Luke-Haba Route (栌克-哈巴路线)
Region: Tiger Leaping Gorge, East Peak Group
Itinerary: Luke’s Hostel—Empty Glad Platform—High Point—Water Trough Junction—Ennu Village—Haba Village
Day 1 - Luke’s Hostel to Ennu Village
Distance: 13 km one-way
Duration: 6½ hours one-way
Altitude in Meters: Start 2,360. Max 3,200. End 2,600
Elevation Gain: 1,000 meters
Hiking Times: Luke’s Hostel to Empty Glad Platform 1:20 hrs. High point 2:55 hrs. Watership Tank Meadow 3:45 hrs. Water-Trough Junction 5:30 hrs. Ennu Village 6:25.
Day 2 - Ennu Village to Haba Village
Distance: 8 km one-way
Duration: 2½ hours one-way
Altitude in Meters: Start 2,600. Max 3,000. End 2,650
Elevation Gain: 400 meters
Hiking Times: Ennu Village to Pusa Mountain ridge 1:50 hrs. Haba Village 2:35 hrs.
Please read the explanation of hiking times, distances, altitudes and rating levels.
The Luke-Haba route appeals to hikers who want to extend the classic two-day trek through Tiger Leaping Gorge. The extended trek takes four days and ends at Haba Village (哈巴村) north of the gorge.
Begin walking in Qiaotou Town (桥头镇), the starting point of the classic trek. Spend the first night in the gorge at a guest house along the way. Day two, continue through the gorge to Luke’s Hostel (古道栌克青年旅舍).
On day three, ascend to a high point at 3,200 meters. The extensive birds-eye view up and down the gorge and across the Jinsha River (金沙江) to Daju Village (大具乡), makes the effort worthwhile. Descend to Ennu Village (恩努村) north of the gorge and overnight there. On day four, conclude the trek at Haba Village.
The last two days, from Luke’s Hostel to Haba, require better physical fitness and navigation skills than the first two days in the gorge. There is substantial elevation gain and the trail is sometimes obscure. A guide is recommended for this portion of the journey. For details on hiring a guide for the Luke-Haba Route, please read the final section below. For general information, see the Guides page.
Theoretically, hikers can complete the trek from Luke’s Hostel to Haba Village in one long 10-hour day. Spending the night in Ennu breaks the trek down into 7-hour and 3-hour hikes. Homestay lodging in Ennu will have to be organized beforehand.
For complete details on days one and two of the classic Tiger Leaping Gorge trek, read Dan Siekman’s excellent guide. For info on days three and four, keep reading below. Please note that reliable water sources along the Luke-Haba Route are limited. Between Luke's Hostel and Ennu Village there are just two: Watership Tank Meadow and Water-Trough Junction. Beyond Ennu Village there are none until a forest brook shortly before reaching Haba Village.
To start the Luke-Haba Route, you first need arrive at Luke's Hostel . If you embark on the extended four-day trek starting at Qiaotou, this will likely be on the afternoon of day two. For details please consult the Luke’s Hostel page.
From Luke’s Hostel, head north on a path that ascends in half an hour to Thousand Year Walnut Forest (千年核桃林). A large boulder bears the name painted in green and white. The walnut trees bloom in spring and the nuts ripen in autumn.
After a few more minutes, the trail forks. A green arrow painted on a rock indicates you should bear right. The trail continues with little elevation gain, crosses a dry drainage, and begins a steady ascent heading east.
Empty Glad Platform
1 hour and 20 minutes after starting out, the trail tops out at an open spot called Empty Glad Platform (空欢喜观景台), elevation 2,680 meters. A short path leads to one of the finest viewpoints overlooking the gorge. The strange name is perhaps about that feeling of empty space beneath your feet. Beyond this point, the path is rarely marked and sometimes hard to follow. You may encounter goats, wandering about in search of grazing.
The trail turns north and ascends steadily across steep slopes through stunted forest, followed by a stretch without much elevation gain. 40 minutes above Empty Glad Platform, pass through a tiny notch and traverse a wall on a ledge of built-up stones.
Soon after that, the trail forks. The Luke-Haba Route continues left. The right fork descends, leading to a massive landslide that obliterated the trail. Shortly beyond the fork, the path reaches a gulley filled with rocks and loose sand, which makes for hard going. Ascend the gully for 100 meters or so and exit on the right.
The path continues ascending across sections of sand and rocks, then switchbacks more steeply up sandy ground. Finally, it traverses right to the highest point of the Luke-Haba Route at 3,200 meters. Total hiking time to this point is about 3 hours. Here you will find limited views up to the east peak of Haba Snow Mountain （哈巴雪山. Looking downward, the expansive view takes in the Jinsha River and plains around Daju Village to the east, as well as Ennu Village to the north.
