Red Trail Revisited

8 Days


For blogs of previous journeys along this route, click here, here and here

To watch a video of this journey, click here

History and adventure combine in this route, followed by the Red Army during the Long March in April 1935. Twenty thousand Reds raced from the historic town of Lijiang to the Jinsha River, which they crossed in small boats and hand-made rafts before fighting their way over the snow-covered Mt. Yaha and onto the Tibetan Plateau. We will be trekking in reverse direction, beginning this richly varied journey in a broad Tibetan valley peopled by yak herders and small farmers. 

From the eastern foot of Mt. Yaha, we ascend to a herders' camp close to the pass, 3,900 meters above sea level. Once over the mountain, the trail plunges through dense forest into the Jinsha River valley, peopled by a mixture of Naxi, Lisu and Han. Leaving our mule team at the tiny town of Shangjiang, we then raft gently downstream for a day and a half, camping one night on a lovely sandy beach, before reaching the ancient town of Shigu and the celebrated First Bend in the Yangtze, as the Jinsha becomes known further downstream.


  • Zhongdian Old Town, unique example of a traditional Tibetan market town
  • ·A moderately challenging 3-day caravan trek along the Long March Trail
  • Guided by world-leading expert on history and geography of the Long March
  • Beautiful and diverse scenery of Mt Yaha, Xiao Zhongdian plain and Jinsha River valley
  • Traditional towns and villages of the Tibetan, Lisu and Naxi peoples
  • Relaxing rafting journey down the mighty Jinsha River
Duration: 8 Days  Average group size: 5-10

Best times: May, October

Route Map: Click here for an overview of this journey

*Price per person based on a group of four. For prices and discounts for groups of other sizes, please write to

For enquiries and a full trip dossier, please write to


Day 1: Join tour in Shangri-la

Orientation meeting. Shangri-la is 3,280 meters above sea level, and so the air is relatively thin and many visitors feel slightly poorly at first. We will take time to acclimatize on Day 2.

Hotel, evening meal

Day 2: Shangri-la

In the morning, visit the historic Songzanlin Lamsery on the north edge of town. After lunching on hearty local fare and yak butter tea, you will proceed to the Red Army Museum in the Old Town, where Dr. Ed Jocelyn will introduce the extraordinary background to the upcoming journey (Ed was a consultant to this museum during its construction in 2006-7). Dinner is in the Old Town followed by a performance of Tibetan folk music.

Hotel (B,L,D)

Day 3: Shangri-la - Shimaigu Camp

This morning you are free to wander the cobbled streets of the Old Town. After an early lunch, you will transfer by private bus to Xiao Zhongdian and make a short afternoon trek to camp at the base of Mt Yaha.

Approx 7 km, 2 hours walking

Camp (B,L,D)

Day 4: Shimaigu Camp - Yahaguo Pasture

Head up the east slope of Mt. Yaha, which took care of many Reds coming the other way in April 1935. They either collapsed from exhaustion and altitude sickness, or drank poisonous water from the streams near the pass. We'll camp close to the pass on a glorious pasture where we might also impose on the herders for a few restorative cups of yak-butter tea. This point is about 3,900 meters above sea level.

Approx 10 km, 6 hours walking

Camp (B,L,D)

Day 5: Yahaguo Pasture - Yaha West Camp

Cross the pass and trek down to camp approx 2,500 meters above sea level. Parts of this trail are rocky and steep, and so today's trek poses a significant challenge to knees and ankles. Towards late afternoon we must also cross a fast-flowing stream over a very narrow bridge, which calls for a steady nerve. You can always choose to wade across, of course, but there are several more kilometres to walk in wet boots!

Approx 16 km, 6-7 hours walking

Camp (B,L,D)

Day 6: Shangjiang - Cike

Trek to the riverside village of Shangjiang, where after lunch we say goodbye to the horse team and board a raft to head downstream along China's mightiest river. Tonight's campsite is on a beach in the middle of the river.

Approx 6 km, 2 hours walking, followed by 3 hours rafting

Camp (B,L,D)

Day 7: Cike - Shigu, then transfer to Lijiang by private bus

Back onto the raft and we complete our journey at the historic town of Shigu, where Kubla Khan's Mongol horde crossed the Jinsha on inflated pig-bladders. Dine in Shigu, then drive approx two hours to Lijiang by private bus.

Approx 5 hours rafting

Hotel (B,L,D)

Day 8: Tour ends

Transfers available to Lijiang Airport.

Breakfast only