Hiking Beidawu Mountain-South Taiwan
by Tyler Cottenie
LINKS ABOUT CLIMBING JADE MOUNTAIN
OTHER TAIWAN 100 MOUNTAIN PEAKS:
Beidawushan 北大武山 is #90 on Taiwan’s 100 Peak list. Beidawu is listed at 3090 meters and is easily accessible from Kaohsiung City. It is a frequently hiked peak as it can be done with only one overnight at the lodge area on the mountain. Although not the tallest, Beidawushan is a challenging, long hike through a beautiful old growth forest. On clear days, hikers can catch a glimpse of Kaohsiung and Pingdong Cities in the distance.
How to Hike Beidawu 北大武山
Beidawu (BAY-DA-WOO) Mountain is one of the best hikes around in Southern Taiwan. If you’re living in the South and you haven’t done this one yet, make sure it’s on your list. Here are my top 10 reasons to do Beidawu:
- Taiwan has plenty of peaks over 3,000 meters, but Beidawu is the furthest south of them all.
- Beidawu is one of Taiwan’s Top 100 Peaks
- At only 2 to 2.5 hours from central Kaohsiung to the trailhead, it is one of the most easily accessible high mountain hikes in all of Taiwan and by far the closest to Kaohsiung.
- As of 2016, Beidawu limits its entry daily. Hikers must book a bed space 8-45 days in advance as well as a police permit.
- Beidawu is accessible virtually all year as it does not have a heavy snow season.
- Beidawu’s Kuaigu Inn has plenty of cooking room, running water, flush toilets and tent platforms, making it one of the better places to spend a night in Taiwan’s high mountains.
- The views. Beidawu lies right along the “spine” of Taiwan and the slopes drop off quickly both to the east and the west. On a good day, it is possible to look down and see the ocean on both sides of Taiwan! Other times you might be treated to a sea of clouds below or a “cloud waterfall”. Don’t miss the nighttime views of the city lights below (pictures below).
- For fit hikers, Beidawu can be done in just 2 days so there is no need to take a Friday or Monday off work.
- The wind-sculpted Taiwan hemlock trees near the top make for some beautiful photography, and simply cannot be seen at lower elevations in Taiwan (pictures below).
- There are interesting historical remains on the mountain from when Taiwan was still part of Japan.
As of 2016 , all hikers to Beidawu must book a bed or camping space at Kuaigu Lodge and get a police permit. The number of permits handed out on a given day is limitied. Here is a summary of the process:
1) For lodging, CLICK HERE to the Kuaigu Lodge application page. Unfortuately, other than the directions in English, everything else is in Chinese. So, unless you can read Chinese, you will need help for a Taiwanese person to fill out the application.
2) You can apply between 8-45 days prior to your trip. Expect weekends and holidays to book up pretty quickly.
3) Costs are 300NT for weekends and holidays, and 250NT for normal working days for the Kuaigu Lodge. Camping spots are 400NT. You will be intructed via email that you have successfully gotten lodging space and should send payment by a certain date.
4）Upon getting bed space, you then apply for the police permit HERE. The police permit is a formality but you must do it to let them know you will be on the mountain. After you fill out the online application, wait a few days, and then you will receive the permit in your email. Print out 3 copies and take them with you. Again, unfortunately for foreigners, there is no English site for the police permit.
Prepping for the Hike
If you don’t regularly hike, you must do some training before attempting Beidawu to avoid disappointment. Many people go up and only make it as far as the lodge, being too tired to get up to the peak the next day. Walking and running use your muscles in different ways than hiking uphill, so make sure you go out and actually walk some hills to train, preferably with a weighted backpack on. Just to give you an idea of the amount of uphill you’ll be dealing with, imagine walking up all the stairs in Taipei 101. Now imagine doing it with a backpack weighing 15 kg on your back all the way up. Now imagine doing that 3½ times. That’s the sort of effort that’s required to get up Beidawu. But with a little training and a nice easy pace, you will make it!
Below, a clear view of Kaohsiung City from Beidawu. Hope you can see this!!
All right, your bags are packed, you’ve trained a bit, and it’s time to hit the road. Allow 2.5 hours by scooter or a little less by car from Kaohsiung. First you need to get to the police station on Pingtung County Road 102-1. Detailed directions and a map for this drive are at the end of the article on page 2.
Getting To the Trailhead from the Police Station
The only major fork in the road where you might hesitate is here.
Just stick to the left here. There are small signs in English indicating that this is the way to Beidawu (North Dawu).
Soon you will come to the entrance to the Taiwu aboriginal village.
Here another sign tells you to proceed straight for North (Bei) Dawu Mountain.
Follow this road straight for another 20 minutes and you will see the trailhead on your left. More than likely there will be a long line of cars parked on the road both before and after the trailhead. Find a spot and park as far to the side as you can, as this is the only road in and out for everyone.
Starting The Hike To Kuaigu Lodge
The trail goes through the trees for a while, then joins up with a concrete road again before going back into the bush again. The trail is obvious and marked by ribbons here and there. At one point there is a fork in the path near a big tree, but you can take either one of these trails as they join up again after a few minutes.
Later you will come to a fork in the road. There is a sign instructing you to go to the right for “the old entrance track for climbing the North Dawu Mountain”. Take this path to the right.
After another 45 min – 1 hr you will arrive at the old trailhead that cars used to be able to reach until the road was wiped out by Typhoon Morakot in 2009, hence the “Parking” sign. Continue straight on the trail beside the shack.
There is often a lot of fog on the Beidawu trail. It blocks the beautiful distant views, but it can be beautiful in its own way.
The trail surface is generally packed forest floor, so there are rocks and roots everywhere. Ropes in place are usually not always necessary but are useful in steadying yourself over slippery rocks. The trail is well marked with distance posts that also display GPS coordinates and elevation. Note that these distance markers count the old trailhead as their 0K point, so the actual distance you will have walked is 2.8 km more than what the posts say.
At the 3.8K marker is a clearing with spectacular views over the plains of Pingtung and Kaohsiung below on a clear day. On a not-so-clear day you might still get some lovely cloud formations below you.
Just a few minutes past this clearing you will come to a fork in the trail. Here you want to take the left fork to “Kuaigu Inn”. The right fork “Triangulation Point” goes up to the peak and is the trail you will take the next day.
Setting Up At Kuaigu Lodge 檜谷山莊
After another couple minutes you will arrive at Kuaigu Inn. It is spacious inside and there is a nice long area for preparing meals under shelter outside. There are sinks with running water and flush toilets nearby, but as with all walk-in mountain lodges in Taiwan there is no electric service and definitely no showers.
There are a multitude of tent platforms nearby to choose from. If they are full, setting up on the ground is of course still an option.
After dinner, if you still have some energy and the weather is good, walk the 10 minutes back to the 3.8K viewpoint. You will be impressed with the view: