How to Visit Hehuanshan for Epic Sunrises, Hiking, and Snow

Sunrise above a sea of clouds at Hehuanshan

Hehuanshan (合歡山 / Hehuan Mountain or Mt. Joy) is one of the most appealing high mountain areas and one of my favorite places in Taiwan.

Imagine a place where you can practically drive a car to the summit of a 3000+ meter mountain, see snow in a tropical country (there even used to be a ski resort!), and witness the famed sea of clouds (雲海) at sunrise. That would be Hehuanshan!

For casual visitors, Hehuanshan requires a bit of planning. For example, there are only three buses from Cingjing Farm to Hehuanshan per day. There’s also only one hotel at Hehuanshan, Songsyue Lodge, and it is very difficult to book (find out how in my Songsyue Lodge review).  

In this article, I’m going to cover a lot: how to get to Hehuanshan by car, bus, or tour, things you need to prepare, how to go stargazing or see the sunrise, all the main lookout points, and how to hike to 5 of Taiwan’s top-100 peaks.

2024 Earthquake Update: Due to the April 3 earthquake, the main hikes around Hehuanshan were closed, but most of them have now reopened. Highway 8 from Taichung/Cingjing to Hehuanshan and Highway 7甲 from Dayuling to Yilan are still open, so you can still drive from Taichung to Hehuanshan to Yilan. However, Highway 8 from Dayuling to Taroko Gorge in Hualien is indefinitely closed. See my guide to visiting Hualien post-earthquake.

Hehuanshan Introduction

Three grass covered mountain ridges with a road going across them
The classic postcard view of Highway 14 running along Hehuanshan

In a country that is famous for its high mountains, Hehuanshan is the 43rd tallest, at 3422 meters (11,227 ft). It is a national forest recreation area spanning Nantou and Hualien counties and lies within Taroko National Park – this may surprise you, as most people first think of the park’s namesake feature, Taroko Gorge.

Hehuanshan is also Taiwan’s first and only dark sky park (see official entry).

A large Taroko National Park sign with mountains and clouds behind
Taroko National Park marker in Hehuanshan area

The mountain belongs to the Central Mountain Range (中央山脈), the main mountain range in Taiwan. Although it is closer to the east coast, most people reach it from Taichung on the west coast, especially in the last few years, with major landslide damage on the highway from Taroko Gorge to Hehuanshan.

Hehuanshan actually consists of 5 peaks: North Peak (3422 m), East Peak (3421 m), Main Peak (3417 m), West Peak (3145 m), and South Peak (3070 m).

A cement staircase leading up to a lookout platform on top of a grassy mountain, with a misty mountain peak behind it
Lookout on Hehuanshan Main Peak

Four of these peaks (all of them except South Peak) are on the list of the 100 Peaks of Taiwan (臺灣百岳).

Shimenshan (石門山), a great spot to watch the sunrise at Hehuanshan, is also on the list. This means that you can rather easily bag 5 of the 100 great peaks of Taiwan in one place – nowhere else can this be done without hiking for many days!

Access to Hehuanshan is on Highway 14A. The road was originally an aboriginal trail across the high mountain range. The Japanese military built the first road over Wuling Pass (武嶺, 3275 meters), which is between Hehuanshan Main and East peaks.

A mountain lodge on the side of a mountain
Songsyue Lodge and East Peak, with the road winding up to Wuling Pass on the right

After the KMT arrived in Taiwan, President Chiang Kai-shek had a ski lodge built at Hehuanshan, which is today’s Songsyue Lodge (松雪樓). The KMT used the ski resort for military training as part of their plan to someday take back China.

Today, Wuling Pass remains the highest navigable pass in Taiwan and all of East Asia. The lodge now serves as a popular accommodation for hikers in the region.

Looking down on a sea of clouds lapping up against the slope of a mountain, with a thin strip of blue sky at the top
I shot this sea of clouds from Songsyue Lodge on the evening I stayed there

Seeing Snow at Hehuanshan

Classic view of the three ridges of Hehuan Mountain but with some snow on them and in the foreground
Mount Hehuan’s famous view with snow

Hehuanshan is nicknamed Taiwan’s “Snow Village” (雪鄉). In January and February, snow sometimes falls on its peaks and around Kunyang Parking Lot, Wuling Pass, Hehuanshan Visitor’s Center, and Hehuanshan Service Station.

