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Tiger Leaping Gorge in Lijiang

After making its first turn at Shigu the mighty Yangtze River surges between the Haba Mountains and the Jade Dragon Snow Mountian, through what is one of the deepest gorges in the world. The entire gorge extends about 10 miles (16km), and from the water of the river to the mountaintop is a giddy 3900. Some parts of it are so narrow (90 feet) that it has been exaggeratedly considered that a tiger can leap over the whirling water.

The area opened to foreign tourists in 1993, and initially attracted adventurous backpackers. Now there are a trail and a lower road. Hiking the length of the gorge is possible. The hiking path is well-maintained and marked, although sometimes narrow, and is used by the Naxi as part of everyday life. This trail is longer than the lower road, approximately 22 kilometres (14 miles), but more varied, with fantastic scenery - mainly mountain views - a challenge for most but well worth it. It features a surprising variety of microecosystems, waterfalls and a fair number of guesthouses for trekkers. These guesthouses are not well heated, which combined with the unpredictable nature of high mountain weather makes this trek unadvisable during the rainy season.

The lower road, stretching about 195 km (121 mi) from Qiaotou through the Gorge, is a stretch of pavement (until recently a simple mule track) crossed by several waterfalls, and frequently beset by rockslides. Some portions of the road have been known to disappear into the river below. The road follows the Yangtze, so there are more views of the river, and a stronger sense of being in a gorge than on the upper trail. Where the high road descends to meet the lower road, one can climb down to the river near the Tiger Leaping Stone, the point at which the tiger is said to have leaped.

Tiger Leaping Gorge Map