Tiger Leaping Gorge

Tiger Leaping Gorge, just outside Lijiang, is part of the aptly named Three Parallel Rivers of Yannan Protected Areas World Heritage Site. One of the three rivers, the Jinsha, runs through the lush, deep gorge. The other two rivers, the Mekong and Salween Rivers also flow through the Hengduan Mountains. Also called the Golden Sands River, the Jinsha is a tributary of the mighty Yangtze River. Both the gorge and the river are popular destinations for Lijiang trekking adventures.

Tiger Leaping Gorge
Tiger Leaping Gorge

Whether you’re looking for high adventure or just out to see the scenery, a visit to Tiger Leaping Gorge will prove rewarding. The gorge is about 15 kilometers long (just over 9 miles), and it’s one of the deepest gorges on earth. It’s sparsely populated by the Naxi People of China. This indigenous people group makes its living primarily from grain farming and leading visitors on Lijiang trekking expeditions. They’re the same group that built the glorious Old Town Lijiang, one whose culture stretches back more than 800 years.

Tiger Leaping Gorge is nestled between Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and Haba Snow Mountain. The river runs into deep rapids in between cliffs as steep as 60-story buildings. The narrowest point of the mountain—still 82 feet wide—is where the cliff got its name. According to legend, a tiger jumped across the river gorge at this point. Even though this is just a story, the name is still remarkable.

Because of the rapids and other conditions, the river gorge is not a place for rafting. But if you want to explore on foot, this is the place for you. Well-maintained trails make Lijiang trekking quite accessible, although the road is narrow at certain points. Several guesthouses are located along the way, giving hikers a place to rest and stop for some tea. You’ll also find waterfalls and plenty of dramatic scenery. You’ll want to make sure you bring along a camera along with the rest of your hiking gear on these unforgettable Chinese vacations.

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