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Xueshan Trekking Made Easy: Your Comprehensive Guide to Taiwan's 2nd Highest Peak

Posted by:  Anusha Lee
Published date: October 11, 2023
Nestled in central Taiwan, Xueshan, aka Snow Mountain or Mt. Silvia, is a must-visit hiking gem known for its captivating glacial cirque and breathtaking landscape. At 3,886 meters, it offers stunning vistas, lush Taiwan White Fir forests, and the highest alpine lake in Taiwan.
Xueshan trail by Wu Pingchen
The reservoir at Xueshan Trailhead. Photo by Wu Mingchen.
Xueshan's ever-changing beauty, from snow in winter to vibrant rhododendrons in spring, makes it unforgettable. Whether you seek solitude in nature or a thrilling mountain challenge, Xueshan delivers, inviting you to explore Taiwan's stunning highlands.
Hehuanshan North Peak and West Peak to Huagang
Looking at Xueshan and the Holy Ridgeline from Hehuanshan North Peak
I want to thank my hiking friends, Huang Jianping, Acer Lee, and Huang Jiachun, for letting me use their photos, especially Mt. Huang. Most photos here were taken by him, including the those to the beautiful Cuei Pond.
Xueshan-Taiwan-White-Fir-forest-by Huan Jianping
My friend Huang Jianping enjoyed the Taiwan White Fir forest, which makes me jealous!
Hey, just wanted to let you know that a few of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that if you decide to use them, I'll earn a little commission without any extra cost to you. Your support is greatly appreciated! Cheers, Anusha

Table of Contents:

The Most Popular Route: Xueshan Main and East Peak

Distance: 21.8 km (13.5 miles)
Route type: Out and back
Days/Hours Needed: Pond: 2 days (some hikers do this in one day)
Total Ascent/Descent: 1,718m/1,674m
Snow Season Requirements: This trail is good to hike all year round. Yet, the snow season often starts from mid-December/January to March. Shei-Pa National Park requires training and extra gear if you hike in the snow season.
Permits: Required. Check permit appliction section.
Additional Information: Before your hike, please check Shei-Pa National Park Climbing Forums 雪霸國家公園登山資訊分享站 to see if the trail is open or other things that you need to know.
Difficulty Level:

Peaks or Places to Reach

  1. Mt. Xue, Xueshan, Mt. Snow, or Mt. Sylvia Main Peak 雪山主峰, 3,886 meters (12,749 feet) above sea level.
  2. Mt. Xue East Peak, Xueshan East Peak 雪山東峰, 3,201 meters (10,502 feet) above sea level.
Day 1 Brief itinerary: Xueshan Trailhead (0 km, 2,140 m) ➔ Qika Cabin (2 km, 2,510 m) ➔ Ku Po (4 km, m) ➔ Xueshan East Peak (5.2 km, 3,199 m) ➔ Sanliujiu Temporary Campsite (7.1 km, 3,150 m)
Day 2 Brief itinerary: Sanliujiu Temporary Campsite (leave at 3:30 am) ➔ Xueshan Glacial Cirques (9.8 km, 3,500 m) ➔ Xueshan Main Peak (10.9 km, 3,866 m) ➔ Sanliujiu Temporary Campsite ➔ Xueshan East Peak ➔ Ku Po ➔ Qika Cabin ➔ Xueshan Trailhead

