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100 Peaks: Qilai Nanhua Trail Complete Hiking Guide

Posted by:  Anusha Lee
Published date: March 2, 2021
100 Peaks: Qilai and Nanhua infographic
100 Peaks: Qilai and Nanhua infographic
Disclaimer: Please note some of the following are based on my personal experience and condition, and I will try to provide the latest and correct information as possible as I can. Please feel free to let me know if I make any mistake and thank you for reading. Please also note that your safety is your own responsibility.

Before We Start

This is my second time to hike Qilai Nanhua but my first time to plan a 100 Peaks hike, apply for permits, arrange transport and coordinate other things from scratch. I went with a group on my first hike, but I enjoy much more during my second one, mainly because of those wonderful hiking mates.
I want to thank Sky, who has hiked to 30+ 100 Peaks, still asked me, who only hiked ten 100 Peaks, to take him to Mt. Qilai South Peak and Mt. Nanhua, the lovely duo, Ami and Teresa from Taiwan Trails and Tales, Cris and his beautiful girlfriend Fangyi, Walt, and Glenn from OutRecording for being brave enough to go hiking with me. Oh, Glenn got us this cool group name, Brute Squad. You'll need a group name to apply for your stay at Tianchi Lodge.
100 Peaks: Mt. Qilai South Peak and Mt. Nanhua
We were on our way to Tunyuan Trailhead.
Without a doubt, it's stressfull to arrange things and worried about my hiking mates, but I also learn a lot. I'm so glad that we got home safely.
This is a long post, and you can go to the Table of Contents and jump to things you want to know. Hope you find this guide helpful and you will have a great and safe trip on this trail.

Table of Contents:

About Qilai Nanhua Hike and Other Trails Nearby

History

High Altitude Sickness

How to Apply for Permits: Be Prepared to Apply for Several Times

Meals, Sleeping Bags, Tents, and Pads

How to Get There

Peaks and Places to Reach

Day 1: Started the Hike at Noon

Day 2: Got up at 2 am and Headed for the Peaks

Thoughts about this hike: How Many Days Should I Hike and Others

Map and Itinerary

References

Related Posts on Taiwan Hikes

About Qilai Nanhua Hike, Nenggao Cross-Ridge Trail 能高越嶺, and Nenggao and An-Tung-Chun Mountain National Alpine Trail 能高安東軍山

There are two 100 Peaks on this trail, Mt. Qilai South Peak and Mt. Nanhua. Because the pronunciation in mandarin of south is nan, the short name for this trail is Qilai Nanhua 奇萊南華, Qilai Nan Feng (Feng meaning peak), Nanhua Shan.
Qilai Nanhua is one of the entry-level hikes among 100 Peaks. Because this trail is easy and there’s a good accommodation with meals and sleeping bags to rent, this trail is very popular among hikers (or even non hikers) in Taiwan. As you can imagine, it can be more crowded on the trail during the weekends or long holidays.
100 Peaks: Qilai Nanhua: How to Apply for Tianchi Lodge and Permits
We had several long holidays in October 2020 and so many people wanted to hike Qilai Nanhua.
When you arrive at Tunyuan Trailhead 屯原登山口, 2,041 meters (6,696 feet), you will see two signs, the top one in green with 49 km is Neng-kao and An-Tung-Chun (aka Nenggao Andongjun) Mountain National Alpine Trail 能高安東軍山, and the brown one in the bottom is Neng-kao National Historical Trail (aka Nenggao Cross-Ridge Trail). No matter which one you hike, you’ll have to go from Tunyuan to Kuang Pei Pa Piao Monument, and take different trails at a fork near Kuang Pei Pa Piao Monument.
100 Peaks: Mt. Qilai South Peak and Mt. Nanhua
Tunyuan Trailhead is the entrance to at least 3 hiking trails around here.
The total distance of Nenggao Cross-Ridge Trail is 27 km (16.7 miles), and it’s from Tunyuan Trailhead to Tongmen Village in Sioulin, Hualien, 花蓮縣秀林鄉銅門村. You can start this hike from either trailhead. It usually takes 3 days to finish this one, and its difficulty level is considered moderate. There’s no 100 Peaks on this trail, unless you put Mt. Qilai South Peak and Mt. Nanhua on your itinerary.
By the way, if you like knifes or machetes, Tongmen Machetes 銅門刀 are very famous. It’s said when the Dutch occupied Taiwan in the 17 century, Truku people were very impressed by their machete making skills and used deer antlers to exchange to learn it, which has become a skill passed by generations among Truku people. When I hiked on Mt. Liushun and Lake Qitsai (post coming soon), we had a conversation with an indigenous hunter and he carried a beautiful Tongmen Machete on his waist.
The most famous tourist attraction in Sioulin is probably Taroko Gorge. I’ve hiked several beautiful trails in Taroko, including Dali and Datong Villages, Zhuilu Old Trail, and Shakadang Trail.
Zhuilu Old Trail in Taroko Gorge, Hualien
Taroko Gorge
As to Nenggao Andongjun Mountain Alpine Trail 能高安東軍, also called North Section 3 of the Central Mountain Range 北三段, it’s more challenging and takes at least 6 days to hike. There are five 100 Peaks on this trail: Mt. Nenggao Main Peak 能高主山, 3,262 meters (10,702 feet), Mt. Nenggao South Peak 能高山南峰, 3,349 meters (10,987 feet), Mt. Guantou (meaning bald head in English) 光頭山, 3,060 meters (10,039 feet), Mt. Baishih 白石山, 3,110 meters (10,203 feet), and Mt. Andongjun 安東軍山, 3,068 meters (10,066 feet).
100 Peaks: Mt. Qilai South Peak and Mt. Nanhua
The almost perfect triangle-shaped peak is Mt. Nenggao Main Peak

