Hiking Yushan : The Ultimate Guide to conquer the Jade Mountain

UPDATED : 15/10/2019

Planning on hiking Yushan soon ? In this guide you’ll find everything you should know !

Yushan, also famous under the name of Jade Mountain, is the highest mountain in Taiwan with an elevation of 3,952 meters. Recently, it has become a popular destination for hikers. It’s easy to understand why, Taiwanese are very friendly, the trail is well-maintained, clean and on top of that there’s even a lodge near the summit! You don’t need any specific equipment to climb the mountain unless you go in the winter, but you’ll need to have a decent level of fitness.

Mountain-junkies love to combine Yushan with Kota Kinabalu (Malaysia) and the famous Fuji Mountain (Japan) for a hiking trilogy around East Asia. The Yushan mountain will definitely be the cheapest to hike of these 3, but you’ll need a bit of planning to get the appropriate documents.

This guide is here to show you what you need to hike Yushan, how to get every document and share our experience hiking the mountain with our 19-month-old toddler.

If you need inspiration about where to hike in Taiwan, I put up a list of 6 amazing hikes to do while you’re on the island !

Photo of the three of us at the top of Yushan
A victory selfie at the top !

3 possibilities to hike Yushan :

You want to hike Yushan in less than a week : Not possible since you need to apply for a permit at least 7 days in advance.

The day of your hike is between 7 days and 30 days : You’ll be able to hike after applying for a permit, but you’ll need to sleep at least 12 kilometers away from the summit or at the parking lot slightly closer if you have a car.

The day of your hike is in more than 30 days : As a foreigner, things get easier if you want to hike during the weekdays. You’re gonna be able to sleep in the Paiyun Lodge (3,402 meters high), a hostel located only 2 kilometers away from the summit. There’s a quota allocated to foreigners during the weekdays. If you want to hike during the weekend, then you won’t enjoy any advantage from being a foreigner and there will be a lot of locals applying to sleep in this lodge, still possible though!

A picture of the Paiyun lodge
The Paiyun Lodge

Step One : Get the Permit ~ 30 minutes ~:

You need to get a permit to hike Yushan. It seems like the official website doesn’t work for Firefox users, Chrome is fine though.

I don’t speak or read Chinese and I managed to do it without my wife’s help. It takes about 20 to 30 minutes. You need your personal details and a picture of you hiking above 3000 meters. They ask for insurance but you can tick off the case without uploading anything and they won’t check. You’ll also need a parental authorization if you’re going to hike with a kid.

  • Choose one-day hike if you’re going to sleep outside the Yushan national park (meaning 12 kilometers away from the summit at least).
  • Choose two-day hike if you’re planning to sleep in the Paiyun Lodge (remember it’s possible only if your hiking day is in more than 30 days).

The number of people hiking Yushan in a day is limited by the national park, but if you hike during the weekdays you won’t have any problem with this quota. If it’s at the weekends then you might end up being on the waiting list if you apply late.

When you apply, it can be slightly tricky, since a few things are not translated in English. Try to tick off the case, or write anything in the blank, it should allow you to submit your application. Leave a comment below if you need any help.

The Yushan permit
Our permit to enter Yushan

Step two : Got the permit? You need to apply for the police authorization ~ 2 minutes ~:

You need to wait to be approved. Once approved, you’ll be able to apply for the second permit, named Police Permit. You can apply it through your application on the exact same website. They were very quick to send mine, but it was all written in Chinese. There are two pages. Here’s one of them.

Police permit to hike Yushan
The first page of the police permit

Step three : Print the documents

You’ll need to print the Yushan National Park permit (1 page) and the Police permit (2 pages). You can print it only 5 days before the hike because they won’t send it before. So to be clear you’ll know that you’re approved long before these 5 days, but you’ll receive the permit 5 days before the hiking date.

You can print these documents in a 7/11 for 2NTD (0,05euro) per page. Bring your USB or upload files before on this website (you’ll need to translate the website).

Step four : Get to the Yushan National Park

Get to the Yushan National Park from Taipei

You can take a train from Taipei to Chiayi. It takes about 3 hours. From Chiayi you can take a bus to Alishan. There are frequent buses connecting these two places, but the last bus leaving Chiayi towards Alishan is at 2pm, and the last bus leaving Alishan for Chiayi is at 5pm. From Alishan to the Yushan National Park, there are only two buses per day. At 1pm and at 2pm. They are bound for the Sun Moon Lake, but you can ask them to drop you at the entrance of the park. The place is called Tataka.

Get to the Yushan National Park from the Sun Moon Lake

You can take a bus from the Sun Moon Lake directly to the Yushan National Park. Two buses are leaving each day, at 8am and 9am. The bus is bound for Alishan. two very popular touristic destinations, to the park’s entrance.

The bus journey is operated by Yuanlin bus (website only in Mandarin).

