Nicknamed as “the lake of 17-year-old young maiden”, Songluo Lake is famous for its foggy, varied nature which makes every visit a potential for surprise. It’s located in a rainy part of mountain in I-Lan, which is also fairly close to the distinguished Xue Mountain, the biggest mountain in the Northern Taiwan. There are 2 different trails around Sonluo Lake. One is the beginner-friendly, 2-km-long National Songluo trail, which is flat and lovely to walk, but doesn’t lead directly to the lake itself. The other is the rather challenging 6-km-long Songluo Mountain Trail, which is often muddy, and includes steep slopes, both up and down, but ends directly at the lake itself. The 6km Mountain Trail can be done two different ways, each with its own pros and cons. One way is to complete the hike in a single day, and get to the lake with the advantage of not needing to carry any camping equipment with you. After the challenging hike, you can sleep in a comfy bed, relaxing and recovering for the next day. The only drawback is that you arrive at the lake late in the day, and only get a glimpse of the lake. The best time to enjoy the Songluo Lake is at sunrise when the fog around makes for an otherworldly, serene experience. For mornings at the lake, a 2-day hike is the way to go. It lets you really enjoy the lake with no disturbance from the external world - and yes that means that cell coverage is bad, so be mentally prepared for it, and share where you’re going with your family and friends in advance.
First, wear a hiking-suitable outfit, along with a pair of hiking boots or rain boots. The trail is likely to be muddy, and sometimes you might step into knee-deep mud. A pair of rain boots with proper shoe insoles is highly recommended. Second, bring along a jacket, a hat or beanie, and maybe even gloves to keep you warm, as it gets cold at night. Cold for Taiwan, that is. This is a nation unburdened by frost. Third, pack camping and cooking equipment, and some food to prepare along the way. For water, just bring enough for a day. There is a clear creek to get water for cooking near the lake. Make sure you boil it well. Last but not least, be mentally prepared. It’s a place without any modern restrooms. Nature is all you get. Prepare things that you need, but don’t overpack, as you’ll be the one carrying the weight on the road. Once you’re packed, there is one thing you must do in advance - you must apply for a hiking permit. If you don’t get your permit in advance, you will need to register at the police office near the trailhead.
Always better to start the hike earlier, as sometimes there are too many people trying to camp by the lake. When the lake is larger (depending on the season, usually there’s more water in the summer and less water in the winter), there is less flat, non-muddy are for camping, so you’ll want to start earlier to ensure that you can have a good spot for the night. Most of the trail is muddy, and I-lan is famous for the rain, so after about 15 mins you’ll begin to appreciate your good decision to wear rain boots. This is true even on sunny days. It’s still going to be muddy.
Along the way, the trail leads you through forests. It’s really nice to feel so close to nature, surrounded by tall trees, some of them decades old. You’ll feel a sense of appreciation for how lively nature can be, especially on the slippery road. It becomes a lesson in humility. The hike consists of flat roads and slopes. In the middle of it, there’s a “Faucet Camping Site” where everyone can rest. It’s not really a camping site so much as it is a rest area, but it does have a faucet from which you can get some water to clean with or use to cook lunch (as long as you have a filter or a stove). On the back of it, there’s also a rather hidden place to use the bathroom. Just be aware of the ground before you take any strenuous action. After the faucet camping site, the hike starts to become more challenging. There are going to be some ups and downs along the way, and sometimes it’s not that easy, mainly due to the slippery road. Overall it’s not hard as long as you have a habit of regular exercise.
After a couple of ups and downs, all of a sudden you’ll see a flat green ground surrounded by mountains. That’s the destination for the evening. Songluo Lake.
You cannot have too many specific expectations for Songluo Lake. It’s a mysterious 17-year-old girl, and you never know when she’ll reveal her beauty to you, or dry up instead. As I was hiking up there back in April, I already heard people returning from the lake saying, “No lake this time. The water level is too low.” Obviously, returning wasn’t an option at all. I needed to meet her. They were right. I didn’t see the lake as it was in the photos on the internet. However, I was still amazed by the tranquil quality of the site itself. We were surrounded by mountains with a small lake to the side, far away from the world. This is a hidden gem. The fogs calmed me down. I was happy even without being able to see the acclaimed best side of Songluo Lake. It was an amazing thing to stay overnight, cook, talk with friends, and gaze at the stars above. The next day, I woke up early at 5am, set out from the camp, watched the sun rise from one side of the mountain with the fog adding on scents of mystery, and the breeze’s gentle hand caressing my face. I felt chilly, satisfied, and connected with nature spiritually. That was the experience that made Songluo Lake stand out, and that’s why I strongly recommend it for everyone with some hiking experience to try to stay for a night. #hike #Taipei #camping #SongluoLake #XueMountain #MuddyHike