Brief History of Nenggao Cross-Ridge Trail 能高越嶺(古)道

Before Nenggao Cross-Ridge Trail was built, those separate trails were originally used as hunting trails by the indigenous people, Atayal people 泰雅族 and Seedig people 賽德克族.
100 Peaks: Mt. Qilai South Peak and Mt. Nanhua
Map of Nenggao Cross-Ridge Trail at the trailhead
During Japanese Occupation, Nenggao Cross-Ridge Trail was built to help them rule the indigenous tribes. At that time, Japanese colonial government also started establishing infrastructure and had established several power plants in Tongmen, Qingshui and other places in eastern Taiwan, which had produced more electricity than the eastern Taiwan needed.
Therefore, Japanese colonial government decided to transmit the excess electricity to western Taiwan during the late WWII. After WWII was over and Japan surrendered, Japan handed Taiwan over to Kuomintung, whose chairman was Chiang Kai-Shek. But this project of east-west power transmission was also brought to a halt due to the chaos and lack of funding.
To make the long story short, the government of United States of American decided to fund USD $400,000, which is equivalent in purchasing power to about $7.4 million today, designated to Taipower Company to restart this electricity transmission project in 1950.
100 Peaks: Mt. Qilai South Peak and Mt. Nanhua
If you want to know more about the trail history of Nenggao, this is a great book to start and it's also a reference for this post.
According to the research done by authors of the Story of the Nengao National Trail, an indigenous woman said she was recruited to help build this project while being pregnant, and she had to carry 50 kg (110 pounds) of cements and was paid NT$5 per day, and men had to carry 100 kg (110 pounds) and were paid NT$10 per day.
Finally, this project was finished in 1953, and Taipower Company built a monument to remember this great achievement. Chiang Kai-Shek, the president at that time, signed “光被八表, 利溥民生 Kuang Pei Pa Piao, Li Pu Min Sheng” on the monument, meaning this project was like "light shining covers the eight dimensions and benefits civil life". This monument is located right on the border between Nantou County and Hualien County on the ridge, and has become a must visit place among hikers.
100 Peaks: Mt. Qilai South Peak and Mt. Nanhua
My friend and I took this photo at Kuang Pei Pa Piao Monument in March, 2019.

High Altitude Sickness

High altitude sickness is no joke. It can happen to anyone, whether they are experienced hikers or not. I’m not an expert to this, but you’ll have to let your hiking mates know whenever you feel weird, no matter how tiny those symptoms are. I had a cold before our trip and I was worried this might trigger altitude sickness, so I visited my doctor before our hike and took some medicine. There’s a famous doctor in Taiwan, Dr. Wang 王士豪醫生, whose specialties are treating high altitude sickness and other illness related to high altitude hiking. You can make an appointment with Dr. Wang and have a thorough assessment before your hike.

How to Apply: Be Prepared to Apply for Several Times

1. You Need to Get a Bed or Campsite at Tianchi Lodge First. Wild Camping Is Not Allowed.

1.1 Register to become a member on Tianchi Lodge homepage.
1.2 Click “Application” and read the rules before clicking AGREE. If you are a foreign national, you can click PRIORITY RESERVATION FOR FOREIGNERS, but those are only available on non-Taiwan-public holidays and weekdays in Taiwan. If you wish to go on the weekend, you have to go through the regular application process.
100 Peaks: Qilai Nanhua: How to Apply for Tianchi Lodge and Permits
You can see how many hikers have applied for their stay at Tianchi Lodge
12 beds are preserved for foreign nationals, and you can start applying 2 to 4 months before the date(s) you wish to stay at Tianchi Lodge.
I’m a foreign national, can I hire one or more Taiwanese guides, or go with my Taiwanese friends? Of course, but please remember there’s a ration requirement.
For a group of 5 or fewer hikers, you can only hire 1 Taiwanese guide or bring 1 Taiwanese friend.
For a group of 6 or more foreigner nationals, the maximum of Taiwanese is 2.
If you have a large group (up to 12 people), the maximum of Taiwanese is 3.
If your group is larger than 12 people, you have to divide your group and appoint different people to be the team leader and proceed the application process, which means it’s possible that some people may not be able to win the lots and your team has to be split up.
But what if our group want to go with more Taiwanese people, can we still apply? Of course, just go with the regular process and draw lots if the demand is more than the supply. No preserved beds or campsites for you if you go through the regular process.
For other applicants, the application date is open 2 months before the date you wish to stay at Tianchi Lodge.
100 Peaks: Qilai Nanhua: How to Apply for Tianchi Lodge and Permits
You click the date on the calendar you wish to hike to the next forms.
1.3 When selecting the date(s) you wish to stay, you will see how many beds at the lodge and tents are available and how many people have applied. But those numbers vary all the time. The official drawing date is 30 days before the date you want to stay. The drawing time is 3:00 pm, and the results will be posted on Tianchi Lodge website after 3:30 pm.
It is said that you will get the email if you win the lot, but I didn't get that. I did get a SMS notice at 3:40 pm on November 2, 2020, telling me to pay the fees within 5 days.
1.4 What if I don’t get any bed? You will have to wait to see whether there is any cancellation on the day you want to stay. I probably won’t expect too much because this is a very popular trail. I will pick up a next date and apply again. You can only apply between beds or a campsite, just one at a time.
1.5 If you go with a group, one person from your group or your guide should be responsible for the application process. Please remember this person (aka your team leader) can’t be switched. If this person and your guide can’t go, you have to cancel the whole group’s stay. You can reduce the members of your team, but it’s not allowed to switch people.
100 Peaks: Qilai Nanhua: How to Apply for Tianchi Lodge and Permits
The maximum number of people in one group is 12. You have to divide your groups into smaller ones if you have a large group.
1.6 You can pay the fee with credit cards. Once you receive the notice that you have got beds/campsites, you have to pay the fee within 5 days. Here is the fees you pay:
100 Peaks: Qilai Nanhua: How to Apply for Tianchi Lodge and Permits
Fees are different during weekdays and weekends.
1.7 Cancelation
If things come up and you are not able to go, please remember to cancel your stay on Tianchi Lodge’s page. Otherwise, you and your whole team will get penalty and can’t apply for Tianchi Lodge again for 3 months to 1 year.
You will get total refund if typhoon alert is officially issued, natural disasters, or the trail is closed. If you still want to go later, you can’t just change the date. You have to apply again.
For other unforeseen reasons and you need to cancel your trip:
If your cancelation is accepted 6 days before your stay, you will get a total refund.
If you cancel your stay 4 or 5 days before your date, you will get 50% refund.
If you cancel your stay within 3 days before your date, you will not get refund.
Please note in case there is any change in the rules, you should visit Tianchi Lodge’s official page to get the latest announcements.
There are five 4-person rooms (room number starting with 4), four 8-person rooms (room numbers starting with 8) on the second floor, and three 12-person rooms with bunk beds (room number starting with 12) on the first floor at the lodge. The lodge master will arrange your stay, but it’s possible that your group might share the room with other hikers.
100 Peaks: Mt. Qilai South Peak and Mt. Nanhua
Glenn said Tianchi Lodge was much better than many hiking cabins he has ever been.

