Located in Tai’an Township (泰安鄉), Hsinchu County (宜蘭縣), Guanwu National Forest (觀霧國家森林遊樂區) has some of the most diverse hiking and natural attractions of any of Taiwan’s 19 National Forests.
Introduction to Guanwu National Forest
Approximately 3 hours south of Taipei City (臺北市), Guanwu National Forest is located up a winding mountain road in a remote area of central Taiwan. The final 25km alone take over an hour as the road narrows, curves and switchbacks up the mountain. But the trip is totally worth it! This protected area offers visitors a chance to see waterfalls, snow-capped mountains, and an absolutely beautiful ancient cypress tree grove.
One of 19 designated National Forest Recreation Areas in Taiwan, Guanwu National Forest (觀霧國家森林遊樂區) (meaning “Mist Gazing” in Mandarin Chinese) is located at the cross-roads of two counties in Northern Taiwan. Located at elevations ranging from 1,500 to 2,500 meters, this mountainous destination is frequently immersed in mists and clouds (as the name suggests). It also offers one of a few access points into Taiwan’s Shei-Pa National Park (雪霸國家公園) and is a popular starting destination for those hiking the famous Dabajianshan (大霸尖山).
Hiking Trails in Guanwu National Forest
There are a total of Xkm across X trails within Guanwu National Forest and they vary in length and difficulty. Most of the trails are accessible from the Guanwu Villas and a few start/end at the Visitor Centre which is located a few hundred meters up the road.
While most of the trails are looped, there are a few that feature an ‘out-and-back’ hiking experiences, such as the Honeymoon Path. Being part of the National Forest system, there are many sections of the trails that are quite well-maintained and are suitable for all types of hikers from beginner to novice and advanced, depending on how far (and where) one wishes to hike. The trails vary in scenery, difficulty and accessibility, providing visitors of all skill levels something to explore.
Hiking Yunwu Trail (翠峰湖環山步道)
850m | Linear Two-Way | No Permit Required | Level 1 Difficulty
This trail is has a level 1 difficulty rating and takes approximately 20-30 minutes to complete. This trail connects Guanwu Visitor Centre with the Guanwu Villas and many of the additional trails in the park. Starting from the Salamander Ecological Center, this trail follows a wooden plank boardwalk up for a short loop with a viewing platform. The trail loops back and continues down a set of wooden stairs for about 5 minutes before reaching the Dalu Forest Road (大鹿林道西線).
Hiking Honeymoon Trail (翠峰湖環山步道)
450m | Linear Two-Way | No Permit Required | Level 1 Difficulty
A short out-and-back trail that takes approximately 30 minutes round trip to complete. This trail meanders through dense forest, including hemlocks and firs. This is a somewhat steep, natural trail that is a key connection to the Kuaishan Big Trees Trail, which is a more difficult and longer trail. The trailhead is located about 10 minutes from the Guanwu Villas along the Dalu Forest Road (大鹿林道西線).
Hiking Guanwu Waterfall Trail (觀霧瀑布步道)
1.5km | Linear One-Way | No Permit Required | Level 2 Difficulty
GPX File for Guanwu Waterfall Trail (觀霧瀑布步道)
While not overly long, this difficulty rating is primarily due to the terrain. It’s a down-up experience with over 200 meters of elevation over 1.5km. In total, it should take about 1-1.5 hours to complete, including time spent at the Guanwu Waterfall. and takes about 30 minutes heading down and 50 minutes coming back up.
The trailhead can be found adjacent to the parking lot of the Guanwu Villas. It immediately begins descend down in to the valley along a mix of wooden steps and compact soil. Along the trail, hikers will pass a number of giant cedar trees, before transitioning into a mix of coniferous and broad-leaved forest. Stay quiet on the trail, as many birds and wild like have been spotted here, including the Swinhoe Pheasants and deer. After a steep decline on wooden steps, the trail concludes at the Guanwu Waterfalls and viewing platform. The Guanwu Waterfall drops more than 30 meters and is most spectacular after a period of heavy rain. About 500m into this trail, hikers will see a trail connection to the Bird-Watching Trail.
