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五指山步道 (Wu zhi shan hiking trail)

posted by Martin Rubli at 11:09

Sometimes the weather is just too good to be sitting in a fabric covered box and rewriting code that former colleagues perpetrated. Last Friday was such a day.

I've been wanting to go hiking the peaks of 五指山 (Wu zhi shan, literally translated "Five finger mountain") for a while, especially since I had already been to the road-accessible top several times by bike.

Even though it's not particularly high 五指山 (Wu zhi shan) is one of the most remarkable mountains in the area, partly because of its peculiar shape. Here's a picture of the mountain that I took last year on a trip to 觀霧 (Guan wu):

五指山 (Five finger mountain), one of the most remarkable mountains in Hsinchu, seen from above.

The hike is neither very long nor very strenuous, but given that you're hiking across five hills and back there is quite a bit of up and down involved as you can easily see from the topographic map and the altitude chart:

The entire hike is less than 6 km long and took only slightly over three hours including a 20 minute lunch break. Of course, without stopping every few minutes to take photos I might have shaved off another few minutes, but then I wouldn't have anything to show to you. :-)


View from the 五指山 (Wu zhi shan) parking lot. The city in the background is 新竹 (Hsinchu).

View from the 五指山 (Wu zhi shan) parking lot. The city in the background is 新竹 (Hsinchu).

灶君堂 (Zao jun tang), one of many temples on 五指山 (Wu zhi shan). The god that is worshiped here is the kitchen god.

灶君堂 (Zao jun tang), one of many temples on 五指山 (Wu zhi shan). The god that is worshiped here is the kitchen god.

竹林禪苑 (Zhu lin chan yuan), which is part temple, part garden.

竹林禪苑 (Zhu lin chan yuan), which is part temple, part garden.

Behind the temple is the entrance to the 五指山登山步道(登頂步道), the Wu zhi shan crest hiking trail. Just head up the stairs, then turn right and left again under the roof. If you're not as blind as I was you'll notice the little red "登山口" sign on the post, which I only discovered upon closer inspection of the photo. Or, as in my case, you may run into the friendly owner who can give you hiking tips.

Behind the temple is the entrance to the 五指山登山步道(登頂步道), the Wu zhi shan crest hiking trail. Just head up the stairs, then turn right and left again under the roof. If you're not as blind as I was you'll notice the little red "登山口" sign on the post, which I only discovered upon closer inspection of the photo. Or, as in my case, you may run into the friendly owner who can give you hiking tips.

There's also a little map of the area. Unfortunately it is not really complete as several trails are missing. The trail actually continues after the 中指峰 (Middle finger peak), so you can easily hike the entire hand.

Also, there is a small unmapped trail going down from the saddle between the 食指峰 (Index finger peak) and the 中指峰 (Middle finger peak), but it's quite steep and I don't know where it ends up.

([local:/gallery/data/wu-zhi-shan/images/original/20111125-122643_MR9198_D90.jpg Click here for a larger version])

There's also a little map of the area. Unfortunately it is not really complete as several trails are missing. The trail actually continues after the 中指峰 (Middle finger peak), so you can easily hike the entire hand.

Also, there is a small unmapped trail going down from the saddle between the 食指峰 (Index finger peak) and the 中指峰 (Middle finger peak), but it's quite steep and I don't know where it ends up.

(Click here for a larger version)

The back of 竹林禪苑 (Zhu lin chan yuan) where the hiking trail begins.

The back of 竹林禪苑 (Zhu lin chan yuan) where the hiking trail begins.

After a short walk you reach this point where the two hiking trails (the lateral and the crest one) connect. However, the lateral trail is closed at this point and given the sturdy quality of the sign that seems to be more of a permanent than a temporary state. You can, however, access the lateral hiking trail from the entrance on the other side.

After a short walk you reach this point where the two hiking trails (the lateral and the crest one) connect. However, the lateral trail is closed at this point and given the sturdy quality of the sign that seems to be more of a permanent than a temporary state. You can, however, access the lateral hiking trail from the entrance on the other side.

The trail is pretty good to walk. It either consists of stairs or looks like this.

The trail is pretty good to walk. It either consists of stairs or looks like this.

There are many beautiful trees on the way and the forest is quite diverse.

There are many beautiful trees on the way and the forest is quite diverse.

拇指峰 (Thumb peak).

拇指峰 (Thumb peak).

The stairs down from 拇指峰 (Thumb peak) onwards.

The stairs down from 拇指峰 (Thumb peak) onwards.

The "pass" between 拇指峰 (Thumb peak) and 食指峰 (Index finger peak).

The "pass" between 拇指峰 (Thumb peak) and 食指峰 (Index finger peak).

食指峰 (Index finger peak) has a somewhat obstructed but nevertheless nice view. Plus, you can learn something about the local aborigines.