Apply for Park Permit before Your Departure

You don’t have to apply for permit to hike Mt. Nanhua, but Mt. Qilai South Peak is located at Taroko National Park and you still have to apply for park permit. Remember to apply for the permit at least 5 days before your departure. Read the rules and check all the boxes required before clicking I Agree.
100 Peaks: Qilai Nanhua: How to Apply for Tianchi Lodge and Permits
When the next page shows up, check Standard Application, and click Next. Fill out all the forms that are required.
100 Peaks: Qilai Nanhua: How to Apply for Tianchi Lodge and Permits
The total hiking days is fixed to 1 day if you select Qilai South Peak as the secondary route.
Emergency Coordinator:
I have stressed the importance of having an emergency coordinator on my post to Mt. Dabajian and Mt. Xiaobajian. You will have to find a person who really knows the trail and your itinerary in case this person needs to contact the police for help.
100 Peaks: Qilai Nanhua: How to Apply for Tianchi Lodge and Permits
Emergency Coordinator must be very familiar with your itinerary, and it's better to report to this person when you reach the planned locations.

Buy Travel Insurance and Hiking Insurance 登山綜合保險

By the time when this post is published, five counties and cities in Taiwan, Miaoli County, Taichung City, Nantou County, Hualien County, and Pingtung County, require hikers to buy Hiking Insurance before they hike 100 Peaks inside their territories.
If things happen and hikers need to call for help, they will get a hefty fine for not complying to the regulations. Some even require at least one of the team members must have a BLS (Basic Life Support) certificate.
Hiking-guide-training-in-Taiwan
Hiking guide training
As to the insurance, I will buy both Travel Insurance and Hiking Insurance, because they cover different things even though some of them are overlapped. Hiking Insurance covers the rescue cost during your hike IF YOU GO ACCORDING TO YOUR ORIGINAL PLAN, which means you will still be fined if you change your route and need to be rescued later.
However, please note that Hiking Insurance doesn’t cover your bill for helicopter lift, and you can only claim your insurance after you officially call the police for help.
Here is a list of companies provided by the Non-Life Insurance Association of the Republic of China 中華民國產物保險商業同業公會. The first 2 companies provide online purchase.

After you arrive at Tianchi Lodge:

1. Check-in with Lodge Master after 2 pm, leave your hiking boots out and change to indoor slippers before getting side the lodge.
When you check in, you need to have all team members’ ID (Taiwanese ID card, passport or ARC), printout from Taichi Lodge website that proves you and your team members have paid the fee.
100 Peaks: Mt. Qilai South Peak and Mt. Nanhua
A notice at the door of Tianchi Lodge to remind hikers about checking in
2. Check-in with Tianchi Kitchen to get meals, sleeping bags, pads if you have rent them in advance. If your group is big, remember to get some of your hiking mates to help carry those sleeping bags and pads. I forgot I had to carry 6 sleeping bags and the nice guy at Tianchi Kitchen helped me carry some to our room.
3. Check-out Time: 11 am on the date of your departure. You have to return everything you rent before departure.
4. Water: there are several water resources on the trail, and the water is quite clean. You can boil the water or just use a water filter to purifier the water before drinking.

Meals, Sleeping Bags, Tents, and Pads

You can bring your own stove and meals and you are not allowed to cook in your rooms. You can cook your meals at the dining area on the first floor of the lodge.
Or you can book meals, rent sleeping bags, tents and pads with 天池廚房 Tianchi Kitchen, so you don’t have to carry too much.
Meals: NT$500/person per day. If you stay for 2 days, the cost will be NT$900 per person for 2 days. But please check with Tianchi Kitchen for the latest price. They also have meals for vegetarians, but you need to inform them when you order the meails
Sleeping bag: NT$200/person per day
Sleeping pad: NT$90/person per day
Dinner: between 5:30 am and 6 am, serving rice, 6 dishes and 1 soup.
Breakfast before peaks: The first serving time: between 2:30 am and 3:00 am, serving rice soup, side dishes, toasts, jams. The second serving time for breakfast: 6 am.
Noodle soup after peak: 10 am
Tianchi Kitchen will prepare boiled water after dinner.
Remember to bring your own utensils.
There are already have mats on those beds at Tianchi Lodge, but it’s personal preference to use the sleeping pad.
100 Peaks: Mt. Qilai South Peak and Mt. Nanhua
I didn't feel cold when staying there overnight.
Please note that Tianchi Lodge and Tianchi Kitchen are two different units. Tianchi Lodge belongs to Forestry Bureau, and Tianchi Kitchen is a private company. That's why the website of Tianchi Lodge says hikers have to prepare their own food. Confusing, I know, but I hope this guide can help you successfully get the beds and order the meals.

