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Home Travel in Yunnan Tiger Leaping Gorge
Tiger Leaping Gorge
Travel in Yunnan

Tiger Leaping Gorge

Tiger Leaping Gorge (hǔ tiào xiá 虎跳峡) is believed to be the deepest gorge in the world. From the top of the gorge you look down the steeply angled (70-90 degrees) mountain sides to the rushing Golden Sands River ( jīn shā jiāng金沙江) with its 18 frothing rapids more than 200 meters (about 700 feet) below.

The gorge is divided into three sections: Upper, Middle and Lower Hutiao. At the narrowest spot the river is only 30 meters wide. The mouth of the gorge is 1,800 meters above sea level. The river is flanked by Yulong and Haba snow mountains, with a height difference of 3,900 meters. It is one of the deepest gorges in the world.

Upper Tiger Leaping Gorge
Upper Tiger Leaping GorgeFlowing through Shigu Town, the Jinsha River is flanked by the Yulong Snow Mountain to the east and the Haba Snow Mountain to the west. From the top of the Yulong Snow Mountain to the bottom of the gully is a drop of 3,700 meters, making it 1,800 meters deeper than the Colorado Grand Canyon, while the Haba Snow Mountain slopes gradually in its upper regions and is steeper further down. The mountain is 5,396 meters above sea level and the lowest point on the bank of the Jinsha River is 1,550 meters above sea level. The two mountains flanking the Jinsha River form a 15-km Gorge -- Tiger Leaping Gorge, further classified into the upper, middle and lower Tiger Leaping Gorge.

The Upper Tiger Leaping Gorge is the narrowest section, and in the center of the river is a huge rock called Tiger Leaping Rock. It is said that a tiger once leapt from the east bank, clearing the rock, to land on the west bank, hence its name.

Middle Tiger Leaping Gorge
altThe most perilous section is the Middle Tiger Leaping Gorge, which features a huge drop in water level. Six km away from the upper gorge is a waterfall where the river crashes down over 100 meters hitting the rocks in the river bed and creating violent currents.
In one 100-meter section are numerous reefs, and the current is torrential. The gorge is rarely traversed by humans, but on the slope between the Middle and Lower Tiger Leaping Gorge there is a small village -- Hetaoyuan Village, which has little contact with the outside, and where villagers lead a simple and natural life, dwelling in stone-plate houses.

Lower Tiger Leaping Gorge
altThe most important sight in the lower gorge is the Feixing Rapids, from which people can look down on the unconstrained Jinshajiang River. A 32 km long road from the Haba Mountain to Jiangbian Village has been opened to traffic, but traveling on foot is much more interesting.
From Wlanut Grove to Haba, via Jiangbian, it is seven to eight hours. From here to the Yi village of Sanba is about the same, following trails. You could just follow the road and hitch with the occasional truck or tracker but this way is longer and less scenic. Some hardy mountain bikers have followed the trails but this is really only fun from north to south, elevations being what they are. The best way would be to hire a guide.

 Tiger Leaping GorgeIn Haba most people stay at Haba Snow Mountain Inn; In Sanba the Shanzhuangluguan. From Sanba there is an 8 am bus to Zhongdian (five hours), or you could get off at the turn-off to Emerald Pagoda Lake (Bita Lake, 25 km east of Zhongdia) and hike there.
Useful Tips: This is a great sightseeing stop with enormous photo opportunities. Bring your camera, wear skidproof shoes, and be prepared to be astonished.

Typically the hike is spread over two days but a slower pace will afford you to time contemplate the natural surrounds while unwinding in the quietude of the villages.

Get In, Get Out
altThere are flights to Lijiang from all major Chinese cities, or alternatively it can be reached by long-distance bus from Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province. There are several buses per day from Lijiang to Qiaotou.

From Lijiang: Morning buses to Qiaotao (¥26, 2hrs) leave from the high-speed bus station, stopping to pick up passengers at the new Southern Bus station down the road. Catch it from either one.

To/from Qiaotao/Walnut Garden: Minivans do the 30min trip between either end of the trek. The cost should be ¥80 for the entire van. Drivers will ask for more.
If you are heading north to Zhongdian or coming from there, take the east alternative road instead of the main road. It is a little bit longer but quieter with fantastic mountain landscapes. The tarmac is very good for bikes. You can think about doing some camping along this road.

Sleep and Eat
altNumerous family run guesthouses are conveniently dotted along the trail. Prices rise during the peak periods but outside of these times guesthouses are cheap and blissfully quiet. Qiaotou has a handful of comfortable hotels but there is little reason to stay. Starting the walk at midday leaves ample time to reach Naxi Guesthouse or push on to 5-Fingers Guesthouse. In (average) time and distance order from Qiaotou along the high trail.

Admission Fee: CNY 50
Opening Hours: 08:30 to 18:00
Spring is the best time as the river turbulence is at its peak (melting snow flows down from the Himalayan mountains).
Fall is the second best period because of its generally pleasant weather. Rains are heaviest during late summer.

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