An unmissable highlight of China’s southwest for any keen hiker is the Tiger Leaping Gorge, or ‘Hutiao Xia’ in Mandarin. The canyon ranks among the deepest in the world, with walls rearing 3,720m (12,434ft) from the frothing, grey-brown waters of the Jinsha River to the snowy summits of the Haba Xueshan range.
Although a road has been carved along the gorge’s lower flanks, the old footpath traversing its higher slopes offers a supremely memorable way to experience the area’s scenery. Most people tend to take a half-day tour of the gorge, either from Lijiang or Shangri-la. Longer treks, however, are possible and it takes between 2 and 3 days to complete, spending the night in simple Naxi guest houses along the way, where you can wake up to a flask of steaming green tea and vista of ice peaks burnished with dawn sunlight.
Because of the constantly changing nature of the high trail, we always recommend clients are accompanied by an experienced local guide. We’ll also arrange ponies to carry your luggage between stages, so you don’t have to trek with a heavy backpack. Even so, some stretches of this trail are very steep, requiring a good degree of physical fitness.