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South Section Two is a beautiful ridgeline hike along the Central Mountain Range. In theory, the name refers to the part of the Central Mountain Range ridge trail between the Southern Cross-Island Highway and Xiugu Flat. Practically, it's the hike that starts at the Southern Cross-Island Highway and continues past Xiugu Flat on to Dongpu.
This is a long hike, usually done in 7-8 days, thus it's not crowded - with the exception of the first two days, which pass Jiaming Lake. A three-day hike on its own, Jiaming Lake is accessible and very popular. Thanks to Instagram, it is frequently attempted by first-time hikers. As a result, it is difficult to arrange the first night at either Xiangyang Hut or Jiaming Lake Emergency Shelter.
So, in 2020 hikers began to take a new trail, from the Southern Cross-Island Highway, via Mt. Jiemaosi, and onward to Jiaming Lake, meeting the main trail. This trail is not as scenic as the main trail, and it misses Mt. Xiangyang, but it does not have a quota, making it a popular second choice for Jiaming Lake or for South Section Two.
Hikers of South Section Two must apply for a park entry permit from Yushan National Park using the online system. The itinerary I describe in this guide, summarized below, is the most common. Note that the English names used in the itinerary are taken from the application system and are not the same as the names used in the rest of this guide.
|South Section Two|
|Day 2||(? + 170 min) Lake Jiaming National Trail → Lakuyin River Cabin|
|Day 3||(785 min) Lakuyin River Cabin → Nanshuangtou Mountain → Yun Peak → 雲峰三叉口 → Lulu Valley Cabin|
|Day 4||(430 min) Lulu Valley Cabin → Lulu Mountain → Tafen Mountain → Tafen Valley Cabin|
|Day 5||(485 min) Tafen Valley Cabin → Dafenjian Mountain → Nandashueiku Mountain → Dashueiku Cabin|
|Day 6||(630 min) Dashueiku Cabin → Dashueiku Mountain → Siouguluan Mountain → Baiyang Mine Cabin / Campground → Jhongyang Mine Cabin|
|Day 7||(720 min) Jhongyang Mine Cabin → Banaiyike Campground → Batongguan Mountain → Guangao Campground → LeLe Cabin → Dongpu Trailhead|
Notice that the itinerary starts with Day 2. This assumes a 1.5-day hike to Jiaming Lake. The part of the hike to Jiaming Lake falls outside of Yushan National Park's applcation system - so, make sure to start the application from the day after the hike start date.
Separately apply for either the Xiangyang Hut or Jiaming Lake Emergency Shelter for the first night. If you are applying at least four months in advance, you can use the priority reservation for foreigners. Otherwise, apply for the lottery using the regular application between 30 and 45 days in advance. The lottery will allocate you a bunk or determine your place on the waitlist. It is far from guaranteed to get a spot - Mt. Jiemaosi trail is the alternative. There are no quotas on the Mt. Jiemaosi trail.
At least three days before departure date, apply for the mountain entry permit. This will cover the entire hike. Unfortunately, the police agency website, where you have to do this, is only in Chinese. The alternative is applying the morning of the hike, in person, at the Xiangyang Police Station next to the Xiangyang Visitor Center. You can just give them your park entry permit and hut reservation, and they'll know what to do. This works well if hiking via Mt. Xiangyang, as you'll pass by the police station, but it will be a big detour if you're hiking via Mt. Jiemaosi.
For reference, if hiking via Mt. Xiangyang (the most scenic altrenative), the first 1.5 days will look something like this:
|First Two Days via Mt. Xiangyang|
|Day 1||(425 min) Xiangyang Visitor Center → Xiangyang Hut → Mt. Xiangyang → Lake Jiaming Emergency Shelter|
|Day 2||(205 + ? min) Jiaming Lake Emergency Shelter → Mt. Xiangyang North Peak → Mt. Sancha → Jiaming Lake Fork → Jiaming Lake → Jiaming Lake Fork → ...|
If hiking via Mt. Jiemaosi, they will look something like this:
|First Two Days via Mt. Jiemaosi|
|Day 1||(420 min) Mt. Jiemaosi Trailhead → Mt. Jiemaosi → Xinwulü Creek → Football Field Campground|
|Day 2||(350 + ? min) Football Field Campground → Jiaming Lake → Jiaming Lake Fork → Mt. Sancha → Jiaming Lake Fork → ...|
There is currently no public transportation to Xiangyang Visitor Center or the Mt. Jiemaosi Trailhead. The closest bus stop is in Lidao, a 15 km walk away from the Jiemaosi Trailhead / 23 km from Xiangyang Visitor Center. You should arrange a private shuttle to the trailhead from Taitung, Chishang, or Guanshan. The typical cost is NT$2000 per car.
