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Tefuye Historic Trail and Mt. Zhizhong: A Trail That Lets You Get A Glimpse of Highest Peak in Northeast Asia

Posted by:  Anusha Lee
Published date: July 2, 2020
Updated: March 22, 2021
Tefuye infographic
Tefuye infographic
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Table of Contents:

About Tefuye Historic Trail and Mt. Zhizhong

Many people probably have heard of Alishan, one of the most beautiful attractions in southern Taiwan. Zhizhong and Tefuye Historic Trail are right next to Alishan and close to each other, but Zhizhong is in Nantou County and Tefuye Historic Trail is located in Alishan.
The total length of Tefuye Historic Trail (aka Tefuye Ancient Trail) is 6.32 km (3.93 miles), and it used to be a hunting trail for indigenous the Cou (or Tsou) people 鄒族, who have resided in Alishan for generations. During Japanese occupation, Japan government rebuit this trail for timber tansport.
Mt. Zhizhong used to be named after the fourth of Japanese Governor-General 總督, Kodama Gentaro 兒玉源太郎, called Mt. Eryu. Later, President Chiang Kai-shek changed the name after General Zhang Zhizhong, who fought hard during the Second Sino-Japanese War. Aside from the history, the peak of Mt. Zhizhong is a great place to see Mt. Yu ridgeline.
This is a point-to-point route and you can find toilets on both sides of trailhead. It's easier to hike from Zhizhong side, which is flat. There are wood stairs on the other side. There are many tall Japanese Cedar Threes here. Walking on the old rail track and being surrounded by those tall beautiful trees is very relaxing.

How to Get There

There’s only one bus to get here, Yuanlin Bus 6739, and this bus runs between Sun Moon Lake and Alishan. If you plan to visit Sun Moon Lake and have some extra days, it will be great to put Tefuye and Alishan in your itinerary.
You will find public toilets near Zhizhong bus stop
You will find public toilets and water near Zhizhong bus stop, 2,288 meters (7,507 feet). Image from Google Maps.
After getting off at Zhizhong Stop, you will find the trailhead of Tefuye Historic Trail and public toilets. Some hikers camp near the old police station building so they can see the sunrise or start the hike to Mt. Zhizhong early.

Peaks to Reach

Mt. Zhizhong, aka Mt. Eryu: 自忠山 or 兒玉山, Zhizhong Shan, 2,606 meters (8,550 feet). Views are very good on the peak.
Mt. Beixia: 北霞山, Beixia Shan, 2,472 meters (8,110 feet). No views.
Mt. Dongsui: 東水山, Dongsui Shan, 2,611 meters (8,566 feet). No views.
See the map and itinerary first

Take the Challenging Part to See the Highest Peak in Northeast Asia

We left Taipei at 8:00 pm on the previous evening and stayed at the hotel where was around two hours to the trailhead of Tefuye Historic Trail on the Zhizhong side.
Tefuye entrance on Zhizhong side is very close to Mt. Ali (Alishan)
Tefuye entrance on Zhizhong side is very close to Alishan

Start with the Location Where Hikers Can see Sunrise

The first thing caught my eye was the layers of mountains in the valley. Our guide told us this was a great spot to see the beautiful sunrise if you camp nearby. If the clear sky and the mountains we witnessed at that moment was already astonishing, I couldn’t imagine how stunning it would be if I could get a chance to see the sunrise.
A place to enjoy the beautiful sunrise near Tefuye entrance
A place to enjoy the beautiful sunrise near Tefuye entrance. You can see Mt. Yu from here, but I didn't capture it in this photo.
The entrance of Tefuye Historic Trail was very easy to recognize and there was an old railway track going all the way inside this area. All you have to do is just follow the railway track. There were many cedar trees and the trail was very flat.
Entrance of Tefuye Old Trail from Zhizhong
Entrance of Tefuye Trail from Zhizhong

Happy Hour Was Over. Embrace the Steep Slopes.

After a few meters, our happy time was over, because we had to go to Mt. Zhizhong from here. To demonstrate its authority, the trail gave us a very sharp steep beginning. A little warning before you decide to take this trail: this trail is considered as a high altitude hike, and the high altitude will make the breathing a little bit more difficult if you aren't used to it.
A very steep slope up to the trail to Mt. Zhizhong
A very steep slope up to the trail to Mt. Zhizhong
I learned this lesson in the hard way during this hike. Our group left Taipei late on the previous evening, and by the time we got to our B&B, it was 1 am already. We had to get up at 5 am, which means we only had less than 4 hours to sleep. But sometimes your sacrifice will pay off. When we were about to leave our B&B, I realized we were surrounded by mountains and Mt. Yu was one of them.
The view from our B&B in the early morning. Mt. Yu was the pointed peak in the center.
The view from our B&B in the early morning. Mt. Yu was the pointed peak in the center.
I wasn’t feeling well on that week already. So, those things together made my hike even more miserable.
Steep ascending to our first summit.
Steep ascending to our first peak
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Beautiful Mt. Yu Range from Mt. Zhizhong Peak