Hehuanshan is the best place to see snow in Taiwan without doing a difficulty multi-day hike such as Snow Mountain.

There is no other place where you can drive up to such a high altitude where snow regularly falls right on the road. You can also drive up to Taipingshan, but snow only falls there around once per year, or sometimes not at all. There have also been two freak snowfalls at Yangmingshan in Taipei, in 2016, 2018, and 2024).

An old black and white photograph of a Taiwanese person on skis at a ski resort many years ago
Old photo of someone skiing at Hehuanshan that made headlines when it emerged a few years ago

Even though Hehuanshan used to have enough snow to make a ski resort, due to warming temperatures, there is much less snow at Hehuanshan today compared to the 1970s, such as in the above historical photograph.

Nowadays, if it even snows a little at Hehuanshan, it will be in the national news across Taiwan. Then thousands of people will flock there to try to see it.

If the main goal of your trip to Taiwan is to see snow (I know from my Taiwan Travel Planning group that many people do), you risk being disappointed.

Even if you come in January or February, which have the highest chance of snow, you might travel all the way there to find there’s no snow that day.

Looking out from an old ski lift building and a mountain scene
Remains of a ski lift on Hehuanshan East Peak

It only snows sometimes in January and February, and the snow doesn’t always stay on the ground. Or sometimes, you might only see a little snow on the mountains, but there will be none on the road or you can’t touch it.

What’s more, if you plan to drive to Hehuanshan to see the snow, there are some important things to know. First, if there’s fresh snow and it made the news, the road to Hehuanshan could be totally jammed with cars.

Some years, the police even have to step in to control the traffic. Check this blogger’s experience seeing the snow at Hehuanshan to see pictures of the traffic jams.

A curving mountain road with yellow rails and snow blanketing the mountain slope above and below it
Snow on the road up to Hehuanshan

Second, because the roads are very steep and winding around Hehuanshan, they can become very slippery and dangerous with snow or ice on them.

When there’s fresh snow, the park authorities may totally close the road until they have a chance to clear them. So there’s a chance you could drive all the way there and then not even be allowed to enter.

Usually, once they may open the roads after snow has fallen, only cars with special chains on their tires will be able to enter. You can buy these chains from service stations on the way up to Hehuanshan.

A misty snowy mountain scene with blue sky and sun shining above
A snowy scene at Hehuanshan

Due to these possible difficulties, not many private drivers are keen to take tourists up the mountain in winter. Try contacting Anda, one of my recommended driver agencies, who say they can do it. Please note that there will be added costs for the tire chains, and seeing snow is never guaranteed.

Otherwise, the best way would be to take the bus, and buses will usually be able to get through.

See the official Taiwan Weather’s Bureau’s Hehuanshan weather forecast for the most reliable info about temperatures and snowfall.

Things You Need to Bring

A macaque hiding among some vegetation
Macaques at Hehuanshan

Due the 3000+ meter elevation at Hehuanshan, you may experience altitude sickness. If you are coming directly from sea level, like Taipei or Taichung, I recommend asking your doctor for diamox, which helps reduce the symptoms. You’ll start taking it before you go up.

Staying at Cingjing Farm one night first can help your body to acclimatize (see my Cingjing Farm guide for all the details). This is what I did, and I didn’t experience altitude sickness at Hehuanshan (even though earlier the same year, I experienced altitude sickness at a similar altitude in Peru after flying directly there).

There are very few shops, restaurants, convenience stores, and no gas stations at Hehuanshan. Only the Hehuanshan Visitor Center sells a few drinks and snacks and Songsyue Lodge has buffet dinner available for guests or non-guests (see pics of the food here). Fuel up and bring everything you might need, including food and water.

Songsyue Lodge is the only hotel at Hehuanshan. An advance booking is essential and hard to get. There’s an oxygen machine on site for emergency altitude sickness situations.

Permits are no longer required for any of the Hehuanshan peaks. But you do need one for Mt. Qilai, which starts from Hehuanshan.

Getting to Hehuanshan

Your main options for getting to Hehuanshan are going to be by tour, driving, or taking the bus.

Hehuanshan Tours

Looking down on the roof of a Visitor Center at Hehuanshan
Hehuanshan Visitor Center, where tours go to watch the sunrise

For many visitors, taking a tour to Hehuanshan is the easiest.

Hehuanshan sunrise tours like this one from Cingjing Farm are very popular. Whether you choose the sunrise option or the later morning tour (no sunrise), you’ll get to stop at four of the famous lookout platforms (I’ll describe each one below) on the drive up to Hehuanshan.

