Dali Trekking / Hiking
For hiking enthusiasts, Dali offers some great opportunities for day hikes and multi-day hikes, featuring a range of geographic features, awesome views, and impressive flora and fauna. Further afield, there are several world-class hikes that run 5-10 days, and take in National Parks, 5,000m+ snow mountains, deep gorges, old-growth forest, and more. Most of our treks are all-inclusive of food, transportation, accomodation, access fees, and equipment (depending on the size of the group). All of our guides are trained in first-aid and are highly knowledgable about the places that we trek to. We try to incorporate leave no-trace principles and aim to minimize our impact on the environment.
We invite you to browse the treks below; if you can't find anything that suits your needs, we can develop a customized itinerary for you and your trrekking partners. Our rates vary based on the season, number of people, and our availability. Please contact us for specifics.
Half-Day CangShan Hike (200-250RMB / Person),: Avoid the crowds by following one of three different treks through the Cangshan Mountains: hop across boulders amidst a wild stream that runs up a deep canyon, with opportunities for swimming; OR a loop that incorporates two different horse-trails in the vicinity of Dali University; OR a full-day loop that offers breathtaking views of the mountains and Erhai Lake valley below. (See slideshow below for pictures from our day hikes!).
Summit CangShan Mountain (3 Days: 1100RMB / Person): For those of you that want to summit CangShan Mountain (4,000m), we offer a comprehensive itinerary, which passes through forest, bamboo groves, as well as CangShan's famous granite spires, offering amazing views of Dali and ErHai Lake. It is possible to hike CangShan all year round, although the fall and spring seasons are the best, since rainfall is scant and the views are clear. Hiking in the winter is more treacherous, but for those with snow gear, it can be a sweet adventure!
The theme of the hike is to follow in the footsteps of Kublai Khan, who conquered Dali in the 13th century by crossing over the CangShan mountains undetected. The trail begins in YangBi, on the other side of the CangShan mountains, in a village that is famous for growing walnuts. We will camp at a high altitude meadow on the first night, with (weather permitting!) a clear view of the starry night sky. On Day 2, we will reach the highest point on our hike (4050m) in the early afternoon and then hike along the ridgeline to the Black and Yellow Dragon Ponds on the eastern side of CangShan. We will make camp here and then hike back to Dali the next morning. While difficult and exhausting, this trail offers spectacular scenery. It is relatively unused and offers almost complete seclusion.
Flower Valley (HuaDian Ba / 花甸坝) Hike (2 Days: 650RMB / Person):: For those that want the most bang for their buck, this trail also offers beautiful scenery (high-elevation meadows redolent of Tibet) without the grueling effort demanded by the Cangshan summit hike.
This hike follows the old tea-horse road (southern silk road) north of Dali, the remnants of which can still be glimpsed along the way. We begin hiking from the Little West Lake, north of Dali. After a couple hours of hard ascent, we will cross through the first pass. While savoring the views of FengYu (凤羽), a cluster of small agricultural villages set in a lovely valley, we will stop for a picnic lunch. We will spent the rest of the day ascending 400-800 meters (depending on which route we choose) to the Flower Valleys, themselves. Located at 3000m+, these valleys are completely secluded, and are used only for the grazing of sheep, goats, and yaks, by Local Bai People. (Click on pictures below to view Huadianba slideshow).
From here, we will descend into the major Flower Valley, which consists only of a few agricultural settlements and herds of grazing animals. Aside from the semi-weekly horse caravans that bring food and other supplies, the valley is completely isolated from Dali. We will spend the night at a station that monitors medicinal plants (and doubles as a guesthouse!). On the morning of the second day, we will follow a small stream and an abandoned cobblestone road out of the valley, down to XiZhou, an historic town about 20minutes drive from Dali. This day features sweeping vistas of ErHai Lake and the Dali Plain. The hike is best done in the spring when the flowers are in bloom, but is still quite special during the rest of the year.
