Climb Snow Mountain
Taiwan › East Xue Trailhead, Wuling Farm, Shei-Pa National Park
Added by John Sides
Hike to the summit of Taiwan’s second highest mountain.
When talking about high mountains, Taiwan probably isn’t the first place that comes to mind for most people. Yet this beautiful island is covered from north to south by prominent mountain ranges. In north central Taiwan, Shei-Pa National Park alone boasts an impressive 51 peaks over 3,000 meters, including Snow Mountain (3886m), Taiwan’s second highest peak.
From the capital city of Taipei head 3 hours south to Wuling Farm in Shei-Pa National Park to spend the night. Tent camping and small primitive cabins are the most convenient accommodation options in the recreational area itself, and may require a reservation during peak season weekends or holidays. Rest for the night.
Drive to Wuling Farm south trailhead (2100m) and start hiking the East Xue trail. At about 2km into the trail you’ll arrive at Cika cabin (2510m). Many guided groups spend their first night on the trail at Cika to acclimatize, which allows a more leisurely pace the following days, but this is not necessary. From Cika, gain significant elevation in a particularly grueling section of trail (one stretch is aptly named the “Crying Slope”) and receive your reward in amazing 360-degree panoramic views standing atop Snow Mountain’s East Peak (3201m). From this peak you can see the mountain’s true summit as well as the many dramatic peaks and cliffs that make up the Holy Ridge. From East Peak follow the ridgeline and gradually descend to Sanlioujiou (369) Cabin (3100m). Enjoy a restful late afternoon, claim a bunk space in the cabin, and sleep early in preparation for a sunrise summit climb. Water should be available at 369 Cabin, but always confirm water availability with the national park before you go.
Wake up early and hit the trail (think 2:30am). Though the summit of Snow Mountain is only 3.7km away, it can take a solid 3 hours to ascend the nearly 800 meters to the top. The last several hundred meters of elevation gain are above tree line, hugging one side of a vast cirque. Enjoy top of the world sunrise views from 3886m (12749 feet) and the great sense of accomplishment from summiting the second highest peak in Taiwan! On the way down, soak in the scenery you couldn’t see in the dark—seemingly endless rhododendron, thousand year old trees, and the ancient beauty of the Black Forest. If you’re really lucky you may even catch a glimpse of the very rare Formosan Black Bear. Stop to rest and refuel at 369 Cabin, and descend all the way back down to Wuling Farm.
Things to consider:
Because Taiwan doesn’t use a standard romanization of Mandarin, you will find multiple spelling variations for the same places. For example, Cika is also spelled Qika, Shei-Pa National Park can also be spelled Xue Ba, and Snow Mountain itself is possibly the worst—Xueshan, Syueshan, Shueshan, or Hsuehshan. This can make planning logistics challenging if you don’t speak Chinese and having a local contact or consulting a guiding group can be helpful.
Taiwan is a hotspot for both typhoons and earthquakes, which makes the mountains prone to landslides. Have a good grasp of the weather forecast before your trip and don’t plan to be in the high mountains during torrential rains.
Taiwan is typically characterized by tropical weather, but Snow Mountain lives up to its name. During winter months, the mountain can experience harsh winter conditions, and even during the summer, summit temperatures may approach freezing. Always be prepared for changing weather.
Permits: Two permits are required. The Shei-Pa National Park permit reserves your spot in the backcountry cabins and can be submitted between 30 days and 7 days prior to your trip. The National Police Agency permit allows you to enter the mountainous area and can be acquired quickly at the police station in Wuling Farm the day before your trip. Print extra copies of both permits to drop off upon entry and exit at the trailhead, and carry a photocopy of your passport.
Recommended clothing: Reliable hiking boots and thick hiking socks, quick dry short sleeve shirt, quick dry pants, long sleeve shirt, fleece, rain jacket, warm hat, gloves, sun hat, sunglasses. During winter months add base layers, a down jacket, and traction devices like microspikes.
Equipment: Warm sleeping bag, sleeping pad, trekking poles, camera and a map. Even a very basic map will do, as there are numerous signs in English and small markers all along the trail that track distance in kilometers.
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Mountain trains and sunrises
Took the chiayi train and stayed overnight at a hotel in Ali Shan recreational area, then took the morning train at 0520 (time changes according to sunrise time) to the top and walked to the viewing area. Definitely worth it, though I do recommend packing a jacket as it gets chilly while waiting for sunrise. Definitely do the hike back down to the station, you'll pass by remnants of Japanese logging planted trees, giant cypress, ponds, and the occasional tour group. I would suggest spending time nearby to check out the Mihu river trail (walking through a bamboo forest and suspension bridges) as well as the Sea of Clouds view (ask locals for the best places to view the "yun hai"). It's amazing as the wind blows the clouds up and you see it evaporate.
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