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The Complete Guide to Hiking Taiwan's Southern Three Stars Part 2: Discover Guanshanlingshan

Posted by:  Anusha Lee
Published date: January 27, 2024
Continue your adventure with part two of Taiwan's esteemed Southern Three Stars, featuring the serene charm of Mt. Guanshanling. This enticing hike on the Southern Cross-island Highway promises panoramic scenery from the stunning Guanshan Mountain Pass (Yakou) and Mt. Siangyang. Revel in the breathtaking views as you traverse through Taiwan's majestic landscapes.
Mt. Guanshanling
Mt. Siangyang's exposed bedrock can be seen on the way to Mt. Guanshanling.
This post includes information on accommodations, permit applications, and traffic guidelines, ensuring a seamless high-mountain experience with the convenience of a day hike.
Mt. Guanshanling
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Table of Contents:

Trail Information: Mt. Taguan (Taguanshan) of Nanheng Highway Three Stars

Trail Name: Mt. Guanshanling (Guanshanlingshan) 關山嶺山, listed as No. 77 in the 100 Peaks in Taiwan. Nanheng Highway is short for the Southern Cross-island Highway.
Distance: 3 km (2.75 miles)
Route type: Out-and-back
Days/Hours Needed: 3-4 hours
Total Ascent/Descent: 447 m/447 m
Best Time to Go: All seasons, but winter is also the snow season. Yushan National Park will ask for hikers to declare the snow season form.
Permits: A police mountain entry permit is required.
Difficulty Level: trail difficulty

Peaks or Places to Reach

  1. Mt. Guanshanling, or Guanshanling Mountain 關山嶺山, 3,176 meters (10,420 feet) above sea level. There's a Class 2 Triangulation Stone on the top. You can see Mt. Siangyang and other high mountains on the top.
Mt. Guanshanling
Looking at the west side on the trail to Mt. Guanshanling.

Accommodations, Transport to the Trailhead, and Map/GPX Data

Hotels, Campsites, and Restaurants on the Kaohsiung/West Side

There are several hotels, B&Bs, and campsites near the Meishan Visitor Center 梅山遊客中心.
Meishankou - Yushan National Park
Meishan Youth Activity Center 梅山青年活動中心 is another option. If you stay here overnight, you can save driving time to the trailhead, which takes around one hour.
Meishankou - Yushan National Park
Meishan Youth Activity Center 梅山青年活動中心

Hotels, Campsites, and Restaurants on the Taitung/East Side: Siangyang Checkpoint

The closest hotels near Siangyang Checkpoint are in of Lidao Village Haiduan Township, Taitung, or Motian Farm. It takes around 1 hour from Lidao Village to the Meishan Checkpoint.
Siangyang National Forest Recreation Area

The West Side: Transport from Jiasian, Kaohsiung to Meishankou

Kaohsiung Bus 8029 goes from Jiasian Station 甲仙車站 to Meishan Village at 9:00 and from Meishan Village Stop at 12:25. It takes around 1.5 hours from Jiasian Station to Meishankou Stop (Or Meishan Mouth) 梅山口.
The bus stop is close to the Meishan Checkpoint of Southern Cross-island Highway 南橫公路西端梅山管制站.
Kaohsiung Joy Bus H11 Shuttle goes from Liugui 六龜 to Meishankou but the bus ride is long. Bus 8029 is faster.
Meishankou - Yushan National Park

The East Side: Transport from Siangyang Checkpoint of Southern Cross-island Highway 向陽管制站

There is no public transport to Siangyang Checkpoint.

Transport from Meishan Checkpoint of Southern Cross-island Highway to Mt. Taguan Trailhead

There is no public transport to the trailhead, either. Most people hire the private pickup service from Kaohsiung. The cost is around NT$5,000-6,000 per day.
If you drive or ride a scooter, the parking area near the trailhead is at 33.5 km signage.

GPX Track

Click Menu in the map to download, print, or share the map.
You can see more options after clicking the Play button.
Click timer to change the speed to meet your condition.

