Tiger Leaping Gorge – Diqing Zangzuzizhizhou, China - Atlas Obscura

Tiger Leaping Gorge

Diqing Zangzuzizhizhou, China

One of the word's deepest gorges is also tied to a fantastic legend.  

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The Tiger Leaping Gorge is one of the tributaries that belongs to the mighty Yangtze River in southeast China.

The canyon received its peculiar name from an old Chinese legend that told of a tiger who escaped a hunter by leaping across the gorge. The altitude difference between the surrounding mountain peaks and the riverbed reaches well over 12,000 feet (3,800 meters), making it one of the deepest gorges on the planet. The gorge also belongs to the Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan Protected Areas World Heritage Site.

Besides the spectacular scenery, a hike along the gorge is also a cultural trip. The area is inhabited by the indigenous Naxi people, who live in a handful of secluded hamlets. Most travelers choose “The High Road” trail, which is well maintained and way-marked. However, the terrain is very rough, and the 14 mile (22 kilometer) trail is typically traversed in two days. Hikers can stay overnight in one of the guesthouses along the way.

The scenery is varied and includes authentic villages, agricultural terraces, waterfalls, high mountains, and sheer cliffs. The most challenging section of the trail is known as “28 Bends,” named for its 28 steep uphill serpentine curves.

Know Before You Go

There are multiple daily buses that head to the start of the trail from Lijiang. There is an entry fee of 65RMB paid at the ticket booths at either end of the trail. The best time to visit is between April-June. Guesthouses along the way that cost around 40 RMB.