Our third day was our shortest day: all we did was hike down to the Tiger Leaping Stone and back. There are two trails; both cost 10 yuan to enter. We chose the one near Sandy’s Guesthouse, which we were told was faster, because it utilizes two ladders.
The other trail has no ladders, only switchbacks. A guy we met along the trail told us that the other trail was more scenic, but we had heard that to go down one trail and come back another would cost double. The trails are run by locals, so the official Tiger Leaping Gorge ticket doesn’t cover entry to these paths. Normally an extra 20 yuan wouldn’t bother us, but we were low on cash and had to save our money for the bus ride back to Lijiang. We hadn’t budgeted well, and there are no ATMs or places to exchange money in the gorge. There are ATMs in Qiaotou, but we tried two of them, and they didn’t accept our card. Maybe they don’t accept foreign cards? Anyway, lesson learned. Again.
It took us just under an hour for each of the descent and ascent. We had seen such incredible scenery on our first two days of hiking that today was a bit of a letdown. There’s not much to see along the way. Reaching the bottom and sitting near the rushing water was exhilarating, but there was little else to look at. The view from the road, high above the gorge, is more impressive than the view up close. As every other visitor before us has probably done, we discussed whether it was possible for a tiger to leap across the river. We decided it was unlikely.
And we took the obligatory commemorative photos:
We went back to Lijiang in a minibus run by Tina’s Guesthouse, which cost 50 yuan per person. Sandy’s Guesthouse also runs minibuses, for the same price. To go back only as far as Qiaotou is 20 yuan. On our first day, we paid 37 yuan each for the bus from Lijiang to Qiaotou, so 50 from the Middle Gorge seemed reasonable to me.
From Qiaotou, it’s also possible to get a minibus TO the Middle Gorge and then just take day hikes, such as to the Tiger Leaping Stone or to one of the waterfalls. I think that while the Middle Gorge is spectacular, I enjoyed the scenery the whole way. I’m glad that we did the whole hike, and if you are inclined and able-bodied, that’s what I would recommend.
All guesthouses serve food, which is mostly bland, generic Chinese and Western food, written out on bamboo stick menus. Prices are about 10-20 yuan for a main dish, and 10 yuan for a large bottle of Dali beer.
Tea Horse Guesthouse
For hikers who aim to complete the trek in two days, this place is at a very convenient stopping point. A bed in a dorm is 25 yuan per night. The pita bread dishes are good value- the pieces of bread are very big. The noodle soups are pretty good, too. The lady who runs the place is very friendly. If they’re full, there is another guesthouse next door, whose name escapes me.
Affiliated with HI/YHA, so if you are a member, beds are 20 yuan. Non-members pay 25 yuan. Only three beds per room, and as there are few solo travelers in the gorge, we ended up with a room to ourselves.
While the guesthouse is fine, the restaurant is not great. Definitely do not order the vegetable noodle soup, unless you like eating noodles floating in eggy water, garnished with slices of tomato. The fried rice is passable. I recommend eating at Bridge Cafe instead.
Bridge Cafe and Guesthouse
Run by a sweet Japanese woman who also speaks English and Chinese. Her cafe, unlike the others we stopped at, serves very tasty dishes made with all fresh ingredients, like organic vegetables from her garden and local goat cheese. It comes at a slightly higher price- 15-30 yuan for a main dish, but highly recommended. Also- if this matters to you- the only Western-style toilet that I found in the gorge is here. They also have rooms.