The 99 Peaks Trail (aka Jiujiufeng Forest Trail or 九十九峰) in Caotun Township of Nantou County is one of the most unique and beautiful places in Taiwan. It features extremely steep grassy hills that look like they are from a cartoon. This is due to the easily eroding sediment that they are made out of. Taiwan's torrential rains and earthquakes have sped up the erosion on these hills, making them especially steep and pointy, and creating what looks like 99 peaks on the horizon. From the trail one clearly see the jagged 99 peaks as well as beautiful views of Caotun and Nantou.
The 99 Peaks are built on the same sediment as Huoyanshan, with iron rich soil that was deposited and lifted up due to tectonic forces.
Discoloration due to laterization (leaching and oxidation due to heavy rain) of minerals in the sediment has made the rocks near the top of the mountain here orange-red.
Like Tianliao Moon World (田寮月世界) and Liji Badlands （利吉惡地）, 99 Peaks is considered a badland due to fast erosion.
99 Peaks, Huoyanshan (火炎山), and Shibaluohan Mountain (十八羅漢山) make up the three "Huoyanshan formations" in Taiwan.
The slopes here are very steep, and average from 60-80 degrees, making them impossible to cultivate. The entire mountain area is like a bunch of mini slot canyons.
At it's highest point, the 99 peaks are 779 meters above sea level, but were only 777 meters above sea level before the 921 earthquake.
After the 921 earthquake, much of the soil on the mountain eroded away due to shaking, and the hills were left bare. Shortly after, the area was declared a nature reserve. 21 years after the earthquake, the hills are now covered in grass and shrubs.
The trail doesn't go to the very top of the peaks, and if you venture further be careful because the cliffs are very steep on either side and erosion could happen at any time.
As of March 2020, Nantou County has purchased the land of 99 Peaks for 100 million NT, in hopes of cultivating it for tourism, such as hot air balloon rides. Let's hope it becomes a major tourist destination!
1 KM one way
About 1 hour total
About 200 meters of elevation gain.
How to get there:
By Car: Take National Freeway 6 toward Puli and get off at the east Caotun interchange. Then drive east on provincial highway 14 until you reach Jianxing Rad intersection on the other side of the river. Turn left and keep going until you reach the trail head.
By Scooter: Ride east on provincial highway 14 until you reach Jianxing Rad intersection on the other side of the river. Turn left and keep going until you reach the trail head.
By Bus: Take bus 6268A east out of Caotun and get off at Pinglin Station. From there it is about a 20 minute walk to the trailhead.
Please see below:
After taking the bus from Caotun to Puli many times I was always interested in the jagged peaks to the northeast in Caotun. They looked surreal, like something from a cartoon like the Lorax or a video game. The super steep green hills did not look like a natural formation. But they are. I also noticed after a few small earthquakes that the hills do erode away. Which is why hiking on them is scary.
I have only been on the trail once, and I got there by scooter. The trail up was easy. There is a wooden boardwalk that goes all the way up. But it seemed like the boardwalk could be washed away by erosion at anytime.
Toward the top the trail turns into earth steps. You can see how steep these hills are! Image a giant super steep pile of sand, and that's what you have here.
From the top of the viewing platform you can see some great views of Caotun and Nantou. You can also easily see the layers of sediment being pushed upward in the hills.
View south of downtown Caotun and Nantou.
"A Distant View of Grand Landscapes"
"Standing here and looking from Caotun the 99 Peaks of Huyan Mountain, you first see 200 meter hills, then the broad valley and river terraces of the Wuxi River, and in the distance the 780-meter 99 Peaks, the difference in elevation presents a striking sight."
View of the tallest part of the peaks from a hill near the viewing platform. The walk up here was really scary. Just past the grass is a 1000 foot sand cliff.
The same view from a slightly higher location.
Looking over a super steep sand cliff.
Panorama toward Caotun.
Panorama of the 99 Peaks.
Sorry I took these photos with a crappy cell phone.
Because my photos don't really do the place justice, check out this drone footage that I didn't take (I didn't have a drone the last time I went there).
Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more of our blogs of Nantou to come!
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