Hike the Tiger Leaping Gorge in one day

The Tiger Leaping Gorge (“Hutiao Xia” in Chinese) is a popular trek in the southern Yunnan Chinese province on the Jinsha River.

The Gorge itself is a scenic canyon and one of the deepest and most spectacular river canyons in the world:

The Tiger Leaping Gorge: one of the deepest and most spectacular river canyons in the world
The Tiger Leaping Gorge is one of the deepest and most spectacular river canyons in the world

The trek itself is very popular and has two routes.  The first is by car from the starting point in Qiaotou to the end point where you see the climax of the gorge.  This one is popular with tourist package tours, gets very crowdy and is therefore to be avoided!

The second is the actual trek through the mountains, which we preferred, and noted this was more popular with non-Chinese tourists for some reason.

For both, there is an entrance “preservation fee” of 65 yuan (around £6:50).

The Tiger Leaping Gorge trek – day 1

The TLG trek is normally done over two days.  On day 1, most people normally trek for around 5 hours, stopping at a ‘Half Way' point and staying the night at the “Halfway Guesthouse”.

Doing this route then requires you to complete the trek the following morning (2 hours) to “Tina's Guesthouse), from there you trek a further 1.5 hours and back to see the mighty gorge.

Or, you can choose to continue the further 2 hours to “Tina's Guesthouse” on day 1, which is what we chose to do.

The starting point for our trek was at Qiaotou.  The trail itself is reasonably well maintained with arrows (and friendly locals) pointing the right way.  But, we would advise against attempting the trek during wet weather (usually in August) as the path gets very slippery and dangerous.

We noticed several comical signs along the way about preventing forest fires, which were lost in translation:

Comical sign in the Tiger Leaping Gorge trek
Comical sign in the Tiger Leaping Gorge trek
Another comical sign in the Tiger Leaping Gorge trek about preventing forest fires
Another comical sign in the Tiger Leaping Gorge trek about preventing forest fires
Our favourite sign in the Tiger Leaping Gorge trek about preventing forest fires
Our favourite sign in the Tiger Leaping Gorge trek about preventing forest fires

If you're a walking stomach on legs like us, then after an hour into the trek (and before reaching the hardest part called, “28 bends”), you will find plenty of stops along the way for delicious (and inexpensive) food.

We stopped at the Naxi Family Guesthouse for a late breakfast.  The Naxi are one of the ethnic minorities in the area and they make a delicious omelette, which is more like a pizza due to the dough base:

Trying Naxi omelette for breakfast
Trying Naxi omelette for breakfast, which was like a pizza because of the dough like base

Along the way, there were many small stalls set up by locals from nearby villages selling bottles of water, thirst quenching vegetables like cucumbers, pickled pears and also marijuana (!)

Marijuana on sale during the Tiger Leaping Gorge Trek
No idea why anyone would want to get high whilst trekking a reasonably dangerous path through the Tiger Leaping Gorge mountains

The area begins at 1,900 metres altitude at Qiaotou, then at its highest point rises to 2,650 metres.

The views of the mountains during the trek are spectacular:

Views of the mountains during the Tiger Leaping Gorge Trek
Views of the mountains during the Tiger Leaping Gorge Trek were incredible
Views of the mountains during the Tiger Leaping Gorge Trek
Spectacular views of the mountains during the Tiger Leaping Gorge Trek
Views of the mountains during the Tiger Leaping Gorge Trek
Beautiful views of the mountains during the Tiger Leaping Gorge Trek

Along the way we passed the scenic waterfalls towards the end we couldn't resist a refreshing dip:


We also found many prickly pears along the way which made a very tasty and thirst quenching snack:

Prickly pears during the Tiger Leaping Gorge trek
Prickly pears during the Tiger Leaping Gorge trek make a very tasty and thirst quenching snack

Sebastien however found a more innovative way to air himself (accidentally tearing his trouser leg during the trek!):

Sebastien's torn trouser during the Tiger Leaping Gorge trek
Sebastien showing off the latest look during our trek!