A Cute Cabin at Xueshan Trailhead

This route is also called the East Xue Trail 雪東線. You will find a cute wooden cabin at Xueshan Trailhead. Every hiker has to watch a short video about Xueshan and the environment. Wuling Farm opened a new shop here in August 2020. You can get a coffee or souvenirs.
Xueshan and Sanliujiu Cabin
Xueshan Trailhead Service Center 雪山登山口服務站 at 2,140 meters above sea level
Xueshan trail by Huang Jianping
The wonderful views from the trailhead
Then, you can't miss the iconic reservoir behind the trailhead cabin. This reservoir was for the aggregation of the farms nearby. After hiking to Xueshan became popular, Wuling Farm removed the farms and built parking lots. This reservoir was kept and later became a tourist attraction. (Hint: it's not big.)
Xueshan trail by Huang Jianping
The famous reservoir behind Xueshan Trailhead Service Center
If you only want to take photos without hiking, please ask the staff first.
The Xueshan trail is easy to recognize, and soon, you will reach Qika Cabin at 2 km. Quka Cabin is big.
Xueshan and Sanliujiu Cabin
Qika Cabin. I took this photo in 2017 before it was renovated.
Located 2 km on the Xueshan Trail with an elevation of 2,510 meters (8,235 feet), Qika can accommodate 106 people in the cabin and 30 people at the campsite. There is a water source, bio-toilets, and decent phone signals.
After the steep ascending, you will see an observation deck 4 km, Ku Po Observation Deck. Ku Po literally means Crying Slope in Chinese so that you can foresee the more challenging climbing ahead.
Xueshan trail by Huang Jianping
My friend, Huang Jianping, pointed to the famous Crying Slope, Ku Po.
Ku Po is a slope with giant boulders. Please take your time and climb with caution. When I first climbed here, I thought it wasn't too bad.
From here, it's the ridgeline hike. The views are great when the weather is good.
Xueshan trail by Huang Jianping
Looking back at the deck at Ku Po

Xueshan East Peak, View of Turtle Island, Quadruple Mountains and More

Then, here comes the first 100 Peaks of this hike: Xueshan East Peak, at 5.2 km. It takes around one and a half hours from Ku Po deck to the east peak.
Xueshan trail by Huang Jianping
Xueshan East Peak
The views are wonderful here. A helipad is near here.
Xueshan trail by Huang Jianping
The ridgeline of Wuling Quadruple Mountains
You can see Sanliujiu Cabin (369 Cabin) and Xueshan Glacial Cirques from here, too.
Xueshan trail by Huang Jianping
It takes around one hour from Xueshan East Peak to Sanliujiu Campsite, with more stunning views.

Sanliujiu Temporary Campsite

Finally, the Sanliujiu Cabin is at 7.1 km.
Xueshan and Sanliujiu Cabin
I took this photo of Sanliujiu Cabin in 2017. Sorry for the blurred image.
Due to the renovation, hikers cannot get inside the cabin. Yet, you can enjoy the fantastic views, like seeing Mt. Pintian and other Wuling Quadruple Mountains from Sanliujiu,
Xueshan trail by Huang Jianping
The peak in the center is the famous/scary Mt. Pintian.
Turtle Island in the distant Pacific Ocean,
Xueshan trail by Huang Jianping
You can see Turtle Island if the weather is good enough.
Mt. Nanhu and more.
Xueshan trail by Huang Jianping
Mt. Nanhu on the right
When I hiked to Sanliujiu Cabin in 2017, we experienced thundershowers and pouring rain. The water went inside the cabin, and the floor was flooded. It felt like a typhoon hitting the fragile house. Needless to say, the rain, the endless noise, and snoring gave me a sleepless night.
Now, hikers stay at one-person tents at Sanliujiu Temporary Campsite. I haven't tried that yet, but I assume your sleeping quality might improve if you stay warm enough.
Sanliujiu Temporary Campsite by Shei-Pa National Park
The map of Sanliujiu Temporary Campsite by Shei-Pa National Park
Some hikers say the footpath to the temp campsite is challenging to walk. Please pay attention when you get there.
Sanliujiu Temporary Campsite by Shei-Pa National Park
The size of the plank for each tent is 210*210 cm. Photo from Shei-Pa National Park website.