Permit Applications and Southern Cross-island Highway Traffic Control

How to Apply for Police Mountain Entry Permits

Go to the National Police Agency's Mountain Entry Application System. Tick the box, put your ID/Passport number, put the correct verification code, and click "Submit". You will see the following page.
Put the required personal details.
Then, put your intended dates to hike. Click "Search for Destination".
This database is case sensitive 🤦 Remember to put uppercase G.
In the "Plan" area, put "Guanshanlingshan Trailhead ➔ Mt. Guanshanling ➔ Guanshanlingshan Trailhead."
Click "Roster" to fill out the form if you have other hiking partners. Then, click "Submit".

Traffic Control from Meishankou to Siangyang on Provincial Highway 20 of Southern Cross-island Highway

Check Yushan National Park's website for English information about traffic control. Click "Highway Traffic Control."
Or check Provincial Highway Real Time Information Service for the latest traffc control.
The section from Meishankou to Siangyang is closed on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Vehicles are allowed to enter from both sides from 07:00 to 14:00. All vehicles must leave before 17:00. Vehicles with license plates are allowed to enter. Bicycles are not allowed in this section.
When the highway becomes icy because of the cold weather, the Southern Region Branch Office of the Highway Bureau will close the sections, too. Please check the Southern Region Branch Office's website for details (only available in Chinese.)
Or call for the latest news: +886-7-6751014 on the Meishankou to Yakou side in Kaohsiung (高雄市梅山口至埡口), or +886-89-811024 on the Yakou to Siangyang side (臺東縣埡口至向陽) in Taitung.
Red and White Minimalist Important Announcement

Itinerary of Mt. Guanshanling Hike

Brief itinerary: Trailhead to Mt. Guanshanling ➔ Mt. Guanshanling ➔ Trailhead to Mt. Guanshanling
Passed the Meishankou Checkpoint. I did this hike after we finished Mt. Taguan, so we were slightly rushed to leave the highway because of the traffic control.
Meishankou - Yushan National Park
A long queue waiting at the checkpoint
12:56 We reached Daguanshan Tunnel 大關山隧道 and Guanshan Yakou (Guanshan Mountain Pass) 關山啞口. When we got there, the clouds had covered everything up. You can tell this is a popular tourist spot by the size of the crowd.
Mt. Guanshanling
The trail is right above the Daguanshan Tunnel.
13:01 We walked to the trailhead, on the top of the tunnel, and embraced the steep scramble slope. This section was almost vertical, and the loose scramble made ascending more difficult.
Mt. Guanshanling
Mt. Guanshanling
The loose scramble slope made the ascending fun.
After climbing up for a while, I could still hear the loud noise from the mountain pass.
Mt. Guanshanling
Looking back at Guanshan Yakou
The weather became tricky. There was blue sky and sunshine, but the clouds played a seek and hide game with them. I wasn't sure whether our good luck that morning would continue to promise a good view later. Yet, the west side looked wonderful.
Mt. Guanshanling
The view on the west side looked great.
13:32 We reached a steep rock slope. There were ropes on the side, but getting up still took me a while.
Mt. Guanshanling
After climbing, the 0.5 km signage appeared with a bright blue sky in the back.
Mt. Guanshanling
The 0.5 km signage
On the Guanshan Mountain Pass side, I saw the sea of clouds and rainbow! I have countless times when the overcast at the beginning of the hikes turned into one of the most gorgeous seas of clouds I've ever seen. Is this going to be another one?
Mt. Guanshanling
The excitement of the possibility of breathtaking views was quickly replaced by the taxing ascending. There was almost no easy section here for me to catch my breath.
Yet, the thick clouds were underneath our feet, and I felt mist on my face, which explains why we had rainbow.
Mt. Guanshanling
My hiking mates
14:07 I passed the signage of 1 km. I still had 500 meters to go. It feels more like 5 km to me at that moment.
Mt. Guanshanling
When I stopped to catch my breath and looked back, the mountains behind me were like a solid wall, circling all the clouds on the east side. Only a few streams of mischievous clouds got a chance to escape the hold and flew over the rugged ridge.
Mt. Guanshanling
Moreover, a big lenticular cloud formed on the top of the most pointed peaks and looked like a UFO. I wish to sit here to enjoy the view without going to the peak, but we still have to continue.
Mt. Guanshanling
Now, I could see a milder slope with hikers scaling up in front of me. This section indeed felt like 5 km to me.
Mt. Guanshanling
Almost there.
14:42 Finally, I reached Mt. Guanshanling, 3,176 meters. There wasn't an ample space on the top, and I suddenly heard someone calling my name.
Mt. Guanshanling
I brought my Sony camera to take this photo.
It was my French hiking mate! We did the Taipingshan and Jialuo Lake hike (post coming soon) together in October 2023. He was hiking with his family and friends. What a great surprise.
Mt. Guanshanling
If you continue the hike, you will eventually reach Mt. Siangyang and even Jiaming Lake. But this is a much more challenging hike, not for everyone.
Mt. Guanshanling
The peak on the left is Mt. Siangyang.
While the spectacular views were worth staying longer, the pressure to leave the Southern Cross-island Highway still lingered. I still managed to shoot a time-lapse video and rushed as fast as possible to return to the trailhead.
On the way back, the big lenticular cloud was out of shape. Perhaps the extraterrestrial object had finished its abduction mission and took off.
Mt. Guanshanling
The rainbow was still there waiting for us.
Mt. Guanshanling
My hiking mates with Mt. Siangyang, clouds and the barely seen rainbow.
16:04 I returned to the trailhead. Now, the crowds and clouds were half gone, and I could see why Yakou (Guanshan Mountain Pass) had attracted so many people.
Mt. Guanshanling
Back to Guanshan Yakou