Hiking Zhenshan Trail (榛山登山步道)
4km (+) | Looped | No Permit Required | Level 2 Difficulty
GPX File for Zhenshan Trail (榛山登山步道)
The Zhenshan Trail is a looped trail with a total elevation gain of 290 meters between the trailhead and the peak viewing platform. The looped section of this route takes about 2-2.5 hours to complete. Visitors will have to walk about 20 minutes (each way) along the Dalu Forest Road (大鹿林道西線) to access the official trailhead for the Zhenshan Trail. This forest road starts near the Guanwu Villas. Hikers can expect to add another 3km for the return hike from the Guanwu Villas. The forest road is flat and has a compact soil surface. It also offers great views over Sheipa National Park.
Not far from the trailhead, hikers will cross over a creek along a small wooden bridge. You’ll notice the temperature will cool down here. Shortly after crossing over the creek, the trail forks and the looped route begins. While the ascent is more immediate for those taking the trail to the right, this is our recommended route. Take in the beauty of this unique forest that is populated with many rare fauna such as a selection of conifer trees including the Formosan China Fir (巒大杉), the Taiwanese Plum Yew, the Taiwanese Hemlock and many more. The starts with a number of switchbacks and climbs for about 2km before reaching the viewing platform.
The Best Views in Guanwu!
Once hikers get to the peak lookout platform, they can enjoy a 360 degree view of the surrounding mountains. If the clouds are not settled in, you can pick out the barrel-shaped top of Dabajianshan (大霸尖山) jut out into the sky. Further to one’s right is Xueshan also known as Snow Mountain (雪山), which is the second tallest mountain peak on the entire island. The entire ridge line is known as the “Holy Ridge” (聖稜線), these mountains make up a unique geographic landscape of Taiwan and can is featured on many multi-day, high mountain treks. While a bit of a workout, it is well worth the hike to the viewing platform.
The trail continues out the far side of the viewing platform and continues down much like the hike up. At the viewing platform of Zhenshan, hikers are about halfway through the loop. It’s best to hike down the other side of the loop to keep things interesting and enjoy the scenic views along the way.
Hiking the Bird Watching Trail (賞鳥步道)
650m | Linear Two-Way | No Permit Required | Level 1 Difficulty
GPX File for Bird Watching Trail (賞鳥步道)
There are two trailheads for. theBird Watching Trail. The first can be found about 500m down the Guanwu Waterfall Trail. The second can be found on a hikers’ left hand side about 10 minutes from the Guanwu Villas along the Dalu Forest Road (大鹿林道西線). A nice 30-minute loop can be hiked from the Dalu Forest Road trailhead to the Guanwu Waterfall Trail and back up to the Guanwu Villas. This trail showcases the multi-layered forest structure around the trail that attracts the many birds that frequent this section of the park. Shhhhh. Stay quiet on this one to perhaps spot some of the fantastic birdlife of Taiwan.
Hiking Kuaishan Big Trees Trail (檜山巨木群步道)
2.8km (one-way) | Linear two-way | No permit required | Level 2 difficulty
GPX File for Kuaishan Big Trees Trail (檜山巨木群步道)
Hiking the Kuaishan Big Trees Trail end-to-end and returning will total over 5km and take hikers approximately 2.5 hours to complete. The trail is located at an altitude of about 2,000 meters and has a total elevation change of 280m. The trail has a few ups and downs but is a pretty easy hike and a perfect trail for forest bathing.
The Kuaishan Big Trees Trailhead can be accessed in a few different ways.
Firstly, visitors can start hiking from Guanwu Villas along the Yunwu Trail/Forest Road. On their right they will see the trail head to the Honeymoon Trail. A short 500m hike will bring hikers to Yaoshan Blvd (樂山大道). The trailhead begins across this small, hard-surfaced road.
