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Elevate Your Adventure: A Comprehensive Checklist of 15+ Things for Hiking in Taiwan

Posted by:  Anusha Lee
Updated: September 30, 2023
Before you set off on your Taiwan hiking adventure, this is a must-read guide to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience based on my 7+ years of hiking experience in Taiwan.
Jade Mountain hike
Some of the things mentioned here contradict the wilderness survival skills in your home country. However, Taiwan's climate and rugged terrain cast different dangers beyond people's control and imagination.
You will find more details about those things under each section.
Taiwan Hikes is an affiliated partner of HolaTaipei.

Table of Contents:

Weather

The weather in Taiwan might be more complicated than you thought.

1. Expect Humid and Hot Weather Even in the High Mountains. Always Check the Weather Forecast.

Taiwan's tropical climate means high humidity, especially in the summer. But don't let that deter you! Even during the warmer months, you can still enjoy the mountains by heading to higher elevations where the air is cooler and more refreshing.
Taiwan Weather Bureau app
Check the weather forecast before your hike.

2. Rain, Drizzles, Thundershowers, and Typhoons Are Common in the Mountains, Especially in Summer.

Summer is typhoon season in Taiwan. Typhoons might not always make landfall, but they can still trigger landslides and disrupt access to trailheads. After typhoons pass, the southwest monsoon, known as habagat, can bring heavy rains. While I'm no meteorologist, you'll start noticing weather patterns after following forecasts for a while.
Batongguan Trail to Jade Mountain
Typhoons and heavy rains constantly destroy many high mountain trails in Taiwan.
Even without typhoons, expect drizzles or thundershowers, particularly in summer. Consider using the Raining Bell app for Android and for iOS to monitor weather conditions in the wild (the internet access required).

3. The Summits of High Mountains Can Be Chilly, Despite Taiwan's Tropical Climate.

According to Britannica, the average lapse rate (the rate at which air temperature falls with increasing altitude) is about 6.5 °C per 1,000 meters or (3.5 °F per 1,000 feet). So, when hiking above 3,000 meters (9,842 feet) in Taiwan, it can be nearly 20 degrees cooler than the surface. For example, Jade Mountain, at 3,952 meters (12,966 feet), can be a whopping 26 degrees cooler, and the wind can be quite strong up there.
average-lapse-rate
This graphic is just the rule of thumb. Other factors will affect the temperature.

4. When a Typhoon Land Alert Is Issued, All Hiking Permits Will Be Revoked. Check the National Park's Website Before Your Hike.

Keep an eye on typhoon alerts! If a Typhoon Land Alert is issued, all hiking permits will be revoked, and it's important to check the National Park's website for updates before your hike. This ensures your safety and helps you avoid any unnecessary hassles. You will get a refund for those cabins that require payments in advance.
Paiyun Lodge application

Safety

When hiking in Taiwan, safety is paramount. Don't risk getting lost on the trails. Do your homework, plan, and follow these guidelines:

5. Emergency Number in Taiwan: 112 and 119

Emergency Numbers in Taiwan

6. Don't Follow Streams/Rivers When Lost in Taiwan (Important!).

If you ever find yourself off course, remember this golden rule: Do NOT follow streams or rivers. Instead, stay put, and people will find you. You can find more details in my post on what to do when lost on Taiwan's trails.

7. Altitude Sickness Can Happen to Anyone, Whether You Are a Seasoned or New Hiker.

Altitude sickness can affect anyone, experienced or not, especially above 2,500 meters (8,202 feet). Symptoms like headaches, nausea, pneumonia, and fatigue can be severe, even fatal. To prevent it, ascend gradually, stay hydrated, and acclimatize properly. If symptoms persist or even get worse, descend immediately to lower altitudes. It's a must-know for a safer hike.
One of my hiking guides told me that she had hiked to Jade Mountain almost ten times but still suffered nausea and dizziness and puked at Paiyun Lodge.
Things to know before hiking in Taiwan
This is Xiaofengkuo before reaching Jade Mountain. It's windy and chilly there.

8. Google Maps Is NOT a Hiking Map.

Get a dedicated hiking app that works offline to navigate trails effectively.

9. Trail Labels Help, but Don't Rely Solely on Them.

You will find trail labels to help you navigate in the woods. Many volunteer hikers clean up the trails and put marks on the trails from time to time. However, you SHOULD NOT rely solely on those labels and have a map or GPS.
Things to know before hiking in Taiwan
Most trail labels are for reference only. You still need a map or trekking app to navigate in the wild.

10. Always Let Someone Know Your Hiking Plans in Taiwan.

Before setting off, let someone know your hiking plans in Taiwan, including your return time. They can call for help if you're late and get to you as fast as possible. It's a universal safety practice, no matter where you're from.

