Hiking in Taiwan is a remarkable experience and hiking Wuzhishan (五指山), 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 Wuzhishan (五指山)
Wuzhishan (五指山) is commonly referred to as Five Finger Mountain. This peak is listed at #030 of the Xiao Bai Yue (小百岳). This trail actually features five small peaks (thus the name Five Fingers). This is an intermediate hiking trail with some steep ascents/descents as you climb up and down each peak. This trail is located right on the border of Beipu Township (北埔鄉) and Wufeng Township (五峰鄉) in Hsinchu County (新竹縣).
Hiking Wuzhishan (五指山)
There are a few different routes you can use when hiking Wuzhishan 五指山. Some bypass one or two of the peaks. The hiking route suggested in this article begins just south of Wuzhishan Zaojun Temple (五指山灶君堂). There is a designated parking lot for cars and the trail incorporates all five peaks. Note, Zaojun Temple also has lots of free parking available and is only a few hundred meters away. There are also washrooms available at the temple.
From the parking lot, follow the signage up a small paved road. Turn left when you see a small monastery (竹林禪苑). Walk around the right-hand side of the temple and you’ll almost immediately begin ascending on a natural, compact soil trail. Taking this route when hiking Wuzhishan 五指山, quickly reveals wooden and stone steps. You’ve begun your journey up to Thumb Peak (拇指峰). Hikers will be met with a beautiful forest featuring pin-straight Chinese cedars. Keep right at the first fork in the trail. The left trail (along a man-made board walk) connects back to the Zaojen Temple. It also heads to a steeper, more dangerous ascent that bypasses a Thumb Peak (拇指峰) and Index Finger Peak (食指峰).
The trail continues across a small wooden bridge and climbs steeply along a well-maintained trail. There are some neat stairs cut/formed right out of the mountain rock. This gives this trail some unique features and keeps things interesting. Note that these will get slippery when wet.
First Peak – Thumb Peak (拇指峰)
There is no view from atop Thumb Peak (拇指峰). At 980m this is the smallest of all the peaks you’ll climb on this route. This area also features a small trail intersection. Do not go down the small trail to your right. Keep left and continue through a mixed forest on a mostly compact soil trail. There is only a difference of around 100m between Thumb Peak and Index Finger Peak (1045m). Despite this, there are actually a lot of descending and ascending steps that must occur.
While hikers will be covering a ridge of sorts, there is still a fair bit of elevation changes between the peaks. The trail features a very steep descent on wooden steps (again, these can get slippery when wet) heading towards Index Finger Peak. Part of what makes this trail challenging is the seemingly relentless undulations in the terrain. What goes down, must come up.
Second Peak – Index Finger Peak (食指峰)
This trail is not a long distance at just over 6km return. Including time to hang out at the peak, the hiking time should be around 4.5-5.5 hours depending on one’s fitness level. There is also no real view from Index Finger Peak. Between this peak and the Middle Finger Peak, the trail transitions slightly to a more pine-oriented forest and opens up as hikers traverse along a short ridge.
The trail features another steep descent and brings hikers to another trail junction. Continue straight here on your way up to Middle Finger Peak. The trail to the left leads down towards Zaojun Temple and is a much rougher trail. At the time of hiking, there was signage posted by the Forestry Bureau that indicated hikers shouldn’t climb down this section due to dangerous climbing conditions. While this shortens the route a fair bit, we advise not taking this shortcut.
There are some small, but nice view points along this section, but none that feature full 360 degree views. On a clear day, hikers can see out across the western plains of Taiwan and even the Taiwan Strait in the distance. From Middle Finger, the trail keeps left along the edge of the cliff, but in this section it braids a bit and there are a few different paths hikers have beaten down throughout the open forest. Hikers will merge with a crushed stone maintenance road that presents another fork in the trail (or road in this case). Stay left and walk up.
Third Peak – Middle Finger Peak (中指峰)
Hikers will see a large radio/cell tower up and a small clearing ahead. With the tower on your right, turn left to find the final 5m trail that leads up to the peak. There are actually two official peak markers at this location. One being “Middle Finger Peak” (中指峰) (yes, that middle finger!) and the other is the trail and area’s namesake, Wuzhishan 五指山. The latter is the official Xiao Bai Yue peak (#31!) and well worth a picture with the metal sign and the view across Hsinchu in the distance.
Head back to the tower and begin hiking back on the trail, quickly heading into more shaded forest cover. There are more trail markers (ribbons on trees), but it stays left near the edge of the cliff before descending into a bamboo forest. The landscape changes again, featuring a more mixed and diverse forest as you head over to Ring Finger (or to be more precise, No Name Finger Peak (無名指峰). There are some steep descents here and the trail becomes more interesting (from our perspective) with some more challenging, slightly technical, hiking.
Final Peaks – No Name Finger Peak 無名指峰 & Little Finger Peak 小拇指山
While there are no dramatic views from No Name Finger Peak (無名指峰) either, there are several look out points worth the time to stop. The trail up to Little Finger Peak (小拇指山) is also slightly less traveled (most simply bag the Xiao Bai Yue and return). This means that it’s a bit more grown in. Still easy to follow but feels a bit more wild than the trail between the other peaks.
Once at Little Finger Peak (小拇指山), take that last phone (now you have five!) and make the return trip back. Hiking Wuzhishan 五指山 surprisingly tiring and the climbing up and down between peaks starts to weigh on one’s legs. Returning to the parking lot, you may wish to make a stop into the area around Zaojun Temple. There are a few food vendors and stalls that make this area a great place to end the hike. You’ve earned a meal.
As always, please be a responsible hiker and stay on the trail, don’t feed the animals, and pack out the garbage that you bring with you. Be respectful of others while outdoors, as well as be respectful of those communities we visit or pass through.
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 this trail)
- Food – There are vendors and stalls at the temple. These are typically open between 9:00am ~ 5:00pm and have full meals and cold drinks.
- Washrooms – Available at the Zao Jun Temple
- Sunscreen – Not really needed as almost the entire trail is shaded, with about 5% unshaded.
- Camera/Phone – Reception is available along all portions of this trail.
- Clothing / Gloves – It really depends on the time of the year you are hiking, but always consider the weather when preparing for your hike. You may wish to bring a pair of gloves for the roped sections near the peak.
How to Get to Wuzhishan (五指山)
Driving to Wuzhishan (五指山): If you are driving to Wuzhishan (五指山), you can set this as your location – HERE. Note that the drive here is very easy, with a two-lane road almost all the way up. Parking here is free and there are spots for about 30 cars. Additional free parking is available at Zao Jun Temple.
Taking public transportation to Wuzhishan (五指山): There is no direct public transportation from either Hsinchu High Speed Train Station or Taipei Main Station to Wuzhishan (五指山).