This post was last updated on October 15th, 2013
Shihtoushan, or Lion Head Mountain, is a stunning foothill located in the midst of dense jungle and bamboo forests. While there is a lot to do in the surrounding areas of Lion’s Head Mountain, we made a trip out to conquer the Shihtoushan Historic Trail—a steep hike towards the mountaintop that winds past numerous temples and shrines.
We started off our expedition at the Lion Head Mountain Visitor center, where we fueled up with a map and traditional vegetarian Hakka lunch. It was quite delicious, and a beautiful place to sit for a little bit (and put off the steep climb ahead of us). From the visitor’s center, a paved walkway led us to the Historic Trail, which was also paved for the entirety of the climb. That didn’t bother us too much though, as we were too distracted by the lush, green scenery to look down at our feet.
What was even better than the natural views was the sight of numerous Buddhist temples built into the hills. It is quite astonishing thinking about how these temples were constructed, and why they were built in such a difficult place to access. The most elaborate of all the temples is the Cyuanhua Hall, a three-story masterpiece where monks and nuns bustle about. Visitors can stay the night here, and the temple provides vegetarian meals in the cafeteria for around 60NT. We didn’t eat or sleep here, although we did spend quite a bit of time snapping photographs and taking in the serene ambience.
Cyuanhua Hall is also the end of the Historic Trail, leading down to an expansive parking lot where buses await to shuttle people back to the Visitor’s Center. We opted out of taking the bus and decided to explore the main road, walking the 6km back and enjoying the beautiful day. The shuttle bus ended up passing us about 15 times; we can only imagine that the driver was probably wondering what us crazy Westerners were up to.
Lonely Planet talks extremely highly of Shihtoushan, claiming it to be one of the highlights of travelers overall time in Taiwan. It’s definitely beautiful, and since we’re in Hsinchu, the one-hour scooter ride with sensational views makes Shihtoushan a must-do. However, I’m not so sure I would say that a traveler with only a few weeks in Taiwan would regret spending their time elsewhere. What do you think? If you have been to Lion’s Head yourself, would you highly recommend it?