A trip to Taipingshan is worth every penny

 At the end of the day, I felt the trip was worth every penny I paid at the gate even though there were some miscalculations on my part.

 At the end of the day, I felt the trip was worth every penny I paid at the gate even though there were some miscalculations on my part.

TAIPEI (Taiwan News)—Trying to catch a glimpse of the canopy of yellow leaves formed by the Taiwan Beech forest, I drove for three hours from Taipei to Taipingshan National Forest Recreation Area (太平山國家森林遊樂區) on Friday (Nov. 10), and at the end of the day, I felt the trip was worth every penny I paid at the gate even though there were some miscalculations on my part.

Friday was a beautiful day weather-wise and I was happy in the morning when the pictures of a sea of yellow leaves on tall Taiwan Beech trees against blue skies came into my mind. I left Taipei around 8:30 a.m., which turned out to be a bit too late for taking such a long trip. The traffic on National Highway No. 5 was light. I exited the freeway from the Yilan ramp to connect to Provincial Highway No. 7 via Yilan City. As the highway led me out of the city and into the countryside, the views along the country road were scenic.

I stopped over at Yingshih Village to check on Fan Fan Wild Hotspring (梵梵野溪溫泉) and found it was overflowed by the river after torrential rains slightly changed the course of the river. It took me about one hour to do the exploration.

Continuing on my trip to Taipingshan, I followed the signs to the junction, where the road on the right to Lishan (梨山) in Taichugn City (Provincial Highway 7 Jia) and the road on the left to Taipingshan meet. I made a left turn and took the latter. After driving about two kilometers, I arrived at the toll station of Taipingshan National Forest Recreation Area. The entrance ticket is NT$150 (NT$200 on weekends) per adult and NT$100 per car.    

From there, drivers are recommended to not be too distracted by breathtakingly beautiful scenery along the winding highway up the mountain, which include magnificent views of the forests, mountains and valleys far and near, and occasional seas of clouds in the valleys. The views are incredibly magnificent if it is sunny and the skies are blue, which was the case on Friday.      

After driving about 20 kilometers up the meandering road from the toll station, I came across the trailhead of one of the reportedly most beautiful trails in the world-- Jancing Historic Trail (見情懷古步道)—on my right side. I didn’t stop to explore the trail first as I thought I would still have time to do it after visiting the Taiwan Beech Trail, which turned out to be one of the miscalculations.        

I passed by the trailhead of the Cueifong Lake Circular Trail at 15.5 k of Cueifong Scenic Road and arrived at the Cueifong Lake parking lot at the end of the highway around 1:30 p.m.  I will recommend visitors to start hiking on Cueifong Lake Circular Trail from the entrance by the highway where the trail starts and turn back at the lookout point located at around the 1,100 m mark of the trail because this section offers the best views to the lake and after that point the views to the lake are almost totally blocked by the forests.   

A view on the Cueifong Lake Circular Trail

Cueifong Lake

Cueifong Lake (翠峰湖), which is situated at an elevation of 1,840 meters, is the largest high mountain lake in Taiwan.  

As I had hiked on the Cueifong Lake Circular Trail a couple years ago, I skipped the trail and set out to hike on the Taiwan Beech Trail (台灣山毛櫸步道) near the lake. The trailhead is located just below Cueifong Villa. The total length of the Taiwan Beech Trail is 3.8 km and it takes about three hours for a round trip. Along the last 700 meters of the trail, there are 900 hectares of the pure Taiwan Beech forest.

Cueifong Villa

In spring, Taiwan Beech produces buds; in summer, the whole tree is painted in green; in autumn, its leaves turn into yellow; and in winter, all leaves fall from the tree. I was glad to be able to catch about the last sight of the yellow leaves forming a canopy even though the whole trail was covered by the afternoon fog. The whole trail and the Taiwan Beech forest still looked beautiful and poetic in the mist.

The Taiwan Beech Trail

The first 2.5 km of this trail was built on the old forest railway which went along the mountain slopes. Therefore, it is very easy to hike on this part of the trail. However, nothing is left along the trail today to remind visitors of the past railway, but visitors can still observe the beautiful Taiwan Cypress and Japanese cedar forests along this part of the trail. 

The Taiwan Beech forest

The Taiwan Beech forest

Maybe I took too many photos of the beech forest, because when I returned to the trailhead, it was 4:45 p.m.

As I arrived at the Jancing Historic Trail entrance, it was