Being one of the deepest gorge in the world, Tiger Leaping Gorge (or called Hutiaoxia) sitting at the border of Lijiang and Shangri-La is a paradise for hiking. And there is no any better way to explore this spectacular Tiger Leaping Gorge than hiking. The unbeatable traditional rocky trails along the cliffs of the gorge give hikers not only a feel of stepping back to nature but also charming explains of the sheer drop of more than 3,900 meters. With elevation ascend or descend, you will find yourself hugged by nothing but the grand Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and Haba Snow Mountain rising up from the banks of roaring Jinsha River. Such a marvelous hiking experience is enough to drive worldwide hikers crazy, let alone there are interesting legends of trade caravan on this section of ancient Tea and Horse Road!
How to hike Tiger Leaping Gorge? To help you have a better plan for a hiking tour there, here, in this Tiger Leaping Gorge Hiking Guide, we will introduce the start point and 2 best hiking routes to you, with latest English Tiger Leaping Gorge Trail Map included!
Tiger Leaping Gorge Hiking Map
Tiger Leaping Gorge is located at where Shangri-La meets Lijiang. It is composed of three parts - the Upper Tiger Leaping Gorge (上虎跳), Middle Tiger Leaping Gorge (中虎跳) and Lower Tiger Leaping Gorge (下虎跳). Tourists are allowed to visit the gorge from the upper side near Qiaotou (Hutiaoxia Town) of Shangri-La or the lower side near Lijiang. However, since the most splendid scenery of the gorge can be found during the section between the upper gorge and middle gorge, most of the tourists prefer to start their Tiger Leaping Gorge tour from the upper side.
From the tourist center of Upper Tiger Leaping Gorge, there are two popular routes to explore Tiger Leaping Gorge, one is the classic route hiking downhill to visit Upper Tiger Leaping Gorge and the other one is the in-depth hiking to Middle Tiger Leaping Gorge.
When it comes to hiking at Tiger Leaping Gorge, it usually refers to the long and in-depth hiking along the trails embedded on the cliffs there, which takes at least 2 days. However, such a thrilling but tough route is not for everyone. Luckily, there is a good short alternative - hiking to the Upper Tiger Leaping Gorge. Upper Tiger Leaping Gorge is a landmark of Hutiaoxia. About 75% of Tiger Leaping Gorge photos are taken there. And the postcard-perfect iconic tiger sculpture is also standing at the river bank there.
After buying your ticket at the tourist center in Qiaotou (Shangri-La), drive further 6km around to the parking lot inside the scenic area, and then you will find trails leading down to the viewing platform of Upper Tiger Leaping Gorge. To allow everyone a close visit to the “angry river” and the “howling tiger”, new and safe stone stairs has been built on the original rocky path. Follow the stairs and you will get the classic scenery with boiling-like Jinsha River in only 15 minutes around.
Best Classic Tiger Leaping Gorge Hiking Tour:
The in-depth Upper Trekking Route of Tiger Leaping Gorge (高路徒步线) has long been famous since the first year it opened to the public. It especially enjoys a great reputation among foreign hikers. So never be surprised if you find more foreigners than Chinese on this route. Everything is so wonderful while hiking gingerly along the Upper Trekking Route, steep limestone ridges, vertiginous cliffs, dancing rays and the dense clops of horses…
This in-depth route includes about 9~11 hours wild hiking in full, so it usually be split to be finished in 2~3 days, with about 1~2 nights staying at the inns and guest houses in between.
On the first day, you are suggested to start early so you can leave yourself more time on the way for short sightseeing. You will get the best canyon panorama on this day. The hiking goat path starts near a local school not far from the ticket office, with a blue sign marking the path to the Upper Route. Such signs will be seen many times during the rest of the day. Once on the trail, hike straight forward for about 2 hours and you will be at Naxi Family Guesthouse, where you can take a break and have some coffee. The next section of hiking route is the toughest part, named 28 Bends (28 Hairpin Turns). About 3 hours more, you will find Tea Horse Guesthouse. If you are already exhausted, you can choose to stay here to cheer you up. Otherwise, keep hiking for another 2 hours around to Halfway Guesthouse. Some serious hikers may also choose to go further to Tina’s Youth Hostel for a stay.
