Coming to Sun Moon Lake but not sure what to do? I've got a recommendation for those into hiking. It's a perfect day trip and extremely convenient for those staying at Owl Hostel or anywhere in the Ita Thao community at Sun Moon Lake.
As an avid hiker, I was looking forward to hiking Shuishe Great Mountain (水社大山) Nature Trail for quite a long time before finally getting the opportunity to tackle it with a coworker (it’s not recommended to hike solo since the trail gets pretty deep into the woods and it’s not impossible to get lost or fall on steeper segments of the trail. Also good weather is essential). One of the two trailheads is located about a five minute walk from Owl Hostel in the Ita Thao Tribe residential area next to the parking lot up the street from our hostel and the other is located at Sun Moon Lake Youth Activity Center across the street from Sun Moon Lake Ropeway. A friendly reminder: THIS IS A FULL DAY HIKE. MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A DAY’S WORTH OF WATER, FOOD AND SUPPLIES. The peak has an altitude of 2,059 M and you’ll need to climb about 1,300 M. Some parts of the trail are rather precipitous. It took my friend and I over 7 hours roundtrip at a leisurely pace. Start early! We started at just past 7 AM.
There are lots of stairs in the first part of the hike that will get you off to a nice sweaty start. After about an hour or so you will enter a very charming bamboo forest:
Follow the rope on the side of the trail to stay on track. Maybe it was partly due to the foggy weather but this bamboo forest had a very mysterious atmosphere. It seemed like I had stepped into the setting of Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba. I guess I have a strong imagination! I think I heard monkeys but I have absolutely no evidence.
One of the highlights of this hike were the two lovely dogs who kept us company! They followed us up the stairs in the beginning of the hike and led us up the trail almost the entire way. They would alternately disappear and reappear. It seemed like they really knew their way around these woods! Nothing like friendly dogs who love a good hike.
Shuishe Great Mountain Trail takes you into the depths of the forest and there aren’t many chances to get a bird’s eye view of Sun Moon Lake except for one major notable exception. Looking down you’ll see Ita Thao Village and Lalu Island. Pat yourself on the back for climbing this far up already!
Instead of offering constant jaw-dropping views of the surrounding area, this hike offers a real intricate look at a variety of forest ecosystems. There are endless opportunities to observe a variety of trees, plants, flowers, and little critters. Some highlights were a charming little Plain Flowerpecker which I initially mistook for a hummingbird and some beautiful azalea flowers. It’s quite cool to see how the type of tree changes at different elevations. My personal favorite has to be the bamboo forest.
It seemed like the final km of the hike was endless, partly due to the anticipation of reaching the peak and partly because this is the steepest part of the climb. There are lots of sections that require the use of the ropes secured on the trail. The higher we got, the foggier it got. If you like creepy forest vibes, you’re in for a treat:
Finally, there it was! The sign marking the highest point at Sun Moon Lake. We made it here just before noon. No insane view at the top, but a feeling of accomplishment and relief knowing that we no longer had to continue moving AWAY from civilization. After a nice break at the top, we started making our way back down. Even though some parts are a bit treacherous going downhill, we cut at least an hour off of our time climbing to the top.
Overall, I’d say this is a fantastic option for serious hikers. It’s always nice to spend a day in nature. Don’t underestimate this mountain- stay hydrated and be prepared. If you are just looking for a leisurely walk, check out some of the numerous short lakeside trails.
For more information, check out this very helpful blog post:
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