Tiger Leaping Gorge Trek, China’s Famous Hike

Tiger Leaping Gorge Trek, China’s Famous Hike

If you find yourself in western china. no doubt Tiger Leaping Gorge Trek will be on your list. It’s one of the most well known and popular places to travel in western China. Should it be? Yes!

 

Think 80 buses, each with a whopping 40 people inside, each one having to pay the entrance fee of 65 Yuan (11 dollar) and you can just about do the maths and business for one of natures most beautiful places… but the hiking trail might just be all yours.

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I have woken with chest pains, maybe due to climate changes, exercise and smoke (think hefty fires in the cabins on our previous treks) and we are not convinced that I should be taking on the ‘Tiger Leaping Gorge trek’ challenge. Hell to it, crossing between the Haba Snow Mountain and Yulong Snow Mountain whose peaks reach 3900m this was my gem of China and I flat out refuse to succumb to the negatives of having a shortness of breath. We stand before the entrance in Qiaotao, a huge billboard with two white folk in north face jumpers with smiles blazing.
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 Tiger Leaping Gorge Trek, Places to travel in western China
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100m inside we use ‘Janes guest house’ as a base for our luggage, take one of the paper maps from the counter and disappear. From the look of it there is a guest house only 2 hours hike away, plenty of time to test my lungs ability. We take our first steps along a rather dull gravel track.
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“Want a ride?” Well that would explain the amount of mule poop that swamps the track. Through my 40 breaths a minute I make a sound that somehow resembles a “no” and the man-with-mule duo leaves us be. 20 minutes later we spot a Chinese couple striding their mule despite being armoured in purple grip gloves and walking pole. We take it easy but keep up with the schedule dictated by our map and enjoy some fantastic views of the Jinsha (Golden Sands) River. At one point our path is restricted. Progression can only be made if you observe the view point. To observe the view point you must pay 3 Yuan, but once having paid the Yuan you are subject to having a photo shoot. A little old lady darts out of her hut, grabs your camera and positions you in all manner of poses including scenes from Titanic. Passing this bizarre ritual you are immediately rewarded with the honour of using the ‘Topest toliet’ before continuing to travel onward and upward, charming.
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Tiger leaping gorge trek, Places to travel in western China
House with a view.
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It doesn’t kill me to reach Nuoyu village and the Naxi Family Guest house that is not only marked on the map but also upon stones on your route. Different coloured paint overlap one another in an accommodation war. Naxi, like many cultures, typically form their houses around a central square. From the balcony we have a fantastic view of the Jade Dragon Stone Mountain. The river, running between this peak sitting at 5596m of altitude and the Haba (on our side of the river and thus invisible to us) at 5396m means that the mighty gorge is recognised as one of the worlds deepest river canyons.
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We meet two other take-it-easy hikers who encourage us to share there Yak butter tea (tea leaves, butter and salt) and after having a taste I could see why they were eager to share. The next day we must combat the infamous 28 bends, known for being a strenuous way to gain elevation. My fitness today gives us confidence and we agree to spend 6 hours rather than the designated 2-3. At sunrise the mountains remained shrouded in mist, eerie and uninviting. 2 hours later and we are laughing wildly as we reach the summit of the gorge. In part due to the over exaggeration of guidebooks but also because of a temper filled local woman who decided that you could only visit the viewpoint if you buy a product. Thinking we deserve a snickers Prue and I attempt to access the outcrop that provides the mysterious vista but are halted by yells and frantic arm swinging. Obviously 1 snickers means only 1 person.
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Naxi village, Tiger Leaping Gorge Trek
Naxi village.

 

Only stopping to eat fried rice we make good progress and eventually the gorge unveils and we begin to feel truly in awe of our surroundings. The pathway, cut into the rock face increases our sense of danger while staring open mouthed at the dramatic display. As if cracked open by some sharp blade the vertical cliffs tower above us to the left and plummet to the depths on our right. Deep in the depths is a raging river, and over from that a mirror image of immense mountains dominating the landscape. Waterfalls cascading over the trail warn us of the people who have slipped over the edge.

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Finally a descent begins, ‘Tinas place’ awaits you at the finish line with good food and comfortable bed. Unfortunately Tina herself is a rather miserable old hag who barks and lies about having no dorm rooms to make you pay triple prices. Taking a steep descent from here to the river bed we encroach upon the famous river rapids, tormented by the towering mountains this ferocious beast unleashes itself upon their walls. Legend dictates that a tiger once leaped across this river (at its narrowest point, 25m) in order to escape a pursuer. Legend also conveniently allocates two locations at which the tiger accomplished this astronomical feat. One of which requires an ambitious hike and one that buses can pull right up to.
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Tiger Leaping Gorge Trek, Places to travel in western China
Landslide and a half.
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Tracing the road from ‘Tinas place’ we to a huge land slide blockage, complete with its own walking path and a hoard of mini van drivers waiting to scam us on the other side. Luckily, we pitch in on another couple also being scammed and divide the fare. We pass no less than 40 stuffed buses making tours of the gorges low road, view point and excited anorak-wearing Chinese tourists.
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Collecting our luggage for no cost we remove ourselves from the parks boundaries, flag a mini bus back to Shangri la in the north pay our respects to Tiger Leaping Gorge Trek. Quite a hype in comparison to our previous adventures in Yunnan but still a fantastic travel experience for a 2 day ‘not so tough’ hike.
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Tiger Leaping Gorge Trek, Places to travel in western China

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Return to our destination guide: Places to travel in western China

 

 

 

Written by

Rebecca Mayoll is a ‘just turned 30’ freelance writer and photographer from England. She is the co-founder and author of straightondetour.com, a travel website with the mantra ‘find your own adventure.’ Promoting adventurous destinations, independent travel and giving a humorous insight to the World of travel is what Becky does best.

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Hi we're Prue and Becks, travel writers and photographers who have been travelling the world together since 2012. Without taking ourselves too seriously, we divulge the lesser known, out of the way places and give you the tools to replicate it. Want to know more? Click on our pic.
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