Hiking in Taiwan is a remarkable experience and hiking Huoyanshan (火炎山), one of Taiwan’s Xiao Bai Yue (小百岳) is a great place to start. Taiwan’s Xiao Bai Yue is a perfect list of 100 suburban mountain peaks suitable for hikers of all skill levels.
The Xiao Bai Yue is 100 mountain climbs oriented towards sub-urban destinations and routes suitable for novice hikers. These include beginner routes like Dawulun Mountain, novice routes like Dongyanshan National Forest, and some that are more challenging, like Jialishan.
About Huoyanshan (火炎山)
Huoyanshan (火炎山) is listed at #035 of the Xiao Bai Yue (小百岳). The direct translation of this mountain is “Fire Mountain” or “Flame Mountain”. We will use both the PinYin and English name throughout this article. The peak is located in Sanyi Township (三義鄉) in Miaoli County (苗栗縣). The routing we have included here is a looped or “O” route up to this peak and back down the Nan’An Historic Trail (南鞍古道出口). Hiking to the peak of Huoyanshan (火炎山) is 3.3km and brings hikers up to 602m above sea level. This route consists of around 465m of elevation gain.
Hiking Huoyanshan (火炎山)
Welcome to Fire Mountain Nature Reserve, where a captivating geological history unfolds before your eyes. These mountains bear witness to the incredible power of tectonic movements and natural forces such as wind and rain. The result? A truly unique landscape dominated striking hues of red, orange, and yellow, painting a mesmerizing picture.
Erosion has carved out jagged peaks, scattered rocks across slopes and valleys, and sculpted highland valleys amidst five meandering streams. During the dry season, these valleys lie barren, but when the rains arrive, a breathtaking transformation occurs. The cascading water gathers strength, forming powerful torrents that can carry even the heaviest rocks down hill.
Located around 602m above sea level, Fire Mountain (火炎山) not only offers unique geological features and stunning views of the Da’an River basin, it’s a great for all and has quickly become one of the more popular and iconic hiking destinations in Taiwan.
The route outlined here to hike Huoyanshan (火炎山) will take hikers in a looped, “O” route from the parking lot to the peak and slightly beyond before curling back east towards the parking lot. As this is a Nature Reserve that has reopened in the last few years, the trail is apparently better than it used to be. This trail a suitable trail for beginner hikers with decent fitness levels, or for anyone that is keen to check off one of the more unique hikes in Taiwan.
Starting the hike up Huoyanshan 火炎山
This trailhead starts off on the opposite side of the roadway from the parking lot. Be careful crossing the road. The trail is about 3.3km from the peak and is an estimated 1.5 hours from the trail entrance. The trail begins with a gradual climb along a mix of compact soil and stone steps built from local stones. Hikers will follow a steady incline most of the way up to the peak.
If there hasn’t been any rain in the area for some time, hiking Huoyanshan 火炎山 can get dusty (which can get slippery due to loose soil and stones). All in all though, there is nothing overly difficult about this trail. Following an easy-to-moderate ascent, hikers will soon reach Southern Fire Mountain at 251m above sea level. Keep climbing up!
The forest along parts of this hike features smaller, deciduous trees such as the Taiwan Acacia and a thin underbrush of ferns. These types of ecosystems, while perhaps giving off an untidy feeling, allows for breezes to blow through. Other parts of the forest are denser, greener and give the trail a bit of diversity while hiking.
Here come the views!
Here the trail begins to offer views south over Da’an River basin, the Zhongshan Highway and Taichung in the distance. A small reward for hiking Huoyanshan 火炎山. There are many sections of the trail that feature ropes. If you feel you will need to use the ropes, then perhaps a pair of gloves would be good to bring. The trail features many local river stones used to build the stairs along this trail. Rounded and smooth, these stones make up a great trail, but could be slippery when wet.
At the 1.3km mark, there is a fork in the trail. Ultimately, these trails reconnect, but if you wish to go see the Small Canyon viewing platform, take the trail on the left. The views are fantastic, with the red and orange soil contrasting the surrounding green landscapes.
Caution: The trail skirts the edge of the cliff in many places. There are caution signs and a rope preventing climbs from crossing too close to the edge. Please respect this barrier and do not cross. There are rock falls due to erosion and there have been accidents here before. There’s no need to have another just for a photo.
