Yushan National Park, Taiwan:

Siangyang Visitor Center to Dongpu (November 8-14) banner-yushan

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Location of Yushan National Park and trek itinerary in green.

 

 

Yushan National Park is located in the southern half of Taiwan. It is crossed by the Tropic of Cancer. It is the largest national parks in Taiwan. It contains over 30 peaks above 3000m, including Taiwan‛s highest, Yu Shan or Snow Mountain (3952m).

 

This trek starts from Siangyang Visitor Center on the narrow, scenic South Cross-Island Highway and ends at Dongpu a village best known in Taiwan for its hot springs. It follows the so-called Southern Section Two Trail. It is 65km-long and took me 43h of effective hiking spread over 7 days. I was helped by Ming Huang, an excellent guide/porter from Dongpu. Ming is a member of the Bunun aboriginal tribe, one of the three high-mountain aboriginal tribes in Taiwan. He had been provided by Mr. Chiang-ching Chuan (全蔣清, +886-0921-486-289, diandian0583@gmail.com, https://www.facebook.com/people/%E5%85%A8%E8%94%A3%E6%B8%85/100003768951071). Although Ming did not speak English, I enjoyed my time with him.

 

Ming Huang:

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Day 1: Siangyang Visitor Center to Jiaming Lake Cabin

Day 1 was an easy day along a good trail hiked by many Taiwanese, who usually take 2 to 4 days to hike to Jiaming Lake and return to the Siangyang Visitor Center. As a result, the large Jiaming Lake Cabin (hut) located 4.5 km before Jiaming Lake is often full and noisy.

 

Getting a hearty breakfast in Kuanshan village at the entrance of the South Cross-Island Highway.

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Dangerous work to repair landslides caused by previous typhoons along the South Cross-Island Highway.

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Start of the trail at Siangyang Visitor Center. Permits have to be shown at the police station.

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View of the South Cross-Island Highway from the trail (in the upper right corner of the photo on the left). The Dakuanshan tunnel is barely visible in the middle of the photo on the right. Note the large number of landslides. They give a sense of how difficult it is to maintain the South Cross-Island Highway.

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Scenery along the lower section of the trail.

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Reaching the top of a large landslide above the South Cross-Island Highway.

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View toward the west.

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View of Siangyang Shan (3602m). Jiaming Lake Cabin is located slightly beyond on the southern (right) side of the ridge between Siangyang Shan and Sancha Shan. Jiaming Lake is 4.5km further away from the cabin.

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View toward the south-east from Jiaming Lake Cabin.

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Day 2: Jiaming Lake Cabin to Lakuyin River Cabin

Another easy day along a good trail.

 

On the ridge between Siangyang Shan and Sancha Shan, looking toward Sancha Shan.

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Looking back toward Siangyang Shan, with Jiaming Lake Cabin visible at the center of the photo.

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View toward the north from the ridge, a preview of the ups and downs of the coming days.

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Sight of a Formosan barking deer near the ridge.

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View toward the south from the ridge.

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Marker at the summit of Sancha Shan (3496m) and view from the summit.

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Jiaming Lake is located a short distance below the summit of Sancha Shan on its southern slope.

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Beyond Jiaming Lake we met no one for more than 4 days (until we got close to Dongpu), except two Taiwanese hikers who were following the same trail as us on the same schedule.

 

During the descent toward Lakuyin River Cabin.

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Lakuyin River.

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Lakuyin River Cabin (with Ming at its doorstep).

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Tributary of Lakuyin River behind the cabin.

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View of the valley of Lakuyin River from the cabin in the late afternoon.

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Day 3: Lakuyin River Cabin to Lulu Valley Cabin

The next two days were much tougher, along a steep and sometimes barely visible trail. In addition, the weather deteriorated. We had intervals of rain and visibility was limited.

 

Marker of the summit of Nanshuangtou Shan Eastern Peak (3356m).

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A mixture of blue sky and low clouds.

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Along the trail. The terrain was often steep and densely covered with small bamboos. Trail ribbons left by members of hiking clubs, like the yellow ribbon in the third photo below, helped following the trail (when they were not misplaced!).

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Reaching Lulu Valley Cabin.

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Day 4: Lulu Valley Cabin to Tafenku Cabin

Another hard day on steep terrain with poor weather.

