Shangri-La is a place about the destination, not the journey. Mythically harmonious, happy and healthy, it’s heaven on earth. I, for one, thought that on the way to heaven you shouldn’t take the scenic route. Then I learned the truth, way and light: the journey to heaven on earth is at least as beautiful as heaven itself. Getting to Shangri-La, China by hiking Tiger Leaping Gorge provides one of the world’s most beautiful, easy, canyon hikes. Walking along the 6000+ foot walls from peak to the Yangtze River made the trip to Shangri-La at least as wondrous as the destination. Walk the “high road” to heaven yourself in this Tiger Leaping Gorge photo journal.
Narrow the path is, straight it is not. We can only assume that the side of the cliffs are paved in good intentions, with hell being the river flowing below. The above part of the hike is on the second day, between Tina’s and Woody’s guesthouse.
Looking down the gorge’s sheer cliffs there is little temptation to veer from the path of the righteous, but concentrating on what’s below instead of what’s in front of you will end your journey faster than Lot’s wife.
Much of the high road’s path is far from the river itself, among villages, trees, and waterfalls; throughout you can hear the roar of the river speeding through the tight canyon.
Taking time to rest, relax and enjoy the hike is important. There are many guesthouses and rest stops along the way to take care of your every need.
Halfway Guesthouse, conveniently located 2/3 of the way along path, is a popular place to spend the first night of the hike. It’s Inspiration Terrace provides stunning views of the gorge, great food and company.
This is the view from the rooms and dorms at Halfway Guesthouse. If there is a budget hotel with a better view, I have yet to see it.
The sun breaking over the 5595M (18,360 ft) Jade Snow Mountain on the second day of hiking.
Starting out on the second day, you will cross a cleansing waterfall preparing you for Shangri-La’s heaven.
The descent to the river and “Tiger Leaping Rock”, the rock that legend says a tiger used to escape a hunter, is arduous. Thankfully there are many resting spots along the way, many that offer cold drinks and a seat.
After two days of hiking we made it to the river bottom with my dog. She followed me the entire two days. When we were needed to descend ladders she began whimpering until LOCAVORista helped carried her down. While she was interested in the other hikers she traveled at my side, waited for me and always found me. I’ll tell you how I won her love: I was feeding her…
Nothing this great is free. Much of the path has been created by locals and crosses their land; they do not receive the park admission fees. To reimburse their efforts they charge visitors. The charges are small, usually $2 USD per person, adding up to less than $10 USD for the entire hike.
WHEN YOU GO:
- Get there from Lijiang or Shangri-la. Tiger Leaping Gorge is easily accessible with shuttles directly from backpacker hotels in Lijiang and Shangri-La to the start and end of the trail. While there is a public bus, the minor saving don’t offset the convenience of the shuttle from Panba Guesthouse (Lijiang), N’s Kitchen Lodge (Shangri-La) and other backpacker favorites. You can even have the shuttle bring your bags to a guesthouse on the other side of the hike so you don’t have to carry all your stuff!
- Hike from Tina’s to Woody’s. Most people hike until Tina’s and stop, which is too bad the path between Tina’s and Woody’s is the most beautiful section. Many of the photos you see above were taken on that path. If you are short on time, consider taking the shuttle to Tina’s and start hiking there.
- It gets cold. Night, even in the summer, is quite chilly. Make sure you have something to stay warm such as a thermal top and long pants.