Taipingshan (太平山 or Taiping Mountain) National Forest Recreation Area in Yilan county is one of Taiwan’s most popular and appealing mountain resorts.
Local visitors flock to Taipingshan’s trails for cherry blossoms in spring, cool air in summer, autumn foliage in fall, the rare chance to see snow in winter, and forest bathing in any season.
Like its more famous cousin in Central Taiwan, Alishan, Taipingshan used to be a logging area. Highlights include taking a ride on the “Bong Bong Train”, once used for transporting timber, workers, and supplies, viewing pretty Cuifeng Lake, and taking a soak or cooking eggs at Jiuzhize Hot Spring.
I first visited Taipinshan with my wife and son when he was just a baby. More recently, I rode a scooter up there to further explore. In this article, I’ll cover everything you need to know for planning an awesome Taipingshan visit!
Taipingshan Quick Links and Itinerary
- The official Taipingshan website is excellent. It has detailed, English introductions to every feature and attraction in the park and the official accommodations.
- Unless you can drive, I recommend taking this tour or chartering a vehicle with driver. There’s only one bus per day from Yilan and it leaves before the first train from Taipei arrives. If you don’t have time or don’t want to take a tour, consider Yangmingshan National Park in Taipei instead.
- Pay your Taipingshan entrance fee online and you’ll get free parking.
- My recommended itinerary is to start as early as possible (the park gate is a one-hour drive from central Yilan and opens at 6 AM).
- Do Jianqing Haigu Trail first then ride the Bong Bong Train at Taipingshan Village. Travel further to Cuifeng Lake only if you have time. Stop at Jiuzhize hot springs in the way back down to cook eggs and/or soak in the excellent spa.
- Squeeze in Zhang Mei Ama’s Farm (closes 5:30 PM) at the end if you have time. Finish with dinner at Luodong Night Market.
- It can get very cold on the mountain, especially in winter. Dress appropriately! Don’t worry too much about light rain – the forest becomes beautiful and misty. I shot most pictures in this article in the rain!
Taipingshan is at the northern end of Taiwan’s Central Mountain Range. The area has immense swaths of Taiwanese cypress (紅檜, sometimes called hinoki), cedar, and beech (whose leaves turn beautifully yellow in fall). The area’s altitude ranges from 500 to 2000 meters.
The Japanese discovered the area’s huge trees in 1906 and began logging them. At its peak, there were more than 2000 people working and living there.
The Japanese also chose the name 太平山. Like Alishan, the word “Taipingshan” refers to the whole area, which has several mountains, not just a single mountain.
Logging continued until 1983, when Taipingshan National Forest Recreation Area (太平山國家森林遊樂區) was created. It is one of Taiwan’s 19 protected forest areas. Many of the old logging equipment and facilities can still be seen there today.
Most of Taipingshan’s hikes, amenities, and the Bong Bong Trail are at Taipingshan Village, which is also where the bus from Yilan (only one per day!) terminates.
Most of the hikes there are through original virgin forest that has never been logged, with trees as old as 2500 years.
You can only reach Cuifeng Lake, another 30 minutes’ drive past it, by car or tour. Jiuzhize Hot Spring is at the bottom of the mountain, best visited on your drive back to central Yilan.
If you want to see snow at Taipingshan, you’ll need to be extremely lucky. It only snows around once or twice per year and usually only stays for a day or two.
If there’s snow or ice on the road, it may be closed or vehicles will be required to have special chains on their tires. You’ll have better luck seeing snow at Hehuanshan in Nantou, but even there it’s not easy.
Getting to Taipingshan
Taipingshan is not the easiest to get to, so you’ll need to pay careful attention to the below transportation information when planning your trip.
From Taipei, it’s not possible to reach Taipingshan in one day by public transportation. Even the first train of the day will not get you there early enough to catch the single bus from Yilan city & Luodong to Taipingshan (see my guide to taking the train in Taiwan).
Therefore, if you’re planning to visit Taipingshan from Taipei, you’ll need to either drive, take a day tour like this one, or take the train to Yilan city or Luodong the night before (I recommend Luodong) so you can catch the bus the next morning.
Here’s how to get from Taipei to Yilan city or Luodong.
From Central Yilan
Driving or taking a tour to Taipingshan are best because you can make multiple stops. The bus will limit you to only visiting Taipingshan village.
An IDP will be required to rent a car or scooter, and the scooter rental shop may additionally require that you have an A stamp on it (motorcycle endorsement).
The driving time from any of the three town centers in Yilan (Jiaoxi, Yilan city, or Luodong) to Taipingshan is about two hours.