Before the Southern Cross-Island Highway was damaged by a typhoon, there was a bus, however, and given that the road has mostly reopened, there's a possibility of the bus service resuming soon.
On the other end of the hike, Yuanlin Bus 6732 makes several runs each day between Dongpu and Shueili, taking about an hour to make the trip. From Shueili you can go by train, bus, or Cathay group taxi (schedule) to Taichung city center.
The previous morning I arrived by train in Chishang. I spend the day biking in the valley, then checked into my hostel for the night. The next morning at 6:30 I had a driver waiting to pick me up. (The ride cost NT$2000.)
We arrive at Mt. Jiemaosi trailhead. The driver chats with a group of porters, who are unloading. After the porters set off, another group of hikers approaches. The driver suggests we go together the first day as we have the same itinerary.
We set off.
⛰️ Mt. Jiemaosi Front Peak, 2065 m. Just a short climb from the road.
Junction next to Mt. Jiemaosi. We regroup here and take the short trail to the peak.
⛰️ Mt. Jiemaosi, 2510 m. Some people stay behind at the junction - not everyone in the group cares about this little peak with no view.
We set off again, but accidentally take the wrong trail - the one to Mt. Jiemaosi. We figure that out soon enough and turn around to take the correct trail.
Xinwulü Creek after a descent of about 250 m. I was first, so I wait for others, and then we take a long break for lunch.
We start moving again and pass the campground the porters have set up by the creek. It's a lot easier for the porters to set up camp here, where there is water. We, on the other hand, have to carry water all the way up to Football Field Campground.
After passing the tents, we begin the climb that would take the rest of the day.
Tennis Court Campground, a clearing in the woods. It looks like a nice campground... but the one we want to camp at is just a bit ahead.
Football Field Campground, a very large clearing in the woods. We set up tent and enjoy the evening.
I split off from the first day's group as they are only going to Jiaming Lake, while my goal for the day is further. Still, I don't hurry too much.
The trail is supposed to keep climbing. Here, though, it begins to descend. I get worried that I am on the wrong trail. My map shows the trail to my left (uphill). Not wanting to backtrack, I cut straight up through the forest. It's interesting, not following any trail.
Note: The utilization of the Mt. Jiemaosi trail increased about 10x from 2019 to 2020, and the new trail was built very recently to accommodate all these hikers. The map on your phone and even the 2020 edition of Sunriver shows the old trail. Ignore what the map says and - to a degree - trust the trail you're following.
I reach the ridgeline. There are trail markers here, but the trail they mark is very faint. This must be an older trail. I rest a bit on a nearby log.
After resting a bit, I follow the trail markers, then realize my trekking pole is still by the log. Luckily I have my GPS track, and soon I find the log and the pole.
The old trail merges with the new trail.
Another fork. Trail markers lead up a valley while the trodden path crosses a small ridge. I decide to follow the trail markers. I pass through what clearly was once a settlement.
Markers then lead up a hill to merge with the trodden path once again.
The trail exits the forest into a grassland. There are broad views of the ridge with Mt. Xiangyang, Mt. Xiangyang North Peak, and Mt. Sancha.
I reach a stream. It has water. Porters make their second camp at a high ground (Jiaming Sister Pond) close to here.
After resting by the stream, I cross and start climbing to Lake Jiaming.
Part-way up the steep hill, I notice the previous day's party on the opposite hill across from the stream. They notice me, too.
Approximate location of 3335 Peak. The peak is actually a very smooth rolling hill. The trail disappears here.
I find a spot near the lake, up on a hill, and take my lunch break.
Set off again, reluctantly. I could have lay on the grass here for much longer.
Four-way fork. The main trail has two short side trails in each direction, one to Mt. Sancha, another to Jiaming Lake.
⛰️ Mt. Sancha, 3496 m #27.
Back at the fork. (I drink some water.)
Jiaming Lake. I walk around the lake.
Back at the fork a third time. Clouds are picking up. I pick up my pack and hurry onward. A bird bounces from branch to branch ahead of me.
Junction with the Mt. Xinkang trail.
Past the junction, the trail begins a long descent.
I notice the hut ahead of me, below.
I cross Lakuyin Creek.
