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Songluo Lake: A Hike to See Beams of Sunlight Chasing Mist over the Dreamy Water in Taiwan

Posted by:  Anusha Lee
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Songluo Lake infographic
Songluo Lake infographic
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Table of Contents:

About Songluo Lake

Songluo Lake

Songluo Lake is an alpine lake loacated in remote Xingdian, but the trailhead to the lake is actually in Yilan. The trail terrains from Xingdian to Songluo Lake are too treacherous to hike. The name of Songluo is originally from indigenous Atayal People 泰雅族, and Atayal People called this Syanoh Lake. Syanoh means a place with densely lush forests. This place is indeed a lush forest.
Lake Songluo or Lake Syanoh in Atayal and plant usnea
Songluo Lake or Syanoh Lake in Atayal is a very popular trail in Taiwan
The altitude of Songluo Lake is 1,320 meters (4,330 feet) above the sea level. The wet season of this lake is from October to April, and many hikers prefer to visiti Songluo Lake during this time to see the beautiful lake in the morning sunlight. But I think the lake is still amazing if you go in dry season. Please note that you might not be able to find a camping spot if it rains too much, because it will be difficult to find a dry place to pitch your tent.
A map to see the trails I've done related to Tonghou River
You need to apply for permit aleast 30 days to 5 days before your hike. This trail is well marked with yellow signs on the trees every 100 meter, but it's still recommended to have a GPX track with you.
Songluo Lake: numbered trail signs for you to navigate
You will see the numbered signs every 100 meters and blank yellow ones for you to follow the trail.
As to the name, Songluo 松蘿 or 地衣 in Mandarin also means Usnea, a lichen growing on the trees, but please correct me if I am wrong. But you won't see many of them before you reach the junction to Mt. Quantoumu 拳頭母山. After the junction, you will see a lot of those delicate plants hanging on the trees.
Lake Songluo or Lake Syanoh in Atayal and plant usnea
Songluo or Usnea near Songluo Lake
Some hikers do this trail in one day and it's doable. But you won't see the majestic sunlight and mist dancing show on Songluo Lake in the morning if you do so.

Songluo Trail

Please note that there is another Songluo Trail 松蘿國家步道, which is a totally DIFFERENT trail and way much easier than the one to Songluo Lake.

How to Get There

There is no public transport to get close to the trailhead. You have to drive or hire a car. Although Songluo Lake is located in Wulai, New Taipei City, we have to enter the trail from Datong in Yilan. So, I consider this is a hike located in Eastern Taiwan.
According to Hiking Biji, you can take Kingbus 1743, 1744, 1751 and 1798 and get off at Yulan Stop 玉蘭站. It will take about one hour to arrive at the trailhead on foot. But after doing research on Google Map, I still can't figure out how to get to the trailhead by bus. So, I will still suggest you drive there or hire a car.

Peaks and Places to Reach

The destination is Songluo Lake, and there is no specific peak to reach on this trail. If you want to explore more, you can hike to Mt. Quantoumu 拳頭母山, 1,551 meters (5,088 feet) at the junction after the sign of 050. The round trip from the junction to Mt. Quantoumu and back to the junction might take around 5 hours, and the trail terrain is very rugged.
See the map and itinerary first

Day 1: Revisit the Place in Hot Summer

GPS coordinates of the trailhead: 24.67541, 121.57332
This is my second time to hike Songluo Lake. My first attempt was in 2009, but I didn't hike often at that time and I wasn't fit at all. As you can imagine, I didn't enjoy the whole hike due to my lousy physical condition. After I picked up hiking again, I always wanted to come back here.

A Great Stop at Yulan Tea Farm before the Hike

I joined Dudu to do my second hike. As usual, we took off in Banqiao and it took us two hours to arrive at Yulan Tea Farm 玉蘭茶園. I'm glad that we took a long break here because the views at Yulan Tea Farm were so spectacular. You could oversee the mountains and Lanyang Plain 蘭陽平陽 (or Yilan Plain) in the distance.
Yulan Tea Farm: wonderful views to see mountains in the east Taiwan
Wonderful views at Yulan Tea Farm
There is a sign inside the pavilion if you are curious about what those mountains are. The mountains in Eastern Taiwan are truly wonderful, but it's not easy to hoke most of them. There's a campsite at Yulan Tea Farm if you want to stay here. This can also be an option before you hike to Songluo Lake.
Yulan Tea Farm: wonderful views to see mountains in the east Taiwan
In case you are curious about those mountains, you can check out the sign inside the pavilion.