The Tibet Guesthouse

At the end of our trek we reached Tina's Guesthouse.  “Tina's” has become a popular landmark for the area and she has built a mini empire in the area.  The buses to Shangri-La and from to/from Lijiang all start/terminate at Tina's and belong to Tina's.

However, we chose to stay at the excellent Tibet Guesthouse because of the excellent Tripadvisor reviews and were not disappointed.  Although it's an additional 20 minutes walk down the road from Tina's, it's worth it.

Toasting our epic 7 hours Tiger Leaping Gorge trek with a refreshing beer at the Tibetan Guesthouse
Toasting our epic 7 hours trek with a refreshing Dali beer at the Tibetan Guesthouse

The rooms are cheaper, the family running it are really friendly but you get a spectacular view from your window:

The beautiful view from our window at the Tibetan Guesthouse
The beautiful view from our window at the Tibetan Guesthouse
Our window view of the mountains from the Tibetan Guesthouse
Our window view of the mountains from the Tibetan Guesthouse

The Tiger Leaping Gorge trek – day 2

Our day began with a delicious Tibetan breakfast at our guesthouse with delights such baba (a pancake fried flat bread), filled and dripping with honey:

Trying tasty Tibetan baba bread at our guesthouse
Tasty Tibetan baba bread for breakfast

On the second day of this trek, most people venture down to the narrowest point of the gorge (roughly a 1 hours trek down and back up from Tina's).  Locals stop you at certain points to charge you a nominal sum to pass arguing that it is a maintenance fee for the path as the government has not (yet) taken interest to maintain it.

We paid 10 yuan (around £1) each to go down, and 10 yuan to return.  Locals charge you 15 yuan (around £1.50) for the return part if you choose to climb the ladder (see below).

The trek on day 2 is another round of spectacular scenery:

Beautiful views of the mountains on day 2 of the Tiger Leaping Gorge trek
Beautiful views of the mountains on day 2 of the Tiger Leaping Gorge trek

The gorge itself is the narrowest point of the Jinsha River (25 metres wide) where the rapids are very powerful and obviously very dangerous if someone was to fall in!

According to legend, a tiger jumped across this point to escape a hunter.  Hence the name of the area – Tiger Leaping Gorge.

It is in any case magnificent to watch:

Admiring the Tiger Leaping Gorge narrow point
Stefan admiring the famous point where the legendary tiger leapt across the river for safety

Sebastien thought this would be a good spot to attempt an alternative to the ice bucket challenge, but didn't have the balls to actually take the plunge into the gorge:


The return back up to Tina's can be done either with a 1 hour trek back, or the more daring 5 minutes climb up a 90 degrees ladder with no ropes/reigns supporting you.  We chose to trek it – the scenery is stunning, but we found the ladder option just too dangerous!

The ladder climb back up to Tina's
The ladder climb back up to Tina's

For more, watch our China travel video as we ate our way from Beijing in the North all the way to the south via Pingyao, Xi'An, Shanghai, Yangshuo through to Shangri-La:



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About the author

Hi there! We are Stefan and Sebastien, Greek/French couple behind the travel blog Nomadic Boys. Since we met in 2009, we have been travelling all around the world together, visiting over 100 countries.

Our mission is to inspire you, the gay traveller, and show you that you can visit more places in the world than you thought possible, by providing a first-hand account of our travel adventures, to help you plan a fun and safe trip.

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15 thoughts on “Hike the Tiger Leaping Gorge in one day”

  1. Hi I am planning to do the hike in couple of weeks and found your post really useful.How I do go the point where the tiger leapt From TINA’s ?Is it on the way to middle gorge from Tina’s?And where can I take the ladder?

    • Hi Sekar thanks for your comment. We did the trek from Lijiang and finished at Tina’s (you can’t miss it – everyone ends there). From Tina’s there’s a smaller mini trek to do in a few hours which has the ladder on the way up.

  2. We just did the hike over the weekend and used your post as a reference. We too stayed at Tibet Guest House after hiking from the Upper Tiger Leaping Gorge to Tina’s and loved it. We went down the path near the Tibet Guest House to the viewing platform in the Middle Tiger Leaping Gorge and then went up to Sandy’s Guest House on the main road using the Sky Ladder. The Ladder is more sturdy than it looks!

