At the very heart of Taiwan is Nantou County, home of the Hehuanshan National Forest Recreation Area, located on Hehuan Mountain. The mountains of Nantou can clearly rival the Alps and Rocky Mountains, regularly receiving thousands of tourists, nature lovers and hikers. Nantou is considered by many the “Switzerland in the East”.
Hehuanshan or Hehuan Mountain is 3,000 meters high, making it one of the highest mountains in Asia, yet easy to scale since there is a road that goes all the way to the top. While all other mountains in the area offer stunning views of the natural wealth of Nantou, climbing Hehuan Mountain is very convenient. From on top, hikers and visitors get to see snow and experience cold weather that is rare in the tropics.
Known as Taiwan’s “tourism mountain”, the 457-hectare-wide Hehuanshan National Forest Recreation Area offers so many attractions, some of which are accommodations at Hehuan Cottage, several trails that go all the way to the top from the main road, and Chilai Ridge, which offers a challenging two-day hike through dizzying pinnacles and knife-edge ridges. The trails are short, safe and scenic, and with guaranteed sightings of birds and animals, as well as exotic flowers, which may not be seen near the main road. The recreation area is 2,300 to 3,400 meters above sea level. The most number of sightings is along Chilai Ridge.
In addition to these attractions, tourists love visiting this mountain for its weather. The mean annual temperature is a lovely 6° Celsius, which means summers are cool and winters are cold. In January, which is the coldest month, temperatures drop to a -1.2° Celsius. Hehuan Mountain is one of only two areas in Taiwan where snow falls.
Located along the borders of Nantou and Hualien Counties, Mount Hehuan serves as watershed for important Taiwanese rivers such as Liwu, Dajia, and Zhoshui. Hehuan Mountain is made more majestic since it is surrounded by other equally tall and misty mountains. These peaks are Shimen Mountain, Shimen North Peak, and Hehuanjian Mountain. Hehuanshan is actually made up of a main peak, the East Peak, North Peak and West Peak. These mountains, taken together or individually, are very challenging to climb. Each of them is included in the list of top hundred mountains in the world. Other nearby mountains that add to the beauty of the Nantou landscape are those that make up the Central Mountain range, which include Qilailienfeng, Nanhutaishan and Chungyanjian Mountains.
Roads leading to Hehuanshan have recently been repaired from damages caused by typhoons. To get to Hehuanshan, take the high speed train to Taichung and then a bus to Nantou and another bus to Cuifeng. If traveling by car, take Freeway 1 to Changhua System Interchange, then Freeway 3 to Wufeng System Interchange, and finally, Freeway 6 to Puli, Provincial Highway 14 and Provincial Highway 14A.
Simply because of its elevation and inviting weather, people come to the Hehuanshan National Forest Recreation Area to behold the sunrise, experience the sunset glow, almost literally touch the sea of clouds, and watch the stars at night.