食指峰 (Index finger peak) has a somewhat obstructed but nevertheless nice view. Plus, you can learn something about the local aborigines.

The pass between 食指峰 (Index finger peak) and 中指峰 (Middle finger peak). To the left there's a small and steep trail going down. It probably leads back down to the lateral trail [http://www.panoramio.com/photo/21331009 and 灶君堂 (Zao jun tang)] but I haven't tried it yet.

The pass between 食指峰 (Index finger peak) and 中指峰 (Middle finger peak). To the left there's a small and steep trail going down. It probably leads back down to the lateral trail and 灶君堂 (Zao jun tang) but I haven't tried it yet.

It's beyond me how someone can lose his shoes on the mountain, but at least somebody was gathering all the trash ...

It's beyond me how someone can lose his shoes on the mountain, but at least somebody was gathering all the trash ...

Once in a while there's a point like this where you can peek out of the forest.

Once in a while there's a point like this where you can peek out of the forest.

Benches close to the 中指峰 (Middle finger peak).

Benches close to the 中指峰 (Middle finger peak).

This part of the forest really reminded me of Switzerland. The forest is much less dense than elsewhere and the ground is merely covered with twigs and leaves. You don't see this a lot in Taiwan.

This part of the forest really reminded me of Switzerland. The forest is much less dense than elsewhere and the ground is merely covered with twigs and leaves. You don't see this a lot in Taiwan.

This photo might as well have been taken in Switzerland! This is what our forest hiking trails look like. :-)

This photo might as well have been taken in Switzerland! This is what our forest hiking trails look like. :-)

The big shocker once you get to 中指峰 (Middle finger peak) - a bunch of ugly antenna towers. Luckily I had been warned on the way by fellow hikers who told me how disappointed they were when they discovered these. Apparently those were put up fairly recently and it does take away a little from the nice scenery.

The big shocker once you get to 中指峰 (Middle finger peak) - a bunch of ugly antenna towers. Luckily I had been warned on the way by fellow hikers who told me how disappointed they were when they discovered these. Apparently those were put up fairly recently and it does take away a little from the nice scenery.

Despite the antennas in the back, the view from 中指峰 (Middle finger peak) is great. And how often can you tell people that you stood on the middle finger and had lunch there? ;-)

Despite the antennas in the back, the view from 中指峰 (Middle finger peak) is great. And how often can you tell people that you stood on the middle finger and had lunch there? ;-)

The great view from 中指峰 (Middle finger peak). The little village on the left is 北埔 (Bei pu), on the right is 竹東 (Zhu dong), and in the background you can see 新竹 (Hsinchu) and 竹北 (Zhu bei).

The great view from 中指峰 (Middle finger peak). The little village on the left is 北埔 (Bei pu), on the right is 竹東 (Zhu dong), and in the background you can see 新竹 (Hsinchu) and 竹北 (Zhu bei).

With the antenna towers also came this little road, so you can actually drive a car up to 中指峰 (Middle finger peak). If you do, however, you should be prepared for scornful looks from hikers. :-)

With the antenna towers also came this little road, so you can actually drive a car up to 中指峰 (Middle finger peak). If you do, however, you should be prepared for scornful looks from hikers. :-)

If you continue towards the last two fingers you'll pass through this bamboo forest.

If you continue towards the last two fingers you'll pass through this bamboo forest.

There's a great view from between the last two fingers. You can see quite far and you might be able to see the military base on top of 樂山 (Le shan) if it's not surrounded by clouds.

There's a great view from between the last two fingers. You can see quite far and you might be able to see the military base on top of 樂山 (Le shan) if it's not surrounded by clouds.

The last two fingers don't seem to have official names, by the way. The ring finger goes by the odd name of 無名峯 (No name peak) and the pinky is sometimes referred to as 小指峯 (Pinky peak).

The last two fingers don't seem to have official names, by the way. The ring finger goes by the odd name of 無名峯 (No name peak) and the pinky is sometimes referred to as 小指峯 (Pinky peak).

This is the last view you'll get if you turn around at the pinky. Neither of the last two peaks has a real view.

This is the last view you'll get if you turn around at the pinky. Neither of the last two peaks has a real view.

The trail, however, continues after the pinky. These are the little signs for reference. ([local:/gallery/data/wu-zhi-shan/images/original/20111125-142640_MR9315_D90.jpg Click here for a bigger version].)

The trail, however, continues after the pinky. These are the little signs for reference. (Click here for a bigger version.)


I've been contributing a lot of my biking and hiking routes to OpenStreetMap recently and this one is no exception. I hope this will be useful for fellow hikers. (If you zoom out there are some rendering issues, i.e. you'll see outdated tiles, but with time that problem should disappear.)


(Click here to view a larger map)


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