ChickenFoot Mountain (JiZu Shan / 鸡足山) Pilgrimage Hike (1-2 Days: 400-800RMB / Person):: Why take a four-hour bus ride, followed by 3-hour walk up stone steps and a chairlift ride to this holy Buddhist mountain (one of China's Big 5) when you can hike there from Dali!
We will depart early for ShuangLang, on the other side of ErHai lake, and climb steadily for several hour, past a few remote villages, through corn-fields and the forest, all the way to a high-altitude meadow (3,200m). Depending on your preference, we can either camp here, or continue all the way to Chickenfoot Mountain today. From here, the trail winds down through spectacular Old-Growth forest marked by prayer flags, and back up to the summit of the mountain. For those that want to view the famous sunrise from ChickenFoot Mountain, it is best to spend the night at the temple guesthouse at the top. The next day, we will spend some time exploring the temples before hiking out and taking a van back to Dali. It is possible to leave and arrive back in Dali on the same day, but this is exhausting, and an overnight stay is recommended.
Southern Silk Road Hike (3 Days: 850RMB / Person):: Who knew that the Southern Silk Road, which connected Chengdu with Burma, and eventually India (known locally as the BoNan Road) passed through Dali?! In this itinerary, we will hike the "Cloud Ladder" section of it. The highlight of the trip is crossing the Mekhong River where China's oldest steel-cable bridge once stood. (Alas, it was destroyed in 2007 when a hydroelectric station 100KM downstream raised the level of the Mekong). We will pass through remote villages and spend an afternoon exploring a well-preserved old-town (BanQiao Town) that was once a famous trade post on the Silk Road. As you can see from the picture below, some parts of the road are in extraordinary condition!
Expeditions: All of our multi-day expeditions are operated with our partner in Lijiang, JolieAdventures, and are all-inclusive. Please contact us for specific itineraries and prices.
LaoJun Shan Circuit: LaoJun Mountain is one of Yunnan's most impressive National Parks, featuring rare species of Golden Languor monkey, as well as other incredible flora and fauna. The park is part of the Three Parallel Rivers (where the YangZe, Mekhong, and Salween Rivers briefly run side-by-side) protected area. It is a World Heritage Spot and is a global biodiversity hot spot. Our 3-6 Day itineraries will take in the best that the park has to offer, including the spectacular Red Sandstone cliffs, LaoJun Mountain (4,500m), old-growth forest, innmurable species of wildflowers, and the legendary 99 Dragon Pools, which were said to have formed to when a mirror dropped from the hands of a Daoist Lord in Heaven and shattered in the forest. We will camp most nights, and have pack mules to carry food and equipment. (3-6 Days)
WenHai -> Jade Dragon Snow Mountain -> TigerLeaping Gorge Trek: This trek begins about one hour west of Lijiang at LaShi Lake. We will hike through an old-growth forest and then down into the WenHai protected marshlands, at the foot of the majestic 5,500m Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. The following day, we will camp at a high altitude meadow, used by the locals to graze yaks, before decending towards a couple remote mountain villages, settled by the Yi minority people. We will continue descending all the way to the YangTse River, from which point we will enter the Tiger Leaping Gorge, perhaps the most famous canyon in China, and now home to an equally famous 2-day hike. Along the way we will stay in locally run guesthouses, featuring jaw-dropping vistas of the rock face that rises several kilometers from the bottom of the canyon to the peaks at the top. The trail gradually ascends to 2,500m before descending all the way to the swirling rapids of the river below. After a brief hike back up on a steep mountain trail, the waiting van will return us to LiJiang or Dali. (7-8 days)
Tiger Leaping Gorge -> Haba Snow Mountain Trek: After hiking the upper trail of the Tiger Leaping Gorge, we will move on to Haba Village, named for the nearby 5,500m Haba Snow Mountain. The itinerary will take us through several unique ecosystems, high altitude lakes, in full view of glaciers and the imposing Haba. After an optional excursion to base camp, we will continue hiking along the little used eastern DongBa trail back out to the main highway, for access to Dali, Lijiang, and ShangriLa. (5-7 days)