From the high point head northeast, descending very steeply over sandy ground, through open forest without a well-defined path. Follow a ridge for a short while, before turning left off the ridge and continuing the steep descent in a northeasterly direction. You may encounter a path coming in from the right, which was the old trail. It is now abandoned, due to the landslide mentioned earlier.
Watership Tank Meadow
Further down, the trail turns into a well-beaten track with switchbacks, a welcome respite from the unremittingly steep slope above. The trail descends to a meadow with the odd name of Watership Tank (水览槽观景台). Here yaks graze among stone walls. Tucked away at the upper edge of the meadow sits a yak herders hut. The roof leaks in various places and the bunks are covered in rodent droppings. It may not be an inviting place to spend the night but there is a convenient fire pit, complete with potholder. The name Watership Tank is derived from the water trough outside the hut. A pipe from a spring higher up brings down a trickle of water.
Descending to the bottom edge of the meadow, the Luke-Haba Route enters the forest. The trail soon forks, with the right branch leading to Benxi Village (本习村). You should take the left fork, which descends to and crosses the bottom of a drainage, followed by a short ascent to a gate. Be sure to leave the gate open or closed as you found it.
The path traverses gradually downhill along the north side of the drainage. You will spot a quarry across the valley, with a road zigzagging down to Benxi. The trail turns left at around 2,500 meters elevation, where it turns the corner to the Ennu Village valley. A long traverse northwest follows, with little elevation gain or loss. Eventually the path turns northeast, crosses a meadow and reaches a hut falling into ruin.
Water Trough Junction
From the hut ruins, the trail heads north and makes a short, steep descent to the bottom of the valley. This marks the low point of the Luke-Haba Route at about 2,450 meters. You will arrive here 5½ hours after starting the hike. Ennu Village is still 1 hour away. I call this place Water-Trough Junction (水槽路口). The arrangement of several troughs forms the letter T. If you are an animal, you’ll enjoy drinking the water here. Humans less so, once they glimpse the coating of green slime.
Two trekking routes radiate from this important junction: (1) this Luke-Haba Route, and (2) the Haba-Benxi Route, heading northwest to Haba Village and southeast to Benxi. The path to Haba Village via Haba-Benxi takes longer than the remainder of Luke-Haba. It has the advantage of traveling completely through forest and meadow, avoiding the three-kilometer walk along the road above Ennu.
From Water-Trough Junction, the Luke-Haba Route heads north on a path ascending gradually through open forest.
Haba Muru River
40 minutes beyond Water-Trough Junction, the path arrives at the main river drainage in the Ennu Valley, notable for its stark greyish-white rocks and sand. During certain seasons the drainage is dry. I call this the Haba Muru River, a name unknown to local residents. Haba Muru is the Naxi name for Haba Snow Mountain and translates as Golden Flower Snow Mountain. I use the name for convenience, since I have yet to discover a local name.
Just beyond the river, pass through a gate, followed soon by a second gate through a barb-wire fence. Please leave the gates open or closed as you found them. Follow the fence line northeast to cultivated fields and, finally, Ennu Village.
For those continuing the trek, know that the paved road between the villages of Ennu and Haba is 13 kilometers long. The following shortcut will shrink the road portion to 3 kilometers and the entire walk to 8 kilometers.
Head northwest out of Ennu on the road. After two kilometers pass through a sterile sandy area which I call “The Desert” (沙漠), caused by seasonal flooding of a stream coming down off Haba Snow Mountain. During the summer rainy season, the drainage may deposit sand on the road which hinders traffic.
Pusa Mountain and Haba Village
Just beyond The Desert, the road bends right (north and east) and makes a long switchback over Pusa Mountain (普萨山). To avoid the switchback, leave the road on the left, a couple of hundred meters past the beginning of the bend. Ascend northwest through open forest without a clear trail, to the 3,000-meter high southwest ridge of Pusa Mountain. From there it is all downhill to Haba Village. Pass through meadows before making the final descent to the village.
For accommodation and minivan service in Haba, see the Lodging page and the Transportation page.
Guides for Luke-Haba Route
I recommend hiring a guide for the Luke-Haba Route, based on my own experience and that of others. I hiked the route twice with a guide before I felt confident I could follow it on my own. Others have gone without a guide with differing results. Some made it to Ennu Village, using the very inadequate map available at Luke’s Hostel. Others tried, only to return to the hostel after finding the path too obscure to follow.
Luke’s Hostel is the go-to place for hiring a guide. I suggest getting in touch several days in advance. Consult the Guides page for more information.
Some trekkers may decide to hike without a guide and just use the details supplied here. I think that is a reasonable choice for experienced hikers. Please consult these notes on necessary backcountry hiking skills and equipment.