I arrive at Lakuyin Creek Hut. I don't know what the name "Lakuyin" means, but in Mandarin it is homophonous with "the sound of pulling up your pants". There is a lot of water in the creek, and I go in for a swim / rinse. (It's very cold.) Nearby, another stream merges with Lakuyin Creek.
I spend the night alone in the hut, with the exception of a mouse companion. (Mice like to run around the perimeter of the hut, and as I was sleeping with my head too close to the wall, the mouse ran over my head once.) At night I go out and take some photos of the night sky.
Depart after a morning at the hut.
Today is going to be a long day. First, I have to climb from Lakuyin Creek at 2690 m to South Twinhead Mountain at 3356 m.
⛰️ South Twinhead Mountain, 3356 m #42. I rest for 35 minutes after the long climb.
Cloud Peak Campground.
Old Cloud Peak junction... sort of. Nothing of the sort is here anymore. A landslide wiped out the old trailhead and both trails. Instead, this is the where the high detour begins.
New Cloud Peak junction. There is a lot of trash here. A group of hikers, who had just come down from Cloud Peak, are resting here. As I haven't seen them the previous night, I presume they're going in the opposite direction.
I set off lightweight for Cloud Peak. As this is going to be a rather long side trip, I bring a day pack with some water.
The most interesting part of the trail is a sharp rock that you have to climb up, then over.
⛰️ Cloud Peak, 3546 m #19. I am too late - it is already covered in clouds.
I head back.
Back at the junction.
Depart. I hear thunder in the distance, and it worries me. I'd very much like to get to the hut on time, and not in a downpour. I walk faster. Luckily, the trail here is a slight downhill, very easy to speedwalk or jog.
After rounding the last hill, I see Lulu Valley Hut in the distance.
Lulu Valley Hut. I'm surprised to see the group from earlier here. (They camped near South Twinhead Mountain the previous night.) We share our itineraries and very quickly decide to hike the rest of the way together.
Depart Lulu Valley, climbing to Mt. Lulu. My new hiking companions like to wake up early. Today would be the shortest day of the hike, but in the afternoon is an annular solar eclipse. Starting eraly means we will have plenty of time to watch the solar eclipse later in the day.
Mt. Lulu trailhead.
⛰️ Mt. Lulu, 3279 m #57. Take a 25-minute break.
Back on the main trail. Repack for 10 minutes, then keep going.
Tafen Front Pond.
Tafen Pond. Fork with the Dafen trail. (Tafen and Dafen with their multiple Chinese writings are variations on the same Bunun word.)
⛰️ Mt. Tafen, 3090 m #91. There is cellphone service, and we all stay here for about an hour. I stay maybe an extra 10 minutes, as the others start down to Tafen Valley Hut - not a long walk from here. However, I catch up to most of the group.
Tafen Valley Hut. A short distance from the hut are some aboriginal ruins.
I set up my camera for eclipse photography, covering the lens with a piece of paper with a hole in the middle where I attach eclipse glasses.
However, just as the eclipse is set to begin, clouds gather and block the sun. At 14:50 partial eclipse begins. 16:14 is the peak annular eclipse. At 17:26 annular eclipse ends. While we cannot observe the sun, we do see the sky darken (and have to turn on our headlamps) as if it was evening. The the sky lights up again. As if laughing at us, clouds part shortly after.
Depart Tafen Valley. Right away I notice a curious worm. It's actually a bipalium.
Tafen Point trailhead. We're 50 minutes early. There's a memorial stone. Someone (not us) thought it would be funny to put some (animal) bones next to it.
⛰️ Tafen Point, 3208 m #73. We spend 40 minutes at the peak. Across from this peak and in front of the Mt. Jade group is Deer Ridge, and at the bottom of it is the infamous Deer Mountain, the shortest of all baiyue.
Return to the trailhead, pick up our bags, and keep going.
Remains of a hut next to a dry pond.
Saddle before the climb to South Waterhole Mountain. Rest for 20 minutes. The next section would have us climbing up several false peaks before reacing South Waterhole Mountain.
The final saddle.
The landscape flattens out, and we see the wooden post at the top of the peak ahead.
⛰️ South Waterhole Mountain, 3381 m. We spend 25 minutes here laying on the grass and enjoying the views.
We begin to descend.
Waterhole Hut. One of the most picturesque huts in Taiwan sits atop a valley next to a lake. This is the high point of the Batongguan Traverse, the junction between the Central Mountain Range ridge trail and the Japanese-era East-West trail.
