As you know, before making a reservation for the Grand China and Yangtze River Tour (October 7-23, 2012), my sister and I had a lot of questions about the safety and steepness of the climb up the Dragon Spine Rice Terraces. Information and photos of the beautiful rice terraces were available online, however, there were few descriptions about the climb itself.
To provide China Spree with some feedback, I communicated with five people of different ages in my tour group and consistent with me, everyone said visiting the Dragon Spine Rice Terraces in Longsheng was one of the highlights of the Grand China and Yangtze River Tour. My guess is the remainder of our group would concur since everyone really enjoyed the day we spent at the Dragon Spine Rice Terraces. China Spree is unique in including the Dragon Spine Rice Terraces in a tour itinerary.
Our group of 15 ranged in age from 61-71 (maybe older?) and it would be fair to describe us as individuals in relatively good health who are not necessarily physically active in our daily lives. Everyone made it to the top of the rice terraces and our China Spree national guide said his previous tour group also all made it to the top. So, what was our climb experience like?
First, it was excellent to find there were stone steps all along the path that provided solid footing for the climb/walk up to the rice terraces (...it was not a walking trail with loose dirt and rocks as I expected).
Second, the climb/walk had a gradual incline nearly all the way up; it was not a steep climb in comparison to climbing up many flights of stairs so doing it was not particularly strenuous.
Third, you could stop all along the path either to enjoy the view, take photos, buy something from a local vendor, or pause a moment to rest. There is an area part way up where we stopped at a nice restaurant for lunch.
Fourth, everyone in our group went at their own pace; there was no pressure to hurry or stay together as a tour group. There is one way up and one way down so our China Spree guides had no concerns about anyone getting lost. Those who lagged behind were "slow" primarily because we (including me) stopped more often to take photos of the view, homes/buildings/businesses or people who live and work in this community.
Fifth, those who did not want to climb/walk up to the rice terraces had the option to be carried in a "sedan" by two local men for a fee; I don't know the cost since none in our tour group used a sedan. It was interesting, though, to see a few people carried in sedans and we were amazed to see petite local women carry luggage of various sizes up to (down from) the hotels for those who stayed overnight. Small luggage such as backpacks were put into baskets that these women carried on their backs; large suitcases were strapped on top of these baskets. It was quite a sight to see!
I hope this information is useful.