Upon completing the stunning trek of Tiger Leaping Gorge, many travelers simply turn around and return to Lijiang by roughly the same route along which they came—going back southwest to Qiaotou and then arranging transportation to Lijiang.
This approach has a few pitfalls. First, it requires that one see the same scenery twice, which is bad for people on short vacations who want to fit in as much sightseeing as possible.
Additionally, the paved road through the gorge has been impassable during much of the last year due to rockslides and dynamiting, which can make it a challenge to get back to Qiaotou at all.
The alternate route back to Lijiang through the town of Daju (大具) is a great way for travelers to get back without retracing their routes or getting snarled in blockages on the Tiger Leaping Gorge public road.
Daju is situated past Walnut Grove at the northeast end of Tiger Leaping Gorge, on a large flat shelf of land on the opposite side of the Jinsha River from the Tiger Leaping Gorge trails.
To get to Daju from Tiger Leaping Gorge you will have to hike for a few hours or hire a minivan to get to one of two ferries (new and old) across the Jinsha that, for tourists, range from 20 to 30 yuan per passenger. The final ferry of the day typically runs around 5pm. Your guesthouse in Tiger Leaping Gorge can help you organize the passage.
Daju is composed of a large central town with several satellite villages. These settlements are in turn surrounded by lush fields of grain and vegetables, which are fed by springs and rivers gushing out of the surrounding ring of mountains.
The locals are very friendly, and there are plenty of opportunities for wandering around the fields and seeing village life in action. Also, there are some small, steep paths leading into the mountains to the north of the town, which make for good hiking and offer great vistas of Daju and the entrance to Tiger Leaping Gorge.
Once travelers are ready to move on, they can hop one of the daily public buses back to Lijiang at 7:30am or 1:00pm, for about 20 yuan. It is recommended that you reserve a seat as far in advance as possible through your guesthouse.
This road back to Lijiang goes around the east side of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain range and on clear days will offer passengers views of the glaciers creeping down the faces of those mountains. Going to Lijiang via Daju also avoids the 160 yuan entrance fee to the Jade Dragon tourist area, although be advised that if you try to get to Daju coming from Lijiang you will likely be charged the fee.