Day Hikes Tiger Leaping Gorge

These day hikes navigate portions of Tiger Leaping Gorge in the southern part of the Haba massif. Altitudes range between 1,750 and 2,700 meters, with the exception of Miner’s Pass, which tops out at 3,900 meters.


1. Descent to the Jinsha River

1. Descent to the Jinsha River

Region: Tiger Leaping Gorge
Itinerary: Teacher Zhang’s Guest House—Jinsha River
Duration: 3 hours round-trip
Altitude in Meters: Start 1,930. Destination 1,750
Elevation Gain: 180 meters
Rating: Moderate

Summary: The descent to the Jinsha River comes highly recommended. At the bottom, “the true scale of the gorge and the ferocity of the river both become readily apparent,” as one visitor noted. You can start from Teacher Zhang’s Guest House (张老师客栈), which is located a short distance south of Tina’s Guest House (中峰国际青年旅舍). An alternative start begins at Walnut Garden Village (核桃园). A trail cut into the canyon wall just above the river links the two. The trails are maintained by local Naxi families and you should expect to pay a small fee (or fees) for their use. One of the trails, dubbed The Brave Ladder (勇者梯), ascends out of the gorge on a 168-step ladder set at a near-vertical angle. Avoid in wet conditions or if you are scared of heights. The normal descent/ascent route from Teacher Zhang’s, a steep path with switch backs, offers a less hair-raising experience.

Map credit: Diqing Shangri-La Tiger-Leaping Gorge Tourism Management Co. Ltd


2. Short Gorge Hikes

2. Short Gorge Hikes

Region: Tiger Leaping Gorge
Duration: From a couple of hours to less than a day
Altitude in Meters: Between 1,840 to 2,610 depending on itinerary
Elevation Gain: Various
Rating: Easy to Moderate

Summary: Several locations accessible by car intersect with the classic Tiger Leaping Gorge trekking path. First, at either end: Qiaotou (桥头镇) and Tina’s Guest House. And second, in between: Naxi Family Guest House (纳西客栈), Tea Horse Inn (茶马客栈), and Bendiwan Village (本地湾村). From these points, various short excursions may be undertaken. One example: the hike from Tina’s Guest House toward Qiaotou up to a trailside temple (one hour one-way). A few minutes beyond the temple, Dragon Cave Waterfall (龙洞瀑布) splashes directly onto the path.

With car support, hikers can complete an abbreviated trek from one guest house to another. For example, from Naxi Guest House to Tea Horse Inn. This allows them to toil their way to the top of the 28 Bends (28道拐), the über-scenic high point of the classic trekking path at 2,610 meters.


3. Bamboo Forest Path

3. Bamboo Forest Path

Region: Tiger Leaping Gorge
Itinerary: Tina’s Guest House—Ravine Stairway—Luke’s Hostel
Duration: 2½ hours one-way
Altitude in Meters: Start 2,050. End 2,360
Elevation Gain: 400 meters
Rating: Moderate (very rugged trail in spots)

Summary: The Bamboo Forest Path (竹林小路) linking Tina’s Guest House and Luke’s Hostel, passes through Dashengou Canyon (大深沟), a wild gulch with cascades and waterfalls. Halfway up, a picturesque stairway bridges the ravine. If you would rather make a round-trip journey starting at Tina’s, the hike up to the ravine stairway and back takes two hours, excluding rest breaks. A guide is recommended for inexperienced hikers.


4. Empty Glad Platform

4. Empty Glad Platform

Region: Tiger Leaping Gorge
Itinerary: Luke’s Hostel—Empty Glad Platform
Duration: 3 hours round-trip
Altitude in Meters: Start 2,360. Destination 2,680
Elevation Gain: 320 meters
Rating: Moderate

Summary: Empty Glad Platform (空欢喜观景台) offers one of the best views of Tiger Leaping Gorge. The odd name just might express that feeling of emptiness beneath your feet. You should start from Luke’s Hostel and hike the initial portion of the Luke-Haba Route.


5. Miner’s Pass

5. Miner’s Pass

Region: Tiger Leaping Gorge
Itinerary: Mining District—Yak Meadow—Miner’s Pass
Duration: 4½ hours round-trip
Altitude in Meters: Start 3,000. Destination 3,870
Elevation Gain: 870 meters
Rating: Challenging

Summary: The view from Miner’s Pass affords a glimpse of the remote valley to which I have given the name Haba Muru Sanctuary (哈巴雪山庇护所). The pass also affords excellent views of glacial peaks Haba and Jade Dragon, the two massifs on either side of Tiger Leaping Gorge. A car is necessary to traverse rough mining roads from Bendiwan Village (本地湾村) up to the trailhead. Add the round-trip drive time of 1 hour to time on the trail, for a total trip length of 5½ hours, excluding rest breaks. For details, review the page for Miner’s Pass Route (矿工垭口路线). Hiring a guide is recommended.