Tiger Leaping Gorge (Chinese: 虎跳峡; pinyin: Hǔ tiào xiá) is a scenic canyon on the Jinsha River, a primary tributary of the upper Yangtze River. It is located 60 kilometers (37 mi) north of Lijiang City, Yunnan in southwestern China. It is part of the Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan Protected Areas World Heritage Site.
At a maximum depth of approximately 3,790 meters (12,434 feet) from the river to the mountain peak, Tiger Leaping Gorge is one of the deepest and most spectacular river canyons in the world. The inhabitants of the gorge are primarily the indigenous Naxi people, who live in a handful of small hamlets. Their primary subsistence comes from grain production and hikers.
There is a lot to recommend on the hike along the Upper Trail of China’s Tiger Leaping Gorge (there is a lower trail, but it’s a poor option): it is yet to become commercialized; you don’t require a guide to do it; and the views as you head out from your starting point, the village of Qiaotou, will last you a lifetime. Just be sure to politely refuse the many offers from the local Naxi people of a pony to help you on your way.
This is one fabulous hike, and you don’t want to be doing it in a saddle.
Tiger Leaping Gorge is a canyon on the Jinsha River, a tributary of the upper Yangtze River and a contender for the world’s deepest river canyon, thanks to the twin peaks of Haba Snow Mountain at 17,703 feet (5,396 m) and Jade Dragon Snow Mountain at 18,360 feet (5,596 m), between which the Jinsha flows.
According to legend, in order to escape from a pursuing hunter, a tiger leaped 80 feet (25 m) across the gorge to freedom.
The trail is marked and well-maintained. It passes waterfalls and heated guesthouses reminiscent of the teahouse trails of Nepal, which can provide you with a refreshing, sweet rosebud tea and a hot shower. The precipitous trail is Nepal-like, too, taking you through forests of pine and bamboo and coming precariously close to cliffs that fall away to the distant river below. If tempted, when you reach the trail’s end at Walnut Grove by the river’s edge after descending from the clouds, you can continue with a guide into the mountains beyond. These are inhabited by Tibetan and Yi tribes and you can discover why Yunnan is China’s most ethnically diverse province.
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