About Mt. Guanshanling, Guanshan Mountain Pass, and Southern Cross-island Highway and Three Stars

The Guanshan Historic Trail and the Southern Cross-island Highway (Provincial Highway 20) 台20線

The Guanshan Historic Trail was built during the Japanese colonial period as a road for coercing the indigenous people. It starts in the Liugui District of Kaohsiung City 高雄市六龜區 in the west, crosses the Central Mountain Range, and ends in Guanshan Town, Taitung County 臺東縣關山鎮 in the east, spanning approximately 171 km, making it the longest ancient trail in Taiwan.
Southern Cross-island Highway
After World War II, the Taiwan Provincial Government used this ancient trail as a prototype to construct the Southern Cross-island Highway. As a result, most of the original trail has disappeared.
The most famous remaining section is the Zhongzhiguan Historic Trail between Zhongzhiguan and Tianchi. It took three years to rebuild the Zhongzhiguan Historic Trail, and finally opened in 1997.
Now, the Southern Cross-island Highway starts from Yujing Township, Tainan County 台南縣玉井鄉 in the west, crosses the Central Mountain Range through Kaohsiung City, and ends in Haiduan Township, Taitung County 台東縣海端鄉 in the east.
Siangyang on the Haiduan side
It is the shortest of the three highways that traverse the Central Mountain Range in Taiwan and is commonly known as Provincial Highway 20 台20線. The entire Southern Cross-island Highway is divided into eastern and western sections by Tianchi/Tian Pond 天池.
The western section is characterized by its reservoirs, mountain villages, hot springs, valleys, and mountainous landscapes. Meishankou is one of the prime sections, featuring the Yushan National Park Meishan Visitor Center, Meishan Native Plant Garden, Bunun Exhibition Hall, Meishan Police Station with its owl-shaped exterior, Meishan Camping Area, and Meishan Youth Activity Center.
Meishankou - Yushan National Park
Can you guess this owl-like building is a police station?
Meishankou/Meishan Visitor Center is the gateway to the Yushan National Park and the only service station on the Southern Cross-island Highway. The visitor center is mixed with the Bunan's slate house style. It's being renovated and will be open to the public again after April 2024.
Meishankou - Yushan National Park
The Meishan tribe is located in the northernmost part of Taoyuan, Kaohsiung City, on a high river terrace of the old Laonong River channel. The area was initially covered with Yellow Rotang Palm, known in the Bunun language as "Masuhuaz," the tribe's old name.
Today, it's divided into Meishan Entrance (Meishankou) and Meishan Tribe. Meishankou, at the foothills along Provincial Highway 20, serves as a commercial hub for locals and tourists. The Meishan Tribe can be accessed via a connecting road from Meishankou. Now, Meishan (meaning plum mountain in Chinese) is famous for the plum blossoms in winter.
Meishankou - Yushan National Park
Meishan's old name: Masuhuaz
The section from Siangyang to Guanshan Yakou (mountain pass) 關山埡口 is the most spectacular part of the Taitung section of the Southern Cross-island Highway. The landscape of cliffs and gorges is magnificent, complemented by forests and high mountains. The Southern Cross-island Highway is in a tropical zone, and due to its high altitude, it offers a cool climate all year round and the unique sight of red leaves typically found in cold and temperate zones.
Guanshan Yakou