Start Early to Xueshan Main Peak

As to the next day's hike, many hikers will get up around 2 a.m. and head to Xueshan at 3 to start their journey to Xueshan, which means you will be woken up anyway unless you have a strong heart. It takes around 3 hours from Sanliujiu Cabin to Xueshan Main Peak.
Important:There is a junction near Sanliujiu Cabin, and one trail goes to Mt. Kailantekun 凱蘭特昆山. Pay extra attention if you hike in the dark.
Xueshan trail by Huang Jianping
This forest is called Black Forest in the hiking community in Taiwan.
Xueshan trail by Huang Jianping
My friend Huang Jianping saw a Formosan Serow in the forest.
Hikers go through the Taiwan White Fir Forest in the dark. This forest is called Black Forest 黑森林 here in Taiwan. There is a junction going to Mt. Kalantekun Mountain North Peak. Please pay attention to your track.
Wuling Quadruple Mountains Trail - Day 2
Sanliujiu Cabin is at the exposed grassland, and hikers hike into the Taiwan White Fir Forest before reaching Xueshan.
The famous Xueshan Glacial Cirques is at 9.8 km with an elevation of 3,500 meters. This place is stunning.
Xueshan trail by Huang Jianping
Xueshan Glacial Cirques
Then comes the second-highest peak in Taiwan, Xueshan, at 10.9 km with an elevation of 3,886 meters.
Xueshan trail by Hong Jiachun
Xueshan Main Peak. Photo by Hong Jiachun.
Xueshan trail by Huang Jianping
You will see many Single-seed Juniper 玉山圓柏 at Xueshan Cirques.
After taking a break at Sanliujiu, you can pack and take the same way back to Xueshan Trailhead and Wuling Farm.

Extra Hike from Xueshan Main Peak to Cuei Pond 翠池, and Different Trail Routes

The Highest Alpine Lake in Taiwan: Cuei Pond, also spelled as Cui or Ts'ui Pond

Distance: 25 km (15.5 miles)
Route type: Out and back
Days/Hours Needed: Pond: 3 days
Total Ascent/Descent: 2,456m/2,459m
Snow Season Requirements: This trail is good to hike all year round. Yet, the snow season often starts from mid-December/January to March. Shei-Pa National Park requires training and extra gear if you hike in the snow season.
Permits: Required. Check permit appliction section.
Additional Information: If you do this route, you must carry everything from Sanliujiu Campsite to Cuei Pond and return. Check Shei-Pa National Park Climbing Forums 雪霸國家公園登山資訊分享站 before your hike.
Difficulty Level:
Xueshan trail by Huang Jianping
Looking at Beilengjiao from Cuei Pond.
Day 1 Brief itinerary: Trailhead (0 km, 2,140 m) ➔ Qika Cabin (2 km, 2,510 m) ➔ Ku Po (4 km, m) ➔ Xueshan East Peak (5.2 km, 3,199 m) ➔ Sanliujiu Temporary Campsite (7.1 km, 3,150 m)
Day 2 Brief itinerary: Sanliujiu Temporary Campsite (leave at 3:30 am) ➔ Xueshan Glacial Cirques (9.8 km, 3,500 m) ➔ Xueshan Main Peak (10.9 km, 3,866 m) ➔ Junction (distance: 0.4 km, 3,804 m) ➔ Cuei Pond and Cabin (distance: 1.2 km, 3,510 m)
Day 3 Brief itinerary: Cuei Pond and Cabin ➔ Junction ➔ Xueshan Main Peak ➔ Xueshan Glacial Cirques ➔ Sanliujiu Temporary Campsite ➔ Xueshan East Peak ➔ Ku Po ➔ Qika Cabin ➔ Xueshan Trailhead
The junction to Cuei Pond is about 20 minutes from Xueshan Main Peak toward the north. From there comes a steep descent on the scrambled boulders.
xueshan-14-junction-to-cui-pond
Ts'ui Lake, a different English translation of Cuei Pond. Don't worry. You are on the right track.
It takes around one and a half hours to get to Cuei Pond and the highest alpine lake, Cuei Pond.
Xueshan trail by Huang Jianping
Cuei Pond in the fog

About Cuei Pond:

