The Tiger Leaping Gorge hiking trail is well known in China. According to the legend, a huge tiger — fleeing from hunters — leaped the gorge with the help of a stone in the middle of the river, and escaped.
The gorge has an upper trail and a lower trail. The lower trail has a sealed road, and buses and rickshaws bring (mostly Chinese) tourists to different viewing platforms to take photos.
It is mostly Western visitors who do the Tiger Leaping Gorge hike on the narrow and tiring path of the upper trail. From the starting point of the trail, right next to the road between Lijiang town and “Shangri-La”, to the end of the Tiger Leaping Gorge, it is a good two-day hike.
There are several guest houses on the upper trail (Naxi Guesthouse, The Halfway House, etc.) to stay over night, with good dinner and breakfast and an amazing view.
The first day of the track is exhausting, but less challenging than the second day. On the first day trail, there are often locals waiting along the path with their horses to pick up tourists that give up walking.
It is possible to walk down to the road after the first day hike, and even on the second day, there are several paths to get down to the road early and avoid having to walk the entire path.
At the end of the second day, the trail leads back down to the road. There is a youth hostel and several guest houses along the road. If you still have the energy, you can go on the two hour walk down to the river.
Taxis and buses are available to bring hikers back to the entrance point of the Tiger Leaping Gorge. Hike back on the road if you like, so you can have a look at the “official viewing spots” where mostly Chinese tourists are arriving in buses to take pictures of themselves in front of the Tiger Leaping Gorge.