Gaining notoriety in 2019, Matcha Mountain (抹茶山) has become one of the more popular hiking destinations in Northern Taiwan. As the story goes, the origin of the name comes from a Japanese photographer, who visited the area in 2019. When he arrived at the viewing platform he thought that the wavy green color of vegetation looked similar to the color and texture of matcha. He proceeded to take a picture and posted it on Instagram, with the caption “臺灣の抹茶冰淇淋山” (“Matcha Ice Cream Mountain in Taiwan”). Now this popular hiking destination, officially called Mt. Sanjiaolun (三角崙山), is more commonly referred to as Matcha Mountain (抹茶山).
This trail and hiking destination is unlike many you will experience in Taiwan, primarily because the trail is filled with religious imagery. This includes the site of an apparent apparition of the Virgin Mary earlier in the 20th century.
The experience begins as the Wufengqi Visitor Center / 五峰旗遊客中心 and from here hikers have two options. A short trail to Wufengqi Waterfall / 五峰旗瀑布 or a longer, more strenuous trail to the top of Matcha Mountain (抹茶山). Taking the latter, the trail follows a paved road and trail up to a spectacular, unique circular Catholic church. Take a rest and enjoy the sites before officially embarking on the ascent to the top. An ascent it is. Stairs and inclines for 5.6km will test the thighs of even the more experienced hikers.
The reward for this hike is well worth it. The viewing platform, which is positioned at the top of the mountain also features a statue of Jesus on the cross and provides stunning views of the surrounding area. Those who make it to the top can take in the views Mt. Sanjiaolun (三角崙山) as well as the beautiful Lanyang Plains (蘭陽平原) and even the Pacific Ocean in the distance on a clear day.
Hikes/Trails & Points of Interest:
There is essentially only one trail up to the top of Matcha Mountain, yet there is another shorter trail to a series of waterfalls easily accessible from the parking lot. There are a few other hiking trails in the area, but the prize of the day are the views of the wispy, rolling (matcha) hills.
Marian Hiking Trail (5.6km) 聖母登山步道 – The trail is well-built and maintained and is suitable for most hikers with moderate fitness. That said, it can be somewhat demanding. Expect to take about 3 hours to get from the car park at Wufengqi Scenic Area 五峰旗風景區 to the Marian Hut where you have spectacular views of the surrounding area. It’s an easy trail to follow. While short in distance, this trail features a ton of elevation and steps. It can be strenuous trip up the mountain, but the views make it well worth it.
Wufengqi Waterfall & Trail (<1km) / 五峰旗瀑布: A short walk from the parking lot takes you to a series of tiered waterfalls. The trail and route is well marked and generally easy to get to. The entrance area has bathrooms as well as some food vendors. The lowest tier waterfall is just inside the entrance. It’s not an extensive waterfall, but it is possible to swim there (or so we’ve heard). The latter tiers offer more spectacular scenery and opportunities to sit, relax and take in the beauty of Taiwan’s waterfalls.
Points of Interest:
Wufengqi Visitor Center / 五峰旗遊客中心 – Located at the parking lot where Parkbus passengers will disembark, this site offers only minimal visitor interpretation. Water and washrooms also available on site with vendors nearby. We do suggest you bring your own lunch, water and snacks for the day. On the Marian Hiking Trail (聖母登山步道) there is only a mountain stream to fill up your water.
Catholic Sanctuary of Our Lady of Wufengqi / 五峰旗聖母朝聖地 – Before you reach the trailhead of the Marian Hiking Trail, you’ll come upon the circular and photogenic church with stunning the views over the Lanyang Plains. It’s worth taking a brief stop here to rest a bit. From here on out the trail is more exhausting and starts getting difficult all the way up to the top.
Sacred Mother Hut – Also known as the Marian Hut, this building is located near the top viewing platform and is a small sanctuary (from the windy peak) with a unique and colorful history. Dating back to 1979, the building of the hut was funded by the Italian monk, Br. Luigi Pavan, and the statue of the Virgin Mary was erected as a resting place for both climbers and pilgrims. This is a great place to find some protection from the wind and elements to have lunch or chat with friends and catch a rest.
Flora and Fauna – Yilan County gets some of the most rainfall in Taiwan and the forests, ferns and the inhabitants reflect this climate. Wet, humid (during the summer months) and forested mountains create habitat for a large variety of flora and fauna (aka plants and animals!). While this is a fairly popular hiking trail, larger mammals have been spotted in the area, including Formosan Macaques (please don’t feed them), mongoose as well as squirrels, a variety of amphibians, reptiles and birds.
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.