Taiwan’s top 100 Peaks
Five Peaks to Begin Your Journey
Get Ready For a New Adventure
If you were asked to name a country that offers great hiking, would you ever guess Taiwan? Maybe not, but it turns out that Taiwan has the highest density of alpine(1) mountains in the world, containing 286 mountains taller than 3,000 meters. They run up and down the central region of the small island nation.
Taiwan has a “Top 100 Peaks,” or “baiyue” (百岳). The Taiwan Province Alpine Association chose these peaks after 1968. They were chosen on the basis of height, danger, beauty, and uniqueness. The reason for making a “Top 100 Peaks” list was to encourage more people to hike the taller mountains. Nowadays, some brave hikers decide to take on the challenge of finishing all of the baiyue, though few actually finish.
Preparing to Hike a Top 100 Peak (百岳)
Each mountain/section of mountains varies in difficulty. Some can be accomplished in just a day, while others can take up to ten days to hike! All of these peaks are alpine, so the air gets thin and the weather changes fast; hikers should be fully prepared and do their research!
If you’re curious, each of the peaks is listed here with the difficulty rating.
- Be in Good Physical Shape
You often carry a heavy backpack, and some mountains have technical sections with cliffs, ropes, chains, and narrow ridges, so it is important to be physically fit. You should be strong enough to carry a heavy pack all day and have the endurance(2) and energy to hike all day long with only short breaks (not being afraid of heights also helps).
Make sure you know what gear to take with you. Do you need a sleeping bag or a tent? Do you have rain gear and clothing for both hot and cold weather? Do you have a map or GPS? There are many good online lists for basic equipment to have on high-altitude treks, but it changes a lot depending how long you are hiking, or whether or not you are camping or not, etc.
You need an entry permit and a police permit to hike any baiyue inside the National Parks. You will just need a police permit when hiking taller mountains outside of the National Parks. Luckily, all of this can be done on the Taroko, Yushan, or Sheipa National park websites.
Make sure you read other blogs and find out information about your hike. Are there water sources? How many km is the hike? Will you sleep in a cabin or a tent etc.? Usually, this information can be found with a simple Google search.
Reason for Hiking a Top 100 Mountain
Hiking the baiyue can be difficult and painful, but fortunately, there are many pros to hiking them as well. First off, the mountains are absolutely beautiful. The air is clean, you will see other mountains in every direction, and the sunrises and sunsets are some of the best you will ever experience.
It’s also a chance to reset yourself. There is no busy city, no crowds, and no stress. All you have to do is walk and enjoy living in the now(3). This return to simplicity is great for your brain, and I believe harmony(4) with nature is one of the best ways to find happiness.
Five Top 100 Peaks to Start Off With
Below are five great Top 100 Peaks to start with. Each of these is suitable for a first “Top 100” hike, though some are certainly more challenging than others. All of these hikes can be done in either one or two days (a weekend).
1. Hehuan North Peak 合歡山北峰
Height: 3422 m
Difficulty: very easy 2/10
Why this one?
The most obvious reason is that Hehuan Mountain is the only baiyue you can literally drive to. That’s right, you can drive your car to the Hehuan parking lot and actually get five Top 100 Peaks in just one or two days! Main and East Peak are simple forty-minute treks, and Shimen Mountain is a ten-minute walk from the roadside (this is the easiest Top 100, yet I still haven’t climbed it).
I chose North Peak though, because this is the perfect beginner’s hike. It is only a two-hour hike, and when you get to the top, you can set up a tent and enjoy the stunning panoramic(5) view of mountains stretching towards every horizon. You can still see your car from the top, and if you want more, you can continue to hike to Hehuan West Peak, which is a considerably more challenging day hike.
Best thing About It?
The camping: It’s only a short hike up, and the campsite is lovely. Hehuan North Peak offers some of the best views in Taiwan. You can star-gaze as well as enjoy a sunrise surrounded by other 3,000 m peaks with very little work.
There isn’t actually much to say here. Just know that the weather does get cold at night. I foolishly hiked with just a t-shirt my first time up and shivered inside my tent all night. I think I slept for about one hour. No matter how hot the day is, the night will bring lower temperatures due to the altitude.
2. Qilai South & Nanhua 奇萊南峰&南華山
Height: Qilai South: 3359 m Nanhua Mountain: 3184 m
Difficulty: Easy 3.5/10
Why This One?
If anyone wanted the easiest two-day, overnight Top 100, this would be it. It’s still incredibly beautiful, and there is a very nice cabin to sleep in. On top of that, you get two Top 100 Peaks that are completely different but just as pretty.
Nanhua mountain is known for alpine grasslands covering the peak and all the surrounding hills. Qilai South may lack Nanhua’s grasslands, but it has a better view of the other mountains and a better sunrise. I recommend waking up, doing Qilai South first, and then heading over to Nanhua Mountain.
Best Thing About It
Beginner friendly: The first day is just a 14 km walk (which is almost flat). The cabin is nice and new, and there is also camping available. Both peaks are fairly close to the cabin. The sunrise, alpine grasslands, and flower life make this one of the prettiest places in Taiwan.
There is nothing much to worry about here. Just be in decent physical shape and be aware that the altitude may make you feel a little uncomfortable if you aren’t used to it. This was my friend’s first Top 100 hike, and he threw up on top of the mountain due to the altitude and lack of sleep. Just be smart and be careful.
3. Yushan West & Main peak 玉山西峰&主峰
Height: West Peak: 3518 m Main Peak: 3,952 m
Difficulty: Moderate 5/10
Why This One?
