At 7:00, we get picked up at our hotel to bring us to Qiaotou, the beggining of the Tiger Leaping Gorge trek. The ride takes a bit less than two hours.
From here, you can either take a taxi / van to Naxi Family Guesthouse and start the hike or you can hike for two hours to get there. Or more like three if you’re like us and stop to take thousands of photos.
Another option is, before you start the hike, to get a taxi to the upper Tiger Leaping Gorge where you can see the famouse image of the raging water below the platform. It can get very touristy as this is where most tourist buses stop for photos, and there’s loads of steps to go down and then back up, but it’s worth it. After this, you can go back to Qiaotou to start the hike.
The first half of this trek is not that impressive, as it’s mostly on a concrete road in the middle of construction works. But then you leave this road and you start to get up the mountain (at the beginning, it was steeper than we expected. In our opinion, this was the most challenging but of the whole hike, even more than. The 28 bends) and the scenery changes.
There’s one stop along the way where you can buy water, nuts or even some weed! There’s Redbull too, as it seems to be the drink of choice, you’ll see empty cans of it everywhere.
Halfway through the hike, you start walking in between pines and the views get quite impressive.
Before you know it, you’re at the end of the first stage and you have arrived at the little village of Zhongnuoyu, where you’ll find the Naxi Family Guesthouse.
We are taking our time with the hike, so we’re doing it in three days instead of two, as most people do. If you have the time, this is a good option as you have the chance to stay in Naxi Family Guesthouse:
and chill for an afternoon while enjoying the stunning views. That way you can also be rested for the infamous 28 bends the next morning. The family who run the guesthouse are lovely, the rooms are basic but very comfortable and clean (¥120 for a double with private bathroom) and the views from the courtyard are unbeatable.
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After a filling breakfast (a type of pancake with eggs and tomato, so basically pizza for breakfast. Yum!) at the guesthouse with the sun coming up behind the mountain, we set off to tackle the 28 bends.
I start counting them but after the 6th I give up. Ignorance is bliss. They are challenging, specially since you’re probably carrying a heavy backpack but, as I said, we found the beginning of day one more difficult and steep.
From here, the rest of the way to the Teahorse Guesthouse is much easier, most of the time shaded by the trees and in the company of loads of goats roaming free.
Teahorse Guesthouse is a good place to stop for lunch / a bit tired if you’re feeling a bit tired and it has amazing views:
We decide to continue a couple more hours to the Halfway Lodge, as it’s mostly through a paved road.
We had lunch at the Halfway Lodge, which has great toilet views (not to miss!). It was ok but the place was a bit chaotic with all the hikers coming from both directions that had gathered there.
The part of the hike from here to Tina’s guesthouse is very impressive. Most of the time you’re walking on a very narrow, rocky path with the mountain wall on one side and sheer drop on the other.
After this breathtaking bit, you get to the descent to Tina’s guesthouse, which is quite painful: looong way down, through a steep and dusty path, relentless. Finally you see Tina’s. As I read on another blog that I can’t remember now, “a big, white concrete box that stands out for the wrong reasons”.
Given how charming the other guesthouses are, we don’t want to stay here. Instead, we choose Tibet guesthouse as we have read very good things about it and it doesn’t disappoint. It’s about 3km down from Tina’s but it’s all on the road, so quite an easy walk.
The food at Tibet guesthouse is delicious.
Our room is a bit more tired than at Naxi but very comfortable too. It is run by the whole family and they are super helpful and nice. We have a good chat over dinner, they explaine to us how to get to the Middle Tiger Leaping Gorge and they arrange transportation for the next day back to Lijiang. Most people buy their tickets at Tina’s but you can buy them here too for the bus or even for a minivan.
As we’ve missed the Upper Tiger Leaping Gorge, in the morning we do the last bit of the hike to the Middle Tiger Leaping Gorge, which takes 3 hours.
After around 10 minutes walk on the road, we see the sign indicating the descent.
It’s ¥15 per person to use the trail down, to be paid to the local farmer that will be around the entrance of the path. This is because all the paths are built and maintained by the local farmers, not the government.
Once you reach the bottom (quite a long way down), you can either continue left to Walnut Grove or right to the Middle Tiger Leaping Gorge. The way is quite cool, along the rocky wall in what’s called Ray of Sunshine to the Gorge.
Once you get to the gorge, you’ll see a door. You can pay only ¥5 to go through towards their lookout and then back where you came from or ¥15 to go to the lookout and then use their path up (quite steep).
Once you get to the lookout, you’ll see a rope bridge going to a big rock. To use it, it’s another ¥10.
It was a great finish to our visit to the stunning Gorge.