Taiwan has hundreds of peaks over 3000 meters above sea level.
Beidawushan, at 3090 meters, is the southernmost of these peaks.
‘Bei’ means ‘north’ in Mandarin, so ‘Beidawushan’ means ‘North Dawu Mountain’. The indigenous Paiwan people call it ‘Meli-miligang’ which means ‘fantastic beauty’.
The Dawu mountains are the southernmost mountain range in Taiwan. To the north of Beidawushan along the Dawu mountain ridge lies Wutoushan, and towards the south, of course, is Nandawushan ‘South Dawu Mountain’, which is 2841 meters above sea level.
The Dawu mountain ridge is the dividing line between Pingdong county in the west and Taidong county in the east, and often shields Pingdong / Kaohsiung from the fierceness of typhoons which hit Taidong.
Since moisture from the strait of Taiwan and the Pacific Ocean meet at the ridge, it is famous for it’s ‘cloud sea’, and many streams and waterfalls originate from the ridge.
The vast majority of the people who hike Beidawushan nowadays use the ‘Beidawushan National Trail’ (henceforth referred to as the ‘national trail’) which starts in Wutan Village, Taiwu Township, Pingdong county. The National trail has a ‘new’ and an ‘old’ trailhead. Originally, cars could drive all the way up to the ‘old’ trailhead, but Typhoon Morakot caused a large landslide in 2009 which wiped out the road. Nowadays, hikers can either take a trail from the ‘new’ trailhead which takes a detour around the landslide, or they can follow the original road and move directly across the landslide. Going directly through the landslide is faster, but more dangerous.
From the ‘old’ trailhead, one can also go on the trail to ghost village of Fanwu and climb Ritangzhenshan.
There are various other trails coming from Pingdong to Beidawushan. There is a trail coming from Nandawushan, and another trail from Wutoushan, and well as several trails approaching the ridge from different points. There are also trails coming from Taidong county in the east, some of which follow the Taimali river up into the mountains, and pass through Bilu hot spring along the way.
The national trail is based on a trail originally established by the Japanese. The Paiwan people call the “women’s trail” because it is suitable for the less physically fit. Traditionally, Paiwan youths would climb Beidawushan by starting at Heping village, following the Aliaonan (Shelu) river, and going straight up the mountain – this route is called the “bear’s trail”.
Beidawushan is right at the edge of the Shuangguihu Major Wildlife Habitat and the Dawu Nature Reserve.
From the old trailhead, hikers must cross several landslides until they climb up onto a ridge, which they proceed along until they reach the ‘giant tree’, and then they must go on a very rocky trail, often requiring ropes (already in place) until they reach the Dawu ridge itself.
Click here to continue to the next entry, in which I discuss the Paiwan people, who regard Beidawushan as a sacred mountain.
Some of the information in this entry came from the book Carefree Walks through Mountain Forests in Southern Taiwan (高屏山林縱情遊).