19 January 2020.

Taiwan is home to a staggering 268 peaks that soar above 3,000m and nestled right in the heart of this sea of mountains sits Hehuanshan, a stunning high alpine area that encompasses six of them.

Here, you’ll find razor-sharp peaks, verdant farmlands, quaint mountain villages, vast green hillsides, hiking trails to suit every ability and a spectacular mountain road – Taiwan’s highest – that meanders between it all.

And while Hehuanshan simply begs to be explored by day, it is perhaps best experienced between the hours of dusk and dawn, when the endless panorama of serrated peaks are illuminated by the burnt glow of fading daylight before sinking into velvety shadow and giving way to a magnificent star-studded sky. 

What’s more, Hehuanshan is one of very few high alpine regions in Taiwan that is accessible independently and doesn’t require a hard-to-get permit, though this does also mean that the area receives plenty of visitors. And yet despite being a favourite spot for locals – the Taiwanese love their hiking after all – the area remains relatively unknown to international visitors.

In this comprehensive guide you’ll find everything you need to know to experience the best of Hehuanshan, from where to stay and how to get around to the most beautiful hikes and where to watch the sunset. 

* This post includes affiliate links and any purchases made through these links will earn me a small commission at no extra cost to you. *

How To Get To And Around Hehuanshan

I nearly didn’t make it to Hehuanshan, purely because I couldn’t figure out how on earth to get there using public transport.

With the beauty of hindsight, it’s actually surprisingly straightforward to reach, though does require some forward planning and at least two buses. See this guide for exactly how to get to Hehuanshan from virtually anywhere in Taiwan.

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Getting around Hehuanshan is, unfortunately, less simple and if you’re here without any transportation, your only options are to walk or hitchhike to the trailheads.

Thankfully many of Hehuanshan’s hikes begin near the service area, but others are set further apart.

Though I very rarely hitchhike (read: never), I decided to stick out my thumb on my way to the North Peak trail and was picked up by the very first car that passed. The same happened on the way back saving me some 10km and 2 to 3 hours of walking along the steep winding road. This was on a Friday in mid-November when there was plenty of traffic, though I suspect if you’re visiting mid-week out of season this might present more of a challenge.

Main Peak sits around 45-minutes from the service area and as I hiked up for sunrise, I chose to walk the few extra kilometres along the road. At busy times you could easily catch a ride for this stretch as well.

Though I always felt incredibly safe in Taiwan, if you are planning to hitchhike, make sure you’re comfortable with the potential risks that it presents.

Hiking In Hehuanshan

There are six main hikes in Hehuanshan with something to suit every ability, ranging from a leisurely half hour uphill walk to a challenging all-day expedition.

As many of the peaks are clustered together, it’s easy to hike several even in a short amount of time. If you plan to tackle either of the longer trails, you’ll definitely need to stay for a night or two.

All times and distances are for the return hike and are based on my own experience and the park recommendations.


Hehuanshan Point


Located right behind the service area, this steep rocky mound is the quickest to conquer taking just 10-minutes to reach the top. From the northern side, a series of stairs takes you directly to the summit where you’ll find an ideal vantage point to get your bearings and wonderful views across rolling landscapes. The way down is just as steep but follows a dusty trail with plenty of rock scrambling.


Distance  |  460m

Time  |  20 to 40 minutes

Altitude  |  3,217m

Trailhead  |  Hehuanshan Service Area or 500m north for the stairs

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Rising up just across the road from Hehuanshan Point, Shimenshan is the easiest hike of the bunch with a gradual incline that will lead you to the top in just 20 minutes with spectacular views north across Taiwan’s expansive Central Mountain Range.


Distance  |  1.5km  

Time  |  40 minutes to 1 hour

Altitude  |  3,237m

Trailhead  |  500m north of Hehuanshan Service Area

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Hehuanshan East Peak


The trail to East Peak climbs steeply through dense Yushan cane grass, bringing you to one of the area’s most spectacular panoramic viewpoints in less than an hour.

On one side, a cloud-filled valley is encircled by emerald peaks. On the other, it’s layer upon layer of rugged mountains that stretch on as far as the eye can see and glimmer in the fading streaks of daylight. In short, it’s bloody stunning and an essential stop for anyone visiting Hehuanshan.

As one of the highest peaks in the area and given it sits just behind the lodge, East Peak also makes a perfect place to catch the sunset or sunrise without having to walk too far in the dark. 