How to Get There

  1. 1. Hire a car if you have enough people to share the cost. The van we hired is NT$12,000 and can sit 8 people plus a driver.
  2. 2. If you don’t have enough people to hire a car, no worries. You still can take public transport from Taipei, Taichung or Kaohsiung to the trailhead.

From Taipei to Puli 埔里:

Take Kingbus 1832A (must take the one with A) from Taipei Bus Station to Puli Station. The one-way ticket is NT$405, and the estimated time is around 3 hours if the traffic is good. There is a KFC Restaurant close to Puli Station.
You can take Taiwan High Speed Rail from Taipei to Taichung, and then take the shuttle bus from Taichung Station to Puli. But I think take Kingbus 1832A directly from Taipei is the easiest one. You can take how to get to the trailhead from Taichung for details.

From Kaohsiung to Taichung:

Take Taiwan High Speed Rail from Zuoying to Taichung. You can check out their website to see the timetable and train tickets.

From Taichung to Puli:

Take Nantou Bus 6670 at Platform 3 on the first floor, High Speed Rail Taichung Station, and get off at Puli Station. The bus fare is NT$110, and the estimated time is 50 minutes.

From Puli to Lushan 廬山:

Take Nantou Bus 6660 at Puli Station, and get off at Lushan廬山 (NOT the hot spring one, because some buses don’t stop at Lushan). The bus fare is NT$135, and the estimated time is 1.5 hours.
I will suggest you to purchase EasyCard or iPass 一卡通 and deposit enough money to pay the bus fares, which will be easier without carrying too many coins and you can also have some discounts. Multiday Passes cannot be used to here.
You can use EasyCard to take any transportation in Taiwan or at convenience stores as long as you put enough deposit in it.
Buy an EasyCard and deposit some money to make taking public transport much easier.

From Lushan to Tunyuan Trailhead:

To make life easier, most hikers will stay at Malan B&B 馬蘭民宿. If you just stay there for one night, it’s NT$500 per person, including breakfast, but Malan B&B also provides round-trip pick up from Tunyuan Trailhead to Lushan, and it’s NT$1,000 per person, including your stay. Malan B&B is very close to the bus stop of Nantou Bus 6660.
Once your stay at Tianchi Lodge and transportation are settled, the things you need to do is to get yourself fit and pray for a good weather.

Peaks and Places to Reach

Tunyuan Trailhead (or entrance): 屯原登山口, GPS coordinates: 24.050968, 121.215336, 2,000 meters (6,562 feet).
Mt. Qilai South Peak: 奇萊南峰, 3,358 meters (11,017 feet). There’s a Class 2 Triangulation Stone on the peak.
Mt. Nanhua, aka Mt. Nenggao North Peak: 南華山 (能高北峰), 3,184 meters (10,446 feet). There’s a Class 3 Triangulation Stone on the peak.
Yuanhai Line Station: 雲海保線所, 2,360 meters (7,743 feet), located at 4.9 km on the trail. Before you reach Yuanhai Line Station, you will see an Earth God temple, Fuyuan Temple 福雲宮 first.
Tianchi Lodge: 天池山莊 or Tianchi Hostel or Tianchi Mountain Villa as you might see on the sign on the trail, 2,860 meters (9,383 feet). Tianchi Lodge is also considered as a 5-star lodge on 100 Peaks trails.
Tianchi or Tian Pond: 天池, 3,100 meters (10,171 feet), a pond located at the fork to Mt. Qilai South Peak and Mt. Nanhua. This is the water, not the lodge hikers stay over night.
Kuang Pei Pa Piao Monument: 光被八表, 2,800 meters (9,186 feet). It’s not a peak, but most hikers will go there to witness one of the most memorable history that helped Taiwan economy grow.

Day 1: Stopped by Geographical Center Stele of Taiwan before Starting the Hike at Noon

The last month of 2020 in Taiwan was probably the most humid one in whole year. It had been raining a lot and it was no exception when we met up at Taipei Train Station at 6 am. Lucky for us, the weather turned better and better when we were heading south.
100 Peaks: Mt. Qilai South Peak and Mt. Nanhua
I took this photo from our car when we were in Puli.
We all got up very early and most of us just dozed off in the car. When we picked up 2 of our hiking mates who lived in Kaohsiung, Glenn and Walt, our driver proposed to take us to see Geographical Center Stele of Taiwan 臺灣地理中心碑 (23.974082, 120.979670). I never knew we had this, and we thought why not.
100 Peaks: Mt. Qilai South Peak and Mt. Nanhua
Geographical Center Stele of Taiwan in Puli
By the time we arrived at the trailhead, Tunyuan Entrance, it was already 11:30 am. It took us around 10 minutes to get ready. It was behind my schedule for about 40 minutes, but I thought it should be ok.
100 Peaks: Mt. Qilai South Peak and Mt. Nanhua
Tunyuan trailhead