Our first peak was Mt. Zhizhong, 2,606 meters (8,550 feet). The trail condition was quite rugged but not too bad, because most parts were covered by pine needles. We reached a place that was big enough for all of us to take a rest, and left our backpacks here before climbing up to Mt. Zhizhong.
We took a break and left our backpacks here before heading to Mt. Zhizhong
We took a break and left our backpacks here before heading to Mt. Zhizhong
Just when I thought the previous sections of trail were steep enough, it was even steeper on the way to Mt. Zhizhong. Luckily, it didn’t take us long to get there.
It didn't take long for us to arrive at the summit of Mt. Zhizhong (Mt. Eryu)
A photo on the peak of Mt. Zhizhong
I looked the other side from the peak and our guide told us that that was the highest mountain in Taiwan, Mt. Yu, 3,952 meters (12,966 feet). The stunning view made me feel instantly better for a few minutes.
You can see Mt. Yu peaks on the summit of Mt. Zhizhong. The pointed one in the middle is Mt. Yu Main Peak.
You can see Mt. Yu ridgeline from the peak of Mt. Zhizhong. The pointed one in the middle is Mt. Yu Main Peak.
The view from the opposite side of Mt. Yu was also spectacular. I stood there for a while to admire the landscape around me.
The view on the other side is amazing, too.
The view on the east side was amazing, too.

The Hike Became More Difficult After Mt. Zhizhong

We still had several peaks to go. Our next stop was Mt. Dongshui. The trail became steeper again, and my excitement soon was replaced by fatigue. I noticed that the higher altitude we hiked, the more amazing trees we saw. Our guide reminded us that logging was the main business in Tefuye many decades ago.
I managed to appreciate the beautiful tall trees
Beautiful woods with different vegetation
I’m no expert of vegetation, but you still can tell the forest was mixed with pines and subtropical trees, which was quite normal in higher attitude mountains in Taiwan. They just blended together so well.
Logging used to be very popular here. Luckily, there are still many magnificent trees survived.
Logging used to be very popular here. Luckily, some magnificent trees survived.
While hiking on the trail and enjoying the beautiful trees, I noticed some big trees were brutally chopped down and there were signs on them. I went up close to check out those signs. The signs said those trees were the victims of illegal logging, and those crimes were under investigation. This wasn't my first time seeing this. Illegal logging is still a serious issue in Taiwan. The government promises they will relax the restrictions on hiking in Taiwan and encourage hikers to report poachers if seeing them. I truly hope this will help reduce illegal logging.
Illegal logging is a serious issue in Taiwan.
Illegal logging is a serious issue in Taiwan.
I also saw there were many acorns on the trail. Our guide told us those were acorns of Ring-cupped Oak trees 青剛櫟. Those seeds are one of Formosan Black Bears' favorite foods. But you don't need to worry that you will run into those bears. Formosan Black Bears are endangered species in Taiwan. It's very difficult to see them on the trails. Seeing those also reminded me of Scrat in the movie, Ice Age.
There are many Ring Cupped Oak tree seeds, which are one of Formosa Black Bears' favorite foods
Ring Cupped Oak tree seeds, one of Formosa Black Bears' favorite foods
It took us around one hour to reach Mt. Dongshui, 2,611 meters (8,566 feet), but there was no view near the triangulation stone, so we headed to our next peak, Mt. Beixia. After Mt. Beixia, we had to take the same route back to Mt. Donshui again.
Nothing much to see at Mt. Dongshui
Nothing much to see at Mt. Dongshu
Mt. Beixia, 2,472 meters (8,110 feet), was lower than Mt. Dongshui, and the round trip from Mt. Dongshui to Mt. Beixia took me 4 hours to finish. This section wasn't an exciting hike without many beautiful views even though there was a Class 3 Triangulation Stone. My pace was getting slower and slower, especially during the ascending.
Mt. Beixia, the triangulation stone is surrounded by trees
Mt. Beixia, the triangulation stone is also surrounded by trees.
Before my first arrival at Mt. Dongshui, I found myself huffing and puffing, and I had to stop almost every few meters to catch my breath. A very friendly guide, Fion, was very kind to keep company with me. I even asked Fion whether there was any exit on the trail so I could leave the trail early. Unfortunately, no.
One of our guides Fion stayed with me while I wasn't feeling well
Hail to a super friendly and patient guide, Fion.
On the way back to Mt. Dongshui, I was so exhausted that I had to stop every three steps. I did difficult hikes before, but i never experienced things like this. I was dead tired. I got disoriented sometimes that I missed the trail. So, Fion decided to take the lead.
We were very lucky to have a great weather during our hike. The light cast beautiful warm lights on the trees.
I tried to admire the light casting on those beautiful trees, even through I was exhausted.
Fion was in a much better condition than mine, and I felt so terrible for her that she had to slow down for me. I remember I even fell asleep within seconds during a break when I leaned on my backpack. When opening my eyes again, I was amazed by the beautiful sunshines dancing in the woods. So, I took this picture.
I took this photo during my needed break, and was awed by the light.
I took this photo during my needed break, and was awed by the beams of light.
There was still a long way to go and we had to move fast, so I didn't take many photos afterwards. By the time we finally left the rugged terrains, it was already dark. Luckily, we also reached Tefuye Historic Trail again and it was easier to hike. It was pity that I didn’t get to see this part of the trail in the broad daylight, but it didn’t matter at that moment. It started raining and we just wanted to get back to our bus.
The easy part of Tefuye Old Trail. The mist made the woods look so mystical. Photo by LOHAS Association
The easy part of Tefuye Historic Trail. The mist made the woods look so mystical. Photo by LOHAS Association
We put on our headlamps and continued to hike. We still had the final 2 km (1.2 miles) to reach the trailhead. It was almost pitch dark and the only thing I could see was the rain drops flying through my headlamp.
There are many great spots for you to take beautiful photos on Tefuye Old Trail. Photo by LOHAS Association
My hiking mates got to take beautiful photos when there was still some sunlight. Photo by LOHAS Association
This final section took me almost one hour to finish, but it felt like forever. Although I was very slow, I wasn’t the last one to finish our first-day hike. There were around 7 people behind us, and it took them another two hours to finish the hike. For me, I was glad that I could call it a day.

