Hiking the Tiger Leaping Gorge is one of, if not most, incredible things I have ever done. The hike started as an idea but one day in Chengdu we were making dumplings with a group of people when I heard someone say “The Tiger Leaping Gorge.” After some cheap beer, heavy conversation and vegetarian dumplings we decided we’re going hiking.
A few short weeks later we were on the bus about to do something completely out of the norm for Aaron and I. Before we went I tried googling tips about the gorge but I couldn’t find anything helpful so I hope this post give you some insight on what it’s really like to hike the Tiger Leaping Gorge.
What You Need To Pack: Aaron and I went in November and every site I read say it would be cold. I don’t know if it’s because I’m Canadian but it was hot. I recommend bring a tank top, some yoga pants and a jacket for at night. Also wear some comfortable shoes with grips. I used my nike sneakers, you don’t need hiking shoes, but some parts of the hike were sketchy and on a smooth rock surface. Here’s what I packed:
- Snacks (preferably small granola bars)
- Toilet paper (do NOT forget)
I think you should spend the night on the Tiger Leaping Gorge. It will be less stressful and you can actually enjoy how amazing it is there. I’m not above wearing the same shirt and pants the next day but I did bring extra underwear with me.
Before You Go: Aaron and I were travelling for two months so we had suitcases and duffle bags which we obviously weren’t hiking with. I recommend staying at a hotel for 4 nights in Lijiang and securing your luggage there. That way you don’t have to worry about your belongings and can bring the bare minimum. Hotels aren’t that expensive, you can find some good ones for $25 so save yourself the hassle and just leave you things behind.
How To Get There: I recommend getting to the gorge from Lijiang by bus. You can hire a car but the bus is cheap and surprisingly comfortable. It will be about a two hour bus ride and you’ll most likely be bussing with other tourists. The bus will pick you up in the morning, about 7am and you’ll get to the gorge by 9. You will have to pay a 64 Yuan fee to get into the gorge. Apparently if you arrive early you miss this fee. The bus will take you to what seems to be a random stop but head up the hill it drops you off on. When in doubt follow the other tourists.
It’s a bit of a walk on a dirt road but look for a sign that says “Tiger Leaping Gorge hiking high way thus into.” This isn’t a spelling mistake haha. Next you’ll see this little goat trail leading up the side of the hill, that’s where you go. There are markers lain out for you so you can’t get lost.
What To Expect: On the map they give you it will look like a easy hike, you hit the 28 bends, then it flattens out, and then you walk down. Whoever made that map is an ass, that’s not how the hike is. You will be walking mostly incline which may be easy for some but it’s pretty exhausting after two hours. Then you hit the 28 bends which is the real “using your hands and feet and trees” to pull yourself up incline.
After two hours into your hike though you will hit Naxi’s House which you can have surprisingly yummy food at for cheap. This is the last time you will see a toilet for hours so go here and get your toilet paper and ladle ready (LOL). Fun Fact: On the hike if you go to the bathroom you need to squat over a trough.. then there’s a bucket of water where you grab the ladle and wash your ‘stuff’ down lol. Have fun.
If you run out of water don’t freak out, there are little shacks on the trail with people selling water and food.
Where To Stay: The hike is about eight hours, start to finish. You should be able to get the first half done in 6/7 hours and by then you should see the Halfway House. This is where everyone goes to spend the night on the gorge and where I recommend staying. You will have a stunning view of the mountain, you can see so many stars and you can eat potatoes and drink beer and celebrate because you made it. There’s no feeling quite like it.
The mountain is cold at night and the halfway house has little heating pads. Beware of limited hot water though, if you want a hot shower you need to get up pretty early.
The Next Day: The name Halfway House is deceiving and the rest of the hike will take you about two hours. You’ll see horses and at one point you will hike over a small waterfall.
There is no urgency to leave the next day. There are buses leaving from a place called Tina’s at 3:30pm everyday so you can plan your hike around that time. The bus ticket home is 55 Yuan and the ride back to Lijiang is about 2 and a half hours. You can book your ticket with for the bus at the Halfway House.
So chill out, take photos, and order some pancakes.
If you are planning a trip to China I think this was my favourite thing we did next to hiking the Great Wall of China. The gorge was beautiful. It was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life and I have barely any photos of it because I was so immersed in it all.
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