Day Hikes Tiger Leaping Gorge


Please read the explanation of hiking times, distances, altitudes and rating levels here.

These day hikes navigate portions of Tiger Leaping Gorge (虎跳峡) in the southern part of the Haba massif. Altitudes range between 1,750 and 2,700 meters, except for Miner’s Pass, which tops out at 3,870 meters.

Hiking times on this website do not include rest breaks. See the explanation here.

1. Descent to the Jinsha River

1. Descent to the Jinsha River

Region: Tiger Leaping Gorge
Itinerary: Tiger Leaping Gorge Highway—Jinsha River
Duration: 3-4 hours round-trip
Altitude in Meters: Start 1,930 (Teacher Zhang's) or 2,000 (Walnut Garden). Destination 1,750
Elevation Gain: 180-250 meters
Rating: Moderate

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

Summary: The descent to the Jinsha River (金沙江) 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. There are several trails linking the Tiger Leaping Gorge highway with the river bottom. The local Naxi ethnic community maintains the trails and you should expect to pay a fee (or fees) for their use and upkeep.

See below for the four paths linked to the bottom of the gorge. The last two incorporate ladders that may be utilized on the ascent. Descending the ladder would create a dangerous situation for those coming up. Each ladder has approximately 170 steps set at a near-vertical angle. Best to avoid under wet conditions, if you are not in good physical condition, or if you are scared of heights. For a less hair-raising experience, ascend out of the gorge to Teacher Zhang’s or Walnut Garden Village (options 1. and 2.). In fact, the traverse between these two, in either direction, is a rewarding way to experience the gorge.

1. Teacher Zhang’s Path (ascending or descending)
Teacher Zhang’s Guest House (张老师客栈) is located a short distance down the road (south) from Tina’s. Go past the main building to find the top of the popular trail, where an attendant is usually present to collect a fee. The path switchback’s steeply down into the abyss. This is the “Middle Line” shown on the map.

2. Walnut Garden Path (ascending or descending)
Start from the vicinity of either Sean’s or Woody’s Guest House. At Sean’s, ask where the path begins. At Woody’s, follow a road down toward the river that connects to a path continuing further on down. The trail makes a more gradual descent than the one at Teacher Zhang’s. After getting close to the river, the trail continues on an exciting path cut into the sheer cliff. Beyond, you may encounter an attendant collecting a fee.

Upon reaching the rivers edge, you have the option to cross a suspension bridge over to the “Tiger Leaping Rock”, for a small fee.

3. Brave Ladder Path (ascending only)
This is the “Southern Line” shown on the map. The crux is a series of steep-angled ladders with 168 steps, dubbed “The Brave Ladder” (勇者梯, yongzhe ti). The path tops out at Teacher Zhang’s.

4. Sky Ladder Path (ascending only)
This is the “Northern Line” on the map. The Sky Ladder (天梯, tian ti) reportedly has 170 steps and a walk around if you don’t want to grapple with the ladder. The path reaches the Tiger Leaping Gorge highway near Sandy’s Guest House, the Tianti Inn and the Bridge Cafe. Tina’s is a short walk away on the other side of the Shenchuan Bridge (神川大桥).

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
Distance: 4 km one-way
Altitude in Meters: Start 2,050. End 2,360
Elevation Gain: 350 meters
Rating: Moderate (very rugged trail)

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 prefer to make a round-trip journey starting at Tina’s, the hike up to the ravine stairway and back takes two hours, excluding rest breaks. The trail is unusually rugged and exposed. Not recommended for small children. Inexperienced hikers would be well advised to hire a guide.

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—Miner’s Pass
Duration: 4½ hours round-trip
Distance: 8 km 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 Haba and Jade Dragon, the two glacial peaks 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.

Written by
Ken Krov