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Mt. Xiangtianhu, Mt. Guantiangao and More: A Beautiful Ridgeline Hike in Nanzhuang

Posted by:  Anusha Lee
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Mt. Xiangtianhu and Mt. Guantiangao are two of the famous mountains in Nanzhuang Miaoli, central Taiwan. You'll hike through beautiful cedar tree forests and walk on the ridgeline. If you still have time after the hike, you can visit the lovely Xiangtian Lake for more.
Mt. Xiangtianhu infographics
Mt. Xiangtianhu infographics

Table of Contents:

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About Mt. Xiangtianhu, Mt. Guantiangao, and Xiangtian Lake, plus Mt. Jiali

Those mountains and trails are located in Nanzhuang, a Hakka town or Hakka Han 客家 in a central county, Miaoli, of Taiwan. Nanzhuang is also certified as “Slow City” by Cittaslow, along with other three townships, Sanyi in Miaoli, Fonglin in Hualien, and Dalin in Chiayi.

A Popular Hike nearby: Mt. Jiali

There are several hiking routes here, and the most famous one is Mt. Jiali. Mt. Jiali, 2,220 meters (7,283 feet), is one of three major mountains that are 2,000 meters above the sea level on Jiali Mountain Range, which is 180 km long and located on the west of Xue Mountain Range.
Mt. Jiali is also listed as one of Mid-elevation Mountain Trails 中級山 in Taiwan. There's a Class 1 Triangulation Stone on the peak. The views on Mt. Jiali are spectacular. If the weather is good, you can see Mt. Dabajian, and Holy Ridge, although I didn't get to see the views when I was there in 2017.
Xiangtianhu in Nanzhuang
I took this photo of Mt. Jiali near the peak of Mt. Egongji.
However, doing Mt. Jiali isn't for everyone. It's a challenging hike and there will be an elevation gain of 900 meters within 3.2 Km (2 miles) near the peak of Mt. Jiali. Some sections even require rock-climbing skills.
Xiangtianhu in Nanzhuang
Rugged terrain on the way to Mt. Jiali
There are 2 trailheads to hike Mt. Jiali: Luchang 鹿場 and Daping 大坪 Trailhead. There are also other mountains nearby.

Mt. Xiangtianhu and Mt. Guangtiangao

I did this trail with Xizhi Mountaineering Association 汐止山岳. We started from Daping Trailhead but didn't go to Mt. Jiali. Instead, we turned north at the junction to Mt. Jiali, and headed to Mt. Daping, Mt. Xiangtianhu, and Mt. Guangtiangao for our point-to-point hike.
If you want to do a loop hike, please check out Taiwan Trails and Tales' post.
The red track is the loop hike, and the blue one is the point-to-point hike.
Mt. Xiangtianhu and Mt. Guangtiangao used to be the hunting ground and logging forest for indigenous Saisiyat people 賽夏族. Now, this area is forest compartment of Forestry Bureau. Hikers can find numbered markers on the trails.

Xiangtian Lake and Pas-ta'ai

Saisiyat people called Xiangtian Lake “Raremewan”, meaning the place with plants that were used to make dyes. I don't know what those plants are, but I think you might be able to find out at SaySiyat Museum 賽夏族民俗文物館 by Xiangtian Lake if you get a chance to visit it. Hakka people called this lake Yangtian Lake 仰天湖. Yang Tian literally means looking up at the sky.
賽夏族民俗文物館 SaySiyat Museum is very kind for giving me permission to use their images here.
Important: Please note that the symbol you saw on the image of SaySiyat Museum is the most common patterns woven on Saisiyat people's clothes for generations that can be traced back tohundreds of years ago. This is nothing to do with the infamous symbol in history.
In Saisiyat culture, worshiping the little black spirits (or dwarf spirits) 矮靈 plays an important part in their lives. A famous ceremony called Pas-ta'ai (Dwarf Spirit Ceremony) 矮靈祭 (賽夏族巴斯達隘祭典) is hold between the first harvest and the following full moon in Lunar Month 10. Saisiyat people hold regular Pas-ta'ai event every two years, and major big event every ten years. The ceremony usually lasts one month.
Before Covid-19, there were shuttle buses taking tourists to witness this ceremony. But I'm not sure whether the ceremony will be open to the public in the future.