From the Trailhead to the Faucet

After the break, it took us around 10 minutes to get to the parking lot of Songluo Lake. Since this trail is very popular, I wasn't surprised to see the parking lot was almost packed. From there, it took several minutes (around 250 meters or 0.15 miles in distance) to get to the trailhead.
Songluo Lake: the big sign at the trailhead to let you know the details about this trail
A sign with a map and details you should know about this trail.
There was a big sign with a detailed map at the trailhead telling you things you need to know and what to do if you need to ask for help. The one-way trip to Songluo Lake is only 5.4 km (3.35 miles), and you will see numbered signs (54 ones in total) in yellow every 100 meter and blank yellow ones for you to navigate on the trail. Overall, it is easy to follow the trail.
Our first stop was the Faucet 水龍頭, which was 2.4 km (1.5 miles) from the trailhead and 190 meter in elevation gain. This elevation part was relatively easy, but it was the humidity you have to deal with in summer. This area is one of the most humid places in Taiwan all year round, so it wasn't a surprise to see the muddy terrains.
Songluo Lake: trail with big tall trees and muddy terrains
It's very muddy on the trail to Songluo Lake. It rained before we hiked there.
Those Japanese Cedar Trees were tall and covered by ferns and other plants. If it weren't that hot and humid, it would be very pleasant to hike there.
Songluo Lake: trail with big tall trees and muddy terrains
This area used to be one of the places that supplied timber.
It took us around 90 minutes to reach the Faucet. You'll know it because there was a faucet, of course. Our guide told us that the water was coming from the mountains. So, hikers shouldn't turn off the water in winter in case the water gets frozen. We had lunch here. There were so many people at the Faucet that I couldn't find a shaded area. So, I carried my umbrella hiding underneath it to eat my lunch.
Songluo Lake: the lankmark, the Faucet
The Faucet where you can take a break

The Up and Down Hike Didn't Put People Off

After the lunch break, the first climb was a steep slope. From the topology map, it seems like a gradual hike, but, in reality, we had to hike up and down, climbing over intertwined tree roots in the mud and rocks all the time.
Songluo Lake: muddy trail
After the Faucet, the trail became steeper
Although our group hired porters to carry our sleeping bags, tents and food, I still carried my own sleeping bag and tent. The humidity and hot weather made the hike even tougher. But I think I was still in a better shape compared to 10 years ago.
Songluo Lake: beautiful tall trees on the trail
The terrain was covered by tree roots and rocks
Aside from the steamy weather and rugged terrains, the threes here were tall and amazing. There were also many huge trees, but we also saw what illegal logging has done to this beautiful woods.
Songluo Lake: Lobelia nummularia 普剌特草. The fruits look like grapes.
I saw Lobelia nummularia 普剌特草 when I was trying to go uphill. The fruits looked like grapes.
We passed many hikers who were heading back to the trailhead. When they saw us, they told us many hikers had arrived at Songluo Lake and to expect a huge crowd. My heart sank when hearing this. I know Songluo Lake is a popular hiking trail, but the crowd did put me off. During pandemic, people can't travel abroad and many of them flood to the trails.
Songluo Lake: slippery rock slope
Hikers tried to pass a slippery rock slope
There are benefits and drawbacks of numbering the distance of the trails. The good thing is you know how much you've finished. But the bad thing is this also reminds you that you still have so much to go, especially when the trail is a tough one. When we finally reached the 050 sign which was the 5km mark, the last 400 meters seemed so long and I started wondering my sanity because there was a rough looking rocky slope waiting for me.
Songluo Lake: View from the sign of 5 km.
The view from the 050 sign
But I have to say the view from the 050 sign was great even though the weather became cloudy.
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Finally, the Lake

