Jade Mountain, or Yushan in Chinese, is Taiwan’s highest peak and the highest in northeast Asia at 12,965 feet (3,952 meters). This peak, along with Mount Kinabalu in Borneo and Mt Fuji in Japan, is part of what peak baggers refer to as the ‘Asian Trilogy.’ Hiking Jade Mountain feels like you’re on top of the world, especially on mornings when a sea of clouds hides all but the tallest peaks in a blanket of white. On a clear day, you can see all the way to the Pacific Ocean and the Taiwan Strait from the top.
Despite its position in the heart of Taiwan’s largest and least accessible national park, the popularity of Jade Mountain among hikers has ensured a well-maintained trail all the way to the top. The trailhead to the Paiyun Lodge consists of a fairly easy Class 2 trail, with the final ascent to the Main Peak a steeper Class 3 trail. No ropes or special gear are required, and the climb should be fairly easy for an experienced day hiker.
Most climbers take two days to conquer the peak. On your first day, make the 6.3-mile (10.2 kilometer) climb to Paiyun Lodge, located about 1.6 miles (2.6 kilometers) from the main peak. If you’re still feeling energetic, another hour brings you to the top of West Peak, a good vantage point to watch the sun set. Get an early start on your second day, around 3am, to make the final scramble to the top in time for sunrise. In total, reaching the summit takes six to nine hours for most hikers, and the hike back to the trailhead another three to five.
Hiking to the peak of Jade Mountain requires a special permit, and accommodation at Paiyun Lodge is often limited, so begin planning your hike at least a month in advance, especially if you plan to summit the peak on a weekend or Taiwanese holiday. When the park has more applicants than beds or permits, they issue permits based on a lottery drawing. While it’s possible to make the climb in your own small group, joining an organized guided tour makes the permit process simpler.