Distance  |  1.7km 

Time  |  65 minutes to 2 hours

Altitude  |  3,421m

Trailhead  |  Behind Songsyue Lodge  

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hehuanshan east peak. hehuanshan taiwan. hehuanshan hiking. taiwan hiking.

Hehuanshan Main Peak


Reached along an access road that winds uphill beyond Wuling, Hehuanshan’s Main Peak is another spot that rewards you with a mind-boggling panorama overlooking the endless ridgelines of the south and lush forested mountains of the north.

With unobstructed vistas, Main Peak is another great place to watch the sunrise and sunset, though if you’re there without transport you’ll need to walk the extra 2km along the road towards Wuling before reaching the trailhead.


Distance  |  2.8km or 7.2km if starting from Songsyue Lodge  

Time  |  1.5 hours or 3.5 hours from Songsyue Lodge

Altitude  |  3,417m

Trailhead  |  1km south of Wuling 

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Hehuanshan North Peak


Set apart from the others, North Peak is one of Hehuanshan’s longer hiking trails, meandering through stunted forest and high alpine meadows that fall away into wide valleys and gaze across at the distant peaks beyond.   

It’s the highest peak accessible on foot – edging out East Peak by just one metre – and offers up a unique perspective of the surrounding countryside. 

The trail travels up steeply from the roadside before flattening out and tracing the grassy ridgeline to the summit. 

Its location can make North Peak somewhat difficult to reach if you’re not here with your own transportation, but if there is consistent traffic, hitchhiking is very easy and will save you several hours of hiking there and back along the road. At quieter times of the year this may not be a reliable option.

If you’re travelling by car or scooter, you’ll find a parking lot 500m from the trail. 


Distance  |  4.6km

Time  |  3 to 4 hours

Altitude  |  3,422m

Trailhead  |  4.2km north of Hehuanshan Service Area

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Hehuanshan West Peak


Hehuanshan’s longest and most challenging hike leads you to West Peak which lies just 4.5km further along the trail from North Peak.

The route takes you up and over five ‘humps’ and weaves between thick forest and exposed grassland.

It’s often recommended as a 2-day hike though with an early start it’s entirely manageable as a full-day adventure. Weather here is particularly temperamental with afternoon fog and rain a frequent occurrence so be wary of changing conditions and come prepared with wet weather gear.   

Technically, a permit is required to hike West Peak, though this doesn’t seem to be widely enforced like it is on other hikes in Taiwan. You can apply online in advance or in person. See here for more information.  


Distance  |  13.6km    

Time  |  6 to 8 hours

Altitude  |  3,145m

Trailhead  |  Same as North Peak  

Hehuanshan Accommodation: Where To Stay In Hehuanshan

There are just two options for accommodation in Hehuanshan – Songsyue Lodge and Ski Lodge – which are both government-run and book up quickly. 

The next best option is to base yourself in Cingjing which has many more affordable options but does mean you’ll be relying on the infrequent buses or hitchhiking to reach the mountains if you don’t have your own transportation.


Songsyue Lodge + Ski Lodge


Songsyue is a comfortable alpine hotel – the highest in Taiwan – nestled at the base of Hehuanshan’s East Peak and is perfectly situated for exploring the area. Two and four-person rooms are available and include a buffet dinner and breakfast of local food so be sure to fill up well for your hiking adventures. Prices start from $2,900 (€86) on weekdays and $3,800 (€113) on weekends for a double room.

Ski Lodge is set up like a hiker’s hut with traditional floor futons in shared rooms with shared bathrooms. Electric blankets are provided which is a godsend in the colder months and you’ll find water dispensers on each level. Meals are also included and you’ll be able to enjoy the same buffet up at Songsyue Lodge. Rates start from $1,200 (€35) for a dorm bed.

Prices are relatively steep for Taiwan and don’t offer great value, but given their prime location in the heart of the mountains, I definitely think it’s worth staying here overnight if it’s within your budget. For me, being able to enjoy the sunrise, sunset and starry night sky was worth the price tag alone. 

Both lodges are operated by the local forest recreation area and, whichever one you’re staying at, you’ll need to visit the reception at Songsyue Lodge for check-in, information and to collect your meal vouchers. You can also leave your luggage here before and after check out times.

Bookings can be made up to 30 days in advance and fill up very quickly, particularly during the spring flower season, summer high season and on weekends. Be sure to get your booking in as soon as possible if you’re travelling during these periods. When I visited in November, I was able to secure a Friday reservation at Ski Lodge just two days in advance but the weekend was already fully booked.