The Easier Part of Tefuye Historic Trail

It's a shame that I didn't get to see those trees on the easy part of the trail. From the photos taken by my hiking mates, those trees were gorgeous. For those who just want to enjoy strolling without too much stress, you can find some information at Tefuye Historical Trail from Forestry Bureau website.
Hikers look so small next to those big trees. Photo by LOHAS Association
You can tell from my hiking mates' photo that the easy part of Tefuye Historic Trail was very relaxing and easy to hike. Photo by LOHAS Association

Thoughts about This Hike: How to Make This Hike More Enjoyable

I will do this hike again, but I will also change the route to make the hike more enjoyable.
First, I will leave Taipei earlier if possible. We left Taipei at 8 pm and we arrived at our B&B around 1 am, which took us around 6 hours to Alishan area.
We enjoyed a short flat and pleasant trail before climbing up.
The pleasant part of the trail before our challenging hike
Second, I will camp at old Zhizhong Police Station, a red building next to the Tefuye trailhead, to reduce the commuting time. Sorry I didn't take the photo. The policemen no long station here. Some hikers camp here to save time. It took us almost 2 hours from our B&B to Tefuye Old Trail. If we could camp there, we could have slept more and even seen the sunrise. Our guides arranged B&B for us hoping that we could sleep better, but we could only sleep around 4 hours, which didn’t help much.
Third, I probably will skip Mt. Beixia, make it a point-to-point route, and take the same route back to where we start, and spend more time to enjoy Tefuye Old Trail.
The light made the ferns on the trees greener.
The light made the ferns and moss on the trees greener.
Fourth, during our hike, I saw many maple leaves on the trail, and the color was still amazing. If you enjoy seeing the rare fall foliage in Taiwan, I think you can arrange this hike in autumn.
If you visit Tefuye at the right time, you will get to see amazing fall foliage. As a tropical island, we still can see fall foliage in Taiwan
If you visit Tefuye at the right time, you will get to see amazing fall foliage.
I still highly recommend this trail, as long you can avoid my mistakes, or just take the easy one and enjoy the unique landscapes and the history behind the trail. After this, you can also visit Alishan and see more spectacular views over there.
Here's my second day hike from this trip.
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Map and Itinerary

Group Hike or Solo Hike: Group hike with Taiwan Mountain LOHAS Association (LOHAS)
Date of Hike: November 30, 2019

Route map for Tefuye Old Trail, Mt. Zhizhong 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.
Note:
Due to GPS accuracy setting, there may be some difference between my GPS tracking and the exact distance. Please check the infographic above for the more accurate data.

Based on my hike on November 30, 2019

05:30 Got up, had dinner and took the bus at 6:30 to the trailhead.
08:00 Arrived at the trailhead in Zhizhong, took group photos and got ready
08:18 Started the hike
08:21 Started the steep slope
09:05 Reached the rest area before hiking up to Mt. Zhizhong. We left our backpacks there.
09:20 Reached Mt. Zhizhong and took photos
10:23 Reached Mt. Dongsui
11:55 Reached the tree that was hacked down by illegal logging. Had lunch somewhere.
13:14 Arrived at Mt. Beixia
14:55 Back to Mt. Dongsui. I wasn't feeling okay so I didn't make many notes from here.
18:16 Back to Tefuye Old Trail
18:56 Finished the hike and got back to our bus
Total time: 10 hours 56 minutes, including breaks

Recommended Blogs and Resources:

Chinese only:
Mark Choo: 過年假期阿里山之旅4-3,十字路社區、特富野古道、自忠山、東水山、水山
Hiking Biji: 自忠山、東水山、特富野古道
Waytogo: 特富野古道
English posts:
Alishan National Scenia Area: Tefuye trail
Alishan 阿里山
The Ultimate Guide to Sun Moon Lake 日月潭極限指南
SUN MOON LAKE FULL CYCLE LOOP

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