Like the name suggests, Five Finger Mountain (五指山) has five peaks in a row, like fingers on a hand. Me and the wife were there several years ago but at the time I wasn’t really into hiking so we only hiked the relatively easy Traverse Trail (called crabwise trail on some maps), never reaching any of the peaks. In the last couple of years however I’ve taken more of an interest in hiking so when my friend posted about it on The Map Room I became intrigued; it seemed like a fun hike that would be suitable for me. Due to different circumstances I haven’t been able to go until now. The route on The Map Room includes a sixth peak (an extra finger?) but since I’m less experienced I decided to stick with the five main peaks. I know it’s a pretty popular area for hikers so to avoid the crowds, and also the mid day heat, I decided to start early. So, a little bit after five on Sunday morning I jumped on my motorbike and set off towards the mountains.

At quarter past six I had parked my motorbike at the trail head and headed towards the thumb peak. The trail goes through the forest, starting out relatively flat then turns steeply upwards, becoming rather uneven at places. When I started it was still dark beneath the tree canopy but as I hiked the sun came up, painting the landscape in golden light. This gave me plenty of opportunities to stop and take photos, forcing me to go slowly which is good because this section is a pretty long and tiring climb.

When I finally reached the thumb peak I was a bit disappointed because it’s surrounded by tall trees that block much of the view. After that climb it feels kind of anticlimactic to get to the peak and just see more trees.

The trail from the thumb peak, past the index finger and all the way to the middle finger is pretty flat, with a mix of short uphill and downhill sections, which makes for easy hiking. Just like the thumb, the index finger peak is surrounded by trees. At the middle finger peak however, the trees have been cleared to give room for a cell phone tower, so you actually have a bit of a view. I had brought my drone with me and this was the first (turned out to be only) chance to fly it.

Heading down from the middle finger the trail sort of disappears as it widens onto a tree covered slope. You can just pick your own way between the trees until the trail reappears again at the bottom of the slope. The trail then passes through some denser jungle before heading up towards the ring finger. From there it’s mostly down hill to the little finger. You get a few glimpses of the view along the way but most of the time the tress are in the way.

The trail does actually continue after the little finger but since I had reached my goal of hiking all five fingers I turned back. This meant climbing back up the rather steep slope to the ring finger that I’d just come down which was pretty tiring and also somewhat annoying.

Now, I generally dislike trails where you have to hike the exact same route back to the trail head. Fortunately it’s only the section between the little finger and the middle finger that you have to do twice. Around half way between the middle finger and the index finger there is an alternative route down to the parking lot. There is a big sign right at the split explaining that this route is unofficial and that route conditions are unclear – basically, do it at your own risk. However, I knew that my friends from The Map Room had taken this route so I decided to give it a try. It is a pretty steep trail, with lots of sections where you need to scramble over rough terrain, and a few places where people have put up safety ropes. As you might know, I really enjoy this kind of hiking but other people might find it too difficult or too scary.

I remember going through a really narrow canyon, called Giant Boulder Crevice (猴洞步道一線天), the last time I visited Five Finger Mountain. During a break I took a bit of time to study the map and found that my alternative route could actually connects back to the Traverse Trail, close to the entrance of this canyon. It took a bit more scrambling than the shortest route but I really didn’t mind cause the canyon is so cool.

I think this was a good day-hike and I did enjoy it but I have to say if I went to Five Finger Mountain again I would take a different route. Since all but one of the peaks are surrounded by trees that block the view, I think you could skip one without losing much of the experience. In my opinion, the only reason to go to the little finger is so you say you climbed all five peaks, so I would skip that one. The route I would chose, now that I know better, is starting with the Giant Boulder Crevice, heading up the alternative route – because scrambling is more fun when ascending – then hiking the normal trail to the ring finger peak. There I would turn around and head back towards the thumb peak then down to the parking lot from there.

Most of the trail goes through the forest which is why the views are so limited. The upside to this is that you’re shielded from the sun much of the way, making it less hot than trails that are out in the open. As a bonus, the sun filtering in between the trees paints the forest in a mix of dark shadows and golden yellow light. The photographer in me really enjoyed trying to capture this beauty. Here’s a selection of my best shots to end the post.