As a foreigner, bookings are notoriously tricky to make as the website is only in Chinese and requires you to fill out a form which doesn’t translate well. I  continuously received errors and eventually begged the owner of the hostel where I was staying at the time to call and make a reservation on my behalf instead. If you’re struggling too, this is a far simpler alternative.

For rates and to make a booking, see here.

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On a strict budget or couldn’t secure a reservation in Hehuanshan? Cingjing lies just an hour away and offers a range of more affordable accommodation.

The mountain town does cover a large area though, with some beautiful countryside guesthouses and homestay options, but if you’re relying on public transport, I’d recommend finding somewhere near the main highway (Renhe Road) rather than in the countryside, unless the hotel can offer you transportation.

Search accommodation in Cingjing here.

Planning Your Hehuanshan Itinerary

Before arriving in Hehuanshan, I was very unsure of how much I’d be able to fit into my visit.

Only being able to reserve one night of accommodation and being reliant on the very limited buses meant I had just one afternoon and a full morning the following day to explore. Still, I managed to cover five of the six hikes (West Peak was the only one I skipped) within a jam-packed 24 hours period and while it was slightly more rushed than I’d ordinarily travel, it was still perfectly manageable.

If you were to visit during summer, the longer days would also allow you to explore at a more leisurely pace compared to my trip in late autumn.

It’s also important to note that if you’re arriving directly from a low altitude, I probably wouldn’t recommend following this itinerary exactly and would instead select only a few of the trails to enjoy at a slower pace. I had spent the previous week hiking around Alishan and was well acclimatised by this stage. If you’re not, don’t try to overdo it!

Here’s how I planned my Hehuanshan itinerary.


Day 1  |  Travel To Hehuanshan, Hike North And East Peaks


Setting off from Sun Moon Lake around 7:30 a.m., I reached Hehuanshan by 11 a.m., dropped my luggage at Songsyue Lodge, had a quick bite to eat and made a beeline for the North Peak trail. If you were relying only on the bus (I hitchhiked the final section from Cingjing to Hehuanshan and to the trailhead), you’d arrive around 12 p.m. instead.

By noon I was beginning my hike up North Peak and by 3 p.m I had returned to the trailhead. With daylight fading, I hitched a ride straight back to Songsyue and headed up East Peak to catch a spectacular sunset. After a long wait as the sun sank toward the mountains, casting shadows across the valley and ushering in a blanket of low-hanging cloud, I returned across the darkening landscapes in time for dinner at 6 p.m.

Later that evening, I spent some time gazing up the spectacular night sky before the full moon came out and I succumbed to the frigid cold.


Travel Time  |  3.5 hours from Sun Moon Lake to Hehuanshan, including transfers.

Distance Hiked  |  11km

Hiking Time  |  4.5 hours

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hehuanshan east peak. hehuanshan taiwan. hehuanshan hiking. taiwan hiking.
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DAY 2  |  Sunrise At Main Peak, Hike Hehuanshan Point and Shimanshan, Travel To Taichung


Sunrise in Hehuanshan is an absolute highlight so I was up in the wee hours to hike up to Wuling and Main Peak beneath a blanket of stars. Even at this early hour, there were a number of trucks and motorbikes on the road, as well as the sunrise tour groups, so I certainly wasn’t alone. There was just one other person at the summit though, with the rest having stayed at Wuling.

After sunrise, I spent a good deal of time taking photos and warming up in the sunshine before walking back down for breakfast and in time to check out.

At 9:30 a.m. I set off to climb the two easiest peaks, Shimanshan and Hehuanshan Point, which lie just opposite the lodge and which I managed to complete shortly after 11 a.m. leaving plenty of time to catch the midday bus to Cingjing. I had originally planned to take the last bus of the day which departs at 3:50 p.m. but as I was finished I decided to begin the long journey back to Taichung early.

If you’re in no mood to wake up for sunrise, you could easily squeeze in the hike to Main Peak during the day and still be finished in time to catch the afternoon bus instead. For bus times for Hehuanshan, see this post.

If you’d prefer to experience the area at a slower pace, I’d suggest skipping both Hehuanshan Point and Shimanshan and focussing on the remaining hikes – East, North and Main Peaks all have spectacular views and can comfortably be completed in an afternoon and morning.


Travel Time  |  4.5 hours from Hehuanshan to Taichung, including transfers

Distance Hiked  |  10.5km

Hiking Time  |  4 hours


Add An Extra Day


Tackling West Peak definitely needs a full day of its own so if you’re keen to add this hike to your itinerary, you’ll need to arrange at least a two-night stay in Hehuanshan.