On this day, you will descend for about 1.5~2 hours to Tina’s Youth Hostel first, and then takes about 1 hour or so to travel down to Middle Tiger Leaping Gorge. Tina’s Hostel is settled on the highway. The last part of trail, which will take you down below the highway to the raging river far below, is not officially built but built by the locals, so there may be a slight fee about CNY 10~15 per person charged on each route. There are 3 routes for you to choose, and normally hikers prefer the Teacher Zhang’s Path more, which is relatively safer. If you want more adventurous experience, you can also try the rickety straight up and down by the iron ladders.
After the sightseeing, you are required to hike up to the highway and catch a bus near Tina’s to get out the Tiger Leaping Gorge Scenic Area from Qiaotou.
Warm tip: the bus to get out will end up the service after 3:00 pm or 3:30pm. And sometimes it may be canceled according to real-time situation. You are more suggested to book a private car service for the travel.
Best Tiger Leaping Gorge In-depth Hiking Tour:
A Tiger Leaping Gorge tour usually starts from the tourist center at Qiaotou Town (Hutiaoxia Town) on the upper side in Shangri-La. The tourist center is about 103km and 2.5 hours from Shangri-La and 78km and 2 hours from Lijiang by car.
Being that remote and requires so much on driving skills, taxis and some private cars without license are not allowed to go, especially go inside. However, there is still 6km around to Upper Tiger Leaping Gorge from the ticket center and about 15km to Middle Tiger Leaping Gorge. Besides, there is no official sightseeing bus arranged there, making the transportation of Tiger Leaping Gorges so complicated.
You can get to the tourist center by scheduled coaches from Lijiang Coach Station (丽江客运站) or Shangri-La Coach Station (香格里拉客运站). However, these coaches are not the best choices, because they cannot take you to the scenic area directly but to Qiaotou Town. The best way to get to and get out of Tiger Leaping Gorges is by licensed private car provided by travel agencies. Once you booked such a service, you can travel according to your hiking plan.
We China Discovery also offer private car service for Tiger Leaping Gorge hikers. If you are in need, please feel free to let us know!
There is no specific suggestions for a classic Upper Tiger Leaping Gorge hiking tour, because it can be finished in half day around, leaving much time for driving back to Lijiang or Shangri-La for a stay. While you are suggested to stay at a local guesthouse or hostel settled on the way if you are going to try the Upper Trekking Route.
Thanks to the popularity of this in-depth route, several good hostels and inns has been built to offer better service for the hikers, including Naxi Family Guesthouse (纳西雅阁), Tea Horse Guesthouse (茶马客栈), Halfway Guesthouse (中途客栈), Tina’s Youth Hostel, etc. For a 2-day hiking tour, you can stay at Tea Horse Guesthouse, Halfway Guesthouse or Tina’s Youth Hostel. If you have 3 days and 2 nights there, Naxi Family Guesthouse or Tea Horse Guesthouse is advised for your first night, and Halfway Guesthouse or Tina’s Youth Hostel is suggested for your last night.
1~3 days are the best for a Tiger Leaping Gorge. If you are in hurry, you can spend one day around to explore the iconic Upper Tiger Leaping Gorge. For hiking lovers, you are suggested to spend 2~3 days to try the in-depth Upper Trekking Route to Middle Tiger Leaping Gorge.
Since Tiger Leaping Gorge is located between Shangri-La and Lijiang, tourists usually travel Tiger Leaping Gorge during their Shangri-La Lijiang tour. Such a tour takes about 5 days. Which is better? Normally, travelers prefer to visit Tiger Leaping Gorge from Lijiang, which is closer to the scenic area and can be reached by both flights and high speed train!
Yunnan is a diverse province with more highlights to offer that far beyond you could imagine. And thus most tourists treat Tiger Leaping Gorge as one of the stops for their Yunnan tour. Before or after your Tiger Leaping Gorge Tour, you can leave yourself more days to visit Lijiang, Kunming, Dali, and Yuanyang… Have your personal ideas and interests of Yunnan? Please feel free to contact us to customize your Yunnan tour!
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Want to visit Tiger Leaping Gorge but feel annoyed about the transportation and hiking routes? Travel with China Discovery and let us take care of everything for you! And then you can focus on the great scenery of the gorge and the culture and history of Tea and Horse Road! Our English-speaking guide will accompany you all the way and introduce you the interesting stories happen there. And our local driver will escort you to Tiger Leaping Gorge from the airport or your hotel directly.
The tour can be tailor-made according to your group size, interests, physical condition, time, plan, budget and every special need! Please feel free to contact us if you need any help!
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Kunming / Dali / Lijiang / Shangri-La
Shangri La / Tiger Leaping Gorge / Lijiang or Shangri-La
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