Taiwan Hikes

Enjoy free guided hikes with the locals

Resources

Posted by:  Anusha Lee
Last updated on: September 22, 2020
Before 2020, I mostly hiked with hiking associations, unless those trails that were very popular or obvious, like trails to Mt. Qixin. I went through those hiking schedules from those associations I knew and tried to pick up those I thought might be interesting. I know I always wanted to do solo hike, but I wasn’t sure about that, because we were usually told it’s dangerous to hike alone. It is if you don’t prepare well.
By the end of 2019, inspired by many cool hikers on Twitter, like Taiwan Trails and Tales and OutRecording, I told myself that I wanted to do more solo hikes in 2020. After I hiked from Smangus to Qilan, the thought of doing a solo hike was getting stronger. Before the Chinese New Year holidays ended, I picked a trail and finished it by myself. I realized it wasn’t difficult at all as long as you were well prepared.
Hiking Resources: Feitsui Reservoir in Taipei
Feitsui Reservoir in Xingdian, New Taipei City
Since we got a pandemic in 2020 and many hiking trips are packed with hikers that can be over 100 people, doing solo hikes is a no brainer. I also enjoy the freedom of hiking on the trail on my own. Sometimes, I was the only person on the trails, no non-sense chatting or annoying music from other hikers, only my breathing and heartbeats, the winds and the sounds from the birds and animals, which makes me addictive to solo hikes.
But this doesn’t mean doing group hikes is not good. If you are new to the trails in Taiwan and you don’t know where to hike, going with the associations is a good start. You'll get familiar with the trail conditions and weather and you may not have to do a lot of homework while joining them. I still join group hikes, especially when the trails are too challenging or too remote to get there by myself.

How I find the trails to hike

The easiest way: checking out the trails from the hiking associations

There are some benefits to find trails to hike from those hiking associations or groups. Most of the guides from those associations will check the trail conditions before they post the trips to the public, which means the trail conditions are okay to hike or they might even spend some time to clean up the trails. I can tell you it’s not fun to hike on the trail and try to wipe off the spider webs from your face at the same time.
Hiking associations will label the trail difficulties and what you might experience on the trails on their websites or Facebook Group pages, and this helps a lot for you to decide whether this trail is for you. You don’t want to pick up a very challenging trail that you thought it should be easy but turns out to be a different story.
Hiking Resources: River Tonghou 桶後溪 in Ilan, Taiwan
River Tonghou 桶後溪 in Yilan, Taiwan

From hiking websites like Hiking Biji

Hiking Biji is like a trail database in Taiwan. You can search trails from locations, difficulty, etc., read other hikers’ posts about the trails, learn the latest trail conditions reported by fellow hikers, and sign up to download GPX from other hikers. They even go further to provide lists of trails to meet people’s preference, like trails along with rivers, to see waterfalls, or suitable for families with young kids. It’s Chinese only, but I think you can use Google Translate to get some ideas.
Hiking Resources: looking at Ilan Plain from Mt. Sanjiaolun 三角崙山
looking at Yilan Plain from Mt. Sanjiaolun 三角崙山

From the hiking bloggers who also provide GPX to download

Since I start hiking by myself, I need to get GPX. Many bloggers write down all the details and timelines of their hikes, so you can have a reference about how fast or slow you are if you hike on the same trails and you get some ideas about when you might be able to finish the hike. I really admire their dedications to the details, which helps me a lot.
Here is the list of my favorite hiking bloggers:
Chinese blogs:
Tony的自然人文旅記 Tony Huang: Tony is famous among hikers in Taiwan, and has been writing posts about hiking in Taiwan for more than ten years. He is also a prolific author and YouTuber, and publishes many books and videos with English captions.
馬克褚工作室 -- 自行車與登山 Mark Choo: Mark also dedicates his time to teach hikers how to use GPS for hikes.
Waytogo 獨步山林間: Reading his blog is like a treasure hunt. I can spend hours reading his posts.
Mark的旅記: Like Waytogo, I enjoy reading Mark's posts about hiking.
Chen 陳生: Mr. Chen is also a volunteer working with Blue Sky Team to clean up the trails, replaces old or torn signs on the trails. Most of his hikes are very challenging.
Blue Sky Team 藍天隊: They don’t have a website or Facebook Group page (at least I don't know), but you can see the tags or hiking ribbons almost on the trails in Taiwan. Here's an interview of their current leader, Jiang Qixiang 江啟祥. Blue Sky Team holds hiking events every week and they welcome hikers to join their hikes. You can check out Mr. Jiang's Facebook to check out their hiking trips.
Sj Wu: Sj is a friend of mine and he loves photography. His images may not all relate to hiking, but you can see the beauty of Taiwan through his lens. He has a full-time job but still devotes his time to present Taiwan.
From a Photojournalist to a Photographer 攝影記者到攝影師: A couple hikers’ journey to the challenging hikes in Taiwan. It’s not easy to find good hiking partner to go hiking with you, let alone the fact that your best hiking partner is also your soul mate. This couple take on more difficult hikes in Taiwan and there are many beautiful photos on their blog.
Sunriver Publishing 上河文化: A collection of high-quality printed maps if you want to hike 100 Peaks in Taiwan. Sunriver lets hikers download those simple maps that indicate the distance between point and point and time that might take for you to reach them. Scroll your mouse to the right. When you see your cursor changes to a hand, you can right click to download. It’s pity that Google Translate Sunriver puts here isn’t working. I also have a Sunriver’s book about high altitude flowers, which helps me a lot. They also have apps to purchase.
Facebook Group 中級山登山記錄站: If you are addicted to challenging hikes like me, you can visit this Facebook Group to explore 中級山 Mid-level hiking trails. Hikers share trail conditions, photos and trail GPX here and you can download them. Please note that mid-level hiking trails in Taiwan can be extremely difficult and dangerous. Unless you are familiar with the trail terrains in Taiwan and you are very fit, please don’t do those trails without experienced guides.
English blogs:
Taiwan Trails and Tales: A British hiker in Taiwan who writes poetic journals about hiking in Taiwan.
OutRecording: OutRecording is based in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. Glenn usually hikes in very remote areas or hunters' trails and shares his experience in hiking in Taiwan in a humorous way.
Foreigners in Taiwan: This website covers a wide range of things in Taiwan other than hiking. I think the authors probably know more things about Taiwan than I do. If you consider relocating in Taiwan, this is definitely a guide to look into.
浮生千山 Qianshan: This blog is written in Chinese, but the author has Google Translate tool on the blog so you still can read the posts in English.
Formosa>Ex: This is not a hiking blog, but if you are also into history, old houses and relics in south Taiwan, you should stop by.
The Ultimate Guide to Hiking in Taiwan: This is a very detailed guide for things you need to know about hiking in Taiwan. I sometimes got a feeling that expats in Taiwan probably know or pay more attention to things than the locals who grew up here. You can follow Ryan Hevern's website for more of his adventures in Taiwan.
And, of course, check out my website, Taiwan Hikes, for guided trips or blog posts to find your hike. Or ask me on my Twitter to see whether the trail you want to go is okay for you.
Hiking Resources:  Lake Baipao 白匏湖 in Neihu, Taipei
Lake Baipao 白匏湖 in Neihu, Taipei

