Best Places to go Hiking in Taiwan

hiking in taiwan

If you’re looking to go hiking in Taiwan let me happily tell you that this is a hiking playground! I enjoyed so much the couple of months I spent backpacking in Taiwan, the hiking was a fantastic added bonus!

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Not many people go backpacking to this beautiful country, let alone planning to go hiking in Taiwan; and it was also not on my radar at all but after my adventures backpacking in Japan the cheapest flights I could find were taking me there so that was pretty much the whole reason I visited.

final day hiking at jiaming lake

And what a wonderful surprise of a country welcomed me, I love pretty much every country I visit on this planet but I really fell in love with Taiwan and I don’t know why is not more popular considering that is not that far from other South East Asia backpacking hubs.

You should not worry if you plan to go backpacking in Taiwan for a week or a couple of months as it’s relatively small but with plenty of things to do! It’s also really well linked with trains that are not expensive at all, you can also safely hitchhike as I did quite a few times.

What I loved the most about backpacking in Taiwan is that you get a really cool mix of developed cities with a wonderful natural beauty, call it beaches or stunning mountains to go hiking. The cities combine a mix of modern skyscrapers with traditional street food markets and in many places also a lot of urban art; I particularly loved visiting Kaohsiung for that particular reason.

But back to the topic of this post! As I said earlier, Hiking in Taiwan is an outdoors lover’s playground, did you know that Taiwan has over 250 mountains over 3000m of elevation!? That’s a loooooot, and many of those mountains have trails linking them so you could seriously spend months hiking in Taiwan without retracing your steps!

Zhuilu Old Road hanging bridge

Some of the most famous hikes in Taiwan require a permit which is something I personally don’t like much, but if that means that they can control the crowds and make it safe for more people then it’s a small price to pay for having some great hikes.

These are some of my favourite adventures I had while hiking in Taiwan:

Solo Hiking in Jiaming Lake

For me it’s always difficult to find “the best” or “my favourite” place in a country, but solo hiking in Jiaming Lake was very close to call it my favourite place to visit in Taiwan.

You can do this hike with two or three camping nights, or much more if you start linking other trails around. I heard some people do it with only one camping night but in my opinion, moving from sea level to 3500m of elevation in such a short time could give you a hard time, also, it’s so beautiful that there’s no need to rush!

solo hiking jiaming lake

Jiaming Lake, also known as Angel’s Tear is the second highest lake in Taiwan and was formed during the last ice age some 6000-7000 years ago.

Hiking to Jiaming Lake is not really tough from a distance point of view as it’s quite a short hike of 13Km one way, but you have about 1000m of vertical climb and unlimited amounts of beauty.

I wrote at length on everything you need to know to do this hike on this post about hiking to Jiaming Lake, read it through as you need to register and get a permit to be able to go hiking there. Trust me, it was not straight forward to understand the website to get the permit but totally worth it!

hiking to mount sancha in taiwan

There are some tour operators organising excursions to Jiaming Lake, but I can assure you that if you have some hiking experience, this is a hike that you can do on your own, it’s really well signalled with little chance to losing your path. I always recommend to make sure you have some offline maps downloaded just in case, I use the free app almost all over the world and works wonderful for me.

Dakeng’s Stairway to Heaven Hike in Taiwan

When I was visiting the city of Taichung I was told about the Dakeng Trails which are just in the outskirts of the city and can be reached by a bus that I took very close to the Mini West Hotel where I stayed during my time there.

There are 10 different trails in Dakeng, although some of them are very short. You can do most of the Dakeng Trails in one day only as I did, although you could easily spend a couple of days if you want to go at a slightly lower pace. Depending on the humidity and the heat, these short but steep trails could pose a challenge so remember to bring plenty of water with you.

Hiking the Dakeng Trails

The most famous thing about the Dakeng Trails is that in many sections you’re actually walking on a wooden trail which made me think of the famous Stairways to Heaven in Hawaii.

I wrote all the details you need to know about this hike in Taiwan on my post about hiking the Dakeng Trails.

If you’re visiting Taichung make sure to include the Rainbow Village in your itinerary: Huang Yong Fu started painting what is known today as the Rainbow Village in 2010. Born in 1924, Rainbow Grandpa fought in the Chinese Civil War against the communist in the mid 20th century. The “legend” says he started painting out of boredom and because he didn’t want to leave what has been his house for over 30 years now when there were news that the entire village was going to be demolished. He initially wanted to paint 16 houses but managed to do 11 (from ground to ceiling!) The rest of the village was indeed demolished, but his colourful Rainbow Village is now an art park!

