Out of the nine national parks in Taiwan, Shei-Pa National Park (雪霸國家公園) is the most renowned for its ecological diversity, geological rock displays and Ice Age imprints. Known for its rugged mix of steep mountains and deep valleys, Shei-Pa National Park holds a total 96 named peaks, of which 51 peaks reach an elevation of over 3,000 metres (9,842 ft).
Shei-Pa National Park is home to the second tallest mountain in Taiwan,Xueshan (雪山), which is also known as Hsueshan and Syueshan, and translates as Snow Mountain due to its snowy covered peak.
Shei-Pa National Park spans across three different counties in central Taiwan: Hsinchu County (新竹縣), Miaoli County (苗栗县), and Taichung County (台中县). The total area of the park is 76, 850 hectares (297 sq mi). The tallest peak, Xueshan sits at an altitude of 3,886 metres (12,749 ft), followed by Xueshan North Peak ( 雪山北峰) at 3,703 metres (12,149 ft).
The Xueshan Range (雪山山脈), which consists of 54 peaks above 3,000 m (9,842 ft) stretches from northeast to southwest Taiwan, forming part of the northern edge of Taiwan’s Central Mountain Range (中央山脈).
Mountains forming part of the Xueshan Range that fall within the boundaries of Shei-Pa National Park areDabajianshan (大霸尖山),Pintianshan (品田山),Chryoushan (池有山), Taoshan (桃山), and Kalayeshan (喀拉業山),Xiaobajianshan (小霸尖山), and Dajianshan (大劍山).
Shei-Pa National Park is situated near to other notable areas of outdoor interest. Taroko National Park (太魯閣國家公園) lies to the east, while Huisan Forest Area (惠蓀林場) sits to the south and just west of the park lies Tai’an Hot Springs (泰安溫泉).
Shei-Pa National Park boasts a beautiful diverse landscape from thick misty valleys, leafy forested trails, rocky mountain terrain, and lively river valleys. Shei-Pa National Park offers outdoor opportunities for people of all abilities and ages from a several day trail through different altitudes, climates, and terrains, to more gentle and easy-going hour long trails appreciating the luscious nature of the park.
For hikers seeking to uncover the lofty mountainous trails, one needs to apply for a permit at least seven to thirty days prior to hiking. Permit applications can be found on the official website of Shei-Pa National Park.
There is one visitor centre and three recreation areas, each located in different areas of Shei-Pa National Park. Wenshui Visitor Centre is the park’s headquarters and is found in the Dahu Township of Miaoli County. Wuling Recreation Area is where most of the trails begin, and it is located in the Heping District of Taichung City. Many trails also start at the Guanwu Recreation Area located in the Tai’an Township of Miaoli County where the Xuejian Recreation Area is also based.
Like most mountains in Taiwan, the Xueshan Mountain Range formed through the upward pressure shift of tectonic plates creating a range of sharp ridged mountains. Shei-Pa National Park provides many examples of geological imprints from a variety of different natural methods.
One of the most prominent and interesting geological features are found beneath the summit of Xueshan Main Peak and along the lower slopes of Xueshan North Peaks, known as glacial cirques. From the activity of dense snow, solid ice and heavy glaciers during the Ice Age, this frequency has formed a concave bowl-like shape in the face of the mountain, with steep cliffs looming over the hollowed space below.
There are a total of 37 cirques in the Xueshan area, the most prominent being Glacial Cirque Number 1, which is the largest glacial cirque in Taiwan and is situated below the summit of Xueshan Main Peak. Glacial Cirque Number 2 resembles a U-shaped crater on the lower ridges of Xueshan North Peak.
Cuei Pound (翠池) is another natural phenomenon resulting from glacial activity during the Ice Age. Perching at 3,520 metres (11,549 ft) on the peak of Xueshan, Cuei Pond is Taiwan’s highest lake and its water never runs dry, even in the iciest winters.
