Do you know that Taiwan has the highest density of alpine mountains in the world, containing 286 mountains taller than 3,000 meters? A smaller list of the alpine mountains is affectionately known to the locals as “Top 100 Peaks,” or “baiyue” (百岳), and some have made it their life mission to climb all 100. People don’t usually see Taiwan as a hiking destination, but to me, these mountains are the best part of Taiwan.
Traditionally, to hike any of the baiyue you need to apply for an entry permit and a police permit. It is quite a hassle, this is why you would only see mostly locals on the trails, but you can also do the hikes by going with local hiking groups (on fixed dates) and they will settle the applications for you. I did mine through: WAHA and Ccoolly.
- Qilai Nanhua Mountains (奇萊南華) (3,359m and 3,184m)
Qilai South Peak and Nanhua Mountain are considered the 2 easier hikes among the Baiyue. But trust me, you still have to be physically fit for this trail, otherwise opt for a 3D2N hike instead of 2D1N. For this trail, you have to walk 13 km of mountaineous roads just so you can reach the base camp to hike the 2 peaks. If you opt for 2D1N, you have to walk 26 km in 2 days (excluding the actual ascents). Altitude sickness may also pose an issue if you have not hiked at this altitude before.
They are worth it, both for the views, and the sense of accomplishment for conquering 2 peaks in 2/3 days.
2. Hehuanshan Main Peak 合歡山主峰 (3,417m), East Peak 合歡山東峰 (3,421m) and Mt. Shimen 石門山 (3,237m)
These 3 peaks in the Hehuanshan range are considered the most touristy of the Baiyue, yet still very awe-inspiring. Be prepared again for strong winds and high altitudes, which can contribute to unnecessary fatigue even if you are physically fit. Highly recommend these peaks to get a real teaser of Taiwan’s mountain scene and get away from the touristy crowds of Cing Jing. If you think Cing Jing already boasts nice views, come here.
3. Sheipa Leisure Farm (1,923m)
Not one of the Baiyue, but a really great alternative when you are finally earning money and want to splurge on a comfortable mountain experience.
You will need to travel 2 hours of winding (puke-inducing) roads to get here, but I think it is worth it! Scenery was great, and food was varied and delicious (though relatively pricey by Taiwan standards). There are also on-site activities, hikes and tours to keep you occupied. You will also learn to appreciate the detail and thought the owner has put into the farm – almost every corner exists as a manifestation of the history of the owner and the place. Recommend to stay at least 2 nights to savour the slow pace of life (and to avoid 2 days in a row of winding roads). You will also get to see the stars at night and sunrise in the morning. Depending on the season, you will witness different flowers and views.
Really envy the locals, there is so much beauty hidden in Taiwan, and so much to do!