#005: Alishan (No.18)

Cycling along the curvy highway 18 to Alishan National Forest - Best Cycling Climbs in Taiwan

When it comes to the Best Cycling Climbs in Taiwan, cycling in Alishan is one for the ages. Traversing popular tourist attractions such as Alishan National Forest and Yushan National Park, cyclists riding this epic route will experience Taiwan in a whole new way. But you’re a cyclists, so you already know this!

Cycling in Alishan offers cyclists a chance to see the Sea of Clouds - Best Cycling Climbs in Taiwan

Starting off Cycling Alishan No.18

Provincial Highway No. 18 (also known as ‘The New Central Cross-Island Highway or the Alishan Road’ starts at 0km in the center of Chiayi City in Western Taiwan. We suggest cyclists start their ride from the Chiayi Train Station. After the initial 10km through the urban and suburban areas, it rises gently at gradients of 1 – 2% for the first 30kms. For cyclists riding in Western Taiwan, you’ll come to recognize that there will be some urban riding.

Cycling in Alishan amongst terraced tea farms - Best Cycling Climbs in Taiwan

After this a bridge is crossed with the large temple complex of Chukou on the left hand side of the road. You’ll also pass Chukou Nature Center. Up to this point there is no shortage of convenience stores dotted along the way, but not much for the next 20km. It’s from here that the road rises dramatically like a shock to the system. Multiple hair-pin turns of 10%+ gradients have to be negotiated. Cycling in Taiwan’s mountainous areas frequently feature these mountain switchbacks.

Cycling in Alishan features plenty of mountain switchbacks  - Best Cycling Climbs in Taiwan
Mountain switchbacks. You get the idea.

Cycling in One of Taiwan’s Top Natural Attraction

The rider should also be aware that this is the main road leading to the very popular tourist spot of Alishan National Forest Recreation Area and to the trail of Jade Mountain, Taiwan’s highest peak. As such, it gets more traffic than any other mountain road in Taiwan and up to 100 tour buses will ferry tourists up it every weekend. Bearing this in mind it would be advisable to ride it very early in the morning if at the weekend or better still on a week day. 

Cycling in Alishan offers stunning views of the surrounding landscapes  - Best Cycling Climbs in Taiwan

In recent years more and more convenience stores have opened along the way, but the first major town with various choices of restaurants and guest houses is Shitzo at the 63km marker and at an elevation of 1,000m. This would be the ideal location for an overnight stay. 

Cycling in Alishan amongst the many tea farms on Highway 18  - Best Cycling Climbs in Taiwan

Tea, Forests and 7-11’s

Alishan is without doubt the most famous location in Taiwan for tea and plantations stretch out as far as the eye can see on the surrounding mountain sides. Once past Shitzo the next major feature is Alishan National Forest itself, at the 88km marker on the road and some 2,000m above sea level. There is a 7 – 11 at the gate to the park and this is the last chance to pick up supplies. 

Cycling in Alishan along the sides of mountains - Best Cycling Climbs in Taiwan

Just past the National Forest’s park gate is the best part of the road, the traffic thins out and the gradient is a lot easier on the legs. The top of the climb is at the 109km marker at an elevation of 2,622m. As mentioned earlier this is the trail head for Jade Mt. and a visitor center for the National Park is the only place to get refreshments. 

Cycling in Alishan: A Sea of Clouds

On the way up there are three distinct downhill sections which add a few hundred meters to the total ascent. With Chaiyi City at an elevation of 2 – 300m by the time the rider reaches the top of the road the total ascent will be close to 2,600m. Riding one of the best cycling climbs in Taiwan comes with some elevation, obviously.

Cycling in Alishan amongst the mist on Highway 18  - Best Cycling Climbs in Taiwan

By lunchtime, mountain areas such as this will become completely clouded in and there will definitely be a temperature difference of 15 – 20C between the bottom and the top. A warm or rain layer is essential for the descent. Be careful when the road gets slick.

About the Best Cycling Climbs in Taiwan:

Alishan (No. 18) is listed as #005 of the Best Cycling Climbs of Taiwan. On this epic Taiwan cycling route, cyclists will ride amongst tea farms and past countless scenic vistas. Cyclists will ride through Alishan National Forest and towards Yushan National Park, while experiencing some of the most scenic nature and awe-spiring cycling in Taiwan. Contact Blue Skies Adventures for custom tours on this and other routes.

Map & GPX File

Taiwan Hiking Trail Distance
Route Distance: 96km
Taiwan Hiking Trail Conditions
Road Conditions:
paved shoulders, narrow, mountain switchbacks
Hiking Trail Altitude in Taiwan
Total Climb: 2600 meters

Steepest Grade:
Up to 10%

Estimate Time Required: 4-6 hours
Route Type: Out and Back

Published by Taiwan Outdoors

Taiwan Outdoors is the pre-eminent source for Taiwan's outdoor recreation and adventure-based experiences on the Internet.

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