After the rocky slope, we reached a small platform-like junction. Our guide told us there was a trail to Mt. Quantoumu, 1,551 meters (5,088 feet), and he could wait for us if any of us wanted to go there. Nope, I said to myself, perhaps next time.
Songluo Lake: fork
This junction was the highest point you will reach before descending to Songluo Lake
We stayed at the junction for a while waiting for the rest of our group to arrive. From now on, no more ascending, only descending. The vegetation looked different now, and there were more ferns and Songluo/Usnea 松蘿 on the trees, which made the landscape look more mysterious.
Songluo Lake: waiting for other hikers at the fork before decesending
Our group was big so it was a little bit crowded to stay at the junction.
Then, I heard our hiking mates' happy shrieking: the lake! Finally.
Finally reached Lake Songluo
The lake, finally! But I didn't see much water from here.
It was cloudy when we arrived at the lake. By the time I finished pitching my tent, it started drizzling. I sat inside my tent, looking at the lake. There was a mist floating on the top of the lake, and It would be very calming and mesmerizing if other hikers could be quieter and contain their excitement.
Songluo Lake: took a rest at my mesh tent and enjoyed the view
I took off my rainboots and sat inside my tent to enjoy the view
After a while, the drizzle became a rain shower. I was happy that I brought my own tent, and luckily my neighbor was also a quiet guy. He was very nice to offer me some hot drink and we talked for a while and enjoyed the scenery.
Finally arriaved at Lake Songluo
So many hikers...
After the rain died down, we decided to explore around this valley. The lake, to be exact, wasn't a big lake, and was more like several sporadic ponds. When you walked on the grass/moss, it felt like you were walking on sponges, soft and squishy. However, you might step into water because the moss covered the surface of those ponds and you just couldn't see the water.
Songluo Lake: the lake surface was covered by moss and ferns
So many juniper haircap moss (Polytrichum juniperinum) 檜葉金髮蘚 covered the surface of Songluo Lake
After a while, we had to get back to the kitchen tent and queued up for dinner. Our group hired porters to prepare our tents and food. If we didn't get there sooner, it would take much longer to finish our dinner.
Songluo Lake: porters prepared our meals
Our porters had to feed so many hungry hikers

The Amazing Ecology at Songluo Lake

After dinner, my new friend and I decided to explore this area again. Before I came here, I did some research and many articles mentioned that Songluo Lake is home to Eastern Water Snakes 白腹游蛇. I was hoping to see some. To my delight, I saw a lot of them. I even witnessed a battle between an Eastern Water Snake and a frog. The poor frog failed this battle and succumbed to its predator.

Day 2: Majestic Morning Lights Drifting over Songluo Lake

We got up around 5:30 am the next morning. I didn't sleep well because of many noisy hikers. I decided to get up and walk around the lake again. At first, it was still cloudy, but soon the sun broke through the sky.
Songluo Lake: before sun fully coming out
It was still foggy before the sun fully came out

The Morning Beams of Lights You Can't Miss

Not long, the sky was cleared up and mixed with light clouds floating by. When I looked at the direction where we entered the lake area yesterday, I saw the sunlight was divided into beams by the peak of a small hill and splashing on the lake. I was totally in awe.
Songluo Lake: clouds floating by in the early morning
What a big difference the sun could make to the landscape
Now, I finally understood why Songluo Lake was dubbed dearly as the Lake of 17-year-old Young Maiden 十七歲少女湖: the mist passing over the valley's surface like being chased by the morning light, casting shadows on the lake like waves.
Songluo Lake: sunbeams divided by the mountain
The sunlight, mountains and lake worked tougher to present the greatest art piece.
To me, it was the nature's artwork. No words can describe what I saw unless you get there to see it yourself.
Songluo Lake: the pond with a shape like Taiwan
Can't find words to describe the beauty of Songluo Lake
When I stood by the ponds, the reflection of the sky, mist, fog, and water made me confused all of a sudden. I wasn't sure where I was, whether I was floating in the air or still glued on the soil near the water and being embraced by the moss and mist. If there weren't hikers taking photos by the water, I would believe I was in an up-side down world.
Songluo Lake: reflection
The reflection of Songluo Lake made me confused where I was. This is my favorite photo of Songluo Lake.