The Devastation Brought by Typhoon Morakot 莫拉克颱風

Typhoon Morakot, hitting Taiwan in August 2009, is one of the deadliest typhoons in Taiwan's recorded history. It brought unprecedented torrential rains, triggering catastrophic landslides and widespread flooding across the region. The storm resulted in over 600 fatalities, causing roughly NT$110 billion (US$3.3 billion) in damages, with the village of Xiaolin 小林村 being almost entirely eradicated.
  1. August 8, 2009: Due to Typhoon Morakot, multiple sections of Provincial Highway 20 collapsed or were disrupted, which led to those sections being closed.
  2. January 12, 2020: Provincial Highway 20 was open eastbound to 105K (Meishan Entrance) and westbound to 149K (Xiangyang).
  3. January 13, 2020: The section from Meishan Entrance to Tianchi was conditionally opened for traffic.
  4. August 7, 2021: The Mingbakelu Bridge 明霸克露橋 was destroyed by floods due to the effects of the mild Typhoon Lupit.
  5. May 1, 2022, 7 AM: After nearly 13 years of closure, the Provincial Highway 20 was reopened with traffic controls and closures on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Mt. Guanshanling and Guanshan Mountain Pass

Mt. Guanshanling or Guanshanling Mountain 關山嶺山, 3,176 meters, is a renowned peak on the southern main ridge of Taiwan's Central Mountain Range, ranking 77th among Taiwan's 100 Mountains. Straddling Taitung's Haiduan Township and Kaohsiung's Taoyuan District, it lies on the southwest border of Yushan National Park. It is the second star of the Southern Cross-Island Highway's 'Southern 3 Stars'.
The Guanshan Tunnel 關山大隧道, part of the scenic Southern Cross-Island Highway, offers breathtaking views of majestic mountains and dense forests. This tunnel, at 2,722 meters, also Taiwan's highest tunnel, divides the island's east and west, showcasing distinct landscapes and climates.
The tunnel's eastern entrance in Taitung is known for its stunning sea of clouds in the afternoon, formed around 2,500 meters due to monsoonal moisture and terrain.
Guanshan Mountain Pass, Yakou

Other Attractions on the Southern Cross-island Highway

Even if you don't do hikes, Southern Cross-island Highway is a breathtaking highway that worth visiting. After we finished the hike, we saw the clouds floating around the valley and I wished we could just stop for a moment to savor the amazing views.
Those are the stops that you should go if you come here:
  1. Xinliguan Observation Deck 新禮觀觀景台. You will find toilets here.
  2. Tianchi (Tian Pond) 天池 and Zhongzhiguan Historic Trail 中之關步道. Tianchi is an alpine lake in Taoyuan, Kaohsiung, with an elevation of 2,280 meters. Situated behind the Changqing Temple on the Southern Cross-island Highway, Tianchi has a heart-shaped appearance. The lake's water source relies on rainfall and melting snow, with an average depth of 1.2 meters and an area of about 1,800 square meters.
  3. Changchun Shrine 長春祠, built in 1979, was to honor the 116 engineers and workers who tragically lost their lives during the construction of the Southern Cross-island Highway.
For the stunning views here, please see Yushan National Park's video about the Southern Cross-island Highway. Or click the image below.
Tianchi from Yushan National Park Headquarters
The heart-shaped Tianchi. Image from Yushan National Park Headquarters, National Park Service, Ministry of the Interior

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Free Bus Guides to Hike Popular Mountains in Taiwan

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