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Yunnan Hiking:The Top 12 Recommended Routes

Yunnan Province is the most complicated and colorful area in China, enjoying a perfect combination of amazing natural scenery, diverse ethnic customs, and a pleasant(er) climate all year round. One of the most representative locations for excellent Yunnan hiking is named after the legendary Shangri-La.

From the snow-topped mountains to the tropical rainforests, from highland lakes to rice terraces to gorges, Yunnan will never disappoint hikers no matter what kind of scenery they hope to see or what level they hike at. You will find great hiking routes near all the popular destinations of Yunnan.

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Lijiang Hiking Routes

In northwest Yunnan, the snow-capped mountains and gorges build an appetite for hiking. Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, Haba Snow Mountain, and Tiger Leaping Gorge between offer countless beautifully scenic trails, both well-known routes and hidden ones.

1. Jade Dragon Snow Mountain Hiking

Jade Dragon Snow Mountain hiking
  • Scenery: mountains, valleys, meadows,
  • Distance: 12.5 km (7.7 miles)
  • Time needed: 6 hours
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Altitude: 2,700–3,300 m (8,800–10,800 ft)
  • Recommended tour: 1-Day Jade Dragon Snow Mountain Hiking Tour

It is so cool to explore the holy mountain of local Naxi people's hearts by skipping the cable car and avoiding the tourist crowds. Find yourself hiking in American explorer Joseph Rock's footsteps in the embrace of his favorite mountain.

Starting from Yuhu village where Rock lived for 27 years, you can hike through the bushes, wade across a little stream, lie down on an alpine meadow, and enjoy the exclusive views of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain that only hikers can.

2. Haba Snow Mountain Hiking

Haba Snow Mountain Hiking

Haba Snow Mountain is not as famous as Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, but the scenery will not disappoint. Discover an alpine meadow on Haba Snow Mountain, which is unknown to 99% of tourists. When you drive up the mountain to the meadow, the magnificent Haba Mountain peaks will be in sight. The meadow is so huge that you may not be able to help running around.

Jade Dragon Snow Mountain is hidden behind the pine forests at first, but when you walk up to the top of a slope, you will see its snowy peaks. The first bend of the Yangtze River can also be seen in the distance. It is unbelievable that Haba Snow Mountain and Jade Dragon Snow Mountain can be seen so superbly at the same time.

The meadow is dotted with flowers in spring and summer. If you come between November and March, you can stroll among the grazing yaks. It is a recommended hiking route for families with children.

3. Tiger Leaping Gorge Hiking

Tiger Leaping Gorege hiking

The magnificent Tiger Leaping Gorge between Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and Haba Snow mountain attracts a lot of hikers every year. The two mountains both rise to more than 5,000 m (16,000 feet) above sea level, but still, the Jinsha (upper Yangtze) River squeezes between them, creating one of the most magnificent gorges in China. It could be a once-in-a-lifetime chance to hike while admiring the peaks of snow-capped mountains reaching to the sky and the rushing torrents of the Jinsha River flowing off into the distance.

The upper and the middle sections of the gorge are recommended. Normally people take 2 days to finish this trek.

4. Baoshan Stone Village Hiking

Baoshan Stone Village hiking

If you would like to get off the beaten path to discover the best-kept secret of the Jinsha River, Boashan Stone Village is a recommended Yunnan hiking area. Experience a one-night stay in the village and witness the wisdom and hard work of the local Naxi people. Hike to see the spectacular Taiziguan ('Prince Pass'). The huge mountains plunge into the river and form a very narrow gorge, where the Jinsha River appears like a ribbon. Why is it called Prince Pass? Let your local guide reveal the story.

You can choose a 6-mile or 11-mile route. The altitude will not be a problem, unlike for hikes 1 and 2 in Lijiang, where it might affect some.

5. Lugu Lake Hiking

lugu Lake

Hiking along Lugu Lake is very relaxing and much easier than Yunnan's mountain hikes. The hiking route is well paved but less known to tourists. The hike from Nüshenwan to Luowa Village is about 5 km (3 miles). You will hike through a pine forest and find a hidden stone pagoda with prayer flags. It is a nice way to enjoy the tranquility and the exclusive views of Lugu Lake.

Shangri-La Hiking Routes

6. Yubeng Village Hiking

yubeng village
  • Scenery: snowy peaks, Ice Lake, waterfalls, valleys, forest
  • Distance: 53 km (32 miles)
  • Trekking time: 25 hours (spread over 4 days)
  • Difficulty: very hard
  • Altitude: 3,100–3,800 m (10,200–12,400 ft)
  • Recommended tour: 4-Day Yubeng Village Hiking Tour

The top hiking route for snow-capped mountains in Yunnan must be the Yubeng Village Trek. Yubeng village hides in the hinterland of the Meili Snow Mountains at an altitude of 3,000 m (9,800 ft). It can only be accessed by foot.

During the 4-day trek, you can enjoy Shangri-La's snowy peaks, glaciers, forests, lakes, and waterfalls. The average hiking distance is about 13 km (8 miles) per day. The highest place you will get is about 3,800 m (12,400 ft) above sea level. The best time for this route is from April to May and from October to December.