There’s also a Hehuanshan stargazing tour, but you’ll need some luck to have a good experience on this one. If it’s cloudy, you won’t see much. Also don’t do it around full moon, when the stars are harder to see. You can also see stars on the sunrise tour, so in my opinion that one is much better.

If you’re not staying at Cingjing Farm, you can join this Cingjing Farm and Hehuanshan full day tour from Taichung.

From Taipei, here’s an overnight tour to Cingjing Farm and Hehuanshan, or here’s an overnight Hehuanshan hiking tour that includes four peaks. For both, you will stay at a guesthouse around Cingjing Farm.

Driving

Nick Kembel wearing black and pink cap, black long sleeved shirt, taking selfie while leaning on the hood of a white car, with mountain vista in the background
On my way to Hehuanshan

I absolutely loved driving to Hehuanshan! Driving by yourself (or hiring a private driver) gives you maximum flexibility to stop anywhere you want for taking pictures. The views along the way are unbeatable.

Note that you can even ride a scooter to Hehuanshan, but could be a VERY cold drive!

Taichung or Sun Moon Lake to Cingjing Farm

A very tall, modern Buddhist monastery with golden dome and spire at top
Chung Tai Chan Monastery on the drive from Taichung to Cingjing

The most recommended way is to drive from Taichung on the west coast to Hehuanshan via Cingjing Farm.

I rented a car on Klook and picked it up at Taichung High Speed Rail Station (see my HSR guide and book discounted HSR tickets here). I recommend starting there because then you won’t have to drive through any city areas – the station is outside of the city center.

It’s a 1.5-hour drive from Taichung to Cingjing. The first half to Puli is an elevated freeway which is very flat and very easy to drive. Read all about how I rented the car and drove to Cinging Farm here.

A Taiwanese chef in white chef uniform and tall white chef hat making some chocolates on a dark counter
A stop at Cona’s Choco Castle

You can consider to make some small sightseeing detours for a few cool things to do in Puli, such as Cona’s ChocoCastle (buy tickets), Paper Dome, Chung Tai Chan Monastery (the world’s tallest Buddhist monastery), Hohocha tea, Antique Assam Farm, and Caidie Falls.

If driving from Sun Moon Lake, you will also drive to Puli first, with all the same possible stops.

After Puli, the road starts going uphill towards Cingjing and becomes more and more winding. Anyone who tends to get sick should prepare carsickness medication (暈車藥), available at any pharmacy in Taiwan.

If you plan to spend a night at one of the many excellent guesthouses around Cingjing Farm, see my Cingjing guide for my recommended ones.

Cingjing Farm to Hehuanshan

A white car parked on the side of a road with mountain view behind
Driving past epic views

From Cingjing Farm, where I spent one night, it’s a 40-minute drive to Hehuanshan area. I especially loved this part of drive!

Yes, it was super winding, but I personally found that made it a very fun drive. At no point did I feel it was too challenging. But I should mention that I never experience carsickness.

A steep, sharp turn in a high mountain road
Typical winding road on the way

If you need lunch, I highly recommend this authentic Yunnanese cuisine restaurant just north of Cingjing. It’s only open at lunch and dinner.

Although I was often tempted to stop at the side to take pictures, the road is very narrow, so you should only do so when it’s safe.

A white toyota car parked on the white stripes on the side of a highway with metal railing behind it and misty mountaintops in background
A rare chance with space to stop for a photo

There are 5 main parking lots in Hehuanshan region. Each one has epic views and access to different trails. The driving time from the first one to the last one is 25 minutes.

Ideally, with a car, you can easily visit at least 4 if not all 5 of the parking lots – the final one I would say is optional. I’ll describe each of them in detail further below.

From Yilan or Hualien

A village on the slope of a high mountain
Lishan

It’s also possible to drive from Yilan to Hehuanshan via Taipinghshan (another famous mountain, which requires most of a day to visit), Wuling Farm (famous for flower viewing), and Lishan (another high mountain).

This is a long and winding drive, so check the times carefully. Keep in mind that driving on Taiwan’s high mountain roads even for just a few hours can be very tiring.

From Hualien to Hehuanshan, so many travelers look at a map, see how close Taroko Gorge seems to Hehuanshan, and think they can easily drive there.

