From Elephant mountain to Taroko National Park, here are the best places to lace up your hiking boots in Taiwan.
An island covered in mountains and forests, Taiwan is a must-visit destination for fans of the great outdoors. From sprawling national parks to magnificent mountain peaks (National Geographic: 10 Majestic Mountain Wonders of Taiwan), whether it’s a leisurely stroll or a more challenging climb, Taiwan’s got you covered. The country has the highest density and largest number of high mountains in the world, with 286 summits in excess of 3,000m (9,800ft) above sea level. The tallest is the 12,966-foot high Yushan (玉山), also known as Jade Mountain, but that might be somewhat ambitious unless you’re a seasoned mountaineer with a few miles already in your legs. Read on for all you need to know about how and where to hike in Taiwan.
Things to know before you go
Taiwan Scene breaks down everything you need to know before your hiking trip in Taiwan:
The best seasons for hiking in Taiwan are March to May and October to December. It is otherwise too hot or too cold, so plan accordingly to avoid sweating or shivering!
Some mountains in Taiwan require permits in order for you to climb them. So, if you’re planning a hike, it’s best to check in advance whether or not you have permission to visit. The best place to find out about permits is on the website of each mountain’s respective national park or local authority.
Leave No Trace
Leave no Trace or LNT is an environmental program that originated in the United States and has since been adopted by the Taiwan Forestry Bureau. According to Taiwan Adventure Outings, LNT is comprised of seven principles that will help towards minimizing behaviors deemed harmful to the environment:
- Plan ahead and prepare
- Travel and camp on durable surfaces
- Dispose of waste properly
- Leave what you find
- Minimize campfire impacts
- Respect wildlife
- Be considerate of other visitors
When hiking in Taiwan, it is very important to abide by these principles in order to respect the environment and maintain hiking trails to ensure their longevity.
The best mountains for hiking in Taiwan
1.Elephant Mountain (Xiàngshān象山)
Found in Taipei’s Xinyi District and easily accessible by the MRT Station of the same name (Read also: A Perfect Day in Taipei’s Xinyi District), Xiangshan’s short hiking trail offers sprawling views of the district and Instagram-worthy shots of Taipei 101. Usually packed with tourists – it gets very busy on weekends in particular – although steep in places, the hike isn’t the most challenging, but bear in mind it may be slow progress due to the sheer number of people on the steps.
2.Seven Star Mountain (Qīxīngshān 七星山)
Don your hiking boots and head up to Yangmingshan National Park in Taipei’s Beitou District to tackle Qixingshan (Read also: Seven Star Mountain, a Hike You Cannot Miss While in Taipei). A dormant volcano, it’s the highest mountain in the city, standing at 1,120m above sea level. The trails are almost all stepped but prepare for unpredictable weather and make sure you pack plenty of water. It’s moderately steep and will take you a few hours, but the views at the peak are worth the trek. (Join the Seven Star Mountain Hiking Tour to hike through the ethereal volcanic beauty of Yamingshan National Park with professional tour guide!)
3.Lushui Trail (綠水步道)
A 2km trail found in Taroko Gorge, Lushui is a well-maintained hiking route that’s appropriate for people of all ages and abilities. Starting at Lushui Geological Exhibition Center, the trail goes along a cliffside overlooking the Cross-Island Highway. There is the slight threat of falling rocks, but hard hats can be supplied by Taroko National Park staff free of charge. Fans of camping should note that the park’s only campsite, Heilu, is located along this route and costs NT$200 per tent. (Book the Taroko Gorge One Day Tour and enjoy stunning views of Taroko Gorge with local guide!)
4.Shakadang Trail (砂卡噹步道)
Another Taroko Gorge hiking trail, Shakadang is straddled by beautiful natural landscapes, including the clear, gently-flowing waters of Shakadang Stream. A highlight of the route is passing the Truku tribal village (entry to the actual village is prohibited for outsiders) where you’ll find a small market offering a range of indigenous foods for visitors to try. This trail takes approximately two hours for the round trip and, like Lushui, is suitable for hikers of varying ages and abilities. (It is recommended to hike the amazing and varied-terrin trail with an experienced guide by joining the Taroko Gorge 3 Day Private Hiking Adventure)
5.Alishan Mianyue Trail (眠月線)
Found in Alishan National Scenic Area, a national park in southern Taiwan’s Chiayi County, the Mianyue Trail follows the abandoned Mianyue railway line that closed in 1999 due to earthquake damage. The trail leads you through forest, tunnels and along old railways lines for a very photogenic hike.
6.Caoling Historical Trail (草嶺古道)
The only remaining section of a route built during the Qing Dynasty, once serving as the sole land link between Tamsui and Yilan, the Caoling Trail is a 10km stretch beginning in Dali and ending at Fulong Beach. Scenic and offering wonderful panoramic views, including great photo opportunities of Turtle Island. (Learn more about Caoling Historical Trail Hiking Tour)
7.Teapot Mountain (茶壺山)
Starting inside the grounds of Jinguashi’s Gold Ecological Museum, accessible via bus from near Ruifang Station (you can take a train there from Taipei Main Station), Teapot Mountain’s hiking trail is a steep one. The majority of the hike is a dirt road that leads all the way up to Teapot Mountain which, you guessed it, is shaped like a teapot. Most of the trail is very exposed to the elements so, either don’t go on very sunny days, or make sure you take a lot of sun protection such as sun cream and hats.
8.Zhuliu Old Trail (錐麓古道)
Yet another reason to visit Taroko National Park, Zhuliu Old Trail sits a daunting 700m above the floor of the gorge. Carved into the side of a solid marble cliff, at its narrowest point, the trail is a mere 90cm wide and much of it has limited guard rail – so tread carefully! A permit is required to tackle the trail and you can apply for yours via the Taroko National Park website. (Read more: Gorge Soaring – The Views of Eagles along Taroko Gorge’s Trails)
Hehuanshan, also known as Joy Mountain, is one of the few places in Taiwan where it actually snows. On the western edge of Taroko National Park, there are several routes for you to try, with the easiest being the very steep Hehuanjianshan (about a 45-minute roundtrip) and the most challenging being the western peak, which takes around eight hours in total and should only really be attempted if you’re in decent physical condition. This area gets very busy in the wintertime due to the snowfall. (Read also: Sky High-Climbing Up to the Roof of Taiwan: A Wushe to Mt. Hehuan Excursion)
10.Snow Mountain (雪山)
Considered by some as one of the most beautiful places in Taiwan. Very cold in winter due to its 3,886m altitude, Snow Mountain is the second highest mountain in the country and can be found in the Shei-Pa National Park. Not a hike for beginners – there are several peaks of varying difficulty that require different permits to climb – it’s a multi-day excursion, so you’ll have to camp and/or stay in huts along the way. A highlight of the trip is Black Forest, packed with pine trees and Taiwanese wildlife. Oh, and the snow, of course.
11.Jade Mountain (玉山)
Taiwan’s highest mountain. Despite its size, Jade Mountain (Yushan) is a relatively easy hike, but you still need to be pretty fit to make it to the top – especially if you want to complete the ascent in a single day. Located not far from Alishan National Scenic Area in Yushan National Park, you’ll need to apply for a permit to climb a fair few months in advance. Expect incredible views of the sunrise above the clouds if you reach the summit during early morning.
Feeling inspired to get outdoors and scale one of the spectacular peaks that Taiwan has to offer? Customize your personalized hiking tour now!