Off-putting Breakfast Queue

While I immersed myself totally in the dreamy surroundings, someone yelled at us to line up for breakfast at 6:30 am. I reluctantly pulled myself away and got back to the kitchen tent to queue up with other hikers. While standing in a line, someone flew a drone which caused hikers in front of my overexcitedly jumping up and down, trying to draw attention. I had to turn away to hide my rolling eyes from them and looked at the lake, and I was struck by the view again.
Songluo Lake: sunlight dancing with the mist and clouds
Songluo Lake decided to reward us with her magic again while we were queuing up for breakfast.
When I thought I had already seen the most majestic light at Songluo Lake, she decided to catch me off guard again. She stirred the light and mist up once more and set off another round of wonder. Seeing this, I really wanted to abandon my breakfast to embrace the amazing phenomenon again, but I couldn't. If I missed breakfast now and came back later, I might delay our group's departure. As a result, I could only watch the marvelous show with those ugly tents in front of me. I could feel my heart was feeling excited but also weeping at the same time.

A Surprisingly Beautiful Woods and Nanshi River 南勢溪

Around 7:10 am, our guide gathered us together again and we were ready to for the trip to Nanshi River. Usually, most group would head to Nanshi River to fetch fresh water after they arrived at Songluo Lake. I think our porters just took the water from the small ponds near our campsite. There were too many hikers to fetch enough water. I wouldn't expect them to filter the water, either.
Songluo Lake: trees on the way to River Nanshi
Majestic trees on the trail to Nanshi River
The trip to Nanshi River was very short and easy to hike, and the woods was a great delight. Ferns and usnea were almost everywhere. The terrains were muddier, too. I wore a pair of rainboots, so it was not a problem for me. I wish I could stay here much longer to explore this beautiful wood, but we had to get hurry.
Songluo Lake: trees covered by ferns and usnea
More ferns and Usnea could be seen here
After making a left turn, we arrived at Nanshi River. The water was so fresh, and the trees were tall and vibrant. Compared to the crowded Songluo Lake, this place was even better and much quieter. I walked around, checking out trees here and there, trying to think whether I could find a safe location to pitch my tent.
Songluo Lake: River Nanshi
There's a trail on the left
The weather was so great in the early morning. The sunlight just went through the ferns and usnea hanging on the trees. Perhaps this part of Nanshi River wasn't as appealing as Songluo Lake, but for people who prefer being left alone like me, this was a heaven.
Songluo Lake: ferns hanging on the tree near River Nanshi
Ferns hanging on the trees near River Nanshi

Back to the Trailhead

After breakfast, we gathered our backpacks and things together and ready to get back to our bus. Since this was a point-to-point trail, we took the same way back.
Songluo Lake: fresh water in River Nanshi
I wish I could stay by Nanshi River much longer to enjoy this river

Thoughts about This Hike

Will I come back to visit this beautiful lake? I'd love to, but I definitely will do things differently.

Rogue Hikers and Lousy Behaviors

If you have read this far, you probably can detect a hint of resentment in my post. Please don't get me wrong. I love this trail. The nature is amazing. What makes me upset is the hikers' behaviors.
Songluo Lake has been famous among hikers in Taiwan for years. Therefore, many businesses rely on this trail to earn a living, which means it's very easy to hire porters to carry tents, sleeping bags and food for hikers. However, during Covid-19, most people including myself don't feel safe to travel abroad. The domestic travel, especially those destinations in the nature, becomes extremely popular.
Songluo Lake: Don't brush your teeth with toothpaste here
Hiker brushed her teeth with toothpaste
I'm happy to see so many people getting close to the nature, but what they have done isn't showing any love to the nature at all. Taiwan is a beautiful place, but its beauty is tainted by our lousy behaviors: toilet papers, plastic bottles, booming music, loud chatting and laughers, etc. When it rained in the late evening, I thought I finally could get a quiet night, but I was wrong. The rain didn't stop hikers' loud annoying chats.
Lake Songluo: crowded trail
Porters make hikers' life easier but this business model and hiker's lack of skills may also bring the negative impacts to the environment and increase risk
Not to mention some hikers used the not so much pond water to wash their utensils. My neighbor told me he saw a film of grease floating on the surface of the pond. I saw at least two hikers brushing their teeth with toothpastes. Did they swallow the toothpaste and water? Of course not.