Even GoogleMaps will tell you that it’s only a two-hour drive. But unfortunately, this is only a best-case scenario, and it could take much longer due to road construction work even since landslides destroyed the road in several spots.

Looking up a narrow gorge with gray cliff walls on either side, gray river below, and a highway carved into the left side
Highway 8 in Taroko Gorge

In the last few years, typhoons and landslides have severely damaged Highway 8 in and above Taroko Gorge. Currently there is construction work on 4-5 spots along the highway and it is closed at certain points of every weekday for reapairs.

For the latest updates about construction work on this route, see Taroko National Park road updates webpage. Click the small arrow beside Highway 8. It is updated on the first day of every month. For my interpretations of these updates, including maps I made showing where are the closures are, join my Taiwan Travel Planning group and search my latest posts about Taroko Gorge.

By Bus

There is no public transportation from Taroko Gorge or the East Coast of Taiwan to Hehuanshan. You’ll need to take the bus from Cingjing Farm, Sun Moon Lake (via Puli) or Taichung (via Puli and Cingjing Farm).

You can’t reserve any of these buses. Just swipe your EasyCard to board.

From Cingjing Farm

A sheep grazing on a green lawn, with walking path, fence, and some people walking behind it
Take the bus from Cingjing Farm to Hehuanshan

The best way to reach Hehuanshan by bus is from Cingjing Farm, where there are many lovely guesthouses. Bus 6658A takes around 1 hour and there are three bus departures per day.

In the below left side table (in yellow), Cingjing Farm (國民賓館(公車接駁處), bus stop location) is the third column. See the pink rows, departing Cingjing Farm and 8:20 AM, 10:10 AM, and 2:30 PM.

Note that the the Cingjing Farm stop (國民賓館(公車接駁處) is at the bottom end of Cingjing Farm near Cingjing Guesthouse (the official farm accommodation).

A bus time table for taking the bus from Cingjing Farm to Hehuanshan
Cingjing to Hehuanshan bus times in pink

You can also board the bus at several other stops along the highway going through Cingjing Farm area. The bus will stop at all those small stops along the highway.

See a list of all the stops at Cingjing here. Just add a few minutes to the bus departure times from the table. You can also check GoogleMaps directions or the Bus+ app for estimates at each stop.

The table shows three stops at Hehuanshan (武嶺 Wuling Pass), (松雪樓 or Songsyue Lodge and Hehuanshan sunrise place), and (小風口 Xiaofengkou and Hehuanshan Service Station). I’ll describe each of these stops in detail below.

The green table on the right shows the bus times for those same three stops at Hehuanshan, going back to Cingjing Farm. The departure times from Hehuanshan are 9:40 AM, 12:30 PM, and 3:50 PM.

Looking down at a narrow highway and pass with a viewing platform full of people
Wuling Pass, the highest road in Taiwan

Always wait 5-10 minutes early at these bus stops, just to be safe, and wave your arms when the bus is coming so it will stop for you!

For a full day at Hehuanshan, catch the first bus (8:20 AM). You’ll get almost 7 hours if you take the last bus back. You could get off the bus and explore one area. Then you could catch the second bus to a different area before catching the last bus of the day back to Cingjing.

If you take the second bus of the day (10:10) to Hehuanshan, you’ll still get almost 4 hours at Hehuanshan, which will be enough for 1 or possibly 2 hikes if you move fast. The same thing goes if you take the first bus of the day then leave on the second one. Don’t take the third bus (2:30 PM) from Cingjing unless you have accommodation booked at Songsyue Lodge.

Also don’t miss that last bus going back to Cingjing Farm! Otherwise you will be stranded and have to try to hitchhike back.

From Taichung or Taipei

If you’re starting in Taipei, you’ll need to ride a very early train or HSR to Taichung first. From Taichung, it will take you 3.5 hour to reach Hehuanshan by bus, with only one possible departure per day. It will give you 4 hours of visiting time at Hehuanshan.

Nantou bus 6664 departs Taichung Gancheng Station at 8:30 AM and Taichung HSR station (B1) at 8:50 AM. Catch the bus from Gancheng for the highest chance of a seat. At Taichung HSR station, it’s advisable to get there early and line up.

Find more detailed info in my guide to traveling from Taichung to Cingjing Farm.

At Cingjing Farm, get off the bus at Cingjing Farm (Cingjing Guesthouse) (清境農場(國民賓館)) bus stop at 11:00.