The mountains of Dabajianshan and Pintianshan both display distinctively stark shapes based on the formation of rocks. Dabajianshan has a cylindrical barrel-like shape, the area around the mountain displaying a significant horst. This is evident when plates have either lifted or remained stationary while the surrounding plates have shifted downwards, displaying a wave of raised and sunken rock. The box-folds of Pintianshan are further evidence of the shifting activity of tectonic plates, causing the rock face of the mountain to compress and fold into a uniquely warped lined pattern.
Shei-Pa National Park is home to several major rivers in Taiwan, one of them being the Tamsui River (淡水河) flowing inwards from Taipei. Due to the activity of headwater flow snaking its way between the giant peaks, erosion has occurred on riverbanks.
Due to the diverging climates, a sundry of plant and animal life can be found amongst the different elevation zones of the park. Shei-Pa National Park has a diverse climate ranging from warm-temperate to subarctic found at different altitudes. The park is divided into five zones: Machilus-Castanopsis Zone, Quercus Zone, Tsuga-Picea Zone, Abies Zone, and Alpine Vegetation Zone.
The Machilus-Castanopsis Zone is found at an altitude between 500 to 1,500 metres (1,640 ft to 4,921 ft) and has a warm-temperate climate. The montane evergreen broad leaf, such as the caudate-leaved chinkapin, constitutes most of the forest area.
The Quercus Zone follows next at an altitude of 1,500 to 2,500 metres (4,921 ft to 8,202 ft) which is level to the bed of cloud and mist. Taiwan red cypress is the dominant forest vegetation found at this altitude.
The Tsuga-Picea Zone has a cool-temperate climate at an elevation of 2,500 to 3,100 metres (8,202 ft to 10,171 ft) and consists of a combination of southern facing sunny slopes and northern facing moist slopes where the Taiwan spruce and Chinese hemlock grow.
The cold-temperate climate of the Abies Zone is at an elevation of 3,100 to 3,600 metres (10,171 ft to 11,811 ft) and subalpine coniferous forest vegetation like the Yushan Juniper are found in this zone.
Lastly, the sub-arctic alpine vegetation zone is found from 3,600 metres (11,811 ft) and due to its extreme weather conditions, plants cannot thrive in this environment. Herb species are littered among this region, most notably the Taiwan sassafras, which is one of three existing herb species existing since the Pliocene Epoch of Tertiary Period, somewhat 1.8 to 2 million years ago.
Shei-Pa National Park receives an annual rainfall of 1,500 to 3,000 mm (59 to 118 in), which is the most important water source for Taiwan. The park holds 1,976 species of vascular plants, of which 183 species classify as rare or very rare, such as the Syueshan Potentilla and Devol’s Balsamine.
Shei-Pa National Park is a rich feeding source for animals due to its diverse vegetation and range of forest types found at distinct elevations. The park holds 58 species of mammals, 154 species of birds, 39 species of reptiles, 16 species of amphibians, 17 species of fish, and 170 species of butterflies.
Owing to the fact that Taiwan has been separated from the Eurasian plate for centuries, many species living on the island are endemic to Taiwan, 26 of these endemic species inhabiting the land of Shei-Pa National Park. The Formosan black bear, Formosan rock macaque, Formosan landlocked salmon, Mikado pheasant, and Swinhoe’s pheasant are a few examples of such rare species of Shei-Pa National Park.
The Formosan landlocked salmon, found in Qijiawan Creek near Wuling Recreation Area, has quite a fascinating history, its presence owing to the glacial period. As salmon are marine migratory, they are born in rivers, move to the ocean to mature, and then return to the rivers to reproduce.
Thus, the presence of salmon in a landlocked lake proves how the environment has changed due to climate and geological interference. The Formosan landlocked salmon are an environmental wonder as they are the only salmon species located near the tropics, and thus their landlocked position has made them adapt to life in rivers and lakes.
Evidence of prehistoric activity in Shei-Pa National Park is present in the uncovered remains of stone tools and weapons, and pieces of pottery buried in the land.
The Atayal peoples settled in the mountainous areas of north and central Taiwan, living at altitudes of 1,000 to 1,500 metres (3,281 to 4,921 ft) and subsisted by hunting, fishing, and farming on the land.
