The northernmost span of the Tamsui-Kavalan Trails follows the course of the Keelung River upriver from Taipei almost as far as the coast before veering south towards Jiufen. The section between Xizhi and Ruifang jumps from small town to small town, passing lots of temples and traces of history along the way.
This peaceful part of the northern Tamsui-Kavalan Trails traverses the slopes of the valley south of Jinguashi. Along the way you’ll pass deserted mining settlements, a tomb with a tragic tale, (or two, or three, or four), and a now abandoned dam in the middle of the forest.
The stretch of the Tamsui-Kavalan trails leading into Shifen from the south is probably the quietest section of the middle route, but don’t let that put you off. This really has the feel of a functional historic trail, leading you over the hills and across the valley from one village to another. And those who walk it south to north can reward themselves with some snacks from Shifen Old Street.
This leg of the journey ties up the northern, middle and southern routes on their route into the centre of Yilan. Along the way you can stop to take in some grand coastal scenery, soak up the sun at the surfer beach in Wai'ao, visit Toucheng's historic old street and dip your toes in Jiaoxi's hot spring waters. Although it may not seem like the obvious place to go for a stroll, those who do walk this way will certainly find plenty to keep themselves interested.
The first step on the southern span of the Tamsui-Kavalan Trails, this walk takes you from Da’an District over the hills to the popular sightseeing spot of Shenkeng Old Street. Depending on you view of the town’s famous stinky tofu this is either a perfect reward for a day of hard walking, or sore punishment.
This part of the Tamsui-Kavalan Trails has two unique claims to fame, not only does it have the oldest original section of path, but it also overlaps with the route that the Japanese took when they marched from Yanliao to modern-day Taipei in 1895.
Hikers in Taiwan are spoilt for choice, we have an almost endless number of paths to get our boots dirty on. Here are five of the trails that have proved particularly popular in 2020, as well as five that deserve to be more widely enjoyed.
Much of the original Tamsui-Kavalan Trails have been swallowed up by Taipei's urban sprawl. In this section you follow the course of the city's subterranean train tracks past some of the old factories that spurred on the development of the railway network, past grand historic temples, and on towards Keelung River.
This stretch of the northern Tamsui-Kavalan Trails connects the relaxed beach town of Fulong with the fishing villages of Shicheng and Dali. On the way it takes you past the old Caoling Tunnel, and perhaps even follows the route taken by Wusha - the immigrant credited with being ‘the pioneer of Yilan’.
Ruifang to Shuangxi forms part of the northern road of the Tamsui-Kavalan Trails. It passes through several rural communities and is a relatively easy route, since much of it follows established roads. It also passes the famous Jinzibei steele.
This section’s use of riverside cycle paths makes it a very accessible stretch of the southern Tamsui-Kavalan Trails. What’s more, this ease of walking doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice beautiful views since the scenery around Pinglin has its own effortless prettiness.
This section of the Tamsui-Kavalan Trails will lead you through Jiufen and all the way to the sleepy beach town of Fulong. On the way you will get to take a wild wander over some of the less well known trails along Taiwan’s northeastern coast, as well as see traces of a rural way of life that you rarely find close to Taipei.
If you know anyone who isn’t yet sold on the natural and cultural delights of Taiwan, then take them by the hand and lead them to the start of this trail for a condensed highlights-reel version of everything that makes me love this charming island. This portion of the middle Tamsui-Kavalan Trails follows the footsteps of the tea-traders of yesteryear over clear streams and vibrant forests to a mountain top and the coast beyond. Along the way you’ll meet the many gods who they trusted to keep them safe on their travels, and if you’re not utterly smitten with Taiwan by the time you finish, then you don’t have a heart.
After four years of calling Taiwan my home I found myself taking part in a group tour to visit some areas with special natural characteristics. This is my journal of the experience.
One for the water lovers, Tonghou Stream trail is a delightful adventure in the quiet hills above Yilan. Its relative difficulty to access means that the scenery is still beautifully pristine.