Witnessed the History of Taiwan Electricity Development

We had to hike 13 km (8 miles) from Tunyuan to Tianchi Lodge, and it was gradually uphill. The trail condition was mostly good. When we were there, there were several constructions going on near the trailhead, where a tragic accident happened after we left.
100 Peaks: Mt. Qilai South Peak and Mt. Nanhua
There was a construction near the trailhead. Photo taken by our hiking mate Teresa.
We reached a section with several huge powerline flying high above us, and there was a sign telling the history of the electricity development in Taiwan, and the role of Nenggao Cross-Ridge Trail played to boost the economy for the future generations.
100 Peaks: Mt. Qilai South Peak and Mt. Nanhua
I think it's fair to say the electricity transmission project was the backbone of the growth in Taiwan.
We also took a longer break and let several small agricultural vehicles and motorbikes pass. Those vehicles were taking supplies and food that hikers need at Tianchi Lodge. Unless you have permission, other vehicles or bicycles are not allowed on this trail.
100 Peaks: Mt. Qilai South Peak and Mt. Nanhua
No bicycles or vehicles were allowed on the trail, unless you got the permission to transport the goods for the lodge.
There was a sign saying we could see Mt. Mahaipu Fushih 馬海濮富士山, 2,617 meters (8,586 feet), from there, but we could only see trees.
100 Peaks: Mt. Qilai South Peak and Mt. Nanhua
We could only see the trees from the sign of Mt. Mahaipu Fushih.
100 Peaks: Mt. Qilai South Peak and Mt. Nanhua
We finally saw Mt. Mahaipu Fushih after hiking further.
Within one hour, we saw Fuyuan Temple 福雲宮. When you see this temple, you will know Yuanhai Line Station, 雲海保線所, is around the corner. We reached Yuanhai Line Station within 3 minutes.
100 Peaks: Mt. Qilai South Peak and Mt. Nanhua
When you see Fuyuan Temple, Yuanhai Line Station isn't far away.
Where I first visited Yuanhai Line Station, there was no toilet. We had to relieve ourselves in the back of the office. Unfortunately, you would see the lousy hikers’ behaviors. I’ll spare the details here. It's good that there are toilets now, but sometimes the toilets didn’t have enough water. So, be prepared for something not so pleasant.
100 Peaks: Mt. Qilai South Peak and Mt. Nanhua
The phone reception at Yuanhai Line Office is very good.
You will find great phone reception at Yuanhai Line Station. As usual, we took group photos here.
100 Peaks: Mt. Qilai South Peak and Mt. Nanhua
Group photo at Yuanhai Line Office

Reached the Most Dangerous Rock Slope on This Trail

After we resumed our hike, we started seeing clouds spilling over the ridges in the distance. Then, we reached the most dangerous section of this trail, the unstable rock slope at 5.9 km. To be honest, this slope was easy to pass, but the problem is you don’t know when the falling rocks decide to land and land on your head. So, please pass this area as soon as possible. It was close to 3 pm when we went through this area.
100 Peaks: Mt. Qilai South Peak and Mt. Nanhua
Please pass this rock slope as soon as possible.
By the time we reached the charcoal kiln remains (you will see the sign explaining the history of it), it was close to 4 pm, we only finished 8 km, and still had 5 km to go. I got a feeling that we might have to hike in the dark for a while.
100 Peaks: Mt. Qilai South Peak and Mt. Nanhua
This remain was big enough to put an adult inside.
When we saw the sign saying it was 3.8 km to reach Tianchi Lodge, it was almost 4:18 pm. I wasn’t sure about my hiking mates, but I was feeling tired already.
100 Peaks: Mt. Qilai South Peak and Mt. Nanhua
We still had to almost 100 minutes to get to Tianchi Lodge from this sign.

Cloud Spilling over the Mountains and Setting Sun

Although our chance to hike in the dark was getting bigger, there were more clouds spilling over the ridges in the distance and it looked so amazing. If it wasn’t that we needed to go faster, I would love to stay there longer to see the sunset.
100 Peaks: Mt. Qilai South Peak and Mt. Nanhua
Stunning colors in the sky on the way to Tianchi Lodge
And Ami from Taiwan Trails and Tales took this amazing photo of me. She is not only a good writer but also a great photographer.
100 Peaks: Mt. Qilai South Peak and Mt. Nanhua. Courtesy of Ami from Taiwan Trails and Tales
My favorite photo taken by Ami on this trip.
I knew it was inevitable that we had to hike in the dark. Then, I decided to accept the fact and relax. The trail was very easy to hike and we all had headlamps. Hiking here in the dark was really not a big deal. It was just we couldn’t see Tianchi Lodge and the powerline near Kuang Pei Pa Piao Monument from the trail.
100 Peaks: Mt. Qilai South Peak and Mt. Nanhua
The layers of mountains in the distance during sunset.

Finally, We Arrived at Tianchi Lodge

When we reached Tianchi Lodge, it was already 6 pm, and other hikers were already having dinner. I hurried inside to check in with the lodge master and get our hiking mates to have dinner. Luckily, we still had some food left.
100 Peaks: Mt. Qilai South Peak and Mt. Nanhua
This was the sunset I saw during my first visit at Tianchi Lodge in 2019. I have to say the sunset on the trail looked more amazing than this.
If the food wasn't enough for us, luckily we still had a tiny chocolate cake. Two of our hiking mates were born in December, although the cake didn’t look very well after sitting in my backpack after a 13-km hike.
100 Peaks: Mt. Qilai South Peak and Mt. Nanhua
Not so good looking chocolate cake after a long hike, but it still tasted great.
After we settled down in our room, we went out to look at the sky. I didn’t have a good camera to capture the amazing sky, so I don’t have any photo to share here. But, once you see it, you’ll remember it.
If you arrive at Tianchi Lodge early, you will see Mt. Nenggao Main Peak in the distance. It’s very easy to recognize the peak from the distance because of its almost perfect triangle shape. I took this one during my first visit to Tianchi Lodge in 2019.
qilai-nanhua-03-Tianchi-Lodge-campsite-2019: Mt Nenggao
Watching Mt. Nenggao Main Peak from Tianchi Lodge in 2019

