Fri, Mar 09, 2018 - Page 13 News List

Off the Beaten Track: To the Point: Mount Yuanzui

One of the most exciting day hikes in the Taichung area culminates in a spectacular viewpoint atop a sharp blade of rock

By Richard Saunders  /  Contributing Reporter

Some walkers turn back at this point and retrace the outward route, because the next section is the most demanding part of the hike, with three very steep pitches down long, exposed rock faces. Immediately after the summit, the trail plunges over the first of these, with fixed ropes and a long line of iron staples hammered into the smooth cliff face to provide footholds.

Finally, a second “danger” sign announces the end of the trickiest section of the hike. A little further a signposted junction marks the point where a decision must be made. The most exciting part of the hike is already over, and to complete a short, sharp hike of about three hours, take the roped-up trail on the right, descending steeply to rejoin the road about 500 meters from the tunnel mouth. The alternative trail keeps to the ridge, following it further eastwards to Mt. Shaolai. Immediately there’s a steep but easy rocky bluff to climb, then the undulating ridgeline trail continues all the way to Mt. Shaolai, with a few fine views en route to break the monotony of the forest.

The summit of Mt. Shaolai is covered in thick forest, but it has an excellent view, courtesy of a tall fire tower which hikers can ascend to enjoy the magnificent wrap-around view from the top, including the conspicuous stone summit peak of Mt. Yuanzui along the ridge to the west. The red abacus-like contraption at the base of the tower is used to confirm how many people are up there at one time. Move one of the ten beads to the right as you go up, and push it back to the left when you come down. For safety reasons a maximum of 10 people are allowed up there at one time.

Richard Saunders is a classical pianist and writer who has lived in Taiwan since 1993. He’s the founder of a local hiking group, Taipei Hikers, and is the author of six books about Taiwan, including Taiwan 101 and Taipei Escapes. Visit his Web site at

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