Hiking the 15km Xiaoxueshan National Trail / 漫步在雲霧中:小雪山國家步道

One of Taiwan’s designated National Forests in Taiwan, Daxueshan National Forest (大雪山國家森林遊樂區) (meaning Great/Big Snow Mountain in Mandarin Chinesecovers a massive area of nearly 4,000 hectares in Heping District in eastern Taichung County.


As with other National Forest Recreation Areas in Taiwan such as Alishan and Taipingshan National Forest, Daxueshan also boosts a past of timber extraction. In it’s present form, this protected area transcends several climates making it a fantastic outdoor recreational destination and a perfect spot 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.


The Xiaoxueshan National Trail is one of our favorites for many reasons.

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.


Getting to Daxueshan National Forest / 如何去大雪山國家森林遊樂區

There is no direct public transportation from Taichung Train Station or Taichung High Speed Rail Station to Daxueshan. You will either have to take a tour or drive up to the park with a private vehicle. That’s the first challenge. The second issue is that the Xiaoxueshan National Trail (小雪山國家步道) is a linear, thru hike and to complete the Xiaoxueshan Trail end to end, you will one of two things. 1) Two cars, where one vehicle gets parked at the top at the visitor center and your friend drives you back down. Or 2) You have a great friend who will drop you off at the trailhead and drive up and hike down to meet you halfway. Or…..

Taking Parkbus to Daxueshan National Forest – Parkbus Taiwan offers direct and return transporation to Daxueshan, with drop off at the trailhead and pick up at the visitor. Check here for upcoming trips to Daxueshan.


搭乘Parkbus Taiwan的大雪山之旅的行程,我們提供來回且直達的交通服務,也有兩個停靠點,讓你可以輕鬆在步道開始下車、步道結尾上車,輕鬆又平安的來回市區及大雪山,有關Parkbus Taiwan的大雪山之旅行程表請點此

Getting to the Trailhead / 步道起點

Disembark from the bus or park your car just inside the park gates to Daxueshan. You’ll have to pay admission for individual entrants ($100),  as well as admission for a vehicle ($100). There is a washroom located adjacent to the parking lot and a water refill facility near the staff offices at the park gate. 

以下來簡單跟大家介紹一下如何從小雪山步道口開始走到大雪山遊客中心,以及上次一同參與Parkbus Taiwan一起出發體驗小雪山步道朋友們的登山紀錄。在抵達大雪山國家森林遊樂區售票口後,你必須支付每人100元及一輛車100元的入場費,此時旁邊就有一個停車場、洗手間以及飲水機。

A trail map of Daxueshan National Forest showing a variety of hiking trails inside and adjacent to the park

Getting to the trailhead involves walking a short 200-300m up the main forest road, away from the park gate. The road here is a lane and a half, so keep an eye out for traffic. You’ll find the trailhead on the left hand side of the road with a trail guide kiosk with details on trail distance, time and elevation. 

小雪山步道的入口也在這附近,所以Parkbus Taiwan的交通車也會讓大家在這裡下車後再開到大雪山遊客中心等待大家。從售票口步行約200至300m後在道路左側會看到小亭子並標示著步道起點的牌子,牌子上有許多資訊,其中包含步道距離、時間和海拔高度,請注意這條路是一條車道,要小心安全。

First Half of the Trail / 步道前半段

As soon as you begin hiking the Xiaoxueshan Trail in Daxueshan National Forest, you know you’re in for a treat. After an initial little climb up some steps and a meandering trail, you’ll start to see some of the larger standing trees and immediately start to feel the stress of the city slip away.


The forest is spectacular.

The views along this first portion of the trail are limited as the forest is dense and the trail mostly travels through the middle of a forest. The trail is a mix of compact soil and wooden steps for the steeper inclines. This is consistent throughout the trail, except near the final descent towards the visitor. Hiking the first half of this trail is truly spectacular. Depending on the weather (and it can change very quickly), you can either get a spooky and foggy type of feeling if the fog rolls in or it can be a bright and uplifting hike if you get blue skies. Frankly, the spooky and foggy hike has been one our favorites as it adds a level of mystery to the whole experience. 