The second way to access the Kuaishan Big Trees Trailhead is to walk for 20 minutes from the Guanwu Visitor Center along Yaoshan Blvd (樂山大道). The trailhead will be about 1.8km along the road on the right-hand side.
The final way to access this trail is really only accessible by a car or van. This involves driving from the Visitor Center about 5.8km to the far end of this linear trail. Park on the side of the road at the of the road and begin the hike. Here is the Google Map location of the far trailhead.
Here we have described the trail from Option One.
Starting out from the Guanwu Villas, hikers will quickly connect to the Honeymoon Trail on their right hand side. A 500m hike along a compact soil trail brings hikers to the Kuaishan Big Trees Trail.
From here, visitors will follow the 2.8km trail that gradually slopes upwards through one of our favorite sections of Guanwu National Forest. The begins with some cliff-side single-track that skirts the mountain and offers views north towards Wuzhishan (五指山) and Egongjishan (鵝公髻山).
Rather suddenly the trail transitions into a beautiful reforested mid-elevation forest. Pin-straight cedar and cypress are interspersed with Green and Formosan Maple Trees that are alive with bright golden and red leaves during the Autumn and early Winter months.
The highlights of this trail are found about 2.5km into this hike. After about an hour along this trail, visitors arrive at the first of five-thousand-year-old Red Cypress with the four others not far ahead. Short compact soil and wooden staircases separate these ancient trees and are truly a humbling sight. The final section of the trail rises about 50m along wooden steps out to Yaoshan Blvd (樂山大道).
This trail is suitable for most hikers, as the elevation change along this trail is only 280m. The trail surface is mostly compact soil, however there are some sections with wood-planked bridges and steps (particularly in the giant tree area). The return time from Guanwu Villas is approximately 2.5 hours, depending how long hikers linger at the giant trees.
Attractions and Services within Guanwu National Forest
Guanwu Villa: Located a short distance from the Guanwu Visitor Center, the Guanwu Villas are unique accommodation that visitors can book and stay at inside the national forest. The rooms here become open for booking three months prior to a guest’s arrival date. For example: For those wishing to visit on April 1st, must book on January 1st. Online bookings are available at the Guanwu Villa Website. Various accommodation options are available including tent platforms, and cabins with individual or bunkbeds.
Guanwu Visitor Center: The Guanwu Visitor Center is located about a 10-15 minute walk from the Guanwu Villas and provides both recreation and ecological information regarding the surrounding area. Indoor, interactive interpretation displays provide insight into the forest’s history and current ecology. Volunteer and staff are available to assist (many speak English) with planning a day of hiking in the park. Print maps in English are available from the front desk. The visitor center is open daily from 8 am to 5 pm for visitors. There are washrooms and a water-refill station on site. Their contact number is 037-272-917.
Ecological Wonders of Guanwu
Guanwu Salamander Ecological Center: Located adjacent to the Guanwu Visitor Center, this ecological center celebrates a unique amphibian only found in the surrounding mountain area. The amphibian fish needs to live in humid and near-water areas. It is currently only found sporadically in the mountainous areas of central and northern Taiwan. Since the first discovery in Guanwu in 1996, Sheipa National Park has conducted ecological surveys and habitat restoration work on the Guanwu Mountain Salamandar, also known as “Pepper Fish”. The species are highly endangered and only a very small population of these rare living glacial relic amphibians remain.
The Guanwu Salamandar Ecological Center’s opening hours are 9am-4:30pm. However, the center is closed on Mondays and on National Holidays. Out the backside of the center, there is an small cafe that serves hot and cold drinks and simple snacks. There is also a small store that sells books and other small souvenirs. The outdoor deck area has seating for about a dozen visitors and is a great place to enjoy a rest after hiking in Guanwu National Forest. There phone number is 037-276-300
Guanwu Villa Restaurant (翠峰山屋餐廳): Located next to the Guanwu Villas, this simple canteen provides a number of cold and hot drinks, hot snacks and other food like chips, cookies, etc. The opening hours of this facility are 9:30 to 4:00pm.
