Hiking in Taiwan is a remarkable experience and 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.
Jiali Mountain (or Jialishan) (加里山) is listed at #034 of the Xiao Bai Yue (小百岳). Located in Nanzhuang Township (南庄鄉), Miaoli County, (苗栗縣), Jialishan is located two hours inland from the west coast of Taiwan. This is about halfway between Taipei in the north and Taichung to the south.
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.
One of the most talked about features about this hiking trail is the view you get from the peak. Similar to other hiking trails in Taiwan, there is a Class 1 triangulation station at the top. Hiking in Taiwan is all about the views. From the top of Jialishan you’ll get magnificent views of Taiwan’s famous Snow Mountain and picturesque ‘Holy Ridge’.
The Jialishan Trail connects a number of small hamlets and villages in Nanzhuang Township in Miaoli County. These include Penglai, Fengmei and Luchang villages, each with populations around 1,000 people. This means it’s pretty remote. However, Jialishan is located just over two hours from both Taipei and Taichung. Like much of Taiwan, the trail is pretty accessible by car.
If you don’t have a car you can check out Parkbus Taiwan.
Starting the Hike up Jialishan
Firstly, when you arrive at the Jialishan parking area, you’ll notice a small little parking lot. A family runs this parking lot and requires a payment of $100/car. The largest vehicle allowed up the final kilometer is a 9 passenger van. Note: there is a rustic washroom located directly at the parking lot. This is the last and only washroom while hiking the Jialishan trail.
Depending on which parking lot you get allocated, you may have a short walk to the official trailhead. The Jialishan Trail starts at the top of the parking area. The trailhead has a trail map and other useful information for hikers.
One thing that we found really special about this trail is how immediate the transition is into nature. It’s simply breathtaking that you are almost immediately surrounded by spectacular (and pin straight) tall Japanese Cedars.
Stay right at the first junction about 100m along the trail. The trail that goes straight heads on to Hakanni mountain (哈卡尼山). Just follow the signs that read Jiali Mountain (加里山), obviously.
The first 600m of this trail features a stunning Japanese Cedar forest with a picturesque underbrush of lush, green ferns. If you start the hike early enough the song birds at this altitude are active and abundant. The sounds carry across the forest and provide a feeling of walking through an enchanted forest.
Crossing a Small Stream
For the first 10-15 minutes it’s not just the song birds that you’ll hear either. Walking through the forest, you’ll begin to hear the sound of running water getting louder. At about the 600m mark, hikers will exit the forest into a small clearing and descend onto a riverbed. Huge boulders hide a small stream that runs down parallel to the first section of the trail. If it has been raining for a few days, the stream can be heard after the first 200m. Therefore, use caution when walking on these wet rocks before you continue up the far bank. The ropes installed at the river crossing help hikers with that extra bit of balance.
Starting the Ascent
This is where the trail begins to ascend and the climbing starts. Hiking along the Jialishan Trail is quite comfortable for the first 2.5km. One of the only challenges along this first section of the trail are the exposed roots that can get quite slippery after a rainfall.
After crossing the stream, the forest becomes slightly more diverse. This section of the trail features more broadleaf, deciduous trees. It doesn’t take long for the forest to changes characteristics. Nobody likes to hike in the same style of forest for too long. Taiwanese mountainous geography provides diverse landscapes and the forest can seemingly change even along one trail.
Except for perhaps the first 600m of this trail, hikers will be climbing the entire time. There are occasional flat sections in which the climbing isn’t quite as steep. And it progressively gets more challenging as the trail and hike continues. This trail is pretty stress free, in that there are plenty of trail markers.
At the 1.5km mark, hikers will approach The Refuge Hut. Hikers use this hut when the weather comes in with strong wind, heavy rain and thick fog. Hikers can also see the remnants of the past logging heritage. Jialishan is a secondary forest likely replanted during the 1960-1970’s. Here you’ll see the old train tracks that would have been used to extract the lumber off the mountain to the mills located closer to major harbors or city centers.
There is seating available inside the hut and there are bottles of water and extra equipment that others have left behind including hiking poles and gloves. The trail up Jialishan continues up behind the hut. This is one of the remaining trail junctions that you should keep an eye out for.
Take your time between the 1.3km and 2.65km markers of the trail. The hiking is beautiful and features several wooden bridges that cross small streams that add cool features along this trail. When there had been enough rain in recent days, the streams were running with lots of water. This was a great place to rest for a short bit to catch our breath, take some pictures and drink some water.
Getting to the Jialishan Peak
Throughout the trail, hikers will see massive boulders that would have fallen from the mountain above. Now covered in lush green moss, they give this trail almost a prehistoric feeling. Between the 2.65km mark and the peak of the Jialishan is some of the most interesting climbing and hiking on this route. It may not be enjoyable for everyone, But if you’re capable and have the right resources and equipment like gloves and good hiking boots this is a very fun trail to hike. There are several locations where you can sit on small wooden benches to enjoy a break along the Jialishan Trail.
The last 400m is where the trail begin to get interesting (and challenging). About 200m before that thought, is one of the most beautiful stretches of the trail. Large boulders the size of shipping contains (or bigger) seem to have fallen off the peak rolled into a lush forest. After who knows how long, hikers in Taiwan made their way here and blazed a trail through this unique and rugged landscape at 2000m. A small bridge and sections of ropes and narrow crevasses make this area one of our favorites stretches on this trail.
The Final Ascent
As you approach a red sign that reads “Climb with Care”. This trail marker sign indicates that only 400m remain. This is where the final ascent and the more technical climbing A trail marker sign indicates that only 400m remains. This is where the final ascent begins. Here, hikers will find a series of ropes and metal staples embedded up the rock face.
The last stretch of this trial is a mix of rocks, exposed roots and ropes. Gloves are really helpful here. Hiking in Taiwan offers up some gnarly roped sections and Jialishan is no different. In fact, you’ll be climbing above and underneath roots and this can all get tricky when the landscape gets a little bit wet. On the day we were hiking Jialishan the trail was just dry enough that we didn’t have to worry about it too much
After quickly scrambling up the rope section with metal staples the trail gets increasingly gnarly and convoluted. Take your time here.
Reaching the Peak!
After a variety of roped sections that require caution and awareness, the final 20 meters are filled with scrubby brushes and frequent spots to (likely) see amazing views.
The clearing at the top of Jialishan is quite large and looks well used. In other words, we can imagine on a busy weekend the area would be full but could still hold 30 people or so. The peak is said to offer spectacular views of the central mountain range (while the skies didn’t agree with us on our ascent).
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:
- Gloves – There are lots of ropes on this climb
- Water – About 1 to 2L of fresh drinking water
- Food/Lunch – There are no services along this trail, so get supplies
- Sunscreen – The trail is covered and shaded almost the entire time, but you may wish to spend time at the peak.
- Camera/Phone – While reception isn’t always the greatest on this trail, the scenery is!
How to Get to Jialishan
Get a Ride: Our friends over at Parkbus Taiwan offers direct and return transportation to Jialishan Trailhead from Taipei Main Station. Check out their website for upcoming trips.
If you are driving, you can set this as your location – HERE. Bring $100 in cash to pay for parking. The last 10-15 minutes of this road is narrow and a bit worn down. Jialishan is approximately 2.5 hours from Taipei.
GPS location: N24 31.631 E121 01.475
Public transport: There is no public transportation to Jialishan Trail.