There aren’t many difficult hiking sections on this trail at all and certainly nothing too exerting on the first half. Be mindful of the time as you walk through this section. We love to take pictures and take our time and sometimes we forget that we have a fair bit of hiking to cover in a day. 


The first half of the Xiaoxueshan Trail is like a leisurely walk in an amazing forest. Nothing too difficult.

There are not actually many benches or other places to sit off the ground, so the small gazebo and pavilion at the Xkm marker is a nice place to plan to have lunch. When you arrive here you’ll see a trail that descends to the left and another that continues up the mountain. You can take both, but we suggest you head up the mountain if you feel up for it.


Second Half of the Trail / 步道中後半段

From the gazebo, hiking along the Xiaoxueshan National Trail becomes a bit more difficult. The trail begins to ascend and the climbing becomes a bit steeper and consistent. The ecosystems change as well. 


This is a beautiful and well-maintained trail in the heart of Taiwan’s Central Mountains

Along this section of the trail, you’ll pass through seemingly 3-4 different kinds of ecosystems. While some areas feature more open grasslands others shift to more coniferous forest with a pine needle covering on the trail. Either way, this diversity helps keep your lungs full as you hike your way up. Remember you’ll be approaching 2000m in elevation. While the hiking isn’t technically challenging it can be. We notice the trailside conversations while hiking tend to slow down and hikers focus on the trail and task at hand.


The trail begins to ascend on the second half of this trail and the hiking gets a bit more difficult.

It could also be that the views also improve. While Parkbus has hosted many of these trips, we’ve almost always had low cloud cover and fog roll during this section of the hike. As you skirt the mountain’s edge (nothing too dangerous here), you’ll keep taking switchbacks up the mountain with views of the central mountain range of Taiwan all around you. 

雖然小雪山之旅在Parkbus Taiwan的旅程中難度算是中高級,但我們相信一旦成功抵達終點,成就感也是不可言喻的,最好的例子就是小雪山步道中迎接大家的中台灣山脈景色。

Views from the viewing deck in Daxueshan National Forest.

Eventually, after 3-4km, you’ll arrive at a viewing platform with seats above and below this wood structure. Take a well-earned break here to have a snack and catch your breath. There is a trail guide kiosk here that illustrates the remaining trail distances and elevation. While the hiking durations provided on Taiwanese maps and kiosks  are helpful, they can sometimes be off. It really depends on the hiker’s capabilities and endurance. 


Looking down from the viewing platform at some Parkbus guests discussing the final few kilometers of hiking.

From the viewing platform to the visitor center, we expect hikers to finish this section of the trail between 1-2 hours.


Onwards from the Viewing Platform / 從觀景台出發

The last 3km require nearly 2km of climbing up 300-400 meters. It’s a rewarding section of the trail, but after nearly 13km of hiking, this section tends to really take a toll on those just beginning out for hiking. The environment changes again and the ecosystem is different at this elevation and the trail opens up so there are plenty of opportunities to spot soaring hawks and eagles. 


The descent down to the visitor center can be challenge. Take your time and keep a sure footing. It can get slippery.

Once you’ve hiked nearly two kilometers along wooden stairs, you’ll cross over a wooden bridge and reach a trail junction. Turn right to begin the final descent down towards this Daxueshan Visitor Center. 


Final Descent and Getting to the Visitor Center / 最後一段下坡路到遊客中心

This section of the trail is nearly the only part that includes a significant decline. For just over 1km, hikers will descend on a mix of compact soil (rocks and roots), wooden steps and even some makeshift wooden ladders with ropes. It can get tiring after a very long day on the trail. It can also get wet and slippery as there is a lot of moisture in the air at this altitude. Take your time and keep a steady footing. 


You’ll reach the paved forest road and turn right for the last 100m before you reach the visitor center. Grab some snacks, maybe a coffee and relax on the outdoor patios. You’ve earned it!


Depending on how much you double back along the trail to take pictures or to just explore a little more, it should take you between 4-6 hours to complete the hike along the famous Xiaoxueshan National Trail in Daxueshan National Forest.


Published by Parkbus Taiwan

Parkbus Taiwan is a solutions-oriented tourism initiative aimed at connecting city to nature through reliable, reservable and responsible transportation options.

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