From the same bus stop, bus 6658A will depart for Hehuanshan at 11:10 AM. I suggest you confirm with the driver when getting off the first bus that you are at the correct stop for getting the bus to Hehuanshan.

A mountain peak lit up by sun with gray clouds above
Hehuanshan Main Peak

Since you’ll arrive at Hehuanshan around noon, you’ll have just under 4 hours before the 3:50 bus from Hehuanshan back to Puli.

You’ll have to choose only one stop to make at Hehuanshan. My personal recommendation is to stop at Wuling Pass and hike Hehuanshan Main Peak or to stop at Songsyue Lodge and hike Hehuanshan East Peak.

If you go very quickly, you could squeeze in both. Get off at Wuling Pass, hike Hehuan Main Peak, walk back to Wuling Pass, then down the other side to Songsyue Lodge, where Hehuan East trail starts. Even if you only make it halfway up Hehuan East, you’ll get to see the ruins of the old ski lift!

Returning to Puli, you might have to change buses at Cingjing Farm stop (國民賓館(公車接駁處) – the bus driver will advise. Arriving at Puli Bus Station, you’ll transfer to a bus back to Taichung – there are regular departures.

Main Parking Lots and Hikes at Hehuanshan

There are five main parking lots at Hehuanshan where you can enjoy the views or access various hikes. I’ll describe these in the order coming from Cingjing Farm.

Yuanfang Lookout (Stargazing Spot)

A sign showing a cartoonish Taiwanese aboriginal couple sitting on a platform, with a sky of stars behind them, and some Chinese characters
Entrance to Hehuanshan Dark Sky Park

The first place you can easily stop when traveling from Cingjing Farm to Hehuanshan is Yuanfang Lookout (峰觀景台, 2750 meters). It is a 30-minute drive from Cingjing Farm.

Yuanfang Lookout feels like the start of Hehuanshan area. From the large circular lookout platform, you can see a wide panorama of mountains, including Qilai Mountain (奇萊山), one of the most famous mountains in Taiwan.

Several layers of mountains enshrouded with clouds
Mountains shot from Yuanfang Lookout

This is where stargazing tours like this one come to look at stars. A large sign at the parking lot indicates that this is the start of the Hehuanshan Dark Sky Park (合歡山暗空公園). There’s a 24-hour restroom for stargazers.

If you’re coming by bus, there’s a bus stop here, but I don’t recommend using up one of your bus stops here. There’s no hike and it’s a still quite a ways from Hehuanshan, where the views will be even better.

The Hehuanshan sunrise tour will make a stop here.

Expansive view of a mountain top village, with more mountains and clouds behind it
I stopped for this shot somewhere between Yuanfang and Kunyang

Kunyang Parking Lot & Hehuanshan South Peak

A sharp curve on a mountain road with yellow stripes painted on it, metal railing at side, and mountain views beyond
A final twist in the highway before Kunyang Parking Lot

From Yuanfang, it will be another 10 minutes’ drive to the next lookout point, Kunyang Parking Lot (昆陽停車場, 3070 m), which is even better.

This large parking lot has restrooms, picnic tables, a cute deer statue, and panoramic views.

Looking out, you’ll see Mount Nenggao (to the far right), Mount Qilai (looking straight out), Hehuanshan East Peak (dominating the view to your left), and Hehuanshan Main Peak (far left, you can see the highway to your left going up to it).

A cure cartoonish statue of a deer wearing winter clothing and small snowman sitting on the rock beside him, with cloudy mountain peaks in the background
Deer statue at Kunyang parking lot

This is the official start of the Hehuanshan National Scenic Area and Taroko National Park, so you’ll see signs for both.

From this parking lot, you can cross the highway and hike to Hehuanshan South Peak. This is the lowest (3070 m) of Mount Hehuan’s 5 peaks and the only one not on the “Taiwan 100 Peaks” list.

A grass hill with some hikers on it and a highway sign on the bottom left that says Hehuan Mountain
Hikers just above the highway on Hehuanshan South Peak

On the plus side, South Peak is the easiest of the five Hehuanshan peaks to climb. The trail to the summit is only 1 kilometer and takes 45 minutes to one hour (return).

Also, with the relatively short climb, and because the peak has a clear view to the west, this is considered the one of the best places to watch the sunset in Hehuanshan region.

You can watch the sunset from the other four peaks of Hehuanshan, but all of them will require longer and more difficult hikes.