During the era of Japanese occupation, the Japanese produced camphor oil. To do so they ascended the mountainous areas of the Atayal, demolishing trees for camphor wood. As a result, conflict formed between the Japanese and the Atayal, and as a means for control, the Japanese set up police stations along special roads on which they forced the Atayal to live.
This road now belongs to a historic trail displaying the police stations that were hidden in bushes and behind rough grass, showing the oppressed life that the Atayal peoples were forced to live under Japanese rule.
There are no Atayal settlements present in Shei-Pa National Park due to their forced removal, but many mountain trails are traced to the paths that the Atayal wandered to hunt and forage. Furthermore, many places in the park still hold Atayal names, such as Kailantekenshan, and Mutelabashan of the Shengling Trail, and Kalayeshan, one of the Wuling Quadruple Mountains.
Folklore amongst the Atayal peoples focused on Dabajianshan, as it was rendered a holy spot. The Atayal believed that humanity was formed from a couple born out of mountain rock at the base of the mountain. As a result, Dabajianshan was highly respected and climbing the mountain was avoided as it was considered sacred ground. It was only in 1927 that the first ascent of the mountain was recorded, by a team of Japanese climbers.
Shei-Pa National Park was officially established on 1 July 1992 as Taiwan’s fifth national park.
If you’re looking for an adventure, Shei-Pa National Park is the place to be. With dozens of hiking trails to check out, the park is a veritable adventure paradise. Here are some of the most popular treks to consider on your next trip:
The three day round trip East Xue Trail is an eastward 22 km (14 mile) trek passing Xueshan East Peak to reach the summit of Xueshan Main Peak. Starting from the Wuling Recreation Area, one makes their way towards the Trailhead of Xueshan. It is a 2 km (1.2 mile) climb to Qika Hut, from which the path towards Xueshan East Peak faces a significant change in elevation. Such passage is known as the ‘Crying Slope’ due to its gruelling incline. The climb to Xueshan East Peak offers rewarding 360° panoramic views of pointed peaks and dramatic cliffs in the surrounding area.
After an overnight stay at Sanliujiu Hut, hikers set off early the following morning, entering the thrilling Black Forest, known for its densely populated rhododendron 1,000 year-old trees, spookily creating a chilling atmosphere. A sighting of a Formosan black bear is probable, yet rare. Making one’s way out of the black forest, it is only a 3.7 km (2.3 mi) trek to the summit, however this will take roughly three hours due to the intense scree slopes and rocky patches.
The grilling journey to the summit will pass the base of Xueshan’s iconic glacial cirques for the opportunity to marvel at the Ice Age geological imprints. The last 800 metres (2,625 ft) before the summit is above the treeline, thus vegetation dramatically changes at this altitude. At 3,886 metres (12,749 ft) Xueshan stands tall, and true to its name, is covered in snow. On a clear day, it offers pristine views of the surrounding mountains in the park, and Taiwan’s highest peak, Yushan, can be spotted in the south.
The trail then leads back from where it started, descending the summit, passing the glacial cirques, trekking through the black forest, to stay overnight at Sanliujui Hut after which hikers will make their way back to Wuling Recreation Area.
This seven day long intensive trail begins at the arbitrary located trail head roughly 28.5 km (18 mile) on 230 Forest Road. The West Xue Trail is infamous for its long and winding paths and constantly high elevation. There are a staggering 18 mountains over 3,000 metres (9,842 ft) in elevation that populate the area, thus accounting for the steep nature and extreme altitude of this trail.
A total of 11 mountain summits are reached on this intensively gruelling trail. The mountains are Zhong Xueshan, Pipidashan, Da Xueshan, Da Xueshan North Peak, Cijyunshan, Touyingshan, Dananshan, Huoshihshan, and Bokeershan, Xueshan Main Peak, and Xueshan East Peak.
From the trailhead located on Forest Road, one makes their way up the 3,173 metre (10,410ft) Zhong Xueshsan, from which they will move eastwards ascending the mountain summits in the order listed above.