This is a winding mountain drive with many sharp turns, so if you or any of your companions usually experience carsickness, I suggest purchasing car sickness medication (暈車藥) from any pharmacy in Taiwan before your ride.
When you arrive at Taipingshan, there are several parking lots. The small parking lot here at the top, where all the trails start, is almost always full.
I suggest the driver can drop off passengers there first, then proceed to park in one of the two large lower parking lots here (10 mins walk).
In winter, the road may even be closed if it becomes dangerously icy or snowy, or drivers will be required to have special chains on their tires. If your main reason to visit is to try to see snow, you must be aware that this could happen.
If you plan to visit Cuifeng Lake as well, that will be an additional 30-minute drive (1 hr return) from Taipingshan village.
It arrives here at Taipingshan at 10 AM. From the bus stop, you’ll need to walk up about 10 minutes to reach Taipingshan village and the start of the trails.
When taking the bus up, be prepared to pay the Taipingshan entrance fee on the drive up. It’s TWD 150 per person (cash only) or just pre-pay it on Klook.
Going back down, the same bus departs from the above bus stop at 2:30 PM, arriving at Luodong around 4:30 and Yilan city around 4:50. This means you will get around 4.5 hours to enjoy Taipingshan.
You can store luggage in lockers at Luodong train station (west side exit) for up to 24 hours. The lockers can be accessed all day or night. The bus station is on the east side of the train station.
Best Taipingshan Tours
If you can’t drive and don’t want to be limited by the bus schedule, then taking a tour to Taipingshan is best.
This tour from Taipei or Yilan is the most popular one and includes all the best spots. It’s better to join popular tours to ensure that the minimum number of people to run the tour will actually be met.
You can also charter a private car and make your own itinerary here. Note that TWD 1000 will be added to the base fee for exploring Yilan, because it’s a high mountain drive.
Where to Stay at Taipingshan
The only place you can spend the night at Taipingshan is the two official, government-run accommodations: Taipingshan Villa (太平山莊) at Taipingshan village, which has several room types, and Cuifeng Villa (翠峰山屋) at Cuifeng Lake.
Because Taipingshan is so popular among local hikers, it can be almost as hard to get rooms there as at Songsyue Lodge in Hehuanshan, especially on weekends or holidays. The official Taipingshan website has a lot of information about these rooms and how to book them.
Taipingshan can get quite cold at night, so dress appropriately. Staying the night will give you the chance to watch sunset/sunrise and maybe even see sea of clouds. There won’t be anything to do after dark.
It may be easiest for you to stay in Central Yilan and do a day trip to Taipingshan. See my recommended hotels in Yilan – choose one in Jiaoxi for hot springs or Luodong for Luodong Night Market and bus access to Taipingshan.
Things to Do at Taipingshan
Now I’ll cover the main sights, hiking trails, and other things to do in Taipingshan. I’ll start roughly in the order you’ll encounter things coming from central Yilan.
On the Way to Taipingshan
Note that you’ll only be able to stop at these if you’re driving. Tours will stop at some but not all of these, depending on the tour.
Tuchang Railway Station & Taipingshan Toll Booth
If you aren’t too rushed, consider making a brief stop at the bottom of the mountain at Tuchang Railway Station (土場車站, here), just after the road crosses Lanyang River (蘭陽溪).
This was the original connecting point of the Taipingshan Forest Railway, where the steep mountain line met up with the flat line for transporting logs.
Part of the original 1924 Japanese-built station is still there, with some original train cars. It’s about a one-hour drive from Luodong or Yilan City.
After this, the highway begins to wind its way up the mountain. Within a few minutes, you’ll need to stop and pay the Taipingshan Entrance Fee at the toll booth.
The price is TWD 150 per adult, 20 per scooter, and 100 per car. See the more detailed price list here.
You’ll get free parking at Taipingshan if you pay the entrance fee in advance on Klook.
Jiuzhize Hot Spring
Shortly after the Taipingshan Entrance Gate, a turnoff to the right will lead down into a valley to Jiuzhize Hot Spring (鳩之澤溫泉, also called Renze Hot Spring). You’ll see the steam rising from the thermal springs well before you get there.
I actually recommend doing this small detour at the end of your day, on the way back to Central Yilan. It’s better to beat the hiking crowds at Taipingshan, and it’s nice to have a snack or soak in hot springs after your day of hiking.
The most popular activity here is cooking hot spring eggs (溫泉蛋, TWD 50) and corn (TWD 70) in the steaming hot water fountains.
Due to the elevation (520 meters) and water temperature, there are some specific instructions to cook the eggs perfectly, with a soft/gooey yolk, or “fantastically palatable” and “Q” (chewy), as the instructions posted there indicate.
