necessary taxi and bus logistics to get us to Tiger Leaping Gorge. In addition, the staff kept our luggage, since we planned to hike with backpacks and stay at small inns along the way.
One major point to be aware of if you’re considering this hike is that there are two main parts to Tiger Leaping Gorge. The first is a tourist facility right on the river – the spot where legend says a tiger leapt across the roiling Jinsha River. Here you’ll also find scenic overviews and two tiger statues. Then second is the trailhead leading to the famous Upper Trail Hike. This trailhead is in the town of Qiaotao, which you’ll reach before you arrive at the tourist facility. So you can either get off the bus in Qiaotao and start hiking, or go to the facility first, take some photos, then hike back to the trailhead in Qiaotao. Luckily, it’s just a few miles.
Food and Lodging
During your hike, you’ll pass through a few small towns, which offer inexpensive lodging and food. It’s a good idea to make reservations ahead of time. For you don’t want to get stuck with nowhere to sleep! After completing the hike, most people return to Lijiang to fly home.
If this all seems too daunting for you, no worries. Places like Lonely Planet offer guided tours.
I’ve hiked in many incredible spots around the globe, and this was definitely one of my favorites. The hike and scenery were incredible, as you’ll see when you read my article and check out the photos!
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