Updated: Apr 20
Welcome to The Map Room's Learn to Hike in Taiwan series!
This is the third in a series of five articles designed to take inexperienced hikers from raw novice level to ready to try their first Baiyue (台灣百岳, the top 100 mountains in Taiwan, all 3000+ meters / 10,000+ feet), all while touring around northern Taiwan. Don't worry if you don't live in this part of the world, though - you can still enjoy the pictures and get an idea of the kind of hike you should look for to take the next step in learning to be a better hiker!
Hikes in this series:
Fire Mountain (火炎山) Novice
Five Finger Mountain (五指山) Beginner
Gaotai Mountain and the Three Daotian Peaks (高台山 - 小，中，大岛田山縱走) Low intermediate
Jiali Mountain Part I: There and Back Again (加里山) Intermediate
Jiali Mountain Part II, The Hakani Mountain Loop (加里山 - 哈堪尼山縱走) High intermediate
Or, see the whole series at this link!
Don't worry if you don't live in this part of the world, you can still enjoy the pictures and get an idea of the kind of hike you should look for to take the next step in learning to be a better hiker!
Introducing this week's mountain:
Gaotai Mountain and the three Daotian Peaks
Skill level: Low intermediate
Length of hike: Part 1: 1.6 km. Part 2: 5.4 km. Part 3: 1.6 km. Total: 8.6 km.
MY Time: Part 1: 52 minutes. Part 2: 2 hours, 9 minutes. Part 3: 45 minutes. MY total: about 3 hours, 45 minutes. IMPORTANT: I am very fast, and I was moving fast. I advise planning more like 5-6 hours total for this. Better yet, leave early in the morning, dedicate the day for it, and come back in the evening.
Water sources: None
Gear and provisions: Decent hiking shoes, hiking-appropriate clothes (see remarks), enough water (see remarks), a lighter (always!), a headlamp or flashlight (in case it takes longer than expected), snacks and a light lunch. Hiking poles recommended, though you can get away without them.
Sun protection: Mostly unnecessary on this well-shaded, forested hike.
Family friendly: Yes for the first part, but not for children under 7 (this will likely be strenuous for them). For the second part, 12 or older (this will likely be strenuous for them). Out of shape adults will find both parts of this hike strenuous as well.
Dog friendly: Only for large dogs on the first section, no for the second.
Camping /overnighting options: There is a wonderful campsite just after Gaotai Mountain - one of my favorites in Taiwan - right where the two secions meet. It is an old Japanese 'police station' (i.e., military police occupation post) in a beautiful pine forest with wide, flat, soft dirt areas for pitching tents. NOTE that there is no water source!
Google Map links to trailhead 1
Google Map links to trailhead 2
NOTE: I recommend trailhead 1 for larger vehicles, but trailhead 2 if you're on something small like a scooter.
My GPS track for section 1 (parking area - flat area just past Gaotai Mountain)
GPX file (Trailhead - Gaotai Campsite 登山扣-高台山營地):
GPX file (Gaotai Campsite - Big Daotian and back 高台山營地-大島田山縱走):
QR code for the route:
My GPS track for section 2 (Gaotai Mountain flat area - the three Daotian Peaks and back)
QR code for the route:
NOTE: You will have to do section 1 again in reverse coming out.
Gaotai Mountain and the three Daotian Peaks (高台山-小，中，大島田山回來) take a little more work to get to, and up, than Five Finger Mountain (五指山), but they are also much more rewarding. The hike is well suited for hikers in good physical condition who want to spend a day hiking and enjoying the foothills of Taiwan's mountains, along with some more adventurous - but still not terribly dangerous - rope and scrambling sections.
The first section is a beautiful, mostly uphill hike through pine forest up to the campsite just past Gaotai Mountain. For those in good physical condition, this should not be difficult, but will definitely get your blood flowing. Less fit individuals will find this section strenuous, but the reward is worth it! You can also camp in this area if you want (but bring water with you!). It's one of the nicest, easily accessible campsites I know in Taiwan - though it's gotten pretty popular recently, so there may be crowds.
The second section is much more demanding, heading up three low peaks (the highest is only1824 meters / 5684 ft) to a low peak with a gigantic tree that you can climb up into and get some great pictures. As I said above, I'm a VERY fast hiker, so do take that into consideration when planning your times! There are multiple rope climbing sections which, while quite passable, make for good adventure (but not for your dog, I'm sorry to say...).
Finally, one IMPORTANT NOTE: Once you reach the final peak (Big Daotian), you can follow the path to the right going down. BE CAREFUL HERE, it's very easy to get lost by going down to the left! Be sure to follow the flags, if you do you will soon arrive at an intersection in a clearing (see pictures below).
Water: For this hike, I personally drink 1.5-2 liters per day in winter, 2+ in summer, but I drink a lot of water and you may drink less than me. It's better to have extra than too little, though!
Route notes: A further network of hiking trails branches out into the mountains from behind the highest peak, Da Daotian, but these require a map, good direction finding skills, and advanced trailfinding skills. I may cover these in a future post, but I do not recommend them for beginners!
Clothes: Regardless of the hike, it ALWAYS pays off to have appropriate hiking clothes! These should be clothes you don't mind getting dirty and/or messed up. Pants, shirts, socks, and underwear should all be quick wicking to get sweat off of your skin and quick drying to get it off of your clothes. For these reasons, you should NEVER wear cotton hiking! Sports pants and a sports shirt are a good place to start, but hiking pants have many advantages. A bandanna, headband, or other light cloth for wiping sweat is also advisable.
Be sure to watch for the next post in this series, Learn to Hike in Taiwan 4: Jiali Mountain Part I: There and Back Again (加里山)! Missed the previous installment? Check out Learn to Hike in Taiwan 2: Five Finger Mountain (五指山). Read the whole series here!
Hiking down from Gaotai Mountain in the evening mist
Gaotai Mountain #2 entrance sign
Gaotai Mountain #2 entrance, recommended for scooters. If you are in a car, #1 is much better.
Hiking uphill through the beautiful, forested mountainside towards the peak. There are several rest areas on the way up.