I start to walk up the first little hill of Tiger Leaping Gorge and I get that excited feeling in the pit of my stomach. I’m out in nature, which always makes me so happy, the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain rises up in the background and I breathe in the fresh air and set off. I’m headed up Tiger Leaping Gorge, an area that is purported to be one of the most beautiful in China and a well known trek.
My love hate affair with hiking
As I head up into the trek, particularly the middle part of the 1st day which is 1-2 hours of steep switch backs (a trail that zig zags up a hill) I remember that I don’t love everything about trekking. I love walking the easy parts, I love the scenic views, I love reaching the destination. I don’t particularly love the putting one foot in front of the other up a steep hill. Sure it’s rewarding when you get to the top, but it is a pain on the way up!
I often like to think of this as a little reflection on life. Sure sometimes it’s hard, and sometimes you can’t see the top and it just feels like your walking up a never ending hill, but if you just keep making that next step, you do always make it. Also, the hard section of Tiger Leaping Gorge trek is really only 1-2 hours long and not that traumatic.
The Tiger Leaping Gorge Trek
Tiger Leaping Gorge is located about a 2 hour bus ride from the historic city of Lijiang in Yunnan Province, China. It is a well known and well trodden path on the Yunnan tourist trail.
The trek is a two day trek, which is really only a day and a half. The first day is spent walking to what is called the halfway point, but is really much further than half way and is mostly up hill. The remainder of the trek, down to the top of the gorge is mostly downhill and can be completed easily in 1-2 hours. Once at the top of the gorge, most people walk down and back up the actual gorge itself to see the ‘Tiger Leaping Rock’ which is where the area got its name from. The trek can be completed in 1 day if your relatively fit and move quickly.
There where things I liked about this trek, and things I didn’t. It’s about 50/50 so I think the best way to write about it is split it into those two categories.
What I liked about the Tiger Leaping Gorge Trek
The mountain scenery was stunning. Absolutely, breathtaking in parts. There are several lodges at the halfway point where you can stop for the night. The most popular one being the ‘half way lodge’c
The night at the halfway lodges is definitely a highlight of the trip. The top open air deck, the restaurant and even the toilets look out over a stunning view of Karst mountain rocks with snowy mountain peaks rising up behind. Even though it probably is possible to push through the whole thing in 1 day, it’s worth stopping here the night to sit around on the deck and take in the scenery.
The other positive thing about the trek is that it is quite popular, so it’s a good spot to meet other travellers and socialise.
What I didn’t like about the Tiger Leaping Gorge trek
Ok, so I’m going to have a bit of a whinge now. I don’t mean to be negative, but I have to get it out.
The Roads and the Wires
You don’t actually have to walk two days to get to Tiger Leaping Gorge, there is a road there. While I appreciate that the building of roads and hotels makes these areas more accessible to more people, and this is generally a positive thing, the fact that you can see the road below you for pretty much the whole trek makes it feel a little less like your in a beautiful wilderness and a little bit like you may as well have taken the bus.
There are also a lot of blue water pipes and electrical wires that get in the way of the view. The photos I have here all needed to be taken from certain positions to get nice landscape shots
I wrote a rant about touts earlier in my trip. This is the first, and only time since that I’ve come across this kind of thing in China, but it did mar the trek for me. It mostly involves women setting themselves up in different spots and demanding you pay money to use different parts of the trail. They weren’t asking for large amounts of money, but it did become annoying – there is a park entry fee paid to enter and it was annoying having this argument about paying more money to people on the way. When one woman physically restrained me when I refused to pay her it did mar my experience a little.
Getting there and costs
The bus from Lijiang is 30 yuan, your hostel should be able to arrange for it to pick you up or you can walk to the bus stop. Either way it’s the same bus and the same price. The bus back to Lijiang from Tina’s guesthouse at then end of the hike is 55 yuan. Buses are also available to and fro Shangri-La.
The park entry fee is 65 yuan. The bus will stop on entry and a park officer will come on board to sell you your ticket. As mentioned above – you will get asked at various points for more money to use parts of the trail.
Accommodation can be found at various family run guesthouses all the way along the trail. Expect to pay about 30 yuan for a dorm room and around 120 yuan for a private double room
Should I go?
If I’d written this directly after I did the trek, I think I would have been harsher about it, as I was quite annoyed at the incident with the touts. On reflection, I will be softer. It’s a nice walk, it’s not the most amazing trek I’ve ever done, but the scenery is quite beautiful in parts. I am an advocate of hiking over taking the bus in a place like this, but just be aware, that in this case you are seeing pretty much the same thing.
What’s your opinion on roads opening up hiking areas like this? Good that more people have an opportunity to visit? Or does it take to much away from the natural vibe of a place?