Just Google it

I met some hikers from other countries and asked them how they found the trails in Taiwan, and they said they just Google some keywords. But please note that the distance of the trails in Taiwan doesn't mean anything. Some trails are very easy and you can finish 10 km in 3 hours, while some other trails with the same distance will take you 10 hours to finish.
However, try to do a thorough research, not just relying on a single source, no matter how reliable it might sound. A Dutch couple picked up a wrong trail from a famous travel book publisher in October 2018, a difficult trail to Mt. Zhulu 逐鹿山 (1,417 meters / 4,649 feet) and Mt. Kabao 卡保山 (1,582 meters / 5,200 feet), and ended up getting lost and were forced to stay in the mountains overnight. When they thought they were going to die, their distress call was picked up by a group of THMA guides who happened to be nearby and saved them. You can read their ordeal (written in Dutch, but you can use Google Translate to read it).
Mt-Badaoer-summit-view
The peaks the Dutch couple planned to hike: Mt. Zhulu on the right and Mt. Kabao on the left.
Please note that the survival rule No. 1 going down to the river doesn't apply in Taiwan. If you get lost on the trails in Taiwan, you have to get to climb up to the ridge to get help. I'll address more about this in the future. And PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE let the hostel or hotel you stay or your family or friends in your home country know that you are out for a hike, and you will send a message to let them know when you get back to the place you stay. Also ask them to alert the local police to search for you if you fail to contact them on time.
Hiking Resources: Crossing the creek to Mt. Jiajiuling 加九嶺山
Crossing the creek to Mt. Jiajiuling 加九嶺山

How to check the weather

Most people use Windy to check the weather, but I use Central Weather Bureau app and website to check the local weather. Thundershowers are common in Taiwan in summer. Usually, they come fast and big in the afternoon, but disappear soon. If you find a spot to hide, thundershowers should not be a problem. You need to check UV Index to avoid sun burn and heat exhaustion.
Hiking Resources: Light coming through the woods
Light coming through the woods

How to apply permits to hike the 100 Peaks hike

My friends and I are planning to hike Mt. Qilai South Peak (3,358 meters / 11,017 feet) and Mt. Nanhua (3,184 meters / 10,446 feet), 奇萊南華, in November 2020, and I will write down the details about how to apply for the hike to 100 Peaks later. Taiwan government says they are overhauling the application process and will make it much easier for hikers. But I've seen the one-stop website claiming that you only need to visit here to apply, but it still directs you to other website to start the process. Here is another link to submit all your papers at least one week before your hike.
View of Mt Nengao from Tianchi Lodge
View of Mt. Nengao 能高山 (3,349 meters / 10,987 feet) in front of Tianchi Lodge near Mt. Qilai South Peak
Is it easy to apply for the permits? For local Taiwanese, applying for the permit to hike 100 Peaks, especially the very popular ones like Mt. Yu or Lake Jiaming, is like winning the lottery, unless you choose the weekdays to hike. Those trails are extremely popular during Covid-19 pandemic because most of us don't want to travel abroad. However, for foreigners, it might be much easier because foreigners can enjoy Priority Reservation especially for foreigners. I was told that you can almost get the permits when applying, but I'm not sure it's still the same during pandemic.
Mt-Yu, 3,952m / 12,965 ft, the highest peak in Taiwan. Photo by Kunfu Lin
The highest mountain in Taiwan, Mt. Yu or Mt. Jade, 3,952 meters / 12,966 feet. Photo by Kunfu Lin
You can check this post by Foreigners in Taiwan to see how they hiked Mt. Yu in one day. Please note that some regulations might have been changed, and I'll try to update them as much as I can.
sunrise-at-Lake-Jiaming. Photo by Fion
Sunrise at Lake Jiaming 嘉明湖, 3,310 meters / 10,859 feet. Photo by Fion Yang
Enjoy your hike in Taiwan and stay safe on the trials.
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