Although, as it’s the same trail as North Peak, you could comfortably fit in the four remaining peaks in one other full day.

Hehuanshan Weather + The Best Time To Visit

Hehuanshan remains relatively cool all year round and while temperatures during the day are comfortable for hiking, they generally plummet overnight. From November to April, temperatures frequently drop to around zero so don’t forget your warm weather gear.

Most rainfall in Hehuanshan falls during summer (May to September), while over winter it’s one of few places in Taiwan that reliably receives snow which generally falls between December and February. Aside from the crowds that descend for the rare chance to see a white winter, it also makes hiking and navigating the roads a challenge and is best avoided if you’re not well-equipped.

In spring the mountains burst into colour as Yushan rhododendrons blanket the landscapes. It’s quite a spectacle and one of the most popular times to visit so unless you’re here specifically to see the blossoms consider avoiding the area on weekends during this time. Peak flower season is April to June.

Overall, the best time to visit Hehuanshan is on weekdays during spring and autumn when temperatures are mild, crowds few and you’ll have a lower chance of rain. Summer can also be beautiful if you have a clear weather window as conditions here are far more comfortable than the sweltering lowlands, though certainly don’t expect to have the place to yourself.

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Tips For Visiting Hehuanshan

Don’t forget the altitude  |  Sitting at over 3,000m, the altitude is definitely something to consider when visiting Hehuanshan, especially if you’re arriving directly from a low elevation and immediately hitting the trails. In general, try not to over exhert yourself, avoid alcohol, keep hydrated and get a good night’s sleep. If you do experience symptoms such as nausea, headaches, dizziness, tiredness and shortness of breath, consider moving to a lower altitude like Cingjing, Puli or Taichung. Songsyue Lodge can administer oxygen in severe cases.

Food  |  There’s just one small cafe at the service area which has very limited options so I’d recommend bringing a packed lunch or snacks with you for your visit. If you’re staying overnight at either of the lodges, be sure to fuel up at the buffet.

Water  |  There aren’t many places to refill your water bottle, aside from at the lodges and the cafe, so be sure to bring plenty with you and remember to refill your bottle before each hike. Always take more than you think you’ll need.

Cold weather clothing  |  Don’t underestimate the cold! At any time of year nights can be particularly frosty, but if your trip coincides with a bad bout of weather, the day can also be chilly, even in summer. Layers are key and a rain jacket is an absolute essential.

Look at the stars  |  Aside from the hiking, stargazing is something that should not be missed in Hehuanshan. With so little light and air pollution, the vast star-studded sky up here is pure magic. If you have clear weather, don’t miss the opportunity to go outside and drink it all in.

Bring a torch  |  If you plan to hike any of the peaks for sunrise or sunset (which you definitely should!), don’t forget to bring a torch as night falls quickly up here and the trails get incredibly dark. If you’re using your phone, a power bank is a good idea as the cold will zap your battery very quickly. I use this one from Anker which is long-lasting and reliable.

Wear Sunscreen  |  The weather may be chilly, but the sun is strong! Be sure to wear sunscreen on all hikes to avoid getting horribly sunburnt.

Plan your visit  |  If you’re really short on time, I’d highly recommend planning your visit out in advance so as to maximize your stay. Of course, plans change, but knowing which hikes you wish to do and when will mean you waste a whole lot less valuable time making decisions once you arrive.

Best hikes  |  In the name of research, I made it my mission to hike as many of the trails as possible, but if you’re short on time and want to enjoy it at a more leisurely pace, the hikes with the best views are North, East and Main Peaks. I have no doubt West Peak would also be a highlight but that really needs a full day on its own so just isn’t possible on an overnight visit.

Take a Map  |  Always an essential piece of hiking gear, be sure to take a map with you, particulalry on North and West Peaks which are longer and prone to thick fog. I use Maps.Me which has all the trails in the area marked or you can pick up a paper map from Songsyue Lodge.

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Hehuanshan: A Comprehensive Guide To Taiwan's High Altitude Paradise (That Doesn't Need A Permit!)
Hehuanshan: A Comprehensive Guide To Taiwan's High Altitude Paradise (That Doesn't Need A Permit!)
Hehuanshan: A Comprehensive Guide To Taiwan's High Altitude Paradise (That Doesn't Need A Permit!)


  1. Hi Freya,

    My fiance and I just visited Hehuanshan for a night and it was by far the highlight of our 6-week adventure around the island. We used your two posts on how to get there and what to do like a bible, attempting to follow your itinerary to a T. Thanks for your awesome work.

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