Tiger Leaping Gorge
Tiger Leaping Gorge is one of the most famous hikes in China — among foreign travelers, anyway. The rough trail, steep hairpin bends and overall difficulty of the trail are not what most Chinese travelers are looking for in a vacation. But the views of the gorge that you get from the “high path” are astonishing. The hike down to the “Tiger Leaping Stone” at the bottom of the gorge makes you glad you didn’t slip. (It’s called Tiger Leaping Gorge because a tiger supposedly jumped across the river from one of the boulders along the bank.)
But the hike is hard, and not for the week of spirit — or knees. The hardest part comes about 2 hours into the hike, when you reach the 28 Bends. This is a series of 28 hairpin turns up the side of the gorge, and it is very difficult. Lonely Planet wasn’t joking, and neither am I. You should definitely wear hiking boots and carry as little as possible.
Details of the trek:
- Time Needed: Now that you can get back to Qiaotou without crossing the river, the hike can easily be completed in two days. From the beginning of the trail, it took us 6 hours to reach the Halfway Guesthouse. Another 90 minutes brought us to Tina’s, where the trail rejoins the road. From there, we detoured down to see the Tiger Leaping Gorge and climbed back up to Walnut Garden, which took about 3 hours. You can arrange for a car to pick you up at Walnut Garden (see below).
- Entrance Fee: Because of ongoing construction, the official 50 RMB entrance fee to the gorge is currently (as of April 2010) on hold. But at the trailhead, a local woman is stationed asking for 30 RMB to support local efforts to maintain the trail during the off-season. If you decide to go down to see Tiger Leaping Stone, enterprising locals are stationed at several points to charge 5-10 RMB to use various bridges and stretches of trail. All told, our off-season visit cost 55 RMB in these “fees.”
- Getting There: You’ll probably come from Lijiang. From there, it is about a 2-hour bus or van ride to Qiaotou, where the trail begins.
- Luggage: You should definitely leave your main backpack in either Qiaotou or Lijiang. Whether you are returning to Lijiang or heading on to Shangri-La, you will need to go back to Qiaotou to catch the bus, and the 28 Bends would be even less fun with 20+ pounds of stuff. In Qiaotou, Jane’s Guesthouse will store bags for 5 RMB. They will also show you the trail map and give directions to the trailhead.
- Food & Accommodation: The guesthouses along the trail provide food and lodging for surprisingly non-extortionary prices. From Qiaotou, the major guesthouses you pass are: Naxi Family Guest House—Tea & Horse Guesthouse—Halfway Guesthouse—Tina’s Guesthouse—Sean’s Guest House—Woody’s. Spray-painted signs along the trail give fairly accurate estimates about how long it will take to reach each of these places.
- We spent the night at the Halfway Guesthouse, which was about 6 hours of hiking away from Qiaotou. A double room with a shared bathroom (where the toilets have views of the gorge) cost 80 RMB per night. A simple dinner cost roughly 15 RMB per person.
- Getting Back: This was where we ran into some snafus. You can read the story of our harrowing drive through the gorge. If you want to get picked up at Walnut Garden, first check that the roads are passable. You can arrange for a car from Walnut Garden or elsewhere on the trail through Jane’s Guesthouse (150 RMB/6-person van). As of April 2010, the phone number was 13988727787.