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Gongga Shan (or Minya Konka in Tibetan) is the highest mountain in Sichuan province, standing at a staggering 7,556m, and is consequently of huge spiritual importance to Tibetans. While summiting its peak is off-limits to all but the most experienced of mountaineers, there is a more accessible trail which snakes around the west of the mountain, following the sacred pilgrimage kora undertaken by many Tibetans each year.
The starting point of the kora is just a short drive from Kangding; however, we recommend spending a few days in the town to acclimatize to the altitude (2,800m) before starting your trek.
The route takes you past Gongga Shan, along the stunning snow-capped Daxue Shan range of mountains which lie to the east of the trail. It’s possible to start your trek either from the north and head south, or from the south working your way northwards (see below). Talk to the wonderful staff at Zhilam Hostel in Kangding who can help organize transport to and from the trail, provide camping gear, and arrange for a guide and horses to take you around the mountain.
Start your trek near Caoke Village, about three hours drive south of Kangding. Depending on how late you arrive, it's possible to spend the night at a bunkhouse here before setting off the following morning, but most prefer to begin their trek straight away and spend their first night camping next to the scenic Bawang Lake, about 2 hours walk away. Barren trees pierce the still surface of this beautiful lake, which perfectly mirrors the surrounding snow-capped mountains.
From Bawang Lake, the trail takes you through forests alpine in feel, past snowy peaks and crystal-clear high-altitude lakes. The scenery more than compensates for the moderate difficulty of this section of the hike, which ends at Gongga Temple. This working monastery, which was originally built in the 13th century, is located at the foot of Gongga Shan and commands the most breath-taking views of the mountain's sheer, icy peak. It's a beautiful place to spend a night or two; if time allows, from here you can trek to the Gongga Shan base camp.
The next day of walking takes you along a valley that runs along the west of the imposing Daxue mountain range, past herds of grazing yak. There are various possible campsites along the Moxi Gou valley where nomadic yak farmers make their winter camps, and where you can stop for the night before tackling the Riwuqi Pass.
Day 4 begins with a long ascent up to the 4,900m Riwuqi Pass. Unless you’re very experienced, we wouldn’t recommend trying this without a guide, as the crumbling, zigzagging scree slopes leading up to the top of the pass are difficult to navigate and can be dangerous.
From the top of the pass, you are met with mind-blowing views of a landscape studded with stark mountains, icy glaciers and frozen high-altitude lakes. The rest of the trek is literally downhill from here all the way to Xia Riwuqi, where many spend the next night camping with nomad farmers in their summer camps dotted along the banks of a fast-flowing river.
The last day of trekking leads you along a valley back to Laoyulin Village, where you can arrange for a car to take you back to Kangding, 30 minutes away.
We can customize one of our Sichuan tours to include Gongga Shan, or you can contact us directly and we will tailor a tour to your requirements.