No Respect to Other People's Privacy

I brought a mesh tent with a tarp. I should have set the mesh opening toward the bushes, because too many hikers with excess curiosity just peeked into my tent when they passed by. Some even thought it was totally fine to check on me with their headlamps. Taking a mesh tent doesn't mean you are welcome to look inside with your headlamp, people.
Lake Songluo: forgot how nosy Taiwanese can be
My first time to pitch this tent. Didn't do a good job and I also forgot how nosy Taiwanese can be.
One thing I don't understand is we have to apply for permit to enter Songluo Lake but I don't think there is a total amount control. Some hikers don't want to carry heavy backpack, so they make the hike in one day.

How to Improve Your Camping Experience at Songluo Lake

First, I will visit here in spring or fall. It's too hot and humid to hike the trail in summer, especially when you want to carry your own food, tent, and other gear.
Songluo Lake: reflection
Songluo Lake is still worth paying a visit
Second, I will avoid going there on the weekends. You've seen those photos of tent city, so I assume there's no need for me to explain more.
Lake Songluo: crowded trail
Crowded trail
Third, I'll bring my own food, tent, etc., and pitch my tent far away from other hikers if possible. And I will not set my mesh tent opening toward people. I will also hike further to River Nanshi and fetch water there.
Songluo Lake: beautiful creek in River Nanshi
It's very relaxing sitting by Nanshi River.
If you get a chance to visit Songluo Lake, I hope you will not see too many ugly things on the trail and can purely enjoy stunning views at Songluo Lake, and the vibrant ecosystem. If you are lucky enough, you might be able to have a starry sky and even shooting stars to tuck you in bed.
Lake Songluo: big trees
Big trees can be found on the trail to Songluo Lake

Map and Itinerary

Group Hike or Solo Hike: Group hike with Dudu
Date of Hike: June 13, 2020
Hiked from the trailhead to Songluo Lake

Route map for Lake Songluo Day 1 by Anusha Lee on plotaroute.com

Date of Hike: June 14, 2020.
Hiked from Songluo Lake to River Nanshi and back to the junction.

Route map for Lake Songluo To River Nanshi 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.

Based on my hike on June 13, 2020

07:00 Left Banqiao
09:16 Arrived at Yulan Tea Farm, and rested for 40 minutes
09:55 Arrived at the parking lot near the trailhead of Songluo Lake, and prepared the gear
10:16 Arrived at the trailhead and took group photos
11:15 Reached 017 distance sign
11:45 Reached the Faucet at the sign of 024, 2.4 km, and had dinner
12:25 Resumed the hike
13:06 Reached 3.2k and took a break. 2.2k to go
13:26 Resumed the hike
14:51 Reached the rock slope
15:10 Reached the 050 sign, 5km.
15:15 Reached the junction to Songluo Lake and Mt. Quantoumu
15:25 Started to descend
15:37 Reached Songluo Lake
Total time: 5 hours 42 minutes, including breaks

Based on my hike on June 14, 2020

06:38 Breakfast
07:15 Headed to Nanshi River
07:42 Reached a junction and took left
07:44 Reached Nanshi River
08:01 Left River Nanshi and got back the our campsite
08:30 Back to our campsite
08:50 Left Songluo Lake and took the same trail back
11:19 Reached the Faucet
12:56 Reached the trailhead
Total time: 5 hours and 31 minutes, including breaks

Recommended Blogs and Resources:

Chinese only:
陽明山腳下的法蘭克: 松蘿湖 一日來回 Songluo Lake in One Day
Hiking Biji: 我是新手,我想去松蘿湖! Songluo Lake for Hiking Newbies
松蘿湖二日行順登拳頭母山 Songluo Lake 2-day Hike and Mt. Quantoumu
English posts:
Travel Deeper to Songluo Lake: A Night of Lakeside Camping
One Night at Songluo Lake

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