Yushan Main Peak is the ceiling of Taiwan, the tallest peak in the country, and all of East Asia—yes, even taller than Mt. Fuji. The views are good, there is a nice cabin to sleep in, and the trek isn’t too hard. This is a must-do for any hiker in Taiwan.
West Peak is a fairly easy detour(6) that starts right behind Paiyun Cabin(排雲山莊), where you will likely sleep. It’s a pleasant hour-long walk, but it can be skipped if you are tired or have no extra time.
Best Thing About It
Height: Yushan Main Peak is the highest point in Taiwan. It feels really cool to be almost 4,000 m in the sky. Despite this height, the hike is relatively simple (for a Top 100). There is also a nice cabin with separate rooms to sleep in, sleeping bags for rent, and food!
The altitude likely poses the biggest challenge. At almost 4,000 m the air is much thinner. It might be harder to breathe, and you might even feel dizzy or sick. When I went, one girl threw up and never made it to the top. Be sure to bring some medicine with you. (I also recommend ginger tea; it made me feel much better.)
4. Snow Mountain East and Main peak 雪山東峰&主峰
Height: East Peak: 3201 m Main Peak: 3,886 m
Difficulty: Strenuous 6/10
Why This One?
Snow Mountain Main Peak is the second tallest mountain in Taiwan, and in my opinion, is more beautiful than Yushan. Snow Mountain offers a stunning 360-degree view of a sea of clouds(7), diverse scenery, and other baiyue. This hike simply can’t be missed. With every cabin containing drinking water, it’s pretty easy to make an itinerary that will work for you.
If that’s too hard, East Peak is just two hours into the hike! It is roughly a 4 km climb. Literally anyone can make it there, and the views are really nice. This would make a wonderful day trip.
Best Thing About It
The beauty: Seriously, your eyes are going to be bouncing from sight to sight in glee. Deep valleys, pine forests, seas of clouds, other peaks; this hike is just jaw-dropping(8) and never really stops. It’s a hike you will never forget.
If it turns out to be too hard, you could just get to East Peak, relax at Qika (七卡山莊) or 369 (三九六山莊) Cabin, and then go back down.
The final ascent to the main peak after 369 Cabin is hard for hiking beginners. There is a rock waterfall and some steep terrain, so this part of the journey will be physically tiring. While it is doable for anyone in decent shape, it’s probably the second hardest hike on this list and will definitely rock you.
5. BeidawuShan 北大武山
Height: 3090 m
Difficulty: strenuous 6.5/10
Why This One?
Make no mistake, this is the hardest hike on this list, and you shouldn’t do this one first unless you are in very good physical shape. However, Beidawu is really cool! It’s isolated(9) as well as being Taiwan’s southernmost Top 100 Peak (located on the border of Taitung and Pingtung (counties). It’s known for its vast sea of clouds, and the mellower 3090 m height makes it one of the lowest baiyue on the list.
Best Thing About It
The sea of clouds: Right before you get to the cabin and campground, there is a gorgeous vista where you can witness one of the best sea of clouds in Taiwan. When you get to the ridge that leads you to the peak, there is also an endless cloud ocean that follows you all the way there.
This is a long hike! This was my girlfriend’s first (and so far only) Top 100 hike; she said she felt “almost dead” the day after finishing the trek. If you do this hike in three days, it will be fairly easy. But if you attempt it in two days like we did, then expect a VERY long second day (like 10-14 hours long).
It’s also very far away from everything, so unless you live in Kaohsiung, it requires a very long drive to get there.
There are plenty of other great hikes I didn’t mention, as well as a lot of amazing mountains that make for much easier summits than the baiyue. If you have visited Taiwan, did you hike any of the Top 100 Peaks? If so, which ones? If you live in another country, what is a hike that you have enjoyed there? Please share your hiking experience and leave your comments below. As of now, I have finished 26 of the Top 100 Mountains in Taiwan. I would like to at least get to 30—if not 40—before I leave. Thanks for reading, and I will see you all next week.
If you want to read more about more about hiking in Taiwan, check out my own website The Thinking Vagabond.
1. alpine (adj.)
Def. relating to high mountains
Ex. Most animals don’t live in alpine areas because it’s too cold.
2. endurance (n.)
Def. the capacity of something to last or to withstand wear and tear
Ex. I run every day to build up my endurance.
3. live in the now (phr.)
Def. to ensure that your awareness is completely centered on the here and now. You are not worrying about the future or thinking about the past.
Ex. She is always worrying about finding a boyfriend. She never lives in the now.
4. harmony (n.)
Def. the state of being in agreement or concord
Ex. Our team was not in harmony. They kept kicking the ball the wrong way.
5. panoramic (adj.)
Def. (of a view or picture) with a wide view surrounding the observer; sweeping
Ex. I wish Google Maps gave us a panoramic view of the city instead of just Street View and Satellite.
6. detour (n.)
Def. a long or roundabout route that is taken to avoid something or to visit somewhere along the way.
Ex. I didn’t enjoy my wife taking that two-hour detour just to eat at Taco Bell.
7. sea of clouds (n.)
Def. an overcast layer of clouds, viewed from above
Ex. I only climb tall mountains to see the beautiful seas of clouds and sunsets.
8. jaw-dropping (adj.)
Ex. Swimming with whale sharks was a jaw-dropping experience.
9. isolated (adj.)
Def. far away from other places, buildings, or people; remote
Ex. I was lost for seven days eating nothing but insects in an isolated forest.
All photo credits belong to the author (Stephen Morin).