According to the National Park Service Ministry of the Interior website, Cuei Pond is a tarn, a small mountain lake or pond, typically found nestled in a steep, bowl-shaped area formed by glaciers called a cirque.
Xueshan trail by Huang Jianping
Cuei Pond
The width of Cuei Pond is less than 30 meters (98 feet), and sitting by the pond is a lovely escape for hikers.
Hikers who visited Cuei Pond before July 2021 would see a small earth god temple, the highest one in Taiwan, by the side of the highest alpine lake, Cuei Pond. However, Shei-Pa National Park relocated this temple to a lower altitude in fear of possible forest fire.
Xueshan trail by Huang Jianping
The temple by Cuei Pond is long gone.
Xueshan trail by Hong Jiachun
The earth god temple before 2021
You will see the fantastic Single-seed Juniper 玉山圓柏 around here. Those stunning trees are largely distributed in the alpine tundra more than 3,400 meters above sea level. They are a major member of the dwarf shrub that grows above the timberline and are extremely important to soil and water conservation.
Xueshan trail by Huang Jianping
Those Single-seed you see by Cuei Pond are towering and straight.
When striving to adapt to a harsh natural environment, some that grow on the slopes exposed to the cutting winds shape in various postures at high mountains, like the famous one near Mt. Xiangyang.
Jiaming Lake Trail - day 3
The bent Xiangyang Famous Tree adapted to the harsh weather and soil.
The hike extended to Cuei Pond is more challenging, but the landscape and views are stunning and worth visiting.
Xueshan trail by Huang Jianping
Hikers have to take on this strenuous rock slope to reach Cuei Pond.

About Cuei Pond Hut/Campsite 翠池山屋/營地

With an elevation of 3,510 meters (11,516 feet), Cuei Pond Hut can accommodate 12 hikers and the campsite 20. The phone signal is not good. Hikers can draw water from Cuei Pond and filter the water.
Xueshan trail by Huang Jianping
The tiny red dot is Cuei Pond Hut.
The phone reception is not good here. Those with permits to stay at Cuei Pond take the beds according to the issued numbers.

Other More Challenging Routes -Zhijiayang Xueshan Route 志佳陽雪山線

In 1915, during the Japanese era, a survey team led by Kazuhiro Izutsu 財津久平 ventured from Pyanan Village (now Nanshan Village 南山村) through the Puyuma Saddle (now Siyuan Saddle 思源啞口), Chi Jia Yang Village (now Sqoyaw or Huanshan Village 環山部落) to Mt. Zhijiayang (3,345 meters/10,974 feet) and finished the survey.
Since then, this route became a major one to explore Xueshan till the 1970s. The new route replaced this route, the current Xueshan Major and East Peak route, in the 1970s. Some hikers still take the Chijiayang Route to enjoy the rugged terrain and stunning landscape.
This route takes at least 3 days.

Other More Challenging Routes - Holy Ridge (Shengleng) Trail Route

In 1927, the renowned Japanese mountaineer Numai Tetsutaro 沼井鐵太郎 made the first ascent of the majestic Dabajian Mountain in Taiwan. As he stood on the summit, gazing southward at the winding, dragon-like ridge that stretched all the way to the pinnacle of Xueshan, he couldn't help but exclaim, "This holy ridge! Who can truly complete the traverse from Dabajian to Xueshan, don the crown of victory, and narrate the genuine beauty of this first-ever achievement?"
Hehuanshan North Peak and West Peak to Huagang
Holy Ridgeline, aka Sheng Leng 聖稜線
Three years later, he fulfilled his dream by conquering this Holy Ridge, and the name Holy Ridge or Sheng Leng in Chinese has endured ever since.
Holy Ridge Hike by Acer Lee
Sumida Cliff 素密達斷崖 is one of the dangerous sections of Holy Ridge. Photo by Acer Lee.
Holy Ridgeline Trail has 3 routes: Y Route, I Route, and O Route (loop), ranging from 5 to 9 days. There are several strenuous sections. Those routes are only for very seasoned and fit hikers. I love solo hikes, but I don't recommend doing solo hikes on the Holy Ridge.
Holy Ridge Hike by Acer Lee
Holy Ridgeline, aka Sheng Leng, is a challenging hike. Photo by Acer Lee.

