Car navigating around Hehuanshan (合歡山)
Hehuanshan, also known as Joy Mountain in English (though I didn't know about it until I wiki it...) is a 3,416 metres high mountain in Taiwan. The peak lies between Nantou (Sun Moon Lake) and Hualien counties, and is within the Taroko National Park. You can actually get a driver that brings you from Hualien to Nantou but we didn't do so as we were traveling clockwise around Taiwan.
Hehuanshan is a popular destination local and foreign tourists. It is exceptionally popular during the summer as everyone wants to get away from the summer heat, as well as in winter as it snows during December/January, something that we can't see in other parts of Taiwan. Both the 3,421-metre East Peak and 3,422-metre North Peak of Hehuanshan are higher than the main peak.
Wu Ling (武嶺) - read from right to left
Wuling (武嶺), at 3,275 metres, is the highest point accessible by public roads. It is saddled between the Main Peak and the East Peak, hence you get a beautiful panoramic view of the whole place, with deep valleys, high cliffs, and rocky peaks entirely within one’s sight.
Climbing Mt Shimen (石門山)
There are many peaks that one can climb to, however, as it was only a day trip to Hehuanshan for us, we only managed to climb Mt Shimen (石門山). Mt Shimen is 3,237 metres, and can be reached pretty easily without any climbing gear in less than 45 minutes.
Left: Steps to Mt Shimen; Right: Views halfway up Mt Shimen
There are irregular steps being built along the path up Mt Shimen, so it's really not that difficult to climb up. It is apparently also one of the best spot for sunrise as well as taking photos of star trail at night.
Sign warning us not to enter as they are breeding Fargesia murielae
And we reached the peak!
Blue skies and green pastures
Attempting another peak (yes that's me in the photo faraway...!)
A photo speak louder than words!
Left: Yet another view of Hehuanshan; Right: Starting point for Hehuanshan Main Peak
It is very difficult to finish climbing Hehuanshan in just one day. There are many peaks to conquer and we are not equipped with the proper gear to climb most of the peaks. We might be back to conquer some of the peaks, who knows? 😉
Before I go into more information on Hehuanshan, see our Taiwan travel itinerary here!
Accessibility: Definitely the most mind-boggling question in everyone's mind. Unfortunately, there is no public transport up the mountain, the only way up is via a tour bus or by hiring a private driver. I would advise against renting a car and driving up yourself as the roads are winding and narrow and could potentially be dangerous for someone not familiar with the area. We hired a private driver (recommended by our hostel hosts) who brought us from Cingjing to Hehuanshan to Taichung (will update the price when I remember...) The driver was very nice and you can negotiate with him the places that you want to visit.
Timing: When is the best time to visit? We visited the place in August, when luckily for us the typhoon had just passed. I'm not sure when is the the best time but I would think that almost every month throughout the year would have been nice, as long as the weather's not rainy and there's no typhoons. In December / January, you may even get to see snow at Hehuanshan Main Peak!
Activities: Just to name a few: conquering the peaks; watching sunrise, sea of clouds, sunset; taking photos of star trails at night.
Duration: It really depends on what you plan to do. If you are just there to have a feel of the place, a day trip would have probably suffice. If you are there to conquer some of the peaks, you will need to allocate more days there. As we were traveling around the whole Taiwan, we didn't plan more days in Hehuanshan. X was thinking of coming back to conquer some of the peaks, we will see how! 😉
Route: There are several routes that you can take - from Hualien; from Cingjing and from Sun Moon Lake.
Lodging: There is a hotel - the highest in Taiwan actually - that you can stay if you are planning to conquer some peaks there. It's called Song Syue Lodge (松雪樓) and more information can be obtained here.
Weather: As the place is generally more than 3,000 metres above sea level, Hehuanshan is generally very cooling and windy. Sunblock should be a must for everyone to prevent UV burns. The weather can be a little dry so moisturizer is advised. When we went in August, it wasn't very chilly, so we donned on only a jacket. Do bring a windbreaker if you'd like.
Health: Even if you exercise regularly, it is still possible for one to get altitude sickness. Do know your limit and take it slow when attempting the peaks.