Ninety-Nine Peaks Trail in Caotun

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Have you ever traveled from Taichung to Puli and Sun Moon Lake? If so, surely you have noticed a ridge of amazing rugged hills, on the northern side of Dadu River valley, not far from Caotun.

Those hills are called the Ninety-Nine Peaks (JiuJiuFeng). The trail described here represents a nice, easy introduction to this interesting area, nested at the border between Taichung City and Nantou County.

The Ninety-Nine Peaks from Caotun

The Ninety-Nine Peaks on the distance.

Some Facts about the Ninety-Nine Peaks

  • These peaks are actually “badlands“: a dense network of ridges, gullies and burrows, carved by rains and erosion on weakly cemented gravels and sands.
  • Lush vegetation blanketed all the 99 Peaks, until the devastating earthquake that hit Central Taiwan on September 21st, 1999. The earthquake suddenly stripped all the summits of their soil. And, of course, of their trees and grass cover.
  • Nantou County established a Natural Park to preserve the fragile environment and help the recover. The vegetation is actually regrowing. Anyway, for this reason, all the core area of the 99 Peaks Natural Park is strictly off limits for the ordinary hikers. Actually, the trail described in this article is outside the Natural Park, but still allows to experience this unique environment.
  • The highest peak reaches 779.4 m of altitude. Its height was 777.5 m before the 921 Earthquake.
  • Human impact is unusually low on this area (for Taiwan …). There are a lot of wild animals, even rare … monkeys, Formosan serows, ferret-badgers, Swinhoe’s pheasants, leopard cats among them.

The video below shows a bird’s-eye view of the fantastic scenery of the 99 Peaks (source: 陳致桓).

The Ninety-Nine Peaks Trail

The parking lot at the Visitors Center is at about 230 meters of altitude. The trail reaches 485 meters above sea level and is 1930 meters long. You can walk the entire loop in one hour.

You can park your vehicle at the Visitor Center of the 99 Peaks Ecological Art Park. This interesting (and, likely, expensive) building is closed. For lack of visitors, so we were told by some fellow hikers.

That means no snacks and no toilets (closed, as well). But the trail is, so far, well signed and maintained.

The Visitor Center seems permanently closed

The Visitor Center seems permanently closed … no exhibitions, no toilets … sad!

Just follow the signs to the Mountain Trail, along a small park, then a country road. You will reach the start (South Entrance) of the trail in 10 minutes.

South Entrance. Follow the trail on the left.

South Entrance. Follow the trail on the left.

The 99 Peaks Trail climbs along a ridge. It will be hot in summer. There are some stairs but the trail is never too steep and is well maintained and safe. To give you an idea, it is easier than Dakeng hiking trails.

At the summit you will find a pavillion.

This pavillion marks the top of the Ninety-Nine Peaks Trail.

This pavillion marks the top of the Ninety-Nine Peaks Trail.

You don’t have to return along the same way, just proceed along the footpath that soon will turn on the right, in a little valley, with some shade.

99 Peaks Trail in Caotun, Nantou County, is a very enjoyable hike close to Taichung.

99 Peaks Trail in Caotun, Nantou County, is a very enjoyable hike close to Taichung.

The trail will become a country road that gently will descend back to the Trail South Entrance.

Going down along the country road, in a lichee orchard.

Going down along the country road, in a lichee orchard.

How to Go to the Ninety-Nine Peaks Trail

The easiest way to reach the Ninety-Nine Peaks trail is with your own vehicle.

Anyway you can still reach the trail by bus from Taichung City but you will have to walk for 1.2 km to reach the trail.

Take Nantou Bus #6670 from Taichung Gancheng Station, Taichung THSR to Puli and Sun Moon Lake. Leave the bus at Xia Ping Lin Stop (下坪林). Then walk uphill along Jianxing Road, in the sparse settlement of Ping Lin, to reach the Visitor Center and the trail. Click on the map below to download a larger map. Find the timetable for bus #6670 here.

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