The views from pretty much every inch of this hike are amazing, but especially at the top of the switchbacks. The going is tough at times: if you haven't been trekking before, this isn't the place to start. That said you can hire a mule to take you up and then walk down the other side. From Qiaotoa to Halfway Guest house takes about 7 hours, then on to Tina's takes less than 2 hours. If you want to even it out, stay at Tea Horse guest house in preceding village.
We caught a public bus from Lijiang at 7.30am and reached Qiaotoa at 9.30am. The bus went on to Shangri-La. We left our big backpacks at the bus station luggage office in Lijiang and took day packs (many reviews say leave bags at Qiaotoa: we saw no such facilities and the bus station would seem the safest option). From where the bus drops you off, continue up the valley, then turn right at the first junction, past the national park office (someone will come running out to make you buy a ticket), then continue on along the road for quite a way, passing a school on your left, before reaching a road to the left clearly signposted Tiger Leaping Gorge. This is the last clear signpost, just keep and eye out for the spray painted red arrows. We reached Tina's at 11am the next day. We easily caught a minibus taxi back to Qiaotoa for 10yuan each, then waited no more than 15 minutes for the next Shangri-La to Lijiang bus to pass. From leaving Half Way guest house at 9am, we were back in Lijiang by 12.30. Note we can speak no Mandarin and we got by on public transport with no trouble.
If in doubt, go to N's Kitchen in Lijiang who can provide some excellent advice.