Nantou might be the only county of Taiwan that doesn’t touch the ocean but its lack of shoreline is more than made up by its trees and mountains. Shan Lin Xi is a forest way up 1600 meters above sea level in the mountains of Zhushan Township in Nantou, further up from another popular tourist destination: Xitou. The altitude transports you to an entirely different environment, a different climate, terrain that drastically contrasts from the tropical humidity down below, even in the dead of summer.
Perhaps in part because of that escape, the forest is a popular national park for day trips and weekend trips. High up in the mountains, the trees tower above and the trails lead to beautiful waterfalls, and tea farms are abundant. It doesn’t take much imagination to understand how Shanlinxi (sometimes cutely anglicized as “sun link sea” lol) is so loved as a nature escape and for camping.
Shanlinxi is very easily accessible from Taichung, even without a car. There are tourism buses from the main station in Taichung that takes you up the mountain, first to Xitou and then up to Shanlinxi. Either way, it is about 2 hours of travel time, sometimes more if there is traffic up there.
views on the drive up
Shanlinxi is basically a resort and park as a single entity. You don’t necessarily have to stay in the resort to visit the forest, but if you’re looking to stay a night you’ll be staying at the resort. It’s pretty standard, nothing fancy. There are a couple restaurants on premises, standard buffet style or banquet style fare that can be bundled with a room.
General tip: bring comfy shoes and layers. It can get chilly up here and most of the activities are outdoors and require some kind of walking.
Perhaps the most famous part of the forest is the waterfalls. There are three big ones to see, and all of them are easily accessible via trails from the central area. Most of the main trails are wide and well maintained, often with wooden pathways and built out viewing points. Forest setting aside, it’s truly more of a walk than a hike, most within an hour roundtrip.
Aside from the easy and clearly labeled pathways and bridges that lead you through the forest and follow the stream extending from the main recreation center, there are more advanced trails (aka real hiking) that lead up to nearby scenic points such as Jin Gan Forest and Shuiyang Forest (technically crossing over to Chiayi County) which is a popular spot for camping.
For those traveling with children (or for the inner child in you), they have signs and resting pavilions for each of the 12 zodiac animals throughout the recreational area to find as you explore the area.
Yes, they have the stereotypical tourist activity of paddle boats by the pier (where a dam forms a peaceful pool for leisurely paddling). For those who prefer to explore on land, there are many cute bridges and paths along the stream.
The climate up in the mountains is optimal for peonies so there is a greenhouse garden full of peonies for open to the public, usually at peak bloom in the spring. That said, throughout the year there are different flowers in season (ie hydrangeas in the summer) so it’s always worth stopping by the greenhouse.
11:00 – Travel over from Taichung
13:00 – Check into the hotel, grab a bite
14:00 – Hike around to some of the waterfalls, walk along the stream, paddleboat, check out the flower and herb gardens
19:00 – Grab dinner back at the resort
21:00 – Go on a night hike and stargaze from a pavilion
09:00 – Get breakfast and check out from the hotel
11:00 – One more hike to somewhere you missed yesterday
14:00 – Head back down the mountain (perhaps stopping by Xitou on the way down)
Last updated: October 2022