Spy Plane Wreckage

In May 1978, a spy plane, U-6A Beaver, crashed in the mountain near Xiangtian Lake. During that time, Saisiyat people helped the military to recuse the two pilots. Unfortunately, one died and the other got seriously injured. It was difficult to retrieve the wreckage, and the plane rested there for more than 40 years. The location was later discovered by hikers and this trail had become a tourist attraction. You can click here to see the plane wreckage.
In August 2020, the military finally retrieved the wreckage and donated a model of U-6A Beaver to thank the local people's efforts to recuse the pilots. The model now is located at the SaySiyat Museum and calls there forever home.

How to Get There

I'll recommend you do a loop hike from Xiangtian Lake and take Miaoli Bus 5824 to the lake from Nanzhuang Bus Station. Bus 5824 runs only 3 times per day. Therefore, I'll suggest you stay in Nanzhuang for one day and catch the earliest bus to Xiangtian Lake to enjoy the loop hike.
Nanzhuang is a fun place to visit. You can check out this page to see more details about the tourist attractions in Nanzhuang.

Peaks to Reach

Mt. Daping: 大坪山, 1,660 meters (5,446 feet)
Mt. Nandagui: 南大龜山, 1,330 meters (4,363 feet). There is a forest triangulation stone carved with a Chinese character, mountain 山.
Mt. Xiangtianhu: 向天湖山, 1,225 meters (4,019 feet). There is a forest triangulation stone carved with a Chinese character, mountain 山. There is not much view on the top. Hu literally means "lake" in Chinese.
Mt. Guangtiangao: 光天高山, 1,123 meters (3,684 feet). This belongs to Mt. Jiali Mountain Range.
Xiangtian Lake: 向天湖, 750 meters (2,461 feet).
See the map and itinerary first

Daping Trailhead to Mt. Jiali and Mt. Daping

Distance: 11 km (6.8 miles)
Brief itinerary: Daping Trailhead (height 1,342 meters) ➔ Junction to Mt. Jiali and Mt. Daping (height 1,622 meters) ➔ Mt. Daping (height 1,660 meters) ➔ Mt. Nandagui (height 1,330 meters) ➔ Mt. Xiangtianhu (height 1,225 meters) ➔ Guangtiangao (height 1,123 meters) ➔ Xiangtian Lake (height 780 meters)
GPS coordinates of Daping Trailhead: 24.523515, 120.999822
I've been wanting to do a loop hike to Mt. Xiangtianhu, Mt. Guantiangao and Mt. Sanjiaohu like what Taiwan Trails and Tales did for a long time. When I saw Xizhi Mountaineering Association had this trip, I signed up without hesitation.
Xiangtianhu in Nanzhuang
We took group photos at the deck near Daping Trailhead.
We left Xizhi at 6:30 on February 27, and it took us around 3 hours to the parking lot of Daping Trailhead on Daping Forest Road 大坪林道. This was my second time to visit this trailhead. I did a loop hike to Mt. Jiali in July 2017 and started from here. Usually, it's very crowded on Daping Trailhead because Mt. Jiali is very popular among hikers. Lucky for us, we didn't see many people when we got there.
Xiangtianhu in Nanzhuang
Some hikers said they couldn't find a space to park here.
You can see the trailhead was well maintained and there were GPS coordinates on the millage post.
Xiangtianhu in Nanzhuang
Daping Trailhead
The first thing we saw after starting the hike was the beautiful Japanese Cedar trees. Some people say those trees were the results of failed forestation. I'm no expert but I have to say those trees were beautiful and it was relaxing to hike underneath them.
Xiangtianhu in Nanzhuang
Hiking underneath Japanese Cedar trees
The first 0.5 Km was a little bit steep, but the Japanese Cedar trees were beautiful enough to distract us. We just followed the plank steps all the way to the rest point at 0.5 Km.
Xiangtianhu in Nanzhuang
We took a short break here.
After taking a short break, there was no more plank steps and we hiked on the dirt trail, which was what I preferred.
Xiangtianhu in Nanzhuang
Some slopes with rock debris.

The Junction to Mt. Jiali and Relics Left behind by Commercial Logging

When we reached 0.9 Km, there was a junction. One of the signs pointed to "Refuge Hut 救難小屋 2.7 Km". If you want to hike Mt. Jiali, you will need to take this one.
Xiangtianhu in Nanzhuang
If you want to hike Mt. Jiali, you take the right here.
We took a break here, and I followed other hikers to the Mt. Jiali direction to take a look. Within 2 minutes, I reached a big open area with some old machinery on my right and railway on my left.
Xiangtianhu in Nanzhuang
You still can see some old logging machines on the trail.
The railway was the log-cart railway used to transport trees when commercial logging was still popular in the old days.
Xiangtianhu in Nanzhuang
The old railway used to transport logs.
There was a water faucet at the junction in case you need some.
Xiangtianhu in Nanzhuang
A faucet at the junction
After the rest of our hiking mates had arrived, we turned left to continue our hike. Steep slopes and rugged terrain awaited us. From here, we mostly hiked on the ridgeline.
Xiangtianhu in Nanzhuang
A much steeper slope waiting for us

