Sun Moon Lake is one of the popular cycling destinations among enthusiasts and tourists in Taiwan. The lake, located in the central part of the country in Nantou County, is surrounded by picturesque landscapes and offers a scenic route that attracts cyclists from various parts of the world.
There are various ways to cycle to Sun Moon Lake, including a detour from the Classic 9-Day Cycling Around Taiwan or taking a train to different train stations to start the ride. Here, I suggest several routes for you to consider. Given that most fellow cyclists would prefer routes with less traffic, I have chosen those routes along the small roads, mainly on the County Highways. These roads are enjoyable to cycle, but navigating them can be tricky in the dark. The road surface may deteriorate under unfavourable weather conditions. In such circumstances, please switch to the main roads, such as the Provincial Highways.
Changhua to Sun Moon Lake
Cycling from Changhua to Sun Moon Lake is one of the most popular routes, serving as a detour from the Classic 9-day Cycling Around Taiwan itinerary. On Day 2, we arrive at Changhua with the option to cycle to Sun Moon Lake or Chiayi the next day. The Official Cycle Route No. 1 (Day 3+1) suggests cycling mainly along Provincial Highway 14 and 21, which are well-maintained and the shortest with less climbing. However, some may find the road too busy, with heavy trucks, making it a rather unpleasant experience, especially after Caotun Township.
So, here, I suggest an alternative route mainly on county highways. We start from Chunghua Station and soon cycle on County Highway 139, which is recognized as one of the most popular cycling routes in central Taiwan, according to a local cycling magazine. After County Highway 139, we would have covered one-third of the route, having cycled 33 km with a total ascent of 550 meters.
The second third of the route is from Mingjian Township to Shuili, covering approximately 28 km with a total ascent of 310 meters. Mingjian Township is known for its numerous tea plantations. In Jiji Township, there is a small road that runs alongside the railways.
The final leg to Sun Moon Lake on County Highway 131 is 21 km, with a total ascent of 523 meters, placing you on the northern side of the lake. If your hotel is closer to the other side, Provincial Highway 21 is also an alternative choice, covering a distance of 15 km with a total ascent of 582 meters.
In addition to incorporating this route into the around Taiwan itinerary, another option is to take a train directly to Changhua Station and start the ride from there. Here is a list of trains that accommodate unbagged bikes traveling from Songshan Station in Taipei to Changhua Station on a typical weekday. For details on checking train schedules for bikes, please refer to this https://www.bikeexpress.com.tw/2020/bikes-on-public-transportation/#trawebsite
Official Route Changhua to Sun Moon Lake
- Garmin: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/course/144774721
- Velodash: https://velodash.page.link/z4rc
- komoot: https://www.komoot.com/tour/1024244045
Alternate Route 1 Changhua to Sun Moon Lake (Northern Side)
- Garmin: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/course/237480848
- Velodash: https://velodash.page.link/ot63
- komoot: https://www.komoot.com/tour/1388722602
Alternate Route 2 Changhua to Sun Moon Lake (Southern Side)
- Garmin: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/course/237558993
- Velodash: https://velodash.page.link/Pqg1
- komoot: https://www.komoot.com/tour/1388726498
After visiting Sun Moon Lake, Day 3+2 of the official Cycle Route No. 1 primarily follows Provincial Highways. This route is more direct and involves less climbing, offering a convenient and efficient option for cyclists. However, some riders may still prefer a quieter road, even if it means taking a longer route with more climbing. Here, I suggest this Alternate Route to get to Chiayi from Sun Moon Lake.
Official Route Sun Moon Lake to Chiayi
- Garmin: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/course/144775646
- Velodash: https://velodash.page.link/YwzL
- komoot: https://www.komoot.com/tour/1024245596
Alternate Route 1 Sun Moon Lake to Chiayi
- Garmin: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/course/239111469
- Velodash: https://velodash.page.link/5BUQ
- komoot: https://www.komoot.com/tour/1388990275
Taichung To Sun Moon Lake
Taichung is another starting point for cycling to Sun Moon Lake, and you can also take a train to Taichung Station to commence your ride.
Here, I suggest a route that follows county highways to Sun Moon Lake. This route includes three main climbs. The first climb is on County Highway 136, a popular training route for cyclists in Taichung, with a total ascent of 690 meters in 21 km. Most of the ascent occurs as we approach the top, making it progressively steeper.
After descending 10 km to Guoxing Township, another climb on County Highway 147 is necessary, with a total ascent of 470 meters in 20 km.
Following a short descent, the final climb, mainly on County Highway 131, is shorter with a total ascent of 281 meters in 10 km. Upon completing these three climbs, you will find yourself on the northern side of the lake.
If you prefer to take the train to Taichung from Taipei, here is the train schedule that accommodates unbagged bikes on a typical weekday from Songshan station in Taipei.
- Garmin: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/course/239512810
- Velodash: https://velodash.page.link/dWSo
- komoot: https://www.komoot.com/tour/1388990907
Ershui Station to Sun Moon Lake
Ershui Station is the train station closest to Sun Moon Lake and is accessible with bicycles. While there is a Jiji Line connecting Ershui Station to Checheng Station, which is even closer to Sun Moon Lake, unbagged bikes are not allowed on this line. Although it is stated that bagged bikes are allowed, the smaller size of the train makes it impractical to board with your bike. Additionally, the segment from Jiji Station to Checheng Station was destroyed after a typhoon or earthquake in 2022. Passengers heading to Checheng Station need to transfer to buses after Jiji Station. Consequently, it is not advisable to travel with your bikes on the Jiji Line.
Eddie Chen has documented his single-day trip from Ershui to Sun Moon Lake with his wife on his video
This is the route he shared with us.
- Garmin: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/course/239512106
- Velodash: https://velodash.page.link/vgkA
- komoot: https://www.komoot.com/tour/1388992273
Sending your Bike Beforehand
Changhua Station and Ershui Station provide bike shipping services. You can utilize these services to send your bike to the respective stations, allowing you to collect your bikes upon arrival and commence your ride. Here is a list of stations with bike shipping services. Typically, it takes 1 to 2 days for the bike to reach its destination. Here is a full list of train station that have bike shipping service.
High Speed Railway (HSR)
If you find the train ride too long, you may consider taking the High-Speed Railway (HSR) to Taichung or Changhua. The HSR Taichung Station is just 8.5 km away from Taichung Train Station, and the HSR Changhua Station is 9.5 km from Ershui Station. While a train ride from Taipei to Taichung and Changhua takes 3.5 to 4.5 hours, the HSR takes around 1 hour. To board the HSR, it’s necessary to bag your bikes with two wheels off.