First cook the eggs in the moderately hot pool for 3-4 minutes, then in the boiling water pool for 4-6 minutes. Finally, rinse them in cold water for 3 minutes before peeling.
You can also take a bath at the hot spring facility (9 AM to 7 PM, TWD 250 Oct to Mar, 150 Apr to Sept) on site.
You have the option of a nude spa (male/female separated, further down the road), a public spa (male/female together, bathing suit and swimming cap required, closer to the parking lot), or private hot spring cabins (TWD 700 in winter, 500 in summer).
Both the nude spa and public spa are outdoors. I’ve only tried the public one and really loved it. The raised individual tubs are an awesome feature you won’t see anywhere else in Taiwan.
They are also more lax about rules here – many people were taking photos in the pool when I went (often not allowed at pools or hot springs in Taiwan) and any type of bathing suit is allowed (some hot springs or pools in Taiwan don’t allow bikinis for women or loose board shorts for men).
If you don’t have a towel or swimming hat, you can rent one. Entrance includes a bottle of water.
Also next to the hot springs, the 1.1-kilometer Jiuzhize Nature Trail (鳩之澤自然步道) includes a suspension bridge across the adjacent river and takes 30 minutes to one hour.
If your time is limited, save you walking energy for the better trails at the top of Taipingshan.
While buses from Yilan to Taipingshan do make the small detour and stop at Jiuzhize, if you get off at Jiuzhize, you’ll have to wait a long time for the return bus to come back.
If you stop there on the way down from Taipingshan, you’ll have no way to get back to central Yilan after.
Bailing Giant Tree
As you continue to drive uphill, watch for a small pull-over at Bailing Giant Tree (白嶺巨木, here). It actually consists of three trees, the oldest of which is 2500 years old and 30 meters tall. Holding hands, it takes six people to encircle the tree.
The huge tree is just across the road from the pull-over, so it requires little to no walking to see it. Watch for cars, because there are switchbacks in both directions.
Jianqing Haigu Historic Trail
Five minutes before reaching Taipingshan Village, the road will pass another pull-over at the entrance to Jianqing Nostalgic Trail (見晴懷古步道 or Jianqing Haigu Trail), my favorite trail at Taipingshan.
You can’t park here, but a driver can drop passengers off. You’ll need to park at Jianqing Parking lot here, then walk 1.1 kilometers (15 minutes) down to the trailhead via the Guanyun Skywalk (觀雲棧道), which is a pedestrian path on the side of the road.
The 1.8 kilometer (return), 1-hour easy hike goes to some highly picturesque sections of overgrown logging train line and two rope suspension bridges (one is optional but one you must cross).
The railway lines on the trail are twisted with age and beautifully covered in green moss. The trail is understandably very popular, so I highly recommend that you do this trail first before proceeding to the main area of Taipingshan.
The earlier you can get to it, the better, otherwise you may find it impossible to take photos of the old train line without other people in the way.
I got there at 8 AM on a weekday and had the trail mostly to myself. Although I probably wasn’t supposed to, I parked my scooter at the trailhead.
Taipingshan Village Area
When you first arrive at Taipingshan village by bus or car, you’ll probably have to walk about 10 minutes from the bus stop or two main parking lots to the main area (if you drove, have the driver drop you off at the top before parking).
At the entrance, there’s a very small parking lot (usually full), restrooms, small shop (souvenirs and small snacks like tea eggs and zongzi rice dumplings), and check-in area for those staying at Taipingshan Village accommodation.
The Maple Staircase or Red Leaf Path (太平山莊紅葉道), also called Taipingshan Villa Central Staircase (太平山莊中央階梯), is a 496-step staircase with stunning red Japanese maples on either side. It is right next to the building in the previous entry.
For those who are starting their Taipingshan visit here, this will be a lovely introduction to your visit. According to an elderly local man I spoke to there, the red leaves look their most vibrant in late spring, like May to June. But even in October when I was there, they will still bright red.
Because the staircase is very tall, and every visitor must walk up it to access the area, you might have to wait for ages to take a photo of the whole staircase with no people in it.
Taipingshan Café & Restaurant
As you walk up the staircase, admiring the red maples, you will also notice various buildings and cabins where guests spend the night.
As you approach the road at the top, there will be a restaurant on the right side and café on the left.
Taipingshan Village Restaurant (太平山莊餐廳, 6:30-8:30, 11:30-1:30, 5:30 to 9) is the only place to get a full meal at Taipingshan.
The set meal (TWD 300) here include 6 small dishes, rice, and soup. The dishes are pork, chicken, fish, and three vegetables. This is very expensive for such a simple meal in Taiwan, but it’s the only option!