Steep Ridgeline Climbing to Mt. Daping

Although this section was steep and the weather was not on our side, I still enjoyed hiking on the ridge a lot. I slowed down once in a while to see the mountains on my right when heading north.
Xiangtianhu in Nanzhuang
Hiking on the ridge
Through the trees and clouds, I could see Mt. Hakanni 哈堪尼山 1,989 meters (6,526 feet), which was also on my To-hike list. Some hikers will do a loop hike from Mt. Hakanni to Mt. Jiali.
Xiangtianhu in Nanzhuang
I could barely see Mt. Hakanni from the ridge.
Lucky for us, we soon arrived at Mt. Daping. There wasn't much to see on the peak and it was cloudy. So, we quickly left for our next peak.
Xiangtianhu in Nanzhuang
Mt. Daping

Hiking on the Ridge to Mt. Nandagui

After Mt. Daping, the trail became relatively flat and easy to hike. Japanese Cedar trees were replaced by the common jungle landscape on the trails in Taiwan.
Xiangtianhu in Nanzhuang
Trees on the ridge to Mt. Nandagui
Occasionally, the clouds opened up a little and gave away mountain views from the distance.
Xiangtianhu in Nanzhuang
We could see the village on the other side of the mountains.
After a while, I started seeing numbered markers or I started paying attention to them. When we arrived at Mt. Nandagui, the marker was No. 10, but the Chinese on the sign referred to Mt. Nandagui Rescue Marker No. 10. You'll find the ordered markers of Mt. Guangtiangao and other mountains if you do a loop hike to Mt. Xiangtianhu, Mt. Guangtiangao and Mt. Sanjiaohu. For those who don't read Chinese, those markers at least let you know you are on the trails. Having a GPS track is a must.
Xiangtianhu in Nanzhuang
There are different markers for different trails here.
The space was quite big on Mt. Nandagui with a little view. But again, we could only see clouds. Time to move on.
Xiangtianhu in Nanzhuang
Mt. Nandagui

Mt. Xiangtianhu with Beautiful Forest and Wild Orchids

After Mt. Nandagui, we left the ridge and were surrounded by Japanese Cedar trees again. The cloudy weather and mist made this forest look mysterious.
Xiangtianhu in Nanzhuang
We left the ridge and entered Japanese Cedar trees again.
Xiangtianhu in Nanzhuang
I could take my time strolling here for hours.
After a while, we saw a huge boulder landing in the middle of the forest. The boulder was also home for many ferns.
Xiangtianhu in Nanzhuang
A huge boulder out of nowhere
For some unknown reason, we stopped near the boulder waiting for a long time. Then, something white popped up out of the corner of my eye, and to my delight, I found wild orchids.
After doing some research, I think those are Calanthe elliptica Hayata 闊葉根節蘭 or 翹距根節蘭, which is very common on the humid mountains between 1,500 to 2,500 meters above the sea level. It was pity that some of those delicate flowers were withering when I saw them, but the rest were still gorgeous. But if it's not Calanthe elliptica Hayata, please also let me know. Thank you in advance.
Xiangtianhu in Nanzhuang
I came across Calanthe elliptica Hayata on the trail.
After we started moving, there was a big rock slope waiting for us and it looked very slippery. We grabbed the ropes set up by enthusiastic hikers and went uphill one by one.
Xiangtianhu in Nanzhuang
The surface of this slope was slippery.
Then, I saw No. 7 marker. Please note that this marker belonged to Mt. Guangtiangao, not the previous Mt. Nandagui.
Xiangtianhu in Nanzhuang
Passed No.7 marker
When we saw No. 6 marker, we also arrived at Mt. Xiangtianhu. There is a big space here but not much to see, either.
Xiangtianhu in Nanzhuang
There was a No. 6 marker on the peak of Mt. Xiangtianhu. Our guide was taking pictures.

