Yushan (玉山 Yùshān)  [dead link], also known as Jade Mountain or Mt. Jade, at 3952m, is the highest mountain in Taiwan. It has also been claimed to be the tallest mountain in East Asia, but this depends on how one defines "East Asia".
Yushan was called Tongku Saveg by the Bunun, Mt. Morrison by 19th-century Europeans, and Niitakayama by the Japanese during their colonial rule.
Flora and fauna
Based on the data shown on Central Weather Bureau of Taiwan, the figure on the right shows the monthly mean precipitation (unit: mm) of Yushan from 1971 to 2000.
Average annual rainfall in the Yushan area is about 3,600mm. It rains an average of 140 days per year, mostly between May and August. From May until the first part of June is “plum rain season” or monsoon season. Taiwan's typhoon season roughly falls between July and September. The peak month is in August. Overall speaking, winters are dry and summers wet in Yushan.
In the Yushan National Park, the precipitation is heaviest at mid elevation on the western side of Lu-lin Mountain and along the eastern bank of the Laku Laku River, reaching 4,200mm per year. Yushan is at elevations of about 3,500 meters. Rainfall is less at this height, averaging 2,700mm per year. Over the past ten years, the annual precipitation in the Yushan area has declined from 3,200mm to 2,700mm.
From September to April, the Yushan area is often covered with frost. However, due to strong wind, the frost level is not high, except in the valleys. At elevations above 2,000 meters, there is snow. At elevations of 3,000 meters or more, there are four consecutive months of snow accumulation. The first snow may appear in October and completely melts by May. Snow falls 24.3 days per year on average on Yushan, which is less than in the previous ten years. At lower elevations, snow may fall only 0.6 days per year. Snow mostly falls in January and February.
The nearby major cities are Taichung (台中) and Chiayi (嘉義). You can take either train [formerly dead link] or bus to those cities first. From there, you take New Cross-Island Provincial Highway with different routes:
- Taichung → Shueili (水里) [formerly dead link]→ Heshe (和社) → Tongpu (東埔) → Tataka Recreation Area (塔塔加遊憩區)
- Chiayi → Alishan (阿里山) → Tataka Recreation Area
There are two main routes to the top:
- Main route from Tataka Visitor Center (塔塔加遊客中心) [dead link] (2600m) and leads to the top in 10 km, with a hut very near the top.
- Tongpu to the summit, 23 km and 2800 vertical meters.
If you take the main route, you can park in three different places and reach the trailhead differently  [dead link]:
- From Tataka Visitor Center
- From Shangdongpu (上東埔)
- From Lulin Pass (鹿林)
Fees and permits
Climbing Yushan requires a park entry permit from the park authorities, and a mountain climbing permit from the police. Online application is available (allows 7-33 processing days). A lottery system is run to distribute most permits for overnight hikes with beds at Paiyun cabin and the drawing takes place about one month before the date of each hike. Competition is high, especially in summer or on weekends so it will likely be necessary to be flexible and apply several times. That said there is a separate system for foreign groups to apply between 4 months and 35 days in advance to secure a spot independent of the lottery system. This is likely the best choice for foreign travelers may be able to plan far ahead but have a short time window. These permits are only available for Sunday through Thursday nights. Here are the steps for online application:
- Connect to Yushan National Park [dead link]
- For first time application, sign up for personal account.
- Check the auto-confirm email to activate personal account.
- Use personal account to send online application.
- Wait for auto-notification email from Yushan National Park.
If you need assistance in the permit application or trek logistics, Barking Deer Adventures [formerly dead link] provides the service.
If you are fit enough to make it to the peak and back in one day, you do not have to use the lottery system to apply for your permit and will be much more likely to get a permit on your preferred date or on short notice. The applications for same day hikes can be found at the same website.
Getting from the Tatajia Visitor Center to the trailhead, a journey of over 2 km, can be done on foot, or by a regular shuttle service that costs NT$100.