Rainbow village in Taichung

Taroko Gorge Hike in Taiwan (multiple hikes)

Many friends I made when I was backpacking in Taiwan told me that their favourite place in the country was Taroko. I spent a couple of nights camping in Taroko and really loved it.

Zhuilu Old Road viewpoint

Many of the trails were made over 100 years ago by the Japanese police to govern the Taroko tribe. Some trails were carved directly on the mountain rock and you get some breathtaking views in many of them. To add even more variety to this playground of hiking in Taiwan, the Baying Trail takes you to a Water Curtain Cave which was accidentally created when building a tunnel for a road and an aquifer was hit. I made sure to fill up my water bottle with that pure water coming straight from the mountain rocks!

Hiking in Taroko National Park deserves much more than a short intro, that’s why I wrote several posts about what to know for camping in Taroko, walking the Baiyang Trail, hiking the Zhuilu Old Road which is the most famous hike in Taroko and the Lushui-Wenshan Trail which I particularly enjoyed!

After hiking in Taroko go to Hualien and from there to the Jade Valley for some refreshing river swims!

Camping in Taroko Lushui

Surfing and hiking in Dulan

I spent about a month workaway-ing in Dylan at the Wagaligon Surf Hostel and can highly recommend to stay there! But while the most common purpose to visit Dylan is to go surfing, there’s also a nice little hike to Dulan Mountain which is about 8Km long and passes through some sacred spots of the local aboriginal Amis and Puyuma Tribes.

beach view Dulan mountain

The hike can be demanding if hot and humid but it’s a great alternative in case there are no waves by the beach and you find yourself wishing to go hiking in Taiwan.

This hike is pretty cool as the mountain is relatively wild, not like more popular trails where the paths are immaculate, on this one you will scramble a little bit but will also find some ropes and ladders on the steepest sections. There are a couple of scenic spots as well with fantastic views of the region.

I wrote a full post with all the tips about how to get to the start of the hike, what you will see when hiking in Dulan and what to take with you.

As a bonus alternative if you’re not lucky with the waves in Dulan, you can also go and visit Sanxiantai which is pretty cool, I stayed camping there and wrote all the details about it on this post about camping in Sanxiantai.

Sanxiantai bridge sunrise

Hiking in Taipei

If you’re backpacking in Taiwan you will most definitely arrive to Taipei and after a couple of days exploring the capital I was craving to go for the first time hiking in Taiwan!

Not far from the city and easily accessible by bus (although make sure to check the time schedules) is Yangmingshan National Park, this is a beautiful place to go for a good walk rather than a tough hike.

hiking in taipei

However, don’t be fooled by the relatively flat terrain (you will have some ups and downs) as the important factor here will be the temperature! I was hiking in Yangmingshan at the end of July under a sweltering 37°C at 11AM, so make sure to wake up early to go for this hike in Taipei.

The landscapes in Yangmingshan National Park are actually lava terraces. The area was formed as a result of volcanic activity in the mountains nearby. You can still go today to hot springs in the mountains.

During the Japanese occupation, the area was established as a ranch for cattle to graze and now there are wild water buffaloes roaming around.

hiking in taiwan

The National Park is famous for its cherry blossoms, hot springs, sulfur deposits, fumaroles, venomous snakes, lots of hiking trails and Xixingshan (literally: seven star mountain) Taiwan’s highest volcano which began erupting about 700,000 years ago. There was a crater at the peak but it became seven small peaks due to post-eruption erosion.

There are a few possible ways to start hiking in Yangmingshan National Park. I don’t really know the best place to start and finish as I completely improvised my route based on the bus alternatives that I could see on Google Maps so I ended up doing the route below, starting with a direct bus from central Taipei to Lengshuikeng Visitor Centre and then finishing the hike about 3 hours later by Fengguizui, there you can also catch a bus but I decided to hitch a ride and a lovely couple left me by Central Taipei.

Are you planning to go Hiking in Taiwan?

Go for it! As I mentioned above, Taiwan is a nature’s lover playground as there are so many mountains and trails all over the country. I wild camped in many places but make sure to check the local regulations for each hike as in the most famous ones you will have to book a permit and wild camping may not be allowed.

As always, make sure to have offline maps with you, plenty of food and water and good equipment if it’s rainy season as even a hot day can change into a bit of a storm very quickly.

I hope you go for a few of these hikes if you’re backpacking in Taiwan. Feel free to drop a comment below with any questions.

Happy adventures!

mountains around jiaming lake

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