Gaoligong Mountains, China

On our way from Tiger Leaping Gorge to the Gaoligong Mountains, we were to stop in the city of Dali to see its renowned old town. Before it was conquered by China, it was once the capital of the Bai kingdom. Unfortunately, our timing could not have been worse as we arrived in the middle of the largest Bai festival of the year and the city was at a stand still. We could not get anywhere near the old town, including the hotel we were originally planning on staying at. It took hours of manoeuvring around the closed roads and detours to find another suitable one. By the time we arrived, there was only time for a late dinner and then bed. Dali will have to wait until our next visit to Yunnan as the Gaoligong Mountains were waiting.

The Gaoligong Mountains straddles the border of China and Myanmar (Burma). Part of the mountain range has been designated a national nature reserve and World Wildlife Fund considers it a level A grade protected area. If that is not enough, it is also a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and since it’s part of the Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan Protected Areas, it shares its UNESCO World Heritage status just like Tiger Leaping Gorge. It is within the borders of the nature reserve that our hosts had their field sites.

Our plan was to stay in one of the mountain villages and visit a lower elevation site on the first day and then a higher elevation one on the second day. The village hotels were built to cater to the many birders that come to Gaoligong Mountains. Apparently, the mountains are home to 525 species of birds. We heard many of them but did not see any during our hikes. It might have something to do with the noise level of two young children.


View from Gaoligong Mountains


Villages tucked into the mountains


View from the village we stayed at

The weather cooperated on the first day and stopped raining just as we were about to head out for our hike. We were able to reach the field site and see some of the forest at the lower elevation. However, we woke up to a thunderstorm that had been raging all night on the second day. We thought we got lucky again when the rain stopped after breakfast but that was not to be the case as the rain started again once we were in the forest. Our progress was also hindered by the damage left behind from the storm the night before. Branches and fallen trees were all over the trail and in some parts it was almost impossible to pass. The storm damage combined with the heavy rain finally convinced us we would not make it to the higher elevation we were hoping for. It is at that higher elevation that the forest remained undisturbed and it would have been possible to see many animals such as monkeys, red pandas, flying squirrels, leopards, Asian black bears, etc.


Walking in the clouds


Some of the plant residents of the forest


A more ethereal resident


In this photo this waterfall looks tiny and insignificant but in reality it was powerful, heavy from the rain, pouring down the side of the mountain into the river below.


Did you know ferns are one of my favourite plants? They remind me of the Pacific Northwest where I grew up. The colours of this one are particularly pretty.




I love fiddleheads even more than I love ferns. Especially this really cool aerial one.


Didn’t see any animals but did see a biologist


A fern bigger than my 10 year old


Storm damage


Finding our way through the damage



The upside of not making it to the higher elevation site was that we had some extra time when we came down the mountain and managed to stop at this neat ancient bridge.


See the vertical pieces of wood? It’s to hold the bridge together where the wood has rotted. Note that it covers the whole length of the bridge. I questioned our sanity for crossing it.

So our trip ended with a couple of disappointments but it seems that we are meant to return to this part of Yunnan. We will be back to visit Dali, to hike the undisturbed forests of the Gaoligong Mountains and for one member of our family, to ride as many of the incredible mountain trails on his mountain bike as he can.

Oh and exciting news! All the Pretty Places now has its own YouTube channel since sometimes photos just can’t really capture the feel of a place.



4 thoughts on “Gaoligong Mountains, China

    • The kids did awesome on the hike. We were particularly impressed with Dominic! There are 205 species of animals that live in the mountains so I could be typing for a while:)


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