  3. Hi, you referred me to your Blog with a comment in Unbrave Girl’s Blog. Thanks. I am new to this blogging and I like yours too.
    I do have some comments and some questions and apologize for this long comment. I am an old man and some would question why I would want to take the time to write a long comment, when I don’t have that much time left. I do, because I believe we should all fully enjoy our time left, AND I am going to live to be 100 anyway. Actually, living to be 100 is the only thing on my Bucket List. I figure if I can do that, I can do all those other things.
    The photograph of the river, that you start your post off with, is awesome! I can almost feel the rock shake under me and the deafening sound of the water penetrating deep into my body. Ah, Mother Nature, beautiful and overwhelming. What a picture! And to think, some people actually prefer to drive along the road in a stuffy, jolting car or bus. 🙁 I have read many times these vehicles have gone off the road and ended up in the river. Folks, THAT IS NOT the gentle Yulong River of Yangshuo!
    Both the Naxi omelet and the Tibetan baba bread sure sound good. I can almost taste them.
    In the picture of the Naxi omelet, you are holding a fork. It would appear to me that it would be better eaten like a pizza, not eaten with a fork. Is that Sabastien, and is he really trying to impress us that he is French and that the French invented the fork??? Big deal, the Chinese invented the wheelbarrow. Have you ever tried to carry a load of rocks or a bunch of dirt with a fork?
    The Tibetan baba bread with honey reminds me very much of our sopapillas, we make and eat here in New Mexico. The “illa” is pronounced like the last part of Sofia. It is a deep fried pastry, typically filled with honey and is of American Spanish origin. Unlike baba bread, it swells up when fried, typically leaving a huge cavity inside and looking like a little pillow. This cavity is then “partially” filled with honey, OR, you can toss caution to the wind, and fill it full. The only problem with the latter is, when full, some or a lot of the honey will leak out and onto your fingers, shirt, pants, the table, etc. BTW, is it bad manners to lick your fingers in China? In the US, “Finger Licking Good” is a sign of exceptional taste.
    I have read quite a bit on the Halfway House and Tina’s, but the Tibetan Guesthouse is new to me. It sounds great and I also think it is worth a stop, if not just just for the baba bread.
    I had definitely thought he rebar vertical ladder sounds like an experience on its own. I had definitely planned on trying it and I am disappointed that you didn’t try it. Did it really look that dangerous?
    Also, why does everyone hike up the 28 turns? It seems to me that it would make sense to hike the trail in the opposite direction, so you can hike down the 28 Turns.
    I almost forgot a question. I am an amateur photographer. Most people hike the Gorge in two days. Should I plan on doing it in three days to have adequate time for my photography?
    Well, I envy you your hike through Tiger Leaping Gorge and will definitely take that hike myself and probably climb the rebar latter, when I return in 2015. Thanks

    • Hello hello lovely Pleddie and thank you for your comment! We think 2 days is more than enough and will give you plenty of time for photography.

      We really admire your attitude and wish we are both like you when we are your age!

      Now let’s get one thing clear – the French did not invent the fork and the Chinese did not invent the wheelbarrow and sopapillas is NOT from New Mexico.

      It’s all Greek. Yes that’s right my friend, the Greeks got there first. Then you lot just copied it and gave it a French/Chinese/etc name

      He he he

      I’m kidding but I remind Sebastien of this fact when he gets on his high French horse 🙂

      I like your 100 years old idea for bucket list and that’s certainly mine!

  4. We were thinking of going here soon (weather depending) and I have really boring practical question for you both…! What did you decide to do with your luggage while you did the trek? My backpack is just a bit too big to be dragging it along with me and am trying to work out best where to leave it.

    • Hi Helen thanks for your comment.

      Most people leave their luggage on the coach and it all goes to Tina’s guesthouse where you are reunited with it the next day. Tina seems to have a mini corporation going on over there!

      Let us know when you’ve done it – would love to compare notes 🙂

  5. Watching from these very many miles afar, this is my favourite of your adventures to date. What an incredible piece of nature to see and what an exciting and daring way to reach it. I sooooo would have done the ladder if I was there 😉

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