distance: 2.8km – somehow the variety of scenery made it feel much longer.
time: 1½ hours
difficulty: 6.5/10 – this walk is a little rough around the edges. All the mud makes the first section climbing up through forest a little hard work and it’s also really badly signposted, (there’s a reason for that – see below), which makes it a tad more challenging. Having said that, it’s a really short hike so if you’re not sure where you’re going you can always retrace your steps.
water: 0.8L – on a cool, soggy day we didn’t drink much but you’d need it in the heat.
shade: this is a trail of two halfs, the first half winds up through trees whilst the second half covers scrubby grasslands with little-to-no shade.
mobile network: mostly ok but a little patchy in places.
enjoyment: 9/10 – I enjoy walks which go through more than one type of landscape and I also really like being able to start and finish in different places by relying on public transport. I think the fact that we did it on a foggy day added to my enjoyment as I love the atmosphere of grasslands in the fog. For animal lovers there is the bonus of being able to see cattle grazing on the grass or foraging in the woods, we only saw them up on the exposed part of the mountain but all the way up the forest path we saw signs that they’d been there.
other: the reason for the poor signage is that, at the moment this is only a ‘planned route’ rather than an officially sanctioned one, as such there is no one responsible for maintaining the paths. On top of that, the ground here is the muddiest I’ve yet to encounter in Taiwan so you’ll probably require waterproof footwear to do this. You need to cross a small stream at the start and the ground looks like it’s probably wet for long periods at a time. And also, if you meet the cows, make sure to take sensible precautions – act calmly and respectfully, (no shouting, running or cow-bothering-selfies), they’re wild animals and will most likely leave you alone as long as you do the same for them.
The walk goes from Neiliao bus stop up to Qingtiangang Visitor Centre. We found the map after arriving at the top and it was there we realised that the route we’d taken was only a ‘planned route’ rather than an established path.
From the bus stop it’s a short walk up to the end of the lane past a couple of houses on the right. When the road stops there are steps leading off into the forest.
Very quickly the trail splits and we took the right-hand path towards a small stream.
You need to cross the stream. With the water at this level there was no way to cross without stepping in the stream – although it had been raining for a couple of days so in the summer there might be less water. Beyond the water the path climbs upwards towards a kind of wooded ridge.
Upon reaching the ridge the path goes right downhill and left uphill. The hike goes from the valley up to Qingtiangang so we took the left path going upwards.
There weren’t too many junctions but each time it was basically the same, keep going up. At this junction with a big rock we took the left hand path leading up through the trees. There were distance markers on the ground but they didn’t really match the route we were taking.
The landscape here was quite old and rugged feeling, the trees on the ridge must be pretty hardy to survive the weather. We were blasted by a few drifts of colder cloud/fog as we made our way up.
Continue up ignoring the path on the left. As is customary in Taiwan, hiking groups have used ribbon to signpost the route so for most of the way it was easy to see where to go.
This was had the most standing water that I’ve seen on a walk in Taiwan and judging by how mushed the earth is I’d guess that the weather conditions at this elavation combined with the shade and the heavy feet of cows probably keep the ground wet and muddy for most of the year.
This was the last junction before the path rose above the trees, we continued up via the left path – the mud here sucked at Teresa’s wellies and threatened to not give them back.
Just before you break through the tree line, there’s a little bump and a ditch to cross and then the path takes a sharp left (it goes right too but I’m not sure where to).
You pass one final tree and then…
…beautiful open space. As is obvious from the picture, the weather was somewhat overcast when we went but I think it’s beautiful. There’s something pretty magical about being in a constantly shifting, tiny universe where you’re always at the centre and the edges just fizzle out to nothing.
The fog added to the challenge of finding out where to go. In a forest it’s easy to follow the tags but they become header to spot amongst the ever-bending grasses. A couple of times I was aware of the smell of cow poo becoming noticeably fresher only to be startled shortly after that by its maker staring at me from a couple of metres away.
The land here very definitely belongs to the cows, small grassy clearings are surrounded by taller grasses with multiple cow-made paths leading out of each cleared area.
The multiple paths thing means you’re even more dependant on the hiking group ribbons to guide you in the right direction – you have to look carefully though, some of them have fallen on the ground.
We made it through the grassland without getting lost, only to emerge next to a sign that told us the area was closed (there were no such notices from the other direction). Just beyond the sign we turned right, joining the Qingtiangang loop trail.
The path goes uphill for a little way – here we were startled by a giant bull who put his head through the wall of grass just as we walked past.
At this bunker, (there are a few standing around on the hillside), we turned left following the sign to Qingtiangang visitor centre. (The junction is behind the bunker.)
On the way to the visitor centre the path passes an old cattle shed. Inside there are pictures of the cows set into the walls high up, like its some kind of bovine living room.
The final bit of the path is fenced in – presumably to keep the tourist hoards from sprawling too far on the busy days. It was pretty busy even on a cold, wet Wednesday afternoon so I imagine it gets quite noisy on a weekend.
At the top of the fenced in path there’s a gate on the left (to stop the cows escaping) and beyond that the path heads past a small shrine and towards the visitor centre. I had a little nosy at the exhibits there, most were about the extraction of sulphur or cattle herding but I found the sections on how hiking paths were created to be particularly interesting. There was a variety of metal tools and photos of them being used or showing what they could achieve – as I’ve hiked around the mountains here I’ve often wondered about the people who have carried signs/rocks/posts/tools up cliff faces so it was satisfying to have some of my queries answered. From here we took the S15 minibus back to Shilin, had dinner and then caught the S19 bus back up the the starting point to retrieve the car – if we did this again I wouldn’t drive to the start, public transport is way more convenient.
how to get there
google maps address: near 105, Lane 93, Pingjing Street, Shilin District, Taipei City, 111
GPS address: N25 08.588 E121 34.714
public transport: this walk is very well served by public transport, in fact public transport is more convenient than taking you own transport. The S19 minibus goes from Shilin MRT station, (exit two, right on Zhongzheng road and the bus stop is right there by Pizza Hut). Google suggests that this takes two hours but I think it’s actually closer to one hour. At the other end minibus S15 can take you back down to Shilin.
My new words learnt on this hike:
- 點 / diǎn / point (as in two point five km)
- 零食 / língshì / snacks (either hot or cold)