7. Qianhu Mountains Hiking

Qianhu Mountain hiking
  • Scenery: lakes, meadows, flowers from May to June
  • Distance: 12 km (7 miles)
  • Time needed: 4 hours
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Altitude: 3,900–4,100 m (12,800–13,400 ft)

The Qianhu Mountains are named after the goddess of a thousand lakes in Tibetan mythology. You can enjoy the area's scenery of lakes, fir forests, and meadows.

In May and June, high mountain azalea flowers blossom on the slopes of the mountains. When the local Tibetans are herding their yaks, they will be happy to invite you to their home on the pasture. Enjoy a cup of butter tea and barley bread. It is a chance to get to know the lifestyle of local Tibetan nomads.

October to April is not recommended for hiking due to the cold weather. The rainy season is from June to September. It might be misty on the mountain, but you could experience picking mushrooms with local people in that season.

8. Niding Village Hiking

Niding Village hiking

Niding is a small village on the mountains near the Benzilan Town. There are only 12 Tibetan families living there. If you drive from Benzilan town, which is located in the Jinsha (upper Yangtze) River valley, up to Niding Village, the altitude changes from 2,000 to 3,300 m (6,500 to 10,800 ft). You will also find the vegetation changes due to the interesting vertical climate change (mountain climate zones).

We recommend a moderate-level hike in a forest near the village. Hike along a stream through the forest up to a small meadow. In spring and summer, lovely flowers blossom in the forest. It's recommended to take the dirt path up to the meadow and the paved road down the village.

9. Abuji Lake Hike

Abuji Lake hiking
  • Scenery: mountains, lake, forest, meadows
  • Distance: 20 km (12 miles)
  • Time needed: 8 hours
  • Difficulty: hard
  • Altitude: 3,600–4,300 m (11,800–14,100 ft)

Abuji Lake is a hidden treasure in the mountains near Shangri-La. It is about 35 km (21 miles) southeast of Shangri-La. (We will transport you most of the way there.)

You will hike across pastureland and then into the mountains. At the beginning, you will enjoy the scenery of meadows, streams, and forests in the distance. Yaks and horses wander there.

Start climbing after half an hour. You will need about 4 hours to get to the lake. Go through a forest, cross little streams, and hike along a cliffside path. There are many prayer stones piled by the locals along the way. When the blue of the holy lake comes into view, you will know the value of the trek. The gray peaks around the lake look like they're from another planet.

Dali Hiking Routes

10. Hiking on Cangshan Mountain

Cangshan Mountain
  • Scenery: streams, waterfalls, forest, Erhai Lake vistas
  • Distance: 12 km (7.5 miles)
  • Time needed: 4 hours
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Altitude: 2,600 m (8,530 ft)
  • Recommended tour: 4-Day Dali Tour

Hikes on the Cangshan Mountain range often include waterfalls, mountain peaks, and temples.

For those who wish to take a simple walk, Yudai ('Jade Belt') Road is a good route for you to enjoy the waterfalls, forest, streams, and views of Erhai Lake in an easy way. The section between Gantong cable car and Zhonghe chairlift is recommended. It is relatively flat. Even young kids can finish it easily.

Yuanyang Hiking Routes

11. Terraced Fields Hiking

Yuanyang Terraced Fields
  • Scenery: rice terraces, lakes, meadows, flowers from May to June
  • Distance: 12 km (7 miles)
  • Time needed: 4 hours
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Altitude: 1,800–2,000 m (5,900–6,560 ft)
  • Recommended tour: 6-Day Jianshui and Yuanyang Tour

Traveling south from Kunming, you will find the World Heritage Yuanyang Terraced Fields, a masterpiece of nature and the local people's hard work. The best time to visit it is from December to February when there is water in the fields. The sky and the sun give them different colors and lighting at different times. It is really "a color palette of God".

Hiking in this area is quite flexible. You can have various 2- to 4-hour hikes. Your local expert will give you the best suggestions according to your interests.

Xishuangbanna Hiking Routes

12. Rainforest Hiking

rainforest hiking
  • Scenery: rainforest wonders
  • Distance: 11 km (7 miles)
  • Time needed: 4 hours
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Altitude: 500 m (1,640 ft)

The deep south of Yunnan is one of three places in China where you can experience a truly tropical flavor.

Hiking in a rainforest, you can have a genuine jungle experience that is more interesting than visiting a developed rainforest tourist area. Besides enjoying the peaceful and beautiful forest scenery, you can have a "Man vs. Wild" experience. If you come without any water or food, you can still survive by eating a particular plant. What is it? Let your villager guide find it for you.

A unique rainforest lunch could be another highlight after finishing your hiking. Enjoy authentic local food in the open air with the background music of tropical birds singing. You may not be able to imagine what kind of tableware is used. It is all straight from nature!

The best time for this hike is from November to March.

Contact us for a Yunnan rainforest hike.

Why Hike with Us

  • COVID-19 travel restrictions first-hand updates and advice for registered clients
  • Trekking route road collapse, village flooding, snake blockade, etc. alerts received from local sources; flexible alternatives arranged according to client preference
  • 20 years serving 10,000+ Western clients per year with private tours
  • China's best tailor-made tour company! See TripAdvisor.
  • You enjoy 100% refund of any payments made to China Highlights prior to 3 weeks before departure (detail⇒). 
  • We pursue the ideals of discovery, authenticity, and fun in our tour product design. We will help you avoid the commercial and touristy places, according to your requirements. Let us know your ideal Yunnan hiking experience and we'll create your trip.
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