Mt. Guangtiangao and Misty Xiangtian Lake

After leaving Mt. Xiangtianhu, we passed a junction which would lead you to Mt. Sanjiaohu, but that wasn't on our itinerary on that day.
Xiangtianhu in Nanzhuang
The trail on the right will take you to Mt. Sanjianhu.
Then we were embraced by tall, slender Japanese Cedar trees again. It was around 3 pm, and the clouds cleared up slightly and let us see the mist and light mingle together.
Xiangtianhu in Nanzhuang
The beams of light brighten up the woods.
Moreover, this section was mostly downhill, which made the hiking even more relaxing. The only downside was it was very slippery. Our hiking mates, including myself, involuntarily practiced gliding skills on the trail.
Xiangtianhu in Nanzhuang
It was still slippery on the trail and I almost lost my footing.
Then, we reached a junction with No. 9 marker and a sign pointing to Xiangtian Lake.
Xiangtianhu in Nanzhuang
Another junction with a marker
We were back on the ridge again. I passed an opening on the ridge, but it was still cloudy. Soon, the relaxing strolling in the forests was replaced by steep rocky slopes before we reached Mt. Guangtiangao.
Xiangtianhu in Nanzhuang
One more steep slope. Almost there.
After some huffing and puffing, we passed No. 10 marker (this marker was not the same one at Mt. Nandagui) and finally arrived at our last peak on that day, Mt. Guangtiangao.
Xiangtianhu in Nanzhuang
The second No. 10 marker I saw on this hike.
Xiangtianhu in Nanzhuang
Mt. Guangtiangao was also next to this No. 10 marker.
We couldn't see much from the peak, so I checked out my PeakFinder app to see what those surrounding mountains were if the weather was good.
Xiangtianhu in Nanzhuang
It was cloudy on the peak of Mt. Guangtiangao
My PeakFinder app told me that I could expect to see Mt. Egongji 鵝公髻山 1,579 meters (5,180 feet) and even Mt. Qixing Main Peak 1,118 meters (3,668 feet), the highest peak in Taipei City. As usual, there is always a gap between the expectation and reality, and I guess this could be an incentive for me to visit this place again in the future.
Xiangtianhu in Nanzhuang
I used PeakFinder app to see those peaks hid behind the clouds.
This is the view of Mt. Jiali from Mt. Ergonji (post coming soon), a hike I did in September 2020.
Xiangtianhu in Nanzhuang
There was a small cloud above the peak of Mt. Jiali.
After everyone had finished taking photos, we headed back to the junction and turned to the trail to Xiangtian Lake. From there, it was a steep, slippery descending.
Xiangtianhu in Nanzhuang
Taking time to descend.
I guess the mountain spirits took pity on us and decided to reward us something else to remember from this hike. This was what we saw on the way to Xiangtian Lake.
Xiangtianhu in Nanzhuang
I saw this wonderful view when looking back.
Everyone was very excited to see the beams of light dancing with the tall cedar trees and we stopped several times to take photos of the amazing views.
Xiangtianhu in Nanzhuang
Right time, right place.
The happy hour ended soon, because we had to pay attention to the rocky, slippery trail again. I would say this section might be the most dangerous part of this hike. We descended the steep slope one by one, grabbing the rope as tightly as we could.
Xiangtianhu in Nanzhuang
We took turn to descend this rock slope.
While we were trying to go downhill, the fog in the forests became thicker and our hope to see the beautiful Xiangtian Lake also became dimmer.
Xiangtianhu in Nanzhuang
The light disappeared and the fog became thicker.
By the time we reached the trailhead of Mt. Guangtiangao, the fog was so thick that we couldn't see very far.
Xiangtianhu in Nanzhuang
We couldn't see very far from the trailhead of Mt. Guangtiangao.
When we walked on a regular road, I didn't know we were circling the lake until I saw those feathered friends either resting on the lake bank or swimming ashore.
Xiangtianhu in Nanzhuang
There were many birds on Xiangtian Lake.
We were disappointed by the fog that covered the whole Xiangtian Lake, but this also gave me another reason to do this hike again. Soon, we reached the parking lot (not the one we started in the morning) and our hired buses were already there waiting for us.
Xiangtianhu in Nanzhuang
Back to the parking lot near SaySiyat Museum.