Day 2: Got up at 2 am and Headed for the Peaks

Before our departure, I had been telling everyone how beautiful it was to see the sunrise on Mt. Qilai South Peak, and we all had high hopes that we would see it.
100 Peaks: Mt. Qilai South Peak and Mt. Nanhua
We had been expecting this view for a while. This one was taken near Mt. Qilai South Peak in March 2019.
We got up around 2 am and had an early breakfast at 3 am. Then we headed to the Mt. Qilai at 4 am. The trail to Mt. Qilai South Peak and Mt. Nanhua was close to Tianchi Lodge. If you arrive at the lodge early, you definitely will see it.
100 Peaks: Mt. Qilai South Peak and Mt. Nanhua
Taiwanese style breakfast served by Tianchi Kitchen. They also served toasts with jams.
From there, it was all stairs and all the way up, very easy to follow. While we were taking our time waiting for our hiking mate to catch up, we suddenly saw a tiny head with two reflective eyes sticking out of the gutter on the stairs. It turned out that was a golden weasel. We were wearing headlamps and its eyes just reflected our lights. I think this fellow was very curious about us, so it sticked out its head at least three times from the gutter, which reminded me of the game, Whack A Mole. It was pity that when I tried to take a photo of it, it was already gone.
100 Peaks: Mt. Qilai South Peak and Mt. Nanhua
The trail to Mt. Qilai South Peak and Mt. Nanhua was in the back of Tianchi Lodge. I took this photo on the way back.
We were not the only group on the trail, but it wasn’t crowded either, because we hiked on the weekdays.
When we reached Tianchi (or Tian Pond, chi 池 means pond) and the fork to Mt. Qilai South Peak and Mt. Nanhua, it was around 4:55 am. Some people will go to Mt. Nanhua first, but we decided to Mt. Qilai South Peak, because that was what I did last time and I saw the amazing sunrise from Hualien.
100 Peaks: Mt. Qilai South Peak and Mt. Nanhua
This was Tian Pond I saw in March 2019. The water in the pond was almost full.
100 Peaks: Mt. Qilai South Peak and Mt. Nanhua
Tian Pond we saw in December 2020. The water almost dried out.
From here, the trail might not be that obvious. If you hike here and see other hikers near you, try to stay close to them or you must have GPX track with you, especially when hiking in the dark.

A Disappointment on Mt. Qilai South Peak but Rewarded with A Big Surprise

It was so cold that my nose was running all the time. And the slope became steeper, too. There were no stairs after Tian Pond and the trail terrain was more rugged, but still manageable.
Finally, we reached Mt. Qilai South Peak. Before we arrived there, we still could see stars in the sky. However, when we got there, it became so cloudy and we didn’t see any amazing sunrise at all. We let the big group take photos first. After they left, we took our time to take some photos. We were disappointed by not seeing the amazing sunrise, but this is normal when you go hiking.
100 Peaks: Mt. Qilai South Peak and Mt. Nanhua
The weather wasn't great when we reached Mt. Qilai South Peak.
100 Peaks: Mt. Qilai South Peak and Mt. Nanhua
Walt wandered around in the back.
But we still had to visit Mt. Nanhua, we turned back to the trail we took, and the sky became brighter and brighter, but still cloudy.
100 Peaks: Mt. Qilai South Peak and Mt. Nanhua
To be honest, I didn't have high hopes when seeing this.
Suddenly, we could see some blue sky. When we made a turn and saw Mt. Nanhua and the ridgeline, we were stunned. At least, I was. The clouds from the Hualien side (the eastern Taiwan) that made us disappointed turned into a cloud waterfall, flowing over the ridge and dispersing in the air in the western Taiwan.
100 Peaks: Mt. Qilai South Peak and Mt. Nanhua
Things started looking promising now.
100 Peaks: Mt. Qilai South Peak and Mt. Nanhua
We were speechless. This looked so amazing.
The ridgeline, part of Central Mountain Range 中央山脈, not only divided Taiwan into the east and the west, the border line to separate Hualien and Nantou, but also played a huge role to affect the weather on both sides, not to mention that 181 out of 268 mountains above 3,000 meters are located in Central Mountain Range in Taiwan. Furthermore, 69 of those 181 mountains are listed in 100 Peaks.
100 Peaks: Mt. Qilai South Peak and Mt. Nanhua
We stayed there for a little bit longer to savor this moment.
When we were there, Hualien was covered by the thick clouds we saw from Mt. Qilai South Peak. But when we looked to our right, it was sunny with some clouds in the blue sky in the west.
100 Peaks: Mt. Qilai South Peak and Mt. Nanhua
This one was taken in March 2019, and it looked so different from my second trip.
But if the weather was great, we would be able to see the famous grassland bathed in the golden hue during sunrise.
100 Peaks: Mt. Qilai South Peak and Mt. Nanhua
The sea of clouds I saw on the Hualien side in March, 2019. I'm very lucky to see the different views of Qilai Nanhua.
But as a great photographer, Ami still captured the golden hue in such a less favorable weather condition. I was so thrilled and humbled to be in the photo.
100 Peaks: Mt. Qilai South Peak and Mt. Nanhua. Courtesy of Emi from Taiwan Trails and Tales
The golden hue from the sunrise with the clouds. Photo taken by Ami.