The lake has little red bugs swimming inside, and we decide to take the trail down to the creek to get creek water instead. At the hut we meet another hiker, doing the entire Central Mountain Range traverse solo. Her name, Yu-han, means "keep out the cold".
Some people go along the Batongguan Trail to a nearby old Japanese outpost, but most of us stay back to socialize. Yu-han works with the fire service, and the students I hike with are studying medicine, so they have a lot in common. Of course, all of us enjoy hiking. Someone stole Yu-han's food cache, so we give her some of our food. I make pasta with fresh tomatoes and onions and boil some cabbage, which she is very happy to eat after several weeks on dehydrated food.
Today would be a long day, as we plan to summit Mt. Greybeard. It is not technically part of South Section Two, but it's close, and it's the highest point of the Central Mountain Range.
We set off toward Waterhole Mountain while Yu-han sets off in the other direction.
⛰️ Waterhole Mountain, 3642 m #13. Spend 20 minutes here.
Go in the wrong direction by mistake, then backtrack and descend toward Xiugu Flat.
Xiugu Flat, a picturesque campground at the base of Mt. Xiuguluan, which in this guide I call Mt. Greybeard. A trail leads to the left toward Baiyang Mine Hut and then to meet the Batongguan Trail. Another trail to the right follows the Central Mountain Range to Mt. Greybeard and the Mahudas traverse. We break for 25 minutes, then set off toward Mt. Greybeard.
⛰️ Mt. Greybeard, 3825 m #6. The name comes from the Bunun word Mahudas and describes the image of the mountain in winter when it is covered in snow and looks like an old man with a long white beard. But cartographers mistakenly gave the name Mahudas to another mountain north of this one. Instead, the mountain was called Xiuguluan, borrowing an Amis place name from the Rift Valley.[Source] The mistake stuck.
Descend. Waterhole Hut is visible in the distance.
Return to Xiugu Flat.
Arrive Baiyang Mine Hut. Rest for 45 minutes and explore the mine.
Arrive Central Mine Hut where we spend the night. This hut sits beside a branch of Laonong Creek with plenty of water in pools for swimming / rinsing. Just downstream of the hut is a waterfall with a large pool below it. (A bit further downstream is a much bigger waterfall.)
Depart, now along the Batongguan Trail.
Mt. Batongguan Trail. Ahead is the picturesque Batongguan Grassland. But past it is a dangerous section of the old trail with multiple washouts. Therefore, most hikers now choose to detour via the saddle between Mt. Batongguan and Mt. Batongguan West Peak. So, we start climbing toward Mt. Batongguan.
Junction. Here the detour trail goes left, while the trail to Mt. Batongguan goes right. We go right, without our packs.
⛰️ Mt. Batongguan, 3335 m #46. This is the last baiyue of the trip, and we look at the mountains we trekked over the past week. Many are visible from this peak. Below it to the north is the old Guangao police station and logging settlement.
Batongguan saddle. There is a new trail here that does not involve going up Mt. Batongguan West Peak, but most of us go anyway - without our packs.
⛰️ Mt. Batongguan West Peak, 3245 m.
A bit past the West Peak is a lookout point from where we can see Batongguan Grassland.
Regroup at the saddle and start to descend. It's very steep and involves clutching the rope trying to stay on your feet, but in some places there is no rope, and sliding is unavoidable.
Junction with the traditional Batongguan *detour*.
Detour ends; junction with the traditional Batongguan Trail.
One of many detours along the trail. This one, it seems, can be avoided. However, detours are safer.
Cloud Dragon Falls. I take a break here to refill my water bladder. This was a fun process that involved swinging on a rope around a boulder. My companions go ahead. Cloud Dragon Falls is the south edge of the Father-Son Cliff and can be hiked to from Dongpu in a day - a permit is not required until the falls. The name is actually short for "Father Cannot Watch Over His Son Cliff" describing its precipitous nature. Now there are boardwalks and fencing through all the dangerous sections - but if ever a rockslide wipes out one of them, the trail will likely be closed for good.
MIT Aiyu Stand. Outside it's starting to rain. After a week of hiking, we enjoy aiyu jelly together. The rest of the group would all have dinner together and already offered to take me with them in their car. Unfortunately, I already had accommodation booked in Dongpu for the night and had to decline.
End of the hike. It's raining hard now, and I still have to walk to the hotel. (I should have asked for a ride to the hotel.)
I arrive at the hotel and check in.
My dinner that day. I ordered three dishes and rice, and finished everything.