A grassy mountain slope with road ascending across it
The road ascends from Kunyang to Wuling Pass

From South Peak, it is possible to hike (2.5 km, 1-1.5 hrs) north to Hehuanshan Main Peak (see next entry). The trail basically runs parallel to the highway.

You can see the black dotted trail from South Peak to Main Peak on this Hehuan Main Peak map.

Wuling Pass and Hehuanshan Main Peak

A wide mountain vista with dark green forested valley to the left, light green grassy hills to the right, and a road traversing them
The classic Hehuanshan view from Wuling Pass

The short, uphill stretch of road from Kunyang Parking Lot to Wuling Pass is one of the most picturesque and iconic scenes of Hehuanshan, especially when viewed from Wuling Pass.

The road angles its way up the sides of three alpine grass-covered ridges between Hehuanshan South and Main peaks. It only takes five minutes to drive from Kunyang to Wuling parking lots, or 30 to 40 minutes if you walk along the highway.

Selfie of Nick Kembel wearing cap, sunglasses, and maroon hoodie, with a sign behind him that says 武嶺
That’s me at Wuling Pass (武嶺)

Wuling Pass (武嶺, 3275 m) is the highest point you can drive to in Taiwan. From this point, you get epic mountain views in all directions. The parking lot is small relative to how popular this spot is, so it can be hard to get a parking spot.

Hehuanshan East Peak dominates the view to the left, but you can’t see Songsyue Lodge yet – it’s on the other side of it.

A grass mountain with series of hiking trails going up it
Trails from the highway going up Hehuanshan Main Peak

To hike Hehuanshan Main Peak, you have to park at Wuling Pass then walk 15 minutes down that pretty highway to the trailhead. There’s no parking at the trailhead. It’s a 3.7 kilometer return hike to the peak, with 200 meters of elevation gain. See the route map here.

Although this hike is the second easiest after South Peak, it may feel a little tougher than you imagine due to the altitude.

2024 Update: Hehuanshan Main Peak trail is currently undergoing some trail maintenance (non-earthquake related) and is expected to be closed until August 18, 2024.

A young man sitting on a round cement military bunker with stone wall leading up to it, looking at his phone, with mountain scenery in the distance
Military bunker on Hehuan Main

Near the summit, there’s a compositing toilet with an impressive view and a few old military bunkers – in fact, this was the highest military outpost in all of Taiwan!  

In total, it took me 2 hours return to do this hike from Wuling Pass.

Nick Kembel standing on the peak of a mountain beside the peak sign with his arms outstretched
Me on Hehuanshan Main Peak

If coming by bus, the Wuling bus stop is here. It’s a smart idea to start your day here because it’s the highest point.

For visitors coming for only 4 hours, you could get off the bus here, hike to Hehuanshan Main Peak, then down to South Peak, and catch the bus out from Kunyang Parking lot.

Another option would be do Main Peak then hike down the other side to Songsyue Lodge (see next two entries) and hike part or all of East Peak, depending on your time.

People standing at the side of a mountain ride taking pictures of motorcycles as they pull up to the mountain pass
Drivers arriving at Wuling Pass

Hehuanshan Sunrise Lookout & Shimenshan

A valley filled with a sea of clouds just before sunset, with sky lit up in different colors
30 minutes before sunrise at Hehuanshan Lookout

After Wuling Pass, the highway descends steeply for 3 minutes by car (or 20 minutes on foot) to the next large parking lot, at Hehuanshan Visitor Center (合歡山遊客服務中心). The bus stop here is called Songsyue Lodge (松雪樓).

The visitor’s center and parking lot are on the left side of the road. The center has a small café selling hot coffee and a few snacks like tea eggs rice dumplings (粽子 or zongzi).

A mountain lodge on the right on the slope of a mountain, with a large mountain at the top left
Songsyue Lodge and Mt. Qilai viewed from Hehuanshan Lookout

On the right side of the road is Hehuanshan Lookout (合歡山瞭望臺). This is the famous sunrise viewing platform. From this platform, looking to your far right is Hehuanshan East, with a small road leading to Songsyue Lodge on its slope – this is another iconic scene of Hehuanshan.

Mount Qilai dominates the view behind Songsyue Lodge – the Qilaishan trail actually starts just behind Songsyue Lodge.