Another Great Delight on Mt. Nanhua

When we got back to Tian Pond, it was 7:45 am. Some of our hiking mates decided to get back to Tianchi Lodge. The rest of us continued heading to Mt. Nanhua. We felt a little bit pressured because we had to get back to Tianchi Lodge before 10, so we could have time to have the after-hike meal, pack our belongings and check out.
100 Peaks: Mt. Qilai South Peak and Mt. Nanhua
I took this photo after returning from Mt. Qilai South Peak.
The trail condition wasn’t as good as Mt. Qilai South Peak. After we went through a small forest, the trail became muddy and slippery. It was quite dry when I first hike here in 2019.
100 Peaks: Mt. Qilai South Peak and Mt. Nanhua
After exiting the woods, we hiked on the grass land to Mt. Nanhua.
Another thing that is worth mentioning is the vegetation on Mt. Nanhua is mostly grassland, no bamboo woods or tall trees. So, you can almost see very far if the weather is good.
100 Peaks: Mt. Qilai South Peak and Mt. Nanhua
The trail was very muddy.
When we reached Mt. Nanhua peak, we still could see the clouds floating over the ridge from Hualien. It was so mesmerizing, and we just sat there, almost forgetting about time.
100 Peaks: Mt. Qilai South Peak and Mt. Nanhua
The clouds still spilled over the ridge when we reached the peak of Mt. Nanhua, and the trail from there led to Kuang Pei Pa Piao Monument.
My plan A was to visit Kuang Pei Pa Piao Monument after we reached Mt. Nanhua peak, but it would take much longer, and I was told the massive descending was quite slippery.
100 Peaks: Mt. Qilai South Peak and Mt. Nanhua
Five of us went to both peaks.
100 Peaks: Mt. Qilai South Peak and Mt. Nanhua
Me standing on peak of Mt. Nanhua with Mt. Nenggao Main Peak in 2019
Since we didn’t have enough time, we took the same trail back to Tianchi Lodge. We made it back to Tianchi Lodge at 10 am sharp.
100 Peaks: Mt. Qilai South Peak and Mt. Nanhua
I made everyone take one more group photo at Tianchi Lodge before we left.

A Lovely Detour to Visit Nenggao Waterfall

After we packed everything and returned sleeping bags and pads, it was time to say goodbye. Things looked so different in broad daylight, but we still couldn’t see Mt. Nenggao Main Peak from the lodge because of the clouds.
100 Peaks: Mt. Qilai South Peak and Mt. Nanhua
Mt. Nenggao Main Peak was still coverd by clouds when we got back to the lodge. This was the campsite near Tianchi Lodge.
100 Peaks: Mt. Qilai South Peak and Mt. Nanhua
I took this photo during my first visit at Tianchi Lodge in 2019. Mt. Nenggao Main Peak was so clear in the distance.
Soon after leaving the lodge, we crossed No. 4 Suspension Bridge. I didn’t remember crossing the bridge on the previous day because it was already dark. Cris’ girlfriend Fangyi suggested us to visit Nenggao Waterfall aka Sandie Waterfall 能高瀑布或三疊瀑布, so we decided to take a detour and explore, which turned out to be a great decision.
100 Peaks: Mt. Qilai South Peak and Mt. Nanhua
Crossing No.4 Suspension Bridge
The waterfall was about 200 meters high, so high that I was only able to see the first layer of the waterfall.
100 Peaks: Mt. Qilai South Peak and Mt. Nanhua
Nenggao Waterfall, one of the famous waterfalls located in high mountains in Taiwan.
Moreover, the pool of the water was so crystal clear and beautiful. I was tempted to dip my toes in the water, but I remembered it was winter and must be icy cold. It would be great to do that in summer.
100 Peaks: Mt. Qilai South Peak and Mt. Nanhua
The crystal clear water of Nenggao Waterfall
Later, I found out I took a photo of the upper layers of Nenggao Waterfall after we just left Tianchi Lodge without knowing it.
100 Peaks: Mt. Qilai South Peak and Mt. Nanhua: Nenggao waterfall
Nenggao Waterfall was really tall.
After leaving Nenggao Waterfall, I turned to look for Tianchi Lodge, and I could finally see it from the trail. It looked like it was located right next to the cliff.
100 Peaks: Mt. Qilai South Peak and Mt. Nanhua
Tianchi Lodge looked so tiny from the trail.
It snowed in mid-January 2021, and Malan B&B posted a stunning photo of Tianchi Lodge on their Facebook page.
When we went further, I looked at the mountains on the other side again, and I got what I was looking for. During my first visit, our guide told us that we could see the powerline near Kuang Pei Pa Piao Monument. I saw it again this time. When you visit, remember to look for the powerline when you reach around 12k mark.
100 Peaks: Mt. Qilai South Peak and Mt. Nanhua
Do you see the powerline underneath the arrow?
It was mostly downhill on the way back to Tunyuan Trailhead, and we reached our car at 4 pm, ready to head home.

Some Thoughts about This Hike

When I first hiked this trail in March 2019, I told my hiking mate that it was possible to hike this one without going with a hiking group. I’m very happy to test it out. If you don’t have enough people to share the cost of hiring a car, you still can take the public transport to Malan B&B and they also provide the ride to the trailhead.
If you are not a regular hiker, I strongly suggest you do the training once you decide to go. I told Walt to carry a backpack with at least 5 kg of water bottles and take the stairs up from the first floor to his apartment on the 13th floor. It’s boring, but it helped.

Prepare at least 2 Nights and 2 Days for This Hike

As to the itinerary, I think I pushed everyone a little bit too hard. It would have been much easier if we could spend 2 nights, instead of just one. If we stayed at the hotel nearby, we could start hiking in the morning and take our time without hiking in the dark. Some hikers even went further up on their first day to see sunset on Mt. Qilai South Peak and see the sunrise again on the next day.
When we were heading to Tianchi Lodge, we met many hikers who were on their way back to Tunyuan Trailhead either told us we were so late or checked their watches when they saw us.
But just because we started late, we were able to see the most stunning sunset glow through the mountains. Who knows?
100 Peaks: Mt. Qilai South Peak and Mt. Nanhua
It was getting late in the afternoon when I took this photo.
You might still need to bring your own indoor slippers because we couldn’t find any left when we arrived at Tianchi Lodge late.

