Wherever you go in Taiwan, hiking trails, waterfalls, and scenic mountain vistas are always within reach. Thickly forested mountains blanketing two-thirds of the island nation’s 14,400 square miles, creating an abundant array of ways to explore the great outdoors. And, with more than 200 peaks topping 9,800 feet—including Northeast Asia’s highest summit, 12,966-foot Yushan—Taiwan’s mountainous terrain truly is majestic. If you’re searching for new mountain challenges to conquer, here are 10 towering wonders sure to inspire you to add Taiwan to your travel bucket list.
Be awed by the power of nature at stunning Taroko Gorge, the twisting, soaring centerpiece of Taroko National Park. The Liwu River winds through the 11-mile-long canyon, whose dazzling white marble walls stand nearly 985 feet high in places. Rent a scooter at the train station in Xincheng or Hualien to cruise through the gorge on the Central Cross-Island Highway (Highway 8).
Watch for rainbows in the mist at the shimmering Shifen Waterfall. Located on the Keelung River in New Taipei’s rural Pingxi District, Shifen is nicknamed “Taiwan’s Niagara Falls” for its wide (130 feet) curtain of cascading water. The force of the falls creates a near-constant spray, tinged with kaleidoscopic color in the sunlight.
Tataka and Dongpu
Soak up 360-degree high-elevation views at the towering Tataka (elevation 8,563 feet) crossroads. Located at the intersection of Highway 18 and Highway 21 in northwest Yushan National Park, Tataka is the highest point on the New Central Cross-Island Highway. Make the scenic drive at dawn or dusk to see the sea of clouds and mist between the surrounding mountain peaks. Continue north on Highway 21 to the mountain village of Dongpu, famous for its geothermal hot springs. For a steep, cliff-hugging hike with jaw-dropping views, follow the Dongpu section of the Batongguan Trail up to Yun Long Waterfall. Following the hike, relax in a steaming, spring-fed bath at one of the many local inns, such as the Hotel Tilun Dongpu Spa.
Shei-Pa National Park
Wild and widely undeveloped, northcentral Taiwan’s mountainous Shei-Pa National Park remains a bit of a best kept secret. Visitor access is limited to protect the rugged wilderness area, which includes 51 peaks over 9,800 feet tall. The best way to explore Shei-Pa is on a multi-day backpacking trip. Try the Wuling Quadruple Trail to cross four of the park’s mountains: Pintian, Chihyou, and Kalahei. For a tamer Shei-Pa experience, go camping at the park’s Wuling Forest Recreation Area. Better known as Wuling Farm, the historic hikers’ rest stop is an ideal place to photograph blooming cherry trees in spring and vibrant foliage in fall.
See the impressive peaks of Shei-Pa National Park on the Wuling Quadruple Trail.
Xiaozhuilu and Shakadang Trails
See soaring cliff walls, cross a suspension bridge, and trace the paths of two crystal-clear mountain rivers on an easy—yet stunningly scenic—Taroko National Park hike. The winding, forested route begins on the Xiaozhuilu Trail (west of the Taroko Visitor Center) along the Liwu River gorge. Follow the riverside path west to the Shakadang Trail, a mainly flat route carved into the steep cliffs bordering the Shakadang River.
Get a front row view of the raw volcanic forces that shaped Taiwan on the Qixing, or Seven Star Mountain, Trail in Yangmingshan National Park. Conveniently located an hour north of Taipei via public transportation, Mount Qixing is Taiwan’s tallest volcano. From the top of the main peak, elevation 3,674 feet, enjoy sweeping views of Taipei, Qixing’s lower peaks, and the park. The hike down leads past multiple geothermal features, such as steam vents and geysers.
Xiao Wulai Waterfall
Elevate your Instagram story by walking high over a waterfall in northeastern Taoyuan. The Xiao Wulai Skywalk is a glass-bottom bridge suspended 230 feet above the base of the Xiao Wulai Waterfall. Peer through the glass for bird’s-eye views of the water below. Following the aerial adventure, hike the nearby Sandiaoling Waterfall Walk to see three more impressive falls, and make a few acrobatic rock climbs up rope ladders.
Standing guard on the banks of the Laonong River in Taiwan’s south-central Liugui District are 18 otherworldly rock formations. Named Shihba Luohanshan, or Eighteen Arhats (Buddhist Disciples) Mountain, the jagged geological wonders are home to macaques and red-bellied squirrels. Hike among the rocks and along the river to look for wildlife.
Lishan and Hehuan Mountains
Make Lishan your launch pad for high-altitude adventure in the mountainous heart of Taiwan. Nestled between Shei-Pa and Taroko National Parks, the Lishan Scenic Area is famous for its scenic views, waterfalls, and homegrown apples, peaches, pears and other produce. Its central location at the middle of the Central Cross-Island Highway makes Lishan a convenient stopover on the way to the hiking hotspot Hehuan Mountain (Hehuanshan). With an elevation of 11,207 feet and more than 240 peaks, Hehuan has a trail to challenge any hiker, from leisurely nature walkers to expert mountaineers. For sweeping mountain, valley, and forest vistas, hike or ride up to Hehuan Wuling, elevation 10,745 feet, Taiwan’s highest trailhead reachable via a public road.
Alishan Forest Railway
Chug full steam ahead through a sea of clouds on the historic, diesel-powered Alishan Railway Line. Opened in 1911 as a logging route and partially reopened in 2017 following repairs, the narrow-gauge tourist train follows a serpentine path up a steep, mist-shrouded slope of the Alishan Forest Recreation Area. The nostalgic trip unfolds at a slow pace, so sit back and enjoy the views while passing through several tunnels and over multiple bridges.
The Alishan Forest Recreation Area is home to the scenic Alishan Railway Line, which features misty forests and picturesque waterfalls.