One of 12 designated National Forests in Taiwan, Daxueshan National Forest (meaning Great/Big Snow Mountain in Mandarin Chinese) covers a massive area of nearly 4,000 hectares in Heping District in eastern Taichung County.
Like several of the other National Forest Recreation Areas in Taiwan, Daxueshan also boosts a unique history of timber extraction. Now this site is a wonderful protected area that transcends several climates making it a truly remarkable destination and perfect for hiking, wildlife viewing and forest bathing. Moving from warm temperate to temperate to frigid forests, the flora in the park is diverse and ranges from broadleaf deciduous to coniferous.
At around 3-4 hours south of Taipei (depending on traffic), this park is mountainous and difficult (and time consuming) to get from the north. The final 30km alone take over an hour as the road curves and switchbacks up the mountain. This makes it a perfect Parkbus Taiwan destination.
Hikes/Trails & Points of Interest:
There are essentially only two trails in Daxueshan National Forest, yet the multiple trails along the the linear Yuanzuei – Shaolai – Siaosyueshan (Xiaoxueshan) National Trail offer an abundance of ‘out-and-back’ hiking experiences throughout the park. Being part of the National Forest system, there are many sections of the trails that are quite well-maintained and are suitable for all types of hikers from beginner to novice and advanced, depending on how far (and where) one wishes to hike. The trails vary in length, difficulty and accessibility providing visitors of all skill levels something to explore.
Shaolai – Xiaoxueshan National Trail (9km) – While this trail extends south towards Yuanzuei and Shaolai Mountains for an additional 6.5kms, Parkbus Taiwan participants will not experience this challenging section of the trail. From the Daxueshan ticketing booth, we’ll be joining the section of the trail that travels up towards Chuangxing Mountain (2,274m) and onwards to Anma Mountain (2,665m). Our final destination will be the Daxueshan Visitor Centre. From here if hikers wish, they can visit the Sky Pond, Xueshan Sacred Tree and the Yakou Viewing Platform. This part is a lot of fun but suitable only for experienced hikers.
Forest Trail (5km) – Located at the far end / top of the park, this trail is perfect for strolling and forest bathing among the rare Formosan Cypresses. Relatively flat and easy to walk, this trail takes approximately 2 hours to hike. It is considered a popular trail that connects some of the best attractions of the park, including the 1,000 year old giant Taiwan Red Cypress (Xueshan Sacred Tree), Sky Pond and the Yakou Lookout.
Points of Interest:
Daxueshan Visitor Centre – Located at 2,275m in elevation, this facility is well-equipped with the creature comforts needed after hiking along the Yuanzuei – Shaolai – Xiaoxueshan National Trail and in and around the park. With a basic restaurant on site including a coffee shop, as well as basic refreshments available from the gift shop. Water and washrooms also available on site. We do suggest you bring your own snacks for the day.
Yakou Viewing Platform – Approximately a walk 15 minutes from the parking lot at the Daxueshan Visitor Centre, you’ll find one of the highlights of the park. Located at the 48K marker, the Yakou Viewing Deck offers 270 degrees of spectacular view overlooking Hehuan North Peak, Chunyang Chienshan, and Taiwan’s highest mountain, Yushan (Jade Mountain).
Sky Lake (Tianchih) and Xueshan Giant Tree – Located at the farthest end of Daxueshan Naitonal Forest, Sky Lake covers an area just under half a hectare and offers a serene setting among the mountains. From the visitor centre, this site takes about 60 minutes return. Xueshan Giant Tree is truly majestic. With a trunk circumference of 13m and a height of nearly 50m, a 90 minute return hike to the tree leaves visitors in awe. If time permits, we highly recommend this final hike to visit these attractions.
Flora and Fauna – Due to the remoteness and diversity of geography of Daxueshan National Forest, this protected area provides habitat for a large variety of flora and fauna (aka plants and animals!). Large mammals have been spotted in Daxueshan National Forest including Taiwan’s iconic Formosan Black Bears, the endemic Taiwan Serow as well as squirrels, a variety of birds. Certainly the Formosan Muntjac and Mikado Pheasants strolling amidst the forest, and the one-and-only thousand-year-old Sacred Tree of Taiwan Red Cypress in the Greater Taichung area, are some of the most fascinating images of Daxueshan National Forest.
Parkbus Taiwan offers direct and convenient transportation from Taipei to nature across Taiwan. If you’re looking for opportunities to explore Taiwan’s great hiking sites and outdoor destinations, be sure give this service a try.