Head to Kuang Pei Pa Piao Monument from Mt. Nanhua

It’s pity that we didn’t get to see Kuang Pei Pa Piao Monument. If you spend two nights and two days, you can put this monument on your first day after checking in at Tianchi Lodge and just bring some essential things with you.
100 Peaks: Mt. Qilai South Peak and Mt. Nanhua
I went to Kuang Pei Pa Piao Monument on my first visit in 2019.
But I got a feeling that I will see this monument again, because Nenggao Gross-Ridge Trail and Nenggao Andonghun Mountain National Alpine Trail are also on my hiking list in the future.
100 Peaks: Mt. Qilai South Peak and Mt. Nanhua
This sign was near Kuang Pei Pa Piao Monument. I'll be back.

Safety: A tragic Accident Happened after Our Hike

Although this trail is considered safe even for the beginners, there are still risks during the hike. Not long after we finished our hike, we heard a very sad news that a worker who was helping transport materials for hikers fell off the slope and sadly died. When we heard this, we were very shocked. We might have seen him when we were at Tianchi Lodge. So, please remain alert even though this trail is relatively easy.

You Might Need to Apply Tianchi Lodge Several Times

Because of Covid-19, many tourists turn to domestic traveling, especially hiking. As you can see hiking to Mt. Qilai South Peak and Mt. Nanhua is relatively easy and you can order meals and rent sleeping bags with Tianchi Kitchen, the demand for Taichi Lodge remains all-time high.
Funny group names I saw on Paiyuan Lodge page
Screenshot of some funny group names on Mt. Yu website. For popular 100 Peaks, it's getting more and more difficult to get beds at the lodge. Many people have been trying for 10+ times.
It took us the second time to win the lots, not to mention we had tried to avoid the weekends. Therefore, don’t give up if you don’t succeed at first. Just keep applying.
Our group name
This is our group name. It seems pleading worked.

Phone Receptions Are Available at Tianchi Lodge after December 2020

When we were there, we still couldn’t get any bar on our smartphones. But if you hike in the future, lucky for you, you will be able to send out the beautiful photos at Tianchi Lodge. There are several spots that you can get phone signals on this trail. Remember to take a photo of the map at the trailhead, which indicates where you can get signals.
qilai-nanhua-51-phone-signals
There is a lot of information on the map at Tunyuan Trailhead. You still can get some ideas even though it's written in Chinese.

More Hikes to Do in the Future

If you are fit and interested in longer hikes, you can consider taking Nenggao Cross-Ridge Trail. As to Nenggao Andongjun Mountain National Alpine Trail, it’s more demanding and you might need to carry a tent and meals for yourself. No matter what, try Qilai Nanhua first. I promise you won’t regret.
100 Peaks: Mt. Qilai South Peak and Mt. Nanhua. Map from Sunriver Culture Co.,Ltd on sunriver.com.tw
Sunriver Culture Co., Ltd. makes high qualiy maps for 100 Peaks. I have those maps and they help a lot.
Last but not least, you still can find amazing flowers like Dianthus pygmaeus Hayata 玉山石竹 on this trail. Also be aware of Stinging Nettle 咬人貓.
100 Peaks: Mt. Qilai South Peak and Mt. Nanhua
I found Dianthus pygmaeus Hayata

Map and Itinerary

Route map for 100 Peaks In Taiwan: Qilai Nanhua by Anusha Lee on plotaroute.com

Click Menu in the map to download, print or share the map.
Click timer to change the speed to meet your condition.
Please note that I found this track on Hiking Biji because this one goes to Kuang Pei Pa Piao Monument. The is for reference only but this trail is very easy to follow.
Group Hike or Solo Hike: Group hike with friends

Based on my hike on December 2, 2020
Distance: 13 km

09:55 Visited Geographical Center Stele of Taiwan
11:40 Arrived at Tunyuan Trailhead
12:39 Arrived at the sign of telling the history of powerline and took a long break
13:11 Passed the fork to Yuantian Temple
13:25 Passed the sign of Mt. Mahaipu Fushih, but the view was blocked by trees
13:35 Passed a suspension bridge
13:38 Passed Fuyuan Temple
13:41 Arrived at Yuanhai Line Station at 5 km
14:41 Passed the unstable rock slope at 5.9 km
15:51 Passed Charcoal Klin Remains
16:18 Saw the sign to Tianchi Hostel (Lodge) 3.8 km mark
17:10 Sun started setting
18:00 Arrived at Tianchi Lodge
Total time: 6 hours 20 minutes, including long breaks

Based on my hike on December 3, 2020
Distance: 22 km

03:00 Had breakfast
04:00 Started hiking
04:55 Reached Tianchi, the pond
06:20 Arrived at Mt. Qilai South peak
06:45 Saw clouds floating over the ridgeline
07:45 Back to Tianchi, the pond, and took a break
08:15 Headed to Mt. Nanhua
08:41 Arrived at Mt. Nanhua peak and took a break
10:00 Back to Tianchi Lodge, had after-hike meal and packed
11:19 Left Tianchi Lodge
11:30 Reached No. 4 Suspension Bridge and visited Nenggao Waterfall
11:55 Saw powerline near Kuang Pei Pa Piao Monument
14:16 Passed the unstable rock slope
16:00 Back to the trailhead (forgot to record when we arrived at Yuanhai Line Station)
Total time: 12 hours 0 minutes, including long breaks

Recommended Blogs and Resources:

Chinese only:
Hiking Biji: 奇南南華
2020年-奇萊南峰/南華山兩天一夜(下光被八表)
Book: A Story of the Nengao National Trail 能高越嶺道.穿越時空之旅
English posts:
輝哥的天空: Qilai South Peak and Nanhua Mountain
Peaks of Taiwan: Qilai Nanhua
About Kuang Pei Pa Piao Monument 光被八表

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