China // Yunnan //

Tiger Leaping Gorge

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Around 70km north of Lijiang, the Yangzi River channels violently through Tiger Leaping Gorge (虎跳峡, hŭtiào xiá), the 3000m-deep rift between Haba Xue Shan to the north and Yulong Xue Shan to the south. The hiking trail through the gorge is one of the most accessible and satisfying in China, with dramatic scenery and – despite the 2500m-plus altitude – relatively straightforward walking. That said, you’ll need to be fit, carrying full weatherproof gear, a torch and a first-aid pack, and to be stocked up with snacks and a water bottle. Solid boots are a plus but, as long as your shoes have a firm grip, not essential. Weather can be warm enough in summer to hike in a T-shirt, but don’t count on it; winters are cold. Accommodation along the way is in guesthouses, so you won’t need a tent. Two days is the minimum time needed for a hike; give yourself an extra day to make the most of the scenery.

There seem to be almost continual roadworks going on in the gorge, connected with ongoing construction of a hydro dam across the river. Landslides are a potentially lethal hazard, so do not hike in bad weather or during the June–September rainy season; there have also been a couple of knifepoint muggings of solo travellers in recent years.

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