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Tiger Leaping Gorge

I was on again and off again about taking the high trail of Tiger Leaping Gorge, I based my decision on the weather, which was rainy during the first week of my two weeks trip in Yunnan. However, the skies cleared on one of the days, which gave me the perfect opportunity to do the hike, which was said to be one of the most scenic in the region.

Let's Get Down to Business

I was ready to do the hike on my own, it would be the first time I was going to do a trek without a guide and solo. I was up for the adventure since people told me that the trail was easy to navigate. With a map in hand and the stuff I needed in a small bag, I was ready to go. I booked a bus that will take us to the upper trail in the hostel. The ride to Qiaotou was uneventful, I paid the entrance ticket and alighted the bus. Fortunately for me there were other people who were going to do the upper trail as well. We followed each other up the winding concrete road, thankfully, one of the people that was going in the same direction has done the hike multiple times already, she knew exactly where we were supposed to go to get to the actual trail.

It has been a while since my last real hike, it was probably three to four years ago, but thankfully I was fit enough to get through the first challenge, which was a steep climb up to get to another trail. After that it was pretty flat with a few muddy and rocky trails before I got to the first accommodation/restaurant, which was the Naxi Guesthouse.

The Naxis are one of the ethnic groups that live off the mountain. The owners were friendly people and the food they serve is one of the best you'll eat (this is what I often say to myself after a strenuous activity). I was about to leave after resting, but then I overheard another group of people talking politics, religion and other stuff, which caught my attention. I went over to them and joined the conversation, after that we decided to travel together until the end of the hike.

The views at around 2,000 MASL (meters above sea level) were nothing short of spectacular. I could see why this hike was dubbed as one of the most scenic and beautiful in China. The verdant rolling hills and surrounding mountains along with the river coursing below them, were sights to enjoy and look at with wonder. I could clearly see how high the drop was from the peaks of the mountains down to the roaring waters.

I still get a laugh at some of the poorly translated signs along the trail.

The challenge of taking the high trail is the 28 bends, I kept asking the person who has done the hike numerous times if we have arrived at the bends already, she kept giving me vague answers. She finally said we were already on it after making it past the first few. This reminded me of the practice of the guides in the mountains I've hiked up back home.

The bends weren't as bad as I thought it was, but it was still challenging because of the high altitude. After making it to the top, I felt relieved, happy, on cloud 9 and every other cliche you can think of about conquering something, the sort you read on cheesy photos with quotes on it. It was the highest I've ever been at more than  approximately 2,500 MASL. The adventure didn't end after the 28 bends, we trekked for quite a while until we reached the Halfway Guesthouse, which also marked the halfway point of the hike.

The stunning views of the mountains, landscape and river below were all worth it.

After a night's respite in the guesthouse and some good food, our motley crew of Filipino, German, South Korean and American made our way through the mostly flat trail until Tina's Guesthouse.

The views on the last part of the trek were just as spectacular.

Cheers to looking at you kid.

The Low Trail

After around 3 hours on the last leg of the high trail, I decided to do the low trail to get a first-person experience of the raging river I saw from more than 2,000 meters.

The hike going down was relatively easier since sections of the low trail were already tourist-friendly, but it is still challenging, especially if you are unfit.

The view from below was very different from above, our group crossed the bridge to one of the stones on the river. We could hear the roaring of the waters and the crashing of waves.

The hike back up was so much harder compared to the high trail, but that was just my opinion. A lot of places were quite steep, even if there were makeshift or actual stairs leading up to the main road.

Met Sun from South Korea and Jeremy from the US during the hike.

I would recommend Tiger Leaping Gorge for those who will travel to Yunnan, China.

How to Get to Tiger Leaping Gorge

I did the hike from Lijiang, but you can get to the trail from Shangri-La as well. The jump-off point is Qiaotou, I booked a shuttle for Y40 through the hostel, it leaves at around 7AM. Tiger Leaping Gorge has an entrance fee of Y65. There will be a lot of locals offering you their services (their horse) to get you through some sections of the hike for a normally expensive fee, they will be very pushy once you get to the 28 bends. I spent the night at Halfway Guesthouse for Y40 per night in the dorm room. I took the bus back to Lijiang from Tina's Guesthouse for Y55, this leaves at around 3:30PM. This is a possible addition to your Yunnan itinerary.


  1. wow, what a breathtaking view.. that raging river is terrifying but what a great adventure you had.. although not in the same scale (this one is way better), this reminds me of my journey to Buscalan.. we were welcomed by a not-so cooperating weather and we got stranded for a day but it was truly a great experience for us..
    thanks for sharing us your adventure

  2. The translated signs on the trail are too literal, they're funny. :) Whoa! The waterfalls look amazing!

  3. The trail is challenging and yet you finished the long hike. I love the breathtaking views uphill.

  4. I thought you're alone in trekking that dangerous trails to reaching the Tiger Leaping Gorge in China. I sigh how daring you are. But I was wrong. I just have been wondering why the water in that particular river is murky. Why?

    1. it's rainy season hence the murky water :D