China Adventures

Tiger Leaping Gorge and Black Sea Lake

A 5 day journey through one of the world's deepest river canyons, past the Baishuitai White Water Terraces and up Haba Mountain to Black Sea Lake at 4200 metres. We hike a total of 60 km, stay overnight with locals and pitch our tents at Yunnan's most scenic camping spot.

  • Key Info
  • Discounts & Inclusions
  • Travel season: all year
  • Length: 5 days
  • Hike level: 4 strong
  • Hiking Distance: 60 km
  • Departure time : 8 am
  • Price: 5900¥/ $875

Meeting/drop off point: Your hotel  in Lijiang or Shangri La

Day 1: Hike Tiger Leaping Gorge Upper Trail

Hiking duration: 4-5 hrs

Overnight in guesthouse

Day 2: Hike Tiger Leaping Gorge Lower Trail

Hiking duration: 6-7 hrs

Overnight in guesthouse

Day 3: Visit White Water Terraces & Naxi Villages

Easy hiking/acclimatization

Overnight in guesthouse

Day 4: Hike up Haba Mountain to Black Sea Lake

Hiking duration: 6-7 hrs

Camp overnight at Black Sea Lake

Day 5: Hike back to Haba Village

Hiking duration: 3-4 hrs

Transfer to Lijiang or Shangri La

Upcoming trip:

Detailed Itinerary

Hike 2 days through Tiger Leaping Gorge, one of the world’s deepest river canyons. Visit the beautiful Baishuitai White Water Terraces and ethnic minority Naxi villages. Hike up Haba Mountain and camp next to Black Sea Lake at 4200 metres.  It’s an awesome adventure that combines unique cultural attractions and serene natural beauty.

Day 1: Hike Tiger Leaping Gorge Upper Trail (4 to 5 hours)

We pick you up from your hotel in Lijiang or Shangri La between 7:30 and 8:30 am and  take you on a scenic drive to Tiger Leaping Gorge. Before the hike, we stop for lunch at the restaurant of a local Naxi family. The Naxi are the largest ethnic minority living in the Tiger Leaping Gorge area. Our hosts have been living here for many generations and made their home into a guesthouse that offers beautiful views of the gorge (see pic below). They serve a nice variety of Chinese and Western food.

Tiger Leaping Gorge day 1

View of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain towering over Tiger leaping Gorge from the Naxi guesthouse were we stop for lunch.

After lunch we start our trek and climb the famous 28 Bends. It usually takes about 2 hours from the start of the trek to the top of the 28 Bends. We take a break at the highest point of today’s hike, which offers an excellent view of the Jinsha River raging through Tiger Leaping Gorge (the Jinsha River is the name of the upper reaches of the Yangzte River). We hike the upper trail for 2 hours, passing 2 waterfalls and a bird’s-eye view point of the famous Tiger Leaping Rock, which lies in the middle of the river. Legend says that to escape from a hunter, a tiger jumped across the river using this rock, hence the name. By 5-6 pm we reach our guest house and settle down to a hearty dinner. There are plenty of dishes to choose from and cold beers are available to put us all in a good mood.

Day 2: Hike Tiger Leaping Gorge Lower Trail (6 -7 hours)

We start the day with breakfast and a cup of coffee (yes, they have a coffee machine!), then hike downhill for 2 to 3 hours. By noon we reach the middle part of the Tiger Leaping Gorge and enjoy a nice, big lunch. After lunch the hike gets tougher but more amazing with every step you take.

Tiger Leaping Gorge Lower trail

Tiger Leaping Gorge lower trail crossing the Jinsha River

We follow a small trail, climb down a steep cliff-side staircase and walk through a narrow pathway cut into the mountain. The mighty Jinsha River shows its immense strength as it rushes through the gorge between Haba Mountain and Jade Dragon Mountain . The 3-hour hike that follows is beautiful and mostly flat. For the last part of the trail we hike uphill through the Walnut Grove to a small but very nice Tibetan guesthouse where we celebrate the end of the day’s hike with a delicious meal and spend the night. The rooms are very comfortable and have excellent showers. Don’t miss out on their fantastic Tibetan yak butter tea as well!

Day 3: Visit the Baishuitai White Water Terraces and surrounding Naxi Villages.

In the morning, our van takes us for a 2-hour drive through dense forest to the Baishuitai White Water Terraces, a series of natural cascading pools formed by calcium-rich mineral deposits over a period of 250,000 years.  Located at the base of Haba Mountain, the terraces cover an area of 3 square kilometres. According to legend, the beauty of the crystal-clear terraces so impressed a local saint that he settled here to pray Buddhist sutras.  Each year, on the eighth day of the second lunar month, the Naxi people gather here to celebrate a traditional local festival by singing and dancing all day and night. Every day, local people still come to burn incense and pray at this holy place. They burn incense provided by 2 elderly men who chant mantras for their good fortune.

In the afternoon we take a leisurely hike through several villages surrounding the terraces before driving to Haba Village in the evening. We spend the night at a guesthouse in Haba Village and get to bed early in preparation for tommorow’s high-altitude hike up Haba Mountain to Black Sea Lake!

Natural Mineral Terraces of Baishuitai

Natural Mineral Terraces of Baishuitai

Day 4: Hike up Haba Mountain to Black Sea Lake (6-7 hours)

Today we make our way to Haba Mountain’s most beautiful spot, Black Sea Lake, a majestic alpine lake at 4200 metres above sea level. It’s a 6 to 7-hour hike from Haba Village through a stunning alpine landscape. We hike along narrow mountain trails through dense forest, past waterfalls and across mountain streams. We may also encounter local people roaming the mountain trails looking for medicinal herbs and wild mushrooms.

This is a vigourous hike involving roughly 1600 meters of elevation gain from Haba Village, located at 2600 metres, to Black Sea Lake, so you need to be in good physical condition. Luckily we have mules to carry our camping gear and if you get too tired they can carry you for a while as well.

Haba mountain covered in Rhododendron

Haba Mountain covered in Rhododendron

Our campsite at Black Sea Lake is absolutely stunning. On a clear day you can see the snowcapped, 5396 metre-high summit of Haba Mountain. During May and June, the mountain is filled with orchids and lilies. With its stunning scenery and abundant flora, this 4200-meter high alpine lake is arguably the most beautiful campsite in all of Yunnan.

Black sea lake at Haba mountain

Black sea lake at Haba mountain

Black Sea Lake

Day 5: Hike down Haba Mountain and Transfer to Lijiang or Shangrila

After a simple breakfast and hot coffee or tea, we pack up and hike back down the mountain to Haba Village. Within 3 to 4 hours we will be sipping tea and enjoying  great food at a local restaurant.

After lunch we drive to Lijiang or Shangri La, depending on the clients’ requests.

Luggage transport and packing:

Day 1:

Luggage will be transferred to the hotel at the end of the Tiger leaping Gorge where we spend the second night.

Day 1/2:

Hike with a daypack containing:

camera, toilet paper, flashlight, light jacket, rain jacket or poncho, umbrella, toothbrush, sun lotion, hat, clean shirt and socks, water bottle(s), as well as cash for snacks and meals on the way

Day 3:

Luggage will be transfered to Haba Village and stored at our hotel.

Hike with a daypack containing:

camera, toilet paper, light jacket, rain jacket or poncho, umbrella, sun lotion, hat, water bottle(s), as well as cash for snacks and meals on the way

Day 4/5:

Hike up Haba Mountain to Black Sea Lake with daypack containing:

camera, toilet paper, flashlight, warm jacket, rain jacket or poncho, umbrella, toothbrush, sun lotion, hat, clean shirt and socks, water bottle(s)

All camping gear will be delivered on horseback to the campsite.

Day 5:

Pick up luggage in Haba Village and transfer to Lijiang or Shangrila

Cancellation Policy:

A cancellation made by a participant more than 3 weeks before the start of the trip will entitle the participant to a 100% refund.

In case of cancellation by a participant 3 weeks or less before the trip there is no refund but you can reschedule your trip to another date.

If a trip gets cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances (very bad weather, closed trails, not enough people signed up for a trip or acts of god) you will of course get a 100% refund.

Hike level 3: hard

We rate this 5-day Yunnan trek a level 3, as the hike includes 3 days of strong hiking. The hike up Haba Mountain to Black Sea Lake will take a good deal of effort as we hike from about 2600 meters above sea level to 4200 meters. You will need to be in good physical condition to fully enjoy this portion of the trip, but if you feel like you are not able to make it all the way by yourself, there are mules available to bring you up.

Planning a trip ahead or want a private tour?