Igor Tolkov

Mt. Pingfeng: Old and New Trails

May
1 - 2
2021

Mt. Pingfeng is one of the "Hot Four", referring to the steepness of the hike. It used to be the hottest, meaning the steepest and most difficult, but that changed with the construction of the new trail. It is now the second-hottest.

The "new trail" in the latest maps refers to the trail constructed in 2011 from Pine Needle Campground to the summit. However, just in March of 2021 an even newer section of trail opened from the road to the campground. Most likely, this is due to a recent spate of accidents along the stretch of trail between the first creek crossing and the wire bridge. Download the Rudy Map of Mt. Pingfeng and bring it with you as a reference - the new trail is not on any paper maps.

We hiked a figure-eight: down from the Dayuling junction along the old trail to Pine Needle Campground, up the new trail to Mt. Pingfeng, down the old trail to the campground, and up the newest trail back to the road just east of Dayuling junction.

Permits and Variations

A permit is not required for this hike.

The recommended itinerary is a two-day hike along the new trail, camping at the Pine Needle Campground. The hike can also be done in one day.

Suggested itinerary
Day 1(220 min) Dayuling → Pine Needle Campground
Day 2(730 min) Pine Needle Campground → Mt. Pintian → Pine Needle Campground → Dayuling

Transportation

Dayuling junction is served by one bus (No. 1141) daily departing from Hualien. The bus departs Hualien Train Station at 08:40 and takes about 4 hours to get to Dayuling. The return bus departs Lishan at 14:50 and takes about 4 hours to make the return trip. From Hualien, the Taroko or Puyuma express takes one hour to get to Taipei, but tickets for this train sell out quickly.

The route 1141 takes is a very scenic one, through Taroko Gorge. However, long delays along that section of road are possible. Give yourself plenty of time.

Day 1: A short day

We leave Banqiao around 07:15 for Dayuling via Puli. We make a rest stop in Puli and decide to eat lunch as the road through Qingjing Farm is congested.

11:45Lunch at a chicken restaurant in Qingjing Farm. We order a three-person set meal that includes a whole chicken, soup, and some side dishes.

14:51We start the hike. The old trailhead is right next to the Dayuling junction. It's a few hundred meters down.

15:20Creek crossing. The water is yelow-green and not suitable for drinking as it essentially comes from the highway above.

15:21Immediately after the creek crossing is the cliff walk. Even on a dry day the narrow footholds can be slippery, and it's easy to fall if you don't hold on tight to the rope. This kind of topology is why people get hurt here.

16:00Giant tree.

16:10Another rope section.

16:31Wire bridge. Now, it's a simple beam bridge, but the wires of the old suspension bridge (and a few stray planks) are still present and visible to the side. The water looks clean, but you might consider not drinking it either as its aquefier includes Hehuan Farm.

16:38Wire bridge campground. Ahead is a small climb to a flat area of coniferous forest where camping sites are abundant. The largest density of tents is right next to the junction of old and new trails, however walk a few minutes backward along the trail, and you'll have the forest to yourself.

17:20Two of us set up camp while the other two go to fetch water. The water source is the stream just a bit down the new trail, and this water is safe to drink (once filtered).

Day 2: A long day

02:00We wake up and eat a quick breakfast.

02:40We depart in darkness. Around us, other teams are still waking up. They aren't planning on hiking the loop and can get more sleep. At the start, the trail descends a bit to cross a stream (water source for the campground), then begins a long, steep climb. It's too dark for photos.

05:10Rope section. End of the steep uphill.

05:50⛰️ Mt. Pingfeng, 3250 m #65. We spend about 20 minutes taking photos.

06:15There is no view from the summit, but just past it views opens up to Mt. Qilai to the south, Mt. Hehuan to the west, and the Qilai East Ridge to the east. However, the trail becomes harder to follow.

06:58A fun canopy vantage point where the trail descends sharply, entering a forest.

07:11Junction. Straight ahead the trail climbs up to Mt. Qilai. To the right is a steep descent back to the campground. At the junction a hiking group following the advanced "Qilai north face down via Pingfeng" route made camp the previous night.

The descent is steep, with ropes much of the way.

07:30The steepest part ends here with a blooming rhododendron.

08:07Vertical rope section.

08:12One of our hikers slips on a fallen tree and falls, but fortunately isn't hurt.

08:23Another steep rope descent.

08:45First water crossing, and a picturesque waterfall.

09:10Another stream crossing, but this stream is dry.

09:30Hehuan mining campground. Some old equipment and lots of bugs. Past this point, it's easy to lose the trail in the open forest.

10:47We're back at our camp to pack up and have lunch.

11:58Depart.

12:26Past the rope bridge, uphill, and to a place where the old trail (to the left) is flagged off. The new, safer trail, is further ahead. We didn't know about the new trail, but some guides behind us told us about it, and fortunately I printed out the Rudy map which had it.

12:38The new trail descends to a stream and follows it up. The way is marked with stacks of stones.

12:49The river bends, and the trail to the road follows the bend. Another trail, also marked, leads straight uphill - this is the wrong way.

12:53A boring uphill section begins.

13:58Trail exits the forest, and views open up. Directly behind is Mt. Pingfeng, to its right Mt. Qilai, and to its left is the Taroko valley.

14:16Back on the road. It's a short walk to where we parked.