Mount Jade & Snow Mountain | Taiwan

It may lack a coastline, but Nantou County has more than its fair share of splendid landscapes. The county’s borders cross the summits of both Mount Jade and Xiuguluanshan, Taiwan’s highest and third-highest peaks respectively. Taiwan’s highest surfaced road – a spectacular stretch of Highway 14A that’s 3,275 m (10,745 ft) above sea level – is in the county’s north, and it provides spectacular access to Taroko Gorge.

Nantou is also a tea-growing region of importance. There are tea plantations in Lugu and Xitou, both of which can be accessed via the very scenic Road 151. Tea harvested from Lugu’s Mount Dongding – where foggy conditions ensure exceptionally tender, flavourful leaves – sometimes sells for more than US$1 per gramme.

Yushan (Mount Jade) National Park

Created in 1985 to protect northeast Asia’s highest peak, 3,952 m (12,966 feet) tall Mount Jade, and the strikingly rugged highlands that surround it, Yushan National Park covers 105,490 hectares (407 square miles) or about 3 percent of Taiwan’s land area.

No technical climbing skills are required to hike to the country’s highest point, but planning several weeks in advance is essential. This is especially true if you hope to approach the summit at the weekend, when demand for hiking permits (not to mention sleeping spots in the government-managed lodge just below the treeline) exceeds supply.

It goes without saying that the park offers a great deal more than a single mountain. There are enough high-altitude trails to keep trekking enthusiasts busy for weeks – including one multi-day route that goes right across the park from west to east; enough animals, birds, and insects to galvanise eco-tourists; and so much gorgeous scenery visible from the few roads that enter the park that even those who stick close to their vehicles will find their breath taken away. The drive from Alishan to Tataka is splendid, and if you continue northward on the New Central Cross-Island Highway toward Sun Moon Lake, you’ll see plenty more stunning vistas. Energetic visitors might want to stop at the trailhead to Mount Dongpu and spend 30 to 40 minutes hiking up to the summit of this 2,782 m / 9,128 ft mountain. From the top, the panoramic views of Mount Jade and far beyond are truly wondrous.

Shei-Pa National Park

Covering 76,850 hectares (297 square miles), Shei-Pa National Park embraces two of Taiwan’s most iconic peaks: Snow Mountain, (known variously as Xueshan, Sheishan, or Mount Xue) and Dabajianshan (also Mount Dapachien). The former is Taiwan’s second-highest peak at 3,886 m (12,749 ft), while the latter (3,490 m / 11,450 ft) is famed for its distinctive barrel shape. The park has 49 other summits higher than 3,000 m (9,843 ft), so hikers never lack for options.

The three-day/two-night ascent of Snow Mountain is very beautiful indeed and many experienced hikers prefer it to the slightly higher Mount Jade. It can also be the final summit of a multi-day trekking route known as The Holy Ridge, so named because the scenery is sublime.

In terms of fauna, Shei-Pa’s most unique asset is the Formosan Landlocked Salmon. It’s not the only landlocked salmon species in the world, but it’s the only type of salmon that lives this close to the tropics. It’s regarded as especially precious because it’s a holdover from the last Ice Age. Thousands of years ago, it habitually migrated to the ocean and back, but as the climate warmed, it retreated deeper and deeper into the mountains. Nowadays it’s confined to a few high-altitude streams where scientists are struggling to protect it in the face of climate change. Seeing the salmon in the wild is near impossible, unfortunately, but some specimens that were raised in captivity are on display at exhibition centre in Wuling Farm.

Founded more than 60 years ago as a government-sponsored agricultural project to boost domestic production of cash crops like tea and peaches, and also to provide employment to men ageing out of the army that had retreated to Taiwan with Chiang Kai-shek, Wuling Farm is now devoted to tourism. In addition to being the launchpad for Snow Mountain hikes, this beautiful valley is a popular place to enjoy sakura (cherry blossoms). During the blossom season, which comes soon after Lunar New Year, access is strictly controlled to prevent overcrowding. To avoid transport and accommodation headaches, consider arranging a private tour with Life of Taiwan.

Visit the beautiful island of Taiwan

Life of Taiwan specializes in tailoring private tours for international travellers.

All of our tours are curated to your specific requirements by our itinerary builders, so you and your loved ones have the best possible time while travelling.

Explore our Private Tours of Taiwan