How to Get to Xueshan/Wuling Farm, Accommodations, and Map/GPX Data

Xueshan/Wuling Farm Free Bus Guide

Here's a flowchart about how you get to Wuling Farm or the trailhead.
You take Kuokuang Bus 1751 from Yilan Transfer Station, or Kuokuang Bus 1764 from Luodong Transfer Station, and get off at Wuling Visitor Center.
Wuling Farm Visitor Center and Bus Stop
Taking Kuokuang Bus 1751 or 1764 is easier than bus 866.
I also have a detailed free guide with the trains, buses, and the links to the stations/stops to Xueshan/Wuling Farm on Gumroad. Or click the image below.

How to Buy Wuling Farm E-Ticket Online

Whether you drive or take a bus, you must purchase a ticket to visit Wuling Farm. To save time, you can purchase a Wuling Farm e-ticket online. However, the e-ticket doesn't have an English version, and you must leave a cellphone number.
wuling-farm-eticket-01
wuling-farm-eticket-02
So, if it's too much hassle, you can still buy the admission ticket at the booth when you arrive.

GPX Track

The following track includes hike to Cuei Pond.

Route map for Xueshan Main East And Cuei Pond Updated by Anusha Lee on plotaroute.com

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.

Essential Gear and Clothing for A Safe and Successful Hike, Including Snow Season

Gear List during Non-snow Season

Taiwan is a tropical island, but the high mountain areas are still freezing cold. As the altitude increases, the temperature decreases. See the following graphic for the relationship between altitude and temperature.
average-lapse-rate
Other factors, including wind chill and rain, will decrease the temperature even more. Please dress in layers and prepare warm clothing (including a warm hat) when you do high mountain hikes in Taiwan.
A rain jacket and rain pants are a must. Wearing a poncho is not recommended because of the terrain. You need to see your feet on the rough terrain.

Gear for Snow Season

The snow season is usually between mid-December/January and March. Shei-Park National Park has requirements for hikers during snow season.
The gear list from Shei-Pa National Park during snow season: a helmet, hiking boots and crampons (at least 10 points), gaiters, an ice axe, a headlamp, snow goggles, warm & waterproof clothing, wool socks, waterproof gloves, and other essentials.

Altitude Sickness

Acute mountain sickness is a severe threat to all hikers, whether you are new or a seasoned hiker. It can happen when we travel at higher altitudes, usually above 2,400 meters (8,000 feet).
The United States Government's website, Medline Plus, has a detailed article about acute mountain sickness. Please read it carefully before your travel. This illness also has alternative names, according to Medine Plus: High altitude cerebral edema, Altitude anoxia, Altitude sickness, Mountain sickness, and High-altitude pulmonary edema.

Emergency Contact Information

You must leave at least two emergency contacts: one who is your family member and the other (emergency coordinator on the permit application form) who fully understands the trail and mountains you will hike.
Unless your family member knows the trail and mountains you will hike, please do not leave both as the same person.

Safety and Health Tips

I have two posts: Things to Know Before Hiking in Taiwan and What to Do when Getting Lost on the Trail in Taiwan. Please read them before you do any trails, especially if you have never hiked in Taiwan.

How to Apply for Hiking Permits at Shei-Pa National Park: Advanced and Regular Applications

Only Qika Cabin Is Available for Advanced Applicants

Sanliujiu Cabin (369 Cabin) is under renovation, and the new cabin might be finished in 2025. Now, Shei-Pa National Park provides a temporary campsite that accommodates 24 hikers. Yet, this campsite is only available for regular applications. The advanced applications can only apply for Qika Cabin.
I don't recommend stay at Qika on day 1, unless you do a three-day hike. The distance from the trailhead to Qika Cabin is only 2 km, and easy to hike. However, it is challenging to hike from Qika Cabin to Xueshan Main Peak and back to Qika Cabin.
Moreover, what's the point for you to stay at Qika Cabin for one night and walk 2 km to the trailhead? Unless you plan to walk to the Wuling Farm Visitor Center.
The most suitable itinerary will be staying at 369 Temporary Campsite, which means you must go through the standard application process, and you may not get one. It's first come, first serve.

Only Need to Apply for Park Permits

Shei-Pa National Park scraped the requirements of applying for the Police Mountain Permits. Hikers only need to apply for the Park Permits.
Here is the Shei-Pa National Park application website.
Wuling Quadruple Mountains Permit Application
International visitors can apply for Advanced Applications.
Please note that the Advanced Applications are only for hiking Xue Mountain (Xueshan) Trail and Daba Peaks (Mt. Dabajian) Trail.
You can download my guide "How to plan and apply for hiking permits in Taiwan" by clicking the image below for details.