Chiayi is easily reachable by direct train from Taipei, Kaohsiung or any big cities on the west coast.There’s also a train between Chiayi and Alishan.

Hitchhiking from Chiayi is also a good option, as there’s a decent amount of traffic going up there. You could also hitch from the Sun Moon Lake/Nantou, that’s what my wife HiuYing did and it worked well for her. A lot of traffic until Xinyi, then it’s a bit more scarce. Yet Taiwan is a great place to hitch rides.

You could also rent a scooter or a car in Chiayi or Alishan and ride it up there.

Cycling is another interesting option if you have the legs. That’s what I did.

If you like cycling, check this article about my experience cycling Taiwan’s highest road, the Central Cross-Island Highway, going from sea level to an altitude of 3200 meters in only a day !

Maxime at the entrance of the Yushan national park
On the way to Yushan

Step five : Sleeping

If you managed to secure a spot at the Paiyun Lodge through the permit application process, you probably don’t need to read this part.

If you did not, then your best option is to go to the Dongpu Villa Hostel as it is the closest hostel from the entrance of the trail. It costs 300NTD (10US$) per person to sleep in a dorm shared by 20 people. Being the only foreigners, and especially with a baby, we were well-treated by fellow Taiwanese trekkers and got invited to eat some famous chiayi turkey rice and drink a bit of liquor (58% of alcohol though!!).

Normally they’ll have space during the weekdays, maybe best to book in advance for the weekends. We were there on a Tuesday night, and there were around 40 people here. I think the hostel was almost full, but probably because half of the people were part of the same group. That was one of the best parts of our trip.

A picture of the dorm in the Dongpu Villa Hostel
A picture of Dongpu Villa Hostel dorm, attractive isn’t it?

If you have a car you could sleep in it on the parking lot near the entrance.

You can also camp if you have the gear, but it’s forbidden on the trail and there’s no campground.

Step six : Hiking Yushan

It took us 12 hours and a half to get from the hostel to the peak and come back. We were faster than most. We started at 3am, and returned at 3.30pm. Let’s break down the hike in three parts:

From the hostel/parking lot to the trail’s entrance (~4KM / 1 hour)

First part is the walk from the hostel/parking lot to the trail’s entrance. It is ~4KM long and it took us 50 minutes. The road is paved but closed to all vehicles, except some shuttles going back and forth between these two points, they won’t be there in the early morning, but you can take it at the end of the day. It costs 100NTD (~3US$).

On the way you’ll pass by a police station and this is where we dropped our police permit in their postbox.

Sunrise over the valley
Early departure. This is the first picture I took that day.

The trail’s entrance to the Paiyun Lodge (8.5KM / 3-5 hours)

You need to reach the Paiyun Lodge before 10am, otherwise they won’t let you carry on with your hike !

Once you reach the trail’s entrance, also named Tatajia Saddle, you have to walk 8.5 kilometers to the Paiyun Lodge. This is where you feel like you’re really hiking! The trail is not too difficult despite the 1000-meter difference between the two points. Most of the time you’ll go up, but sometimes down. A few rest areas are located on the way along with markers every 500 meters.  We arrived at the lodge at 7.25am. We were quite fast and overtook several other trekkers, but we took a “long” break halfway because the baby woke up and got fussy, so HiuYing nursed him for a while and then I put him back in the carrier until the lodge.

A picture of the Yushan trail
The trail, early in the morning.

You’ll be very happy to reach the lodge, as it is a good place to relax and recharge your batteries. You can get some hot water there. They don’t sell anything though, so you should bring your own food for the entire hike. The lodge is also where you need to show your hiking permit. We left a small bag there that we picked up after returning from the top.

We stayed 40 minutes there, eating breakfast, drinking water and of course we let the baby walk and grab everybody’s attention.

HiuYing & Darian having breakfast in the Paiyun lodge.
Having breakfast inside the lodge. These are dates with walnuts.

The Paiyun Lodge to the top (2.4KM / 1-2.5 hours)

Hiking the Yushan trail near the Paiyun Lodge
The last 2 kilometers of the trail kinda look like that. Very steep !
The trail near the top of Yushan
It’s getting harder and harder !

Brace yourselves! After the lodge comes the last and hardest part. 2.4k to go up 500 meters. It gets harder as you’re getting closer to the summit, but you’ll find chains to help you. I was surprised by the end of the trail because I was expecting something easier. Take your time! If you’re in decent condition, you’ll make it. I arrived at the summit with the baby at 9.30, and HiuYing made it a few minutes later. The other trekkers congratulated me and started to ask for a picture with the baby and me while I was catching my breath. After HiuYing arrived, everybody left. It was only the three of us up there, feeling like we had the mountain for ourselves. Great experience, but on the other hand we don’t have any good pictures of us 3 up there haha.

Failed photo of us at the top of Yushan
Instagram / Behind-the-scenes : A failed photo with the timer.

