Within the Yangmingshan National Park, there are 3 ecological protection areas, Lujiaokeng 鹿角坑, Dream Lake 夢幻湖 and Huangzuishan 磺嘴山 and each one has its own unique features. Lujiaokeng is an ancient trail at the end of which there is a huge waterfall. Dream lake is a shallow lake the foot of seven star mountain, the highest in the park and Huangzuishan is a former volcano whose ancient, volcanic crater can still be seen today.
Getting into the Huangzuishan Ecological Protection Area requires a permit and that must be applied for 7 days in advance. Not only that but the numbers of people entering the area is limited to 500 a month and 80 on any particular day. This is great for the environment in these areas but causes problems when planning a hike as you can’t wait and see how the weather will turn out.
As it was, for us we managed to get a cloudy and windy day so mot much in the way of views but we were luckily enough to not run into heavy rain and the clouds meant it was a nice and cool hike.
The trail starts at Qingtiangngang 擎天崗, an open area of grassland that is home to some wild buffalo. We went past the small temple at the beginning of the trail and then headed to the left following the brown signs along the paved path towards Fengguikou 風櫃口 (not the path with the ropes)
After about 2km, there was a red sign and a padlocked gate that marks the entrance to the Huangzuishan trail. The national park had already given us the code to the padlock and so slipped in, left a copy of our permit in the letter box and locked the gate back up.
The trail here is very different to most in Yangmingshan, lots and lots of mud! By the end of the hike, we were filthy and it took ages to scrub it all off.
After a short while, we got to an emergency shelter and found this huge toad. Inside the shelter, there is a first aid kit/water but no doors. From there the trail goes downhill and towards the north. At the bottom is the Cuicui valley but we didn’t have time to explore it.
From this point on the trail is not at all clear. If it were a sunny day I’m sure it would be a lot easier but because we were in the clouds, we had to be especially careful not to get lost. In places, there is a rope that runs along the ground to mark the way but it is not always there.
Once at the bottom of the valley we started to climb again and the trees gave way to thick arrow bamboo. This part was hard, both ways. It’s a steep climb up and a slippery climb down.
After a quick break on the top, we started to look for the crater and headed off in what looked like the right direction on the map. After a few minutes we started to feel a bit unsure about the direction and fortunately for us the clouds lifted for a very brief moment to reveal the crater. We we walking parallel to it and were only 30m away but had absolutely no idea! At the bottom of the crater, there are some small ponds and the wild buffalo from Qingtiangang also graze here sometimes.
At the top and in the crater it is very exposed as the bamboo cannot grow very high meaning that Neil’s poncho turned him into a caped crusader. (If he wears that orange thing again, we’ll leave him behind in the woods.)
From the crater, it’s just a case of retracing your steps back to the beginning.
You can apply for the permit at the National Park Website but you must use internet explorer. Also on the application, it mentions that hiking guides are needed but that didn’t seem to cause us any problems.
It is wild in this part of the park. There are no hiking tags to mark the way and trail is rough. Take care not to get lost and be prepared for the weather, It’s very changeable on exposed peaks such as this.