Hire Me: Simplify Your Taiwan Hike with Our Services

Tackling the intricacies of permit applications and deciphering public transport routes in Taiwan can be daunting. We're here to make your hiking adventure hassle-free.
Our service takes care of all the nitty-gritty details, from permit applications to transportation arrangements, weather reminders, and more. Let us handle the complexities, so you can focus on the breathtaking trails and unforgettable experiences. Visit our commission page or click the image below for all the details.
Taiwan mountain image

About the Names of Snow Mountain (Xueshan) and Shei-Pa National Park

Xueshan might be the mountain that owns the most different names in Taiwan. Here's a brief list of where those names came from, according to a hiking database website, Hiking Biji.

From the Indigenous Atayal People

The Snow Mountain region has been a hunting ground for the indigenous Atayal people, who have various names for it.
Babo Hagai 巴布哈蓋山 or Hagai 哈蓋山 is used by the Atayal people living on the eastern slopes of Snow Mountain. "Babo" means big mountain, and "Hagai" refers to snow collapses (I assume they refer to avalanches.)
In the Atayal language, Snow Mountain is also known as "Mahamayan 馬哈馬顏山," which can be translated as "Mahamayan Mountain."
On the western slopes of Snow Mountain, the Atayal people of the Beishi tribe 北勢部族泰雅族 call it "Sekoan," meaning "rock wall furrows." It's phonetically translated as "Xuegaoweng" and later simplified to "Xueweng Mountain" or "Snow Mountain."
Wuling Farm Visitor Center and Bus Stop
Snow capped Snow Mountain (Xueshan)

From the Qing Dynasty

Many government officials at that time were impressed by this snow-capped mountain. The then-Miaoli County governor, Shen Mao Yin 沈茂蔭, amazed by the remaining snow in summer, depicted this splendid view as the eighth most famous scenery in Miaoli.
In 1893, during the reign of Emperor Guangxu, Shen Maoyin 沈茂蔭, the governor of Miaoli at the time, depicted Snow Mountain as the fifth of "Eight Scenic Views of Miaoli" by writing "Yu Shan Ji Xue 玉山霽雪," literally meaning glistening snow that made the mountain look like jade. The Jade Mountain here refers to Snow Mountain or Xueshan, not Yushan.

From the British Captain

In 1867, while passing through Taiwan's waters, the British warship HMS Sylvia reportedly spotted the towering Snow Mountain. The ship's captain named the mountain "Sylvia." In early Western literature, it was referred to as Mt. Sylvia.
Wuling Farm Visitor Center and Bus Stop
You can see more history about Xueshan at Wuling Visitor Center.

From the Japanese Colonial Period

During the Japanese colonial period in Taiwan in 1915, surveyors, including Hisakatsu Toshitsune 財津久平, successfully reached the summit of Snow Mountain's main peak via the eastern ridge of the East Peak. They measured its height as 12,972 feet, discovering it was taller than Japan's Mount Fuji.
In 1923, Prince Hirohito (Emperor Showa) visited Taiwan and named Snow Mountain the "Second Highest Mountain in Taiwan 次高山" just after Mount Jade (Yushan, the New Highest Mountain). The long-gone Second Highest Shrine was established at the summit, with a shrine gate and torii.

Related Posts:

On Taiwan Hikes

Wuling Quadruple Mountains Trail
Mt. Dabajian and Mt. Xiaobajian
Jade Mountain

English Posts

An Adventure To Snow Mountain Taiwan, Second Highest One!
Self Guided Hike To Mount Xueshan – Taiwan

Posts in Chinese Only

雪霸國家公園登山資訊分享站 Shei-Pa National Park Climbing Forums
I hope you enjoy this post. Have you hiked Xueshan or Cuei Pond? Or even more challenging hikes like Holy Ridge? Feel free to let me know in the comments below.
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