 

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Several sections of the trail were on steep crumbly rock. We were warned by not-very-helpful signs like the ones below.

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Resting at a small pond below Tafen Shan.

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Marker of Tafen Shan summit (3070m).

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Descent on a ridge from Tafen Shan to Tafenku Cabin, with Ming partially visible behind a tree at the center of the photo.

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Day 5: Tafenku Cabin to Dashueiku Cabin

The morning of the fifth day looked very similar to the previous two days: steep and wet. However, the weather later improved and the trail also became easier.

 

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Marker at the summit of Nadashueiku Shan (3381m) and start of the descent toward Dashueiku Cabin.

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Arriving at Dashueiku Cabin.

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View over a peak above Dashueiku Cabin before sunset.

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Day 6: Dashueiku Cabin to Kuankao Cabin

Most the this sixth day was along an old aboriginal trail. Except for short section the trail was excellent. Furthermore the weather was perfect.

 

Sunrise over Yu Shan (Mount Jade, on the right), the highest peak in Taiwan (3952m).

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Section of the aboriginal trail cut across steep terrain.

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Remains of old Bunun aboriginal constructions. Bunun people used to live in these mountains. They were forced to move down the mountains during the first half of the 20th century, under Japanese rule. Today the mountains remain their hunting ground, at least for those still living in and around Dongpu.

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On short sections the aboriginal trail has collapsed, mainly because of successive typhoons. Here, one such section crossed by the two Taiwanese hikers traveling on the same schedule as us. The picture also shows the steepness of the slopes on which the trail was built. Collapsed sections are often equipped with ″fixed″ ropes. However, the reliability of these ropes is often dubious.

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Ming on another section of the trail.

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Waterfall and river along the way.

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Batongguan Shan (3335m).

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View over the V-shaped valley of the Chenyoulan River from the saddle west of Batongguan Shan (the saddle at the bottom-center in the previous photo). This 11-km valley merges with the Shalixian River valley just before reaching Dongpu. The trail to Dongpu that we followed on the seventh day is located well above the Chenyoulan River, on its right bank. It is an ancient aboriginal trail known as the Batongguan Trail.

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The descent from the saddle below Batongguan Shan toward the trail along the Chenyoulan valley is quite steep and not well marked.

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View toward Yu Shan as we reached the Batongguan Trail along the Chenyoulan valley.

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Batongguan Shan seen just before reaching Kuankao Cabin (located 15 minutes off the main trail).

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Day 7: Kuankao Cabin to Dongpu

The Batongguan Trail from the Kuankao cabin to Dongpu, especially its section below the Yunlong waterfall, is quite popular with weekend hikers.

 

Views at sunrise.

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Along the trail.

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The small Lele Cabin, located at the site of a former Japanese police station.

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View of the Chenyoulan valley from the trail below Lele Cabin. A small hamlet close to Dongpu is visible at the bottom. There are tea plantations on the slopes above the hamlet.

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Yunlong (Cloud Dragon) waterfall: the lower part of the waterfall below the bridge (photo on the left) is much higher than its upper part (right).

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The trail between Yunlong waterfall and Dongpu is quite good (hiking up to the waterfall from Dongpu is allowed without a permit), but some portions of it may soon need some maintenance.

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Reaching the hamlet near Dongpu (the end of the trail), where the Chenyoulan and Shalixian Rivers merge.

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At the end of the trail, a small shop sells very refreshing and delicious ″aiyu jelly″ sweetened with brown sugar. Many hikers stop there on their way up/down to/from the Yunlong waterfall. Some people even come here only to enjoy the jelly without hiking further up.

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The aiyu fruit used to make the jelly is a type of fig resembling a mango (growing on trees near the shop, photo on the left). Harvested aiyu fruits are cut in half and turned inside out to dry (photo in the middle). The tiny seeds are then pulled out of the skin (photo on the right). When immersed in water they release a gel that produces the jelly.

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Most Taiwanese hikers like to hike in groups and belong to clubs. These groups identify themselves with club ribbons of different colors and labels. Many such ribbons are hanging in the aiyu jelly shop. Hikers also leave their club ribbons on tree branches along the trails (to indicate ″we have been there″), sometimes creating confusion when they make mistakes and follow wrong paths.

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