#004: The South Cross-Island Highway (West Approach)

When it comes to the Best Cycling Climbs in Taiwan, this tops the list. There are four Cross-Island Highways in Taiwan, three of which traverse the island from west to east, the fourth, ‘the New Central Cross-Island Highway, is a north-to-south traverse that skirts the Central Mountain Range. 

Best Cycling Climbs in Taiwan - South Cross Island Highway - West Approach

Of the four it could well be argued that the South Cross-Island Highway (Provincial Highway No. 20) is the best for its variety of scenery. Unfortunately, due to a catastrophic typhoon in 2009, a section of this road is closed to cyclists for the time being. The road only reopened to traffic in 2022 after thirteen years of reconstruction. It is hopeful that the 44km section at the top of the road will open to cyclists in the near future.

For the Best Cycling Climbs in Taiwan, South Cross West Approach is listed as #004. This is a reflection of the fact that it is 2,722m at the summit. While this route has more urban cycling, it is still a very appealing ride. For cyclists living and visiting Taiwan with their bike, this is a must-do.See #003 Southern Cross East Approach, which covers the more-appealing east approach and has much less traffic for cyclists), however at present the road is only open to Meishan at the 105km marker.

From end to end the road is 203km long starting at 0km marker in Tainan City and ending at Haiduan in Taitung. The nearest train station is Tainan City station which is just a few kilometers from the start. 

Curvy road on one of the Best Cycling Climbs in Taiwan - South Cross Island Highway - West Approach

Cycling the Southern Cross-Island Highway Western Route

Starting at 0km marker in Tainan, this is the least appealing section of the road, but after 10km the rider will exit the suburban area of the city. About 30km into the ride there is an intersection with the No. 20B road, the rider should take the left fork to Yujing (No. 20 36km marker). Although the real climbing hasn’t started yet for cyclists, this section of the road is not flat. Like many other cycling experiences in Taiwn there are numerous small hills to get over adding a lot of elevation gain to the ride. 

A further 20km into the ride there is another intersection with Provincial Highway No. 29, a left turn here and 3km up the road is the village of Jiaxian, which has numerous restaurants and a 7- 11. It’s important to stock up here as the first real climb of the road starts. This is a stiff 10km ascent of approx. 400m before it descends dramatically down to the village of Laonong (74km marker). 

One of the best things about the South Cross is that there is no shortage of supply shops along the way. Just 6km from Laonong is the famous hot spring town of Baolai, a booming area before typhoon Morokot in 2009 and now recovering to something resembling its former glory. This would be the best place to overnight if staging the ride as a 2-day affair. Apart from the springs the No. 20 is a major access route to several of Taiwan’s top 100 Peaks for hikers. 

Narrow road on the Best Cycling Climbs in Taiwan - South Cross Island Highway - West Approach

Once cyclists leave Baolai, the best cycling of the South Cross Highway starts to show itself. While cycling this fantastic road in Taiwan, you’ll cross countless bridges, every one from this point was constructed since 2009. After cycling 14km east, the last major town on the road, Taoyuan, is located at the 93km marker. At this point, the road is more undulating than climbing. It steadily rises up 1,015m to the village of Meishan (105km marker). This is as far as the rider can go before encountering the west side check-point. There are several shops here for supplies and a few guesthouses that have reopened recently. 

Narrow road on one of the Best Cycling Climbs in Taiwan - South Cross Island Highway - West Approach

From end to end the road is 203km starting at the 0km marker in Tainan and ending at Haiduan in Taitung.

This top cycling route in Taiwan starts in Chihshang Township (池上鄉), Taitung County (台東縣) on Provincial Highway No.20. The first 10–15km of cycling is slightly undulating with very little ascent as the road traces the Xinwulu River (新武呂溪).

Be aware. For those cycling the road, note that it is only open from 7am to 5pm. It is closed to all traffic on Tuesday and Thursday. 

About the Best Cycling Climbs in Taiwan:

The South Cross-Island Highway (West Approach) is listed as #004 of the Top 100 Cycling Climbs of Taiwan. Cyclists will ride into the heart of Taiwan and experience 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: 102km
Taiwan Hiking Trail Conditions
Road Conditions:
paved shoulders, narrow, mountain switchbacks
Hiking Trail Altitude in Taiwan
Total Climb: 1340 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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