For my lunch, I ordered the vegetarian/vegan version (same price), and it came with five vegetables, a vegetarian chicken wing, and vegetarian soup. See my guide to ordering vegetarian food in Taiwan.
To the left, opposite the entrance to the restaurant, Sea of Clouds Café (雲海咖啡館 or Yunhai Cafe) has coffee beverages, herbal teas (ginseng, lavender, chrysanthemum oolong), hot cocoa, and some snacks like toast with chocolate spread.
It also has amazing views if you can score a spot at one of the window seats (see my pic above). It’s open all day.
Bong Bong Train
Shortly after the restaurant and café, the staircase will reach a small road and railway tracks. Turn left and walk a few minutes to reach Taipingshan Train Station (太平山站).
The Bong Bong Train (蹦蹦車) is an old logging train. The sound it makes seems to bounce off the surrounding forested slopes (beng beng is the sounds of bouncing in Mandarin, like “boing boing” in English).
The three-kilometer ride takes 20 minutes to reach Maosing Station (茂興車站, also spelled Maoxing). An adult return ticket costs TWD 180 and the schedule is here. Also note the closure dates below the schedule.
There can be a long line on busy days. Therefore, when you first arrive at Taipingshan, I suggest you immediately climb the stairs and buy your ticket at Taipingshan Station. If it’s very busy, you may not even be able to get on the next train. While waiting for your train, take more time to appreciate the staircase and views, or do another hike if you have to wait a long time (I’ll introduce one below).
The train cars are open on the sides, so it can be very cold, especially in winter.
When you arrive at Maosing Station, you’ll need to spend 70 minutes there before you can take the train back. For example, if you take the 9:30 train, it gets there at 9:50, and then next train back departs at 11:00. This is the one I took, then I enjoyed by lunch at the restaurant after I returned to Taipingshan village.
There are three trails you can walk during this time, which are collectively referred to as the Maoxing Nostalgic Trail (茂興懷舊步道). The “nostalgia” refers to the various remains of the logging industry that you can see in the forest here.
The easier options are the Upper Loop (上環線, right side of train station when you get off) and connecting Lower Loop (下環線, left side).
Both loops go through beautiful virgin forest with huge trees. You can walk both in about 20 minutes. Restrooms are on the Lower Loop. Also watch for an old logging cabin near the restrooms.
There’s a sign of all the trails at the train station.
The longer option is the Main Line (主線, 3.2 kilometer return, 1 to 1.5 hour). The trail follows the train tracks as the venture deeper into the forest.
The trail features a train car turntable for turning trains around, some original Bong Bong train cars, and more virgin forest. It also has some old railway tracks covered in moss, similar to Jianqing Trail if you never made it to that one.
When I last visited, the Main Line Trail was mostly closed except the first 10 minutes of it, so I found I actually had too much time at Maoxing, even after doing all three trails. Hopefully the full trail will reopen again soon!
Zhenan Temple and Taiwanese Hemlock Trail
After you do the Bong Bong Train, return to the top of the Maple Staircase and perhaps have lunch in the restaurant or a drink in the cafe. If you still want to do more hiking before leaving, then take the stairs which go even higher up the mountainside.
You’ll soon pass under a wooden gate over the stairs and reach Zhenan Temple (鎮安宮). The temple was originally a Japanese Shinto shrine and is painted vibrant red.
After the temple, the trail will split, but you can go either way, as it will meet up again.
Continue on to walk the Taiwanese Hemlock Forest Nature Trail (鐵杉林國家步道). This is a 2.6 km (1.5-hour return) trail through virgin forest. The trail has some uphill sections and reaches an elevation of 2200 meters. Watch for the replicas of logging carts along the way.
At the end, there’s a viewing platform where it is sometimes possible to witness the sea of clouds phenomenon around sunset.
If you’re spending the night at Taipingshan, come here for sunset, but bring a flashlight for the walk back down. The forest tends to be foggy, so it’s possible you won’t see anything from the platform (exactly what happened when I went).
(Note: for sea of clouds and sunrise view the next morning, try Guanyun Skywalk near the main parking lots).
Overall, this trail is lovely but didn’t impress me as much as Jianqing Haigu Trail or Maoxing Nostalgic Trail. However, on the plus side, is has fewer people.
Cuifeng Lake Area
If you’ve got a car, you can drive another 30 minutes past Taipingshan Village to Cuifeng Lake (翠峰湖, also spelled Cueifong Lake). This is a small but very pretty alpine lake. You only have to walk a few minutes to the classic Lookout Point.
You can also walk all the way around the lake (around 2 hours). The trail starts here if you go clockwise. There’s also an official accommodation on site. Watch for Taiwanese macaques in the area!