Around 40 minutes later we started to go down, took another break in the lodge and headed back to the hostel. It was quite misty on the way back. We arrived at the Tatajia saddle at 2.50pm, and some shuttle vans were waiting but we walked. Eventually we arrived at the hostel at 3.30pm. After a short break and a bit of food, I was on the road cycling while HiuYing started to hitch with the baby towards Chiayi, where our Couchsurfing host was waiting for us! That was a very long day, and I ended up hitching a ride with my bicycle to get to Chiayi because I was just too tired!

The trail : Tips & advice

When to go ? The weather in Yushan

Taiwan has a useful government-owned weather website.

File:YushanPrecip.png

It rains an average of 140 days per year, mostly during May and August as you can see on the chart. On top of that, the typhoon’s season comes between July and September.

We hiked in September, and it was perfect !

During the winter months, the summit will usually be covered by frost but these are the driest months.

Source : Wikipedia

Eating

There’s no shop on the trail or near the hostel. The closest shops are in Alishan (25 kilometers away) so you’d better stack up everything you need before. If you stay at the Dongpu Villa Hostel, you can get dinner at an extra cost. They sell cup noodles as well. There’s a shared kitchen and water. The Paiyun Lodge also offers an option to eat but you’ll need to book it a week before the hike. Dinner is 300 NTD (10$), breakfast/lunch is 150 NTD.

Tips

You don’t need a guide. Every intersection you’ll see a sign in Chinese and in English.

Intersection on the Yushan moutain with indications
Here’s an example.

Hike with comfortable shoes. Try to avoid brand-new hiking shoes because you’ll be likely to have blisters.

Get ready for bad weather even if it looks sunny. Things can change quite fast at this elevation. Carry something in case of rain or/and strong wind.

If you start hiking before dawn, a light will be necessary as you won’t be able to see the trail. A head light is the best option.

The sunrise is said to be an incredible sight, but you’ll need to stay in the Paiyun Lodge, or to start the hike around midnight if you want to experience it. Be aware that the sun is rising at a different time everyday so check it before!

It’s an unbelievably clean trail, so please take your own trash. I might add not only on this trail but anywhere on this planet. Thank you!

The stele at the top of Yushan
The stele reigning at the top of Yushan. 3.952 meters high !

Conclusion

Overall it was a great experience and one of our best memories of the year. We quickly forgot that we couldn’t walk for a few days after that. Don’t be deterred by the permits. The application will be a painless process if you follow our tips! Taiwan is an island blessed with stunning landscapes. Yushan might be the most beautiful of them all. Many Taiwanese see hiking Yushan as one of their life goals. If you are in decent shape and have enough time on the island, go for it !

And while you’re in Taiwan, why not enjoying this opportunity to have a unique experience by paying it forward andshare your story to local students eager to know you ?

Feel free to comment if you need help for any step of the process. And of course, let us know how your hike went!

Maxime

A young father following his dream of travelling the world, now joined by HiuYing, his wife, and Darian, their first son.

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Adrian Tan
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Adrian Tan

Hi Max! Great read!!! Enjoyed and got excited for our, my wife and I, Taiwan bikepacking (Taipie to Kaoshiung) with a higher probability of Jade Mountain One-Day Summit Bid (after reading your post). Just got some questions though. Hope it wont be troublesome… – We will most likely be coming from city of Chiayi. Is it doable to cycle with folding bike? Any idea how long the distance from Chiayi to Tatajia Saddle? Would it be safe to cycle from Tatajia saddle back to Chiayi at night (after the climb)? – I am planning to camp around Dungpo Villa Hostel… Read more »

Con
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Con

Hi Max!! Great blog and amazing details. I have few questions, i hope u can spare your time. A bit of background about me, im not a frequent hiker but i think i had my share of experience. I bullet hiked mt. Fuji (which means one day) and did abc hike at annapurna. But this are years apart. 1. Which trail will you recommend is easiest for yushan? Is it as difficult as fuji? 2. From the park entrance, is there other way to go to the nearest hostel aside from hitch hiking? 3. How long before the permit also… Read more »

Nikki Ho
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Nikki Ho

Hi Maxime,
Thank you for sharing your experience.
I would like to ask when is the best time to hike Yushan? Is November okay without crampon? I heard that some parts of the track are very narrow, so I am a bit afraid if it is slippery with ice. I am not very experienced hiker, but I have done some with ~ 3000m height. Is it doable if I do it in 2 days with carefulness?
Thank you for your advice.

Danielle Rixon
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Danielle Rixon

Would this trial be okay for a solo female traveller? Will be my first solo hike but I’ve hiked to Everest Base Camp with a guide and Annapurna base with my husband. ! I’ve applied to do the 2-day trip staying at Paiyun Lodge. Are there places to stay in Tataka ? I was hoping to start the hike very early so would be nice to stay near the trail that and there’s only 2 buses a day from Alishan. I understand you stayed at a hostel near the trial named Dongpu Villa Hostel , but are there any other… Read more »

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