Looking down at a valley filled with a sea of clouds with a tree on the right in the foreground and pink sky above
Sea of clouds shot from Songsyue Lodge at sunset

Looking straight out is an immense valley, where you will hopefully witness the sea of clouds at sunrise or sunset (I saw it at both). You’re actually looking out in the direction of Taroko Gorge, but you can’t see that far.

To your far left is Hehuanshan North Peak, and behind your is Hehuan Main Peak.

A photographer in silhouette on the peak of a mountain to the left, with a sunrise and sea of clouds to the right
A photographer shoots the sunrise from Shimenshan Peak

While the sunrise tours will all bring you to Hehuanshan Lookout, you can actually hike 20 minutes from there to an even better sunrise viewpoint called called Shimenshan (石門山), which is where I shot these sunrise photos.

Hehuanshan Lookout is still great and you can see the sea of clouds from it. But Shimenshan is a little higher, more natural (standing on a mountain instead of wooden platform), and in my opinion offers just a slightly better angle for viewing the sunrise.

I can quite confidently say that this was the most spectacular sunrise I’ve ever experienced. It was certainly my best sunrise experience in Taiwan – and that’s after seeing multiple sunrises at Alishan.

A narrow valley far below filled with clouds which are being lit up by the rays of sun from the sunrise
Rays of sun illuminating the sea of clouds

Shimenshan is actually one of the Taiwan 100 Peaks – and the easiest of all 100 peaks to climb.

The trailhead is here, just 7 minutes walk down the highway from Hehuanshan Lookout. You only have to hike 5 or 10 minutes up the trail to gain a better view than Hehuanshan Lookout platform.

Hike 15 minutes up to the peak for the ultimate Hehuanshan sunrise view. Here’s the route map.

A zoomed in shot of seas of misty clouds rising from the folds of some mountains
Close-up of the sea of clouds shot with my zoom lens

Songyue Lodge and East Peak

A winding road leads to a mountain lodge bathed in early morning light
Songsyue Lodge beautifully lit up at sunrise (shot from Shimenshan)

The same bus stop I described in the last entry (Songsyue Lodge bus stop) also provides access to Songsyue Lodge itself (read about my stay at the lodge) and the trail to Hehuanshan East Peak.

Right next to Hehuanshan Lookout, a small gated road (see above photo) on the right goes to Songsyue Lodge. Only guests at Songsyue Lodge can drive through the gate. Drivers need to use the buzzer to ask the front desk to open the gate.

Looking down a wooden staircase and small road leading to a small hotel on the side of a mountain
Trail from the main lodge down to the hikers’ dorms

On foot, though, anyone can walk down the small road to Songsyue Lodge.

The hotel’s private rooms and restaurant (buffet dinner or breakfast for TWD 300, free for guests) are in the iconic main lodge here, originally built for Chiang Kai-shek. The cheaper shared dorm rooms are in and old ski lodge here behind and down a wooden staircase (see below image) from the main lodge.

You can take a look close up look at either of these historic establishments, but only guests can enter the dorm building.

Looking down a wooden staircase going down a mountainside, with a hotel lodge at the bottom
Start of the trail up Hehuanshan East Peak

The 1.9 km (300 meters of elevation gain) hike to Hehuanshan East Peak starts right behind Songsyue Lodge. You’ll be climbing what used to be the ski hill.

You can see several remains from of the original ski lift, including gondola towers right behind the lodge and others further up the hill.

Looking down a grassy mountain slope and two fallen ski lift towers
Ski lift towers above Songsyue Lodge

This hike is a slog of uphill stairs all the way to the top. I actually only went halfway up because I mainly wanted to see the Hehuanshan East Peak Ski Lift Remains (合歡山 東峰步道 纜車遺址).

This is the best relic of the old ski resort, so it’s worth hiking halfway up the mountain just to see it. You can (carefully) enter it from the trail.

The inside of a ski lift room that is in ruins
Inside the ski lift ruins

Some people climb Hehuanshan East Peak for sunrise or sunset. Of course there’s nothing more inspiring than viewing a sunrise from a high mountain peak like this.

However, you must know that the sunrise will be partially obstructed by Pingfeng and Qilai mountains. In other words, you’ll be watch the sun rise above those mountains instead of from closer to the horizon, like at Shimenshan.

The side of a mountain with lodge, all lit up by morning sun rays
The old ski hill visible behind Songsyue Lodge

When I stayed at Songsyue Lodge, I was tempted to climb East Peak for sunrise. But in the end, I chose Shimenshan.

