To hike the Tiger Leaping Gorge is considered one of China's best hikes. It's located inYunnan, south-western China and part of the Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan Protected Areas and World Heritage Site. The Jinsha River, a tributary of the legendary Yangtze River meander it's way trough terraced farmland and imposing limestone ridges.
On our way from Lijiang to Shangri-la, we passed the Tiger Leaping Gorge and chose to stop for a couple of days to include a hike. Our lodging was a guesthouse run by a Tibetan family. One of the sons works as a guide on hikes. He could tell us a lot about the area, the people and what to expect on the hike itself. We did the hike without guide, but he provided us with a map and gave us advise on the routes. We almost had this spectacular scenery all to ourselves. Apart from a few other foreign hikers, we met only a couple of locals. The hike can be done in two days / one night.
Some of the fierest environmental battles in China in recent years have been over hydropower. Locals worked to save the Tiger Leaping Gorge and won the battle. Hydropower companies have wanted to dam the gorge, but that work never started. There has been campaignes to protect (2004-2006) and safeguarding one of Chinas's most magnificent landscapes. This also included saving the houses of more than 100.000 people belonging to ethnic minority groups making the campaign one of the biggest succes stories of the past decades. If the dam had been a succes it would have meant that 100.000 people living along the banks of the Jinsha river would need to be relocated. Luckily the gorge and the people are still here.
We chose to divide it into two days and started with the hike to the bottom of the canyon. Our choice was the longest, but less steep. There is an entrance fee of 10 Yuan to be paid. The first 1-2 hours was straight downhill to the bottom of the canyon. The terrain is rugged and a little treacherous some places. This was good exercise for our hamstrings and calf muscles!
The viewing point
The legend of how the gorge got it's name says that it comes from a hunted tiger escaping by making a jump across the river at the narrowest point, using a rock in the middle. That point is 25 meters wide!
After a break by the river, we continued. We had to pay 15 Yuan to the locals who have carved out a walkway around the mountain. It does make it easier than climb the mountain.
As we came around the mountain we started the climb up to the road. The trail here is less defined than the upper trail and more than one path is leading to the main road. We got lost among the vegetable fields more than once! Finally we were back on the road and reached our guesthouse. We took our time for a well-deserved beer out on the patio overlooking the Snow Dragon Mountains. My small travel company consisted of 6 people - 3 seniors (over 70 years). Well done!
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