The vegetation along the Xueshan Horst in the northeast differs according to areas of the same altitude as Xueshan Horst offers protection against the northeast monsoons from damaging the vegetation of this area. Thus, Chinese Hemlocks, firs, and Yushan Canes occupy the land.
After Cuei Pond, the highest alpine lake in southeast Asia, hikers summit Xueshan Main Peak from which the West Xue Trail links with East Xue Trail, and hikers descend the mountain following the same route of East Xue Trail towards Xueshan East Peak and back to the Wuling Recreation Area.
This gruelling and intense five day trail is only a 10 km (6.2 mile) trek along the mountain ridge, but due to the severity of the steep pointed cliffs and the excessive elevation, this trail is reserved for extreme hikers who are not afraid of heights and can balance on thin, narrow mountain ridges.
Along the trail, five peaks’ summits are reached, all above the elevation of 3,000 metres (9,842 ft). These peaks are Chryoushan (3,303 metres/10,837 ft), Pintianshan (3,524 metres/11,562 ft), Sumidashan (3,063 metres/11,821 ft), Xueshan North Peak, and Xueshan Main Peak. The summit of Dabajianshan is prohibited due to safety reasons.
Shengleng Trail is renowned for its laborious scree slopes one has to continuously ascend and descend and for its painfully thin and nerve-wrecking ledges with 1,000 metre (3,281 ft) drops on either side. It is for this reason that only the most skilled and prepared hikers should face this trail.
Also known as Wuling Sixiu Trail (‘si’ meaning four in Chinese, and ‘xiu’ translating as excellence), this three day east-extending trail encompasses four famous mountains of Pintianshan, Chryoushan, Taoshan, and Kalayeshan. This trail is strenuous yet superbly rewarding, offering generous views of a sea of blue mountains in the distance.
Starting from Wuling Recreation Area, hikers set off on a leisurely 3.5 km (2.2 mile) walk on concrete road to the Chryoushan Trailhead. The majestic 50 metre (164 ft) high Taoshan Waterfall is a beautiful spot to rest before the trail becomes exceedingly steeper. On the unevenly rocky terrain leading up Chryoushan, numerous peculiar and warped old pine trees appear, a prominent feature of the vegetation of Chryoushan.
After trekking past Sancha Campground and an overnight stay at Xinda Hut, hikers embark on a challenging trek, scaling over a steep cliff with the use of ropes to witness the sunrise over the summit of Pintianshan. Hikers return to Xinda Hut and continue to retrace the trail back to Sancha Campground where they will make a north-easterly turn following the forked path and ridgeline to Taoshan.
After spending the night at Taoshan Hut, hikers embark on a 2.5 km (1.5 mile) journey to the final peak, Kalaheishan, which then follows a four hour descent back to Wuling Recreation Area.
Daba Peaks Trails is a three day round trip hike, beginning and ending at Madara Creek Trailhead. Once hikers pass the trail head, the path becomes increasingly narrower and extreme as it winds its way up the mountain for 4 km (2.5 mile) to Juijui Hut, the overnight cabin.
The following morning, hikers set off towards the next overnight accommodation while journeying through steadily elevated terrain. The first 2.5 km (1.5 mile) is an uphill climb, followed by a 2.3 km (1.4 mile) flat journey. A rising elevation begins for another 600 metres (1,969 ft) until Jhongba Cabin is reached where the peaks of Dabajianshan and Xiaobajianshan start to appear closer.
The next day a 1.4 km (0.9 mile) trek leads the way to the base of Dabajianshan, which is prohibited to summit, while hikers make their way along the base of Dabajianshan and over a rocky cliff towards the summit of Xiaobajianshan. Views of the Daba Peaks Trail leading back to Juijui Hut is most notable from the summit of Xiaobajianshan. Upon descent, two additional summits are reached: Yizeshan and Jialishan, both making the Top 100 Peaks in Taiwan.
This three day trek is also known as Jhihjiayang Trail, and it was the pioneer trail leading up to Xueshan before the East Xue Trail was established.
The significance of this trail is that it begins in the Atayal village of the Huanshan Tribe, which allows hikers a taste of the regional culture before embarking on their journey into the mountains. The Atayal have a distinct culture of face-tattooing and are known for their colourful weaving art. Hikers may also opt for this trail as it is just slightly easier than hiking the East Xue Trail to Xueshan.