When To Visit Guanwu National Forest
Guanwu National Forest is open all year round. While most of the park facilities don’t open until 7:30am, the park is ‘open’ 24 hours a day. Generally it is recommended to avoid the Typhoon Season which is typically July to September, but as long as there is no Typhoon in the forecast, Guanwu can be a very comfortable destination due to its elevation. In fact, summer is the best place to visit. Its climate is cool in winter and warm in summer with a mean annual temperature of 13ºC.
- Spring: In March, Cherry trees are in blossom. From April to June, much of the area has blooming rhododendrons. One of our favourite times to visit.
- Summer: While fewer flowers are in bloom, the rare Broad-tailed Swallowtail Butterfly has been known to visit Guanwu area during this time of year.
- Autumn: Typically has more consistently good weather with less rain. Guanwu National Forest also experiences some fall foliage due to the local maple trees in the area.
- Winter: The “Holy Ridge” is often covered in snow during January and February, making the views from atop Zhenshan viewing platform pretty special.
Weather and Climate in Guanwu National Forest
As the name suggests, Guanwu (觀霧), (meaning “Mist Gazing” in Mandarin Chinese) is subject to frequent low hanging clouds and is humid throughout the year. The elevation of Guanwu National Forest ranges from 2000 to 2,500 meters and thus impacts the temperatures of the park. It is not rare that the temperatures in Guanwu are 3-4°C cooler than the lower lying areas. The annual average temperature between November to March is 11°C . In summer, the average temperature is about 22-25°C at elevations above 1,000 m. If you are looking to beat the heat during Taiwan’s summer, Guanwu is a great choice.
Check Taiwan’s Central Weather Bureau’s dedicated webpage on Guanwu for 3-day and 7-day forecasts.
Admission into Guanwu National Forest
Guanwu National Park is a free National Forest and there are no admission fees to visit. Parking is also free for scooters, cars, and small buses
How to Get to Guanwu National Forest
Guanwu National Forest is remote and located along a winding mountain road. The final 25km can be a hard drive up for some. Regardless of how you get there, you’ll be glad you made the trip.
Driving to Guanwu National Forest
For those wishing to drive to Guanwu National Forest, you’ll likely use Google Maps to help you along the way. Travel times from Taipei is about 3 hours each way. Coming from Hsinchu it is just over 2 hours. Traffic on holidays or on the weekend can impact travel times. The road from Wufeng Township in Hsinchu is narrow and windy. Please use caution when driving along this road. Expect an additional 30 minutes to 1 hour travel time. Use this location as your reference.
How to Get to Guanwu National Forest by Bus
There is one public bus service to Guanwu National Forest every day served by Taiwan Tourist Shuttle bus service. While more affordable than renting a car or booking a tour, the infrequent service limits the amount of time guests have in the park.
The “Taiwan Tourist Shuttle – Guanwu Route” makes eight stops on route to the National Forest. The stops include key transportation nodes, such as the Hsinchu High Speed Rail Station and Zhudong Railway Station. There are also more tourist-oriented stops such as the Ruanqiao Painted Village, Wufeng Qingquan Scenic Area, Sheipa Leisure Farm. The final two stops are Guanwu Visitor Center, and finally, the Guanwu Villa. One way ticket costs $300 and it is recommended that visitors book well in advance. There are two departure times from Hsinchu HSR and Guanwu National Forest. Book in advance and be at the pick-up locations prior to the departure times to avoid missing the bus. To book your ticket, visit the Taiwan Tourist Shuttle website.
Booking Private Transportation or a Tour
Interested in visiting Guanwu National Forest, but need some support? Whether you require a bilingual guide and/or transportation services, please click on the links below.
Book a Day Trip Now
Whether you are hiking alone or with a group, book a guide and transportation now!
Order a private driver & vehicle to drop you off and pick you up.