Tiger Leaping Gorge is divided into 3 sections, upper, middle and lower. Upper and middle is closer to Shangrila and lower is closer to Lijiang.
Shanghutiao Canyon (上虎跳) simply refers to the upper section, which is the most popular section for tourists, because the walk is shorter compared to the other two.
This section is accessible by car and we visited it while enroute from Lijiang to Shangrila.
The entrance fee we paid was 65 RMB per person.
Our driver helped us buy tickets, then drove us along a very long road to arrive at this carpark. Over here, we walked down the steps to view the rapids at the bottom. The car ride is long but it shortens the time spent walking. Although it doesn't seem difficult, some people might have difficulty also due to the higher altitude.
If you can't handle the walk, there are also men who will offer you a seat on a wooden chair rack called "jiao zi" in Mandarin (轿子). Then they will carry you down and back up. I heard it cost about 100 RMB each way, split between two of them.
This walk wouldn't take you more than 2 hours. You get to enjoy the view from the top and as you walk down, you will hear the thunderous sound of the rapids. Look out for the stone structure of a tiger on the other side of the gorge.
From this route, you will see the lower section of the Tiger Leaping Gorge "xiahutiao" (下虎跳) across on the other side. This route is, as its name suggests, lower and accessible from Lijiang side. This section features an extremely long walk!
If you want to access the middle section of Tiger Leaping Gorge "Zhonghutiao" (中虎跳), you will also arrive at the same carpark as Shanghutiao, where you would have to pay another 150 RMB for a special car to take you through the tunnel to where you can begin a long and physically challenging walk. People spend 4 or 5 hours on this walking route, so be prepared.
As we come from a city where there are no natural landscapes, this was an eye-opening experience for the family. It was also good weather when we went (May 6), cloudy and cool, so it made the walk a lot more enjoyable and less strenuous. However, if you have seen major gorges and rapids and waterfalls before, this might not be worth your time.
For us, visiting the Tiger Leaping Gorge is worthwhile if you are enroute to Shangrila or Lijiang depending on which way you are coming from. But if it was a day trip there and back, it might disappoint.
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