After passing the trailhead located in the lands of the Huanshan Tribe, it is a relatively flat 3 km (1.9 mile) terrain towards Songbo Farm. Along the uphill trek towards Jhihjiayanshan, hikers pass through a hilly forest lined with pine trees, from where they will reach the striking Piodan Pool, which is situated in the valley of the south-eastern slope of Jhihjiayangshan.
Piodan Pool is commonly referred to as Milk Goat Lake due to its tiny size. Piodan Hut is the overnight cabin where hikers will rest before heading off to the summit of Jhihjianshan which stands at 3,325 metres (10,909 ft).
Hikers will descend the mountain through trails populated with Yushan Cane and hike towards Xueshan Main Peak, and then head towards Sanliujiu Hut, for a night’s rest. The following morning, hikers trek towards Xueshan East Peak and then descend the mountain to the trailhead of Xueshan where the trail ends.
This pleasant 4.3 km (2.7 mile) moderately easy trail starts and finishes at Wuling Recreation Area and takes roughly two and a half hours to complete. It is a relatively smooth journey on a paved footpath with the elevation rising gradually to 2,245 metres (7,365 ft).
Qijiawan Creek is located within 100 metres (328 ft) of the trailhead, where the legendary Formosan landlocked inhabit the waters. Taoshan Waterfall stands proudly at the halfway point of the trek, where hikers can appreciate the long veil of white misty water from a platform, and from here they return back where they journeyed from.
Visitors to Shei-Pa National Park have a wealth of accommodation options. Here are some of the best places to check out:
In the nearby Tai’an Township of Miaoli Country is the luxurious Tangyue Hot Springs Resort and the family friendly Sunrise Hot Spring Hotel. Tangyue Hot Springs Resort offers supreme comfort to guests, providing facilities such as a spa and wellness centre and private hot spring baths.
Sunrise Hot Spring Hotel is located a mere 0.5 km (0.3 miles) from Tai’an Hot Springs, and this hotel houses a restaurant, hot tub, and offers children activities. The nearby Quan Ming B&B in Dahu, Miaoli County is a more budget option and is well-known for its friendly and hospitable staff.
For visitors wanting to stay near to the Wuling Recreation Area in the Heping District of Taichung County, Wuling Farm has camping grounds for those seeking budget-friendly and simple accommodation.
Roof-Sky Hotel prides itself on its cleanliness, service, and scenic garden, while the Li Shan Guest House, on the higher end of the price range, is an entertainment mecca, housing a restaurant, game room, and a beautiful garden, and offers karaoke and guided tours of the nearby Shei-Pa National Park.
There are plenty of options to get to Shei-Pa National Park. From the major cities of Taipei, Hsinchu, Taichung, Chiayi, Tainan, and Kaohsiung, take the Taiwan High Speed Rail to Miaoli HSR Station. From here, hop on the hourly Express 101B bus heading towards Shei-Pa National Park Headquarters which should take around 30 minutes.
There is a direct E-go bus leaving from Taipei Main Station which takes roughly four hours to get to Wuliing Farm in Shei-Pa National Park.
Coming from Hualien, the east of Taiwan, take the train to Yilan Railway Station where the bus station is a short walk away. Hop on the twice daily Kings Bus headed towards Wuling Farm, which should take approximately 2 hours and 45 minutes.
Driving from Taipei, Hsinchu, Miaoli, and Taichung is very doable. Taipei is the furthest distance from Shei-Pa National Park’s headquarters. It is a 130 km (81 miles) drive over 1 hour and 40 minutes.
The drive from Taipei to Wuling Recreation Area, on the east of the park, is a 146 km (91 miles) journey spanning 3 hours. The drive from Hsinchu to Shei-Pa National Park’s Headquarters is 60 km (37 miles) in 50 minutes, while Taichung takes about 1 hour over 57 km (35 miles). Miaoli is the closest to the park, covering 22.5 km (14 miles) in a 26 minute drive.