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.
There are many tours and activities available in Nantou such as river Tracing, paragliding, Shanlinxi Forest Recreation Area 杉林溪, Cona's Chocolate Castle, Shuiyuan Suspension Bridge, JOJOZOO Park, and Aowanda Forest Recreation Area.
You can find more tours of Nantou on Klook here or KKday here.
We have stayed at and recommend Jenq Yang Hotspring Hotel (you can book on Agoda here, Booking.com here, Trip.com here, or Klook here), a hot spring hotel near the mystical Lushan hot spring, and Maple Leaf Holiday Villa (you can book on Agoda here, Booking.com here, Hotels.com here, Expedia.com here, Trip.com here, or Klook here), a lodge with a great view and within walking distance of Cingjing Farm. I also have stayed at and recommend Kirin Villa (you can book on Agoda here or Booking.com here), a mountain resort in Puli near Sun Moon Lake.
Looking for a hotel? Find out where to stay in our Taiwan hotels guide or search for the best hotel deals in Taiwan here. We recommend booking through Agoda here, which provides the best quality selection of accommodation on the islands.
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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. If you are looking for car rentals, you can also search Qeeq here, Klook here, KKday here. You can also check out our car rental guide here.
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. Looking for scooter rental in Nantou? Search Klook here or KKday here to search for options. You can also check out our scooter rental guide here.
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. You can book tickets to travel to Nantou via inter-city bus on Klook here.
You can book tickets to Taichung via high speed rail (HSR) on Klook here or KKDay here, or book tickets via the normal train (TRA) on Klook here, then switch to a bus to Nantou.
Bicycle Rental: Cycling is the best way to enjoy Taiwan's landscapes if you have the time and energy. Looking for bicycle rentals in Taiwan? You can search on KKday here and search for tours on Klook here. You can also check out our Taiwan cycling guide here.
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).
You can find more tours of Nantou on Klook here or KKday here.
Check out our full guide to Nantou here and our guide to Sun Moon Lake here.
You can also out our full travel guide to Taiwan here.
We are US Expats that have extensive experience living, working, and travelling in Taiwan. In our day, we had to learn many things about Taiwan the hard way. But we have come to learn that Taiwan is one of the best places in the world for Foreigners to live. Our blog does not represent the opinions of every foreigner in Taiwan. We are just trying to help others learn more about this beautiful country.