Not only is it much easier and shorter, but it provides a more direct sunrise view. Then, I hiked up Hehuanshan East Peak after I had my breakfast at the hotel, with plenty of time to return before check out.

A macaque poking up from some greenery
Macaque I spotted near Songsyue Lodge

Xiaofengkou, North Peak, and West Peak

A tall mountain on the right with forested hill in the foreground
Mt. Qilai viewed from Xiaofengkou

The fifth and final major parking lot at Hehuanshan is at Hehuanshan Service Station (太魯閣國家公園合歡山管理站), which is a small Taroko National Park visitor’s center with restrooms. It is also called Xiaofengkou (小風口).

Xiaofengkou is also the terminal bus stop before the bus turns around and drives back to Cingjing Farm.

Fewer visitors make it this far when coming up from Cingjing or Taichung. If you were driving up from Taroko Gorge (when the road is not under construction), this would be your first stop in Hehuanshan area.

A mountain that is mostly shaded but lit up at the top, with a small reflecting board visible on its right side
Hehuanshan North Peak, with the reflecting radio wave board visible on the right

The view from the center is good and some people watch sunrise from there. However, the lower parking lot will be in the view and it’s less common to see sea of clouds here, so it’s not as good as Hehuanshan Lookout.

Some locals sleep in their cars or camp in the parking here to catch the sunrise or to get an early start for hiking North and West Peak.

The Hehuanshan North Peak trailhead is here, 10 minutes’ walk past the center and parking lot. This is a more difficult hike than all the Hehuanshan peaks I’ve mentioned so far. It takes 3-4 hours return, with 500 meters of elevation gain. Here’s the route map.

This is the tallest peak of Hehuanshan, an overall beautiful climb, and it’s possible to see sunrise, sea of clouds, and sunset from the peak.

One of the highlights of this hike, besides the awesome views all around, is the giant radio wave reflecting board here. There’s also this pretty pond and a cool tree that local photographers love to shoot at night, with a sky full of stars above it (see above Instagram post from a taiwanese photographer).

From North Peak, an even longer and more challenging trail leads to West Peak. This is an 8-10 hour return trip, so it is not to be taken lightly!

Do you need a permit for climbing Hehuanshan North and West Peaks? There’s a lot of conflicting info online about this, with many sites saying that a police permit is required.

A grassy mountainside
One the way to Hehuanshan West Peak

After thoroughly researching, I can confirm that permits are not needed for North Peak, West Peak, or any of the Hehuanshan peaks.

In the past, a police permit was technically needed for North and West Peak, but they seldom checked. And ever since 2020, they just aren’t required anymore.

Note that some people camp around Hehuanshan North Peak for staging their West Peak climb. This may not technically be allowed, but many people do it. If you do, be very careful, as the weather can be intense or change quickly up there!

3 thoughts on “How to Visit Hehuanshan for Epic Sunrises, Hiking, and Snow”

  1. Nice to read your post. I used to live in Puli and have been up and down that mountain maybe 2 dozen times and explored many areas part way up it via bicycle, scooter, or motorcycle. You brought back memories, like many of your posts do.

    Notably, on a scooter, sometimes the air is so thin you will lose almost all power (it helps if you can adjust the air intake on your scooter). Also, once while climbing a peak with a friend, an unexpected pressure change came along with some clouds and cold and we both nearly lost consciousness, similar to diver’s madness, only regaining our full wits after descending as quick as we could and coasting our scooter down the West road several hundred meters of altitude to the little parking lot of shops. It is a proper alpine environment, so things like this can happen on a rare occasion (once in 2 dozen trips).

    One other noteworthy place is the tea shop and huge tree on the East Side of Hehuanshan, off the road you would take all the way down through the pass and to the coast. It is a few km down from the peaks and a couple of km past the little waterfall off to the left of the road. You’ll pass the tea shop on the right, and the couple that runs it is very nice. On a cold afternoon (and many afternoons are cold up there, even in the summer), some black tea and honey is welcome.

    The parking lot, which is across the road from the shop, is above a gigantic tree, maybe the widest diameter I have seen on the island (and I have been to Smangus). You can walk down a path and stand on a boardwalk that surrounds that tree and admire it. Basically, the tea shop (and amazing tree) are between the main parking lot on Huhuanshan and the gorge to the East via the main road.

  2. I’m Taiwanese and learned so much from your article, too! Thank you so much for providing the detailed information!

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