Thoughts about this Hike and Other Routes to Enjoy Mt. Jiali

As I mentioned earlier, there are so many routes to enjoy mountains in Nanzhuang, either loop hikes or point-to-point hikes. This hiker has mentioned several routes if you are curious.
Xiangtianhu in Nanzhuang
The map on Daping Trailhead
I also had a great time hiking with Xizhi Mountaineering Association.
Xiangtianhu in Nanzhuang
Friendly hikers from Xizhi Mountaineering Association
It's for sure that I will hike Mt. Jiali again, and those are the routes I'd like to do in the future, if I'm fit enough.
  • Doing a loop hike to Mt. Jiali and Dujuanlin 杜鵑嶺 2,125 meters (6,972 feet) from Daping Trailhead. The distance of this loop hike is 12 Km (7.5 miles), but this one is a difficult one. It will take about 9 hours to finish it.
    You can also do this hike from Luchang Trailhead.
    If you do this hike between March and May, you might be able to see one of the most beautiful orchids in Taiwan, Pleione formosana 台灣一葉蘭.
  • Doing a loop hike from Mt. Hakanni 哈堪尼山 to Mt. Jiali. This is also a very challenging hike. The distance is 11 Km (6.8 miles), and hikers have to descend to a creek after reaching the peak of Mt. Hakanni, and ascend to Mt. Jiali again.
  • Doing a point-to-point hike from Taian Hotspring 泰安溫泉 via Mt. Hu (Tiger Mountain) to Mt. Jiali. The distance for this hike is 13 Km (8.1 miles), and there are many bamboo woods from Tiger Mountain to Mt. Jiali. It takes at least 10 hours to finish, also a very challenging hike. But if you can only do an out-and-back hike from Taian Hotspring to Tiger Mountain, and the total distance is 8 Km (5 miles).
Xiangtianhu in Nanzhuang
Nanzhuang is a great place to hike. Photo by Xizhi Mountaineering Association.
If you want to do more challenging hike here, I highly recommend you stay in Nanzhuang or Taian at least one night and start your hike in the early morning. Although there are many markers on those trails, having a GPX track in your smartphone or a map is a must, whether you read Chinese or not.
Another thing is Mt. Jiali is very popular among hikers in Taiwan, expect many cars at the parking lots and hikers on the trails and the peak of Mt. Jiali.
Xiangtianhu in Nanzhuang
It could be very crowded on Mt. Jiali.
Have you been to Nanzhuang or Miaoli? What do you think about this hike? Please leave comments below. Don't forget to subscribe to newsletters to know more about the exciting trails in Taiwan.

Map and Itinerary

Group Hike or Solo Hike: Solo hike
Date of Hike: February 27, 2021

Route map for Mt Xiangtianhu Mt Guangtiangao 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.
My GPS track is for reference only.

Based on my hike on February 27, 2021

09:24 Arrived at the parking lot near the observation deck of Daping Trailhead
09:36 Reached Daping Trailhead
09:58 Passed 0.5 Km mark
10:12 Reached to junction to Mt. Jiali, visited the old log-cart railway and took a long break
10:24 Resumed the hike and took the north trail at the junction
10:42 Arrived at Mt. Daping
11:35 Took a 50-minute lunch break
13:09 Arrived at the junction to Mt. Xiangtianhu and Mt. Guantiangao
13:11 Arrived at Mt. Nandagui with No. 10 marker nearby and took a break
14:13 Passed No. 7 marker
14:42 Arrived at Mt. Xiangtianhu with No. 6 marker
15:21 Passed the junction with No. 9 marker to Mt. Guangtiangao and Xiangtian Lake
15:30 Arrived at Mt. Guangtiangao with No. 10 marker
15:38 Returned to No. 9 marker and took the trail to Xiangtian Lake
15:55 Descended the steep rock slope
16:47 Arrived at the trailhead to Mt. Guangtiangao
16:54 Saw the map of Xiangtian Lake and walked on the Cherry Trail
17:02 Got a glimpse of Xiangtian Lake
17:10 Arrived at the parking lot near SaySiyat Museum and called it a dal
Total time: 8 hours 34 minutes, including breaks

Recommended Blogs and Resources:

Chinese only:
Hiking Biji: Mt. Xiangtianhu Trail in Nanzhuang 南庄向天湖山步道
Mt. Daping, Mt. Nandagui and Mt. Xiangtianhu from Daping Forest Road 大坪林道登大坪山連走南大龜山、向天湖山
Mt. Xiangtianhu, Mt. Nandagui and Mt. Daping in Nanzhuang 南庄向天湖山,南大龜山與大坪山
Hiking Biji: A Point-to-point Hike from Mt. Xiangtianhu to Mt. Jiali 向天湖加里山連稜縱走
5 Routes to do Mt. Jiali in 1 Day 加里山一日單攻|5種路線走法|交通資訊|懶人包
English posts:
Taiwan Trails and Tales: MOUNT XIANGTIANHU LOOP (三角湖山/向天湖山/光天高山O型)
Taiwan Trails and Tales: Mt. Jiali
Taking It Easy in NANZHUANG, Miaoli County

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