Small and Grand Canyon’s of Huoyanshan (火炎山)
There are 400m between the Small Canyon and “Grand Canyon”. The trail ins’t straight through. There are short descents and ascents before reaching the Grand Canyon. There is a trail fork here, with an easy and difficult route provided. Stay left for the ‘easy’ route. Despite the trail being rated as an intermediate trail; it is still tiring.
Migratory birds frequent the area that includes the Da’an River basin and if the timing is right, hikers will enjoy beautiful wild flowers along the trail and throughout the local area. The views from atop the Grand Canyon viewing platform are an attraction in and of itself. The unique and jagged mountain offers a variety of views looking out across the Da’an River and beyond.
The viewing ‘platform’ at Grand Canyon isn’t so much a man-made structure as it is a clearing. Be careful when taking pictures and don’t get too close to the cliff’s edge. This has to be some of the most unique and certainly, some of the most spectacular scenery in Taiwan. Many hikers reach this point of the trail and actually turn around. But in fact, this is not the actual peak of Fire Mountain (火炎山).
Reaching the official peak of Huoyanshan (火炎山)
A further 1.5km of hiking is required to reach the actual triangulation point and peak of Fire Mountain (火炎山). There are a few less spectacular views along this section, with the trail undulating as you continue the final hike to the official peak.
At the 2.4km marker, there is a viewing area followed by a steep decline on a stone bridge and steep cliffs on your right. You’ll reach a small, shaded clearing near the trailhead for Nan’an Historic Trail (南鞍古道出口). At this point there is the only “toilet” on the trail itself. We use quotation marks, as the facilities here are limited to a hole and a shovel.
From the Nan’an Historic Trail rest area, it is only about a 3 minute hike to the official peak. If you’re considering reaching the peak while hiking Huoyanshan 火炎山, there are views to be had from the triangulation point. From here, hikers can see another trail leading north called the Bei’an Historic Trail. This trail offers another way down the mountain, but we have provided a return route along the Nan’an Historic Trail.
Descending Huoyanshan 火炎山
Return to the rest area with its wooden benches and plentiful plastic chairs. The Nan’an Historic Trail can be accessed from here. The route down is a steady decline on a compact soil trail. The somewhat steeper section has ropes for support, but the trail is really quite well-maintained. At the first trail junction, turn right (follow signs for 橋下停車場). Soon you will find a small, paved road. Turn right here and after a short while this road transitions into a gravel road. Easy walking makes the way down much faster.
You’ll soon see (and hear) the roadway and freeway as you approach the trailhead and the end of the 6.6km. Use caution while crossing the road and walking back towards the parking lot. Hiking Huoyanshan 火炎山 is worth the effort, including for those without a car. While slightly inconvenient to access the views alone are worth it.
As always, please be a responsible hiker and stay on the trail, pack out the garbage that you bring with you.
What to Bring
When hiking in Taiwan, consider your capabilities before heading out. We hope this helps provide insight into the level of difficulty. When it comes to the kinds of equipment or resources one should bring when hiking this trail in Taiwan, we’ve provided a list below:
- Water – About 1.5L of fresh drinking water (there are no water sources on trail)
- Food – There are no services on the trail, however there seems to be vendors who set up shops under the highway on weekends. They sell drinks and small snacks.
- Washrooms – No toilets are available at the parking lot, nor on the entire trail.
- Sunscreen – Wearing sunscreen and proper sun wear (hat or long sleeves) is recommended. About 50% of the trail is unshaded.
- Camera/Phone – Reception is available along all portions of this trail.
- Clothing / Gloves / Equipment – It really depends on the time of the year you are hiking, but always consider the weather when preparing for your hike. Bringing a pair of gloves and hiking poles are not necessary, but come in handy on this trail.
How to Get to Huoyanshan (火炎山)
Driving to Huoyanshan (火炎山): If you are driving to Huoyanshan (火炎山), you can set this as your location – HERE. The drive is actually quite easy as there is a small, free parking located under the bridge of Zhongshan Freeway (中山高速公路) at 54 ~ 55K marker. As always, be careful while driving in Taiwan.
Taking public transportation to Huoyanshan (火炎山): If you wish to take public transportation to hike Huoyanshan (火炎山), take the TRA regular train Tai’an Railway Station in Taichung. From here you can take Bus No. 839. You’ll take 6 stops until you get to Bogongkeng stop, then walk to the trail entrance. There are transfers needed on the bus. Click here for the transportation schedule and overview.