Tasting Taiwan's '100 Peaks' in a single day
By Niang Chen
Translated by Courtney Donovan Smith
The opening of National Highway No. 6 (Nantou Freeway) in 2009 offered a fast link to Provincial Highway 14's 'Jia' spur and put the alpine magnificence of Hehuan Mt. within less than three hours of Taichung. Offering stunning, seasonally-changing vistas, the Hehuan Mt. range resembles a mighty green undulating carpet, often surrounded by a dense sea of rolling mist.
The main Hehuan summit and east, north and Shimen peaks are easier climbs among the Central Mountain Range's famed "100 peaks", all rising to 3,000 meters or more. For an easy sampling of the "100 peaks", start with Shimen Mt. The trail head, at the 33.5-km. mark of Highway 14, offers a smooth, 30-minute round-trip to the top. The entrance to the main Hehuan peak trail is about 500 meters away from Wuling look-out point on the left and is 90-minute round-trip hike on a smooth, paved path, popular with photographers shooting the sunset or rolling sea of clouds from above.
The east peak is about a two-kilometer trip, with the trail head behind the Song Xue Lo guest house being reachable by car. The two-hour round trip on a wooden-stepped path offers good, unspoiled scenery, lots of fresh air and, in good weather, lovely green meadows and deep blue skies--an excellent recipe for relaxation. The north peak entrance is past the Hehuan Villa and visitors' center at Highway 14's 36.7-km. mark, although this four-hour round-trip hike isn't recommended for day trippers. In May, a sea of Indian Azaleas and Rhododendrons welcomes hikers, providing a singular alpine experience unmatched in the lowlands.
Tackle these hikes early and enjoy some good eats in the afternoon. On the way back, you'll pass through the Qing Jing Tourist Farm with plenty of good dining opportunities at the Homestay of Cingjing, featuring many dishes not available at lower altitudes like Yunnan Steamed Chicken, wrapped fish, and bamboo grubs. Or head down to Wushe and sample not-too-greasy fishheads, covered with deep-fried egg bits in a pot of scallion tofu. Puli offers even more dining options.
As nightfall approaches, you can then follow Freeway No. 6 back into town, ending a leisurely taste of Taiwan's "100 Peaks".