11. Wasps and Hornets Can Be Lethal.

While Taiwan's trails offer stunning beauty, watch out for wasps and hornets. These buzzing insects can be more than just a nuisance; their stings can pack quite a punch! It's wise to carry insect repellent and stay cautious and quiet around their nests to ensure a safe and enjoyable hike. According to BBC News, don't wave your arms around or swat at wasps but remain calm and move away slowly.
What to do when hornets attack from the Minister of Agriculture
Image and content are from the Minister of Agriculture.
What to do when hornets attack from the Minister of Agriculture
Image and content are from the Minister of Agriculture.
However, some suggest it's best to retrace your steps back the same way you came during the hornet attacks. It's hard to gauge the wind direction, and returning the same path ensures safety, as you'd know there were no hornets.
When I was updating this content, a deadly hornet attack happened in Ruifan, New Taipei City, causing two deaths.
You can read this post written by an Irish hiker, Mark Roche, who has hiked all 100 Peaks in Taiwan. He shared his knowledge about the hidden dangers on Taiwan's trails.

Terrain

When it comes to hiking in Taiwan, here's what you need to know about the terrain:

12. GPS Maps on Your Phone Are Essential, but Topographic Maps Can Still Be Tricky.

Make sure to have GPS maps on your phone. Even though topographic maps are helpful, the terrain here can be quite tricky, with subtle changes that may not always be accurately represented on these maps. It's something I've learned through my own experiences.
Things to know before hiking in Taiwan
Some small terrain changes are difficult to be picked up by the topographic maps.
Things to know before hiking in Taiwan
Even the intertwined tree roots can trip hikers.

13. Government-maintained Trails Often Have Stone or Plank Steps, Which Can Be Slippery.

Many government-maintained trails feature stone or plank steps, like trails at Yangmingshan National Park. Due to Taiwan's humid weather, these steps can be perpetually damp and slippery.
Yangmingshan Nation Park
The stone steps are slippery when it's wet.

14. Not All 100 Peaks Are Difficult, but Trails Near Cities Can Be Surprisingly Challenging.

Taiwan has several categories of trails: 100 Peaks, Mid-level Mountains, Minor 100 Peaks, and trails near the cities. Each type has its own difficulty levels, and even local Taiwanese got fooled by the labels and ended up getting lost or in trouble.
On the contrary, the trails of the 100 Peaks are easy to navigate and appropriately marked by the national park. Yet, having a map or hiking app is a must, no matter how well the trails are marked.
terrtain-markers
The most popular 100 Peaks trails are well marked, and you will find phone reception spots.

15. Distance on Trails May Not Reflect Difficulty.

Don't gauge difficulty solely by trail distance. It is common to hike 25 km (15 miles) or more in some countries in one day. However, the length of the trails can't reflect how long it will take to finish. It will take less for seasoned hikers but may take twice as long for new hikers, especially those who have never hiked in Taiwan before.
You can use time estimates from trail apps on the trails. Therefore, please fully understand how to use your hiking app before you go.

16. Trails Can Get Muddy. Rain Boots Might Be Your Best Friend.

Don't be surprised to see Taiwanese hikers in rainboots or wellies to hike. While they might not be as comfortable as hiking boots, they make life easier on these trails.
Things to know before hiking in Taiwan
Many trails are muddy even though the weather is good.

17. Expect Leeches, Especially After Rain.

Yes, you might encounter leeches, but don't be too alarmed. Taiwan's leeches are smaller and friendlier than you'd expect. I've been stung by horseflies, wasps, biting midges, and other things that I can't remember, and I can tell you leeches are the friendliest ones among all.
Snakes and spider webs are also common on the trails in Taiwan. Ticks are not new on the trails in Taiwan, either.

Clothing and Gear

When gearing up for a hike in Taiwan, here's what I recommend:

18. Long Shirts and Pants Are Recommended No Matter How Hot It Is.

Even in the heat, it's wise to wear long sleeves and pants. The unforgiving sun and prickly plants can make shorts a regrettable choice. I learned this the hard way with torn pants. Plus, it helps guard against pesky plants like stinging nettles.
Things to know before hiking in Taiwan
Prickly plants are not fun on the trails.

19. Sun Protection and Insect Repellent Are Essential, Even in High Mountains or in Winter.

Protect yourself from the sun and bugs, regardless of altitude or season.

20. Bring a Pair of Gloves.

Many volunteer hikers maintain hiking trails in Taiwan and set up ropes on steep slopes to help them climb. Thus, wearing gloves will help you prevent getting a rope burn.
Things to know before hiking in Taiwan
Please check the rope before you put your whole body weight on it.

21. Carry a Headlamp.

This is essential when hiking in Taiwan. I will also bring extra batteries, just in case.

22. Rain Jacket and Rain Pants Are Backpack Essentials.

Given Taiwan's unpredictable weather, packing a rain jacket and pants is a smart move to stay dry on the trail.
Things to know before hiking in Taiwan
The weather changes fast in the mountains in Taiwan.
Also check out my gear list for more information.

Culture and Regulations

23. Names and Translations Can Be Confusing.

You will encounter different versions of English names for the same mountains. For example, the sign you see at the peak of Mt. Qixing is actually Cising. The government's official websites even use different names, too. Welcome to Taiwan.
Things to know before hiking in Taiwan
Mt. Qixing is also spelled as Cising, but not many people use this version.
Things to know before hiking in Taiwan
Xueshan, Snow Mountain, Mt. Sylvia, Syue Mountain? They are all the same thing.

24. Don't Step on Triangulation Stones.

Most Triangulation Stones were built during the Japanese Occupation and can be over 100 years old. They have become part of the mountains. We show our respect by touching them gently. So, please don't stand on those stones when you see them. Some local hikers react strongly if they see people stepping on those stones.
Things to know before hiking in Taiwan
Please do not step on the triangulation stones.

25. Wild Camping and Campfires Are Prohibited in National Parks.

National parks have designated camping areas and strict stove rules to protect the environment. Using a stove is not even allowed at the Yangmingshan National Park.
These are the most popular cabins to apply for in Taiwan: Paiyun Lodge at Jade Mountain, Sanliujiu Lodge (now under renovation) at Xueshan, Tianchi Lodge at Qilai Nanhua, Jiujiu Lodge at Mt. Dabajian, and Jiaming Lake Cabin at Jiaming Lake, especially Paiyun Lodge.
Things to know before hiking in Taiwan
The most popular (difficult to apply) cabin in Taiwan, Paiyun Lodge
We often joke that getting a permit to hike those trails is more complicated than the hike itself. I have a free hiking permit application guide to help you understand the application process for hiking permits.

26. Local Hikers Are Friendly, Sometimes Overly So.

Many Taiwanese hikers enjoy sharing food and fruits with fellow hikers on the trails (and some even don't take No for an answer.) They are also surprised to see foreigners on the trails in Taiwan. So, they might share food with you and even ask you to take photos with them.
My friends from Taiwan Trails and Tales and OutRecording can share their stories about how they ended up in strangers' photos.

27. The Average Age of Taiwanese Hikers Tend to Be Older.

Many years ago, hiking once was deemed an “old people” activity because Taiwanese retirees started hiking to maintain their health and stay fit. After COVID-19 stranded people, younger generations are exploring mountains more now.
Things to know before hiking in Taiwan
I met this 80+ year-old grandpa hiking on the trail.

28. Expect Crowds on Trails and Peaks, Especially on Weekends or Holidays.

Taking photos and group photos is a big thing in Taiwan. Expect a long queue if you hike the well-known mountains on the weekends and holidays.
Yangmingshan Nation Park
Mt. Qixing is one of the most populart trails in Taipei.

29. Mountain Bagging, Especially the 100 Peaks, Is a Big Deal.

In Taiwan, mountain bagging, particularly the pursuit of the 100 Peaks, is a widely encouraged and passionate endeavor. It's akin to a cultural phenomenon, where hikers seek to conquer these majestic summits as a mark of personal achievement (or something to brag about.)
Batongguan Trail to Jade Mountain
258 mountains are over 3,000 meters above sea level in Taiwan.

30. Hiring Porters to Carry Gear Is Common Practice.

Many hikers hire porters to carry meals, tents, and sleeping bags, especially when doing the 100 Peaks hikes. You might encounter hikers who have bagged 100 Peaks but still don't know how to use a stove, pitch a tent, or read the maps.
culture-porters
You will see many porters carrying heavy loads of goods on popular trails.

31. Group Hikes Are Popular in Taiwan.

You can find all kinds of hiking groups in Taiwan. Most hiking groups in Taipei are non-profit associations and offer free and paid guided hiking trips, while hiking associations in other cities or counties offer paid trips due to the lack of access to public transport.
Jade Mountain hike
My favorite hiking association: LOHAS
Solo hikes are not encouraged in Taiwan, but I still do it. Whether you hike with a group or alone, doing research, having a map, and well preparation are the keys to ensuring a safe and great trip (whether you hike in Taiwan or other countries.)

32. Queuing at the peak to take photos with the triangulation stones is typical.

Queuing at the peak to take photos with the triangulation stones is typical.
Things to know before hiking in Taiwan
I lost patience when queuing at Hehuanshan West Peak, so I gave up.
When I hiked to Trolltunga in Norway, I also had to queue for 30 minutes.
Trolltunga in Norway
I did a hike to Trolltunga in Norway in 2017. It took me 30 minutes to queuing.

Customized Hikes from HolaTaipei

If you are lookig for customized hiking trips with an English or Spanish-speaking guide and save time on traffic, my friend Cris from HolaTaipei's guided hikes might be for you.

Related Posts:

How to Stay Alive and Get Found Soon While Getting Lost on the Trails in Taiwan?
Skylantern Issues
I hope you find something useful from this post. Share the unique aspects and hiking tips from your home country or your hiking experience in Taiwan. Drop your thoughts in the comments below.

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