The hiking trail leading from the trailhead at Tatajia Anbu to Paiyun Lodge is 8.5 km long. Paiyun Lodge [dead link] at an elevation of 3402 metres is located below the west slope of Yushan Main Peak and is an important base for climbing the Yushan Peaks. As high mountain hikes go, it is relatively easy, with few steep or technical sections. In some sections the trail goes downhill, and there are plenty of level grade sections. The trail is clearly marked, with a distance post every half km showing distance traveled and distance remaining. There are also some interpretive signs on the way, explaining the flora and geology with varying degrees of informativeness. Along the way there's a side trail to Yushan Front Peak, which can be explored by those with the time and energy. It takes 4 to 8 hours to reach the lodge from the trailhead, depending on fitness level.
The trail from Paiyun Lodge to the peak is 2.4km long. It only starts becoming technical around the last half kilometer or so, with the last 200 meters being the steepest and most difficult section, though by high mountain standards, still relatively easy. It takes 2½ to 3 hours to reach the peak from the lodge.
Yushan is one of the favorites among Taiwanese mountain climbers. It also attracts climbers from all over the world. With panoramic views, overlapping mountains, and deep, plunging valleys, Yushan National Parkis well known for its scenery, sunrises, sunsets, geological features, and views of the clouds from above. Sea of clouds (Traditional Chinese: 雲海, Pinyin: yúnhǎi) often fill the valleys, giving you the impression that you're standing on top of the world. Indisputably, Yushan is the focal point of the park.
If you're content with just seeing Yushan from a distance, the best thing to do is to head over to neighboring Alishan and witness the famous sunrise from there.
Between the months of March and May, visitors have the chance to see processions of butterflies fluttering through mountain valleys.
The North Peak is home to Taiwan's highest permanently occupied building, the Yushan Weather Station, where the occasional visitors are given a warm welcome.
Carry trail food and water.
There is only one place to sleep near the top: Paiyun Lodge. The lodge is very busy, so you will need to reserve online one month in advance.
Before going up, you will be shown a safety video in the Visitor Center. Heed the safety instructions presented therein. If you hire a guide, follow his instructions to stay safe.
Use common sense. Stay on the trail, hold onto the ropes and chains when available, bring food, water, raingear, warm clothing and a flashlight/headlamp, and do not feed the wildlife. Keep updated on weather conditions.
It pays to be in good health and physically fit to take on this trail. To someone who has not done any strenuous exercise in ages, it may be very challenging. Prior training is advisable. But to the moderately experienced day-hiker, it may be quite easy.
Beware of the signs of altitude sickness an take precautions.
Cell phone reception is spotty, but is available on many sections of the trail. In case of emergency, you can call one of several numbers provided on your permit. The numbers are also available at the Visitor Center and on the sign at the trailhead.
After viewing the magnificent sunrise, some people retrace the route down to Paiyun Lodge and Tatachia Visitor Center, while some continue down the other side of the mountain to the hot spring town of Tungpu (東埔). This route involves a walk of about 1 hour along the Batongguan Historic Trail (八通關古道) which was built in 1875.
Leaving the peak, climbers follow a branch of the Batongguan Historic Trail (八通關古道) that leads 6.5 km down the east face of the mountain to where it joins the main trail. On the trail leading all the way down to Tungpu, climbers will discover many spectacular scenes including several waterfalls, one of which cascades down the mountain in seven steps and is known as Seven Threads Waterfall (七絲瀑布; also known as 乙女瀑布).
Under to Tungpu is Yunlong Waterfall (雲龍瀑布), which drops 50 meters over a stone cliff, runs under a wooden bridge, and then drops another 70 meters.
The final stop of the trail is carved into the vertical face of Fuzi Cliff (父子斷崖), after which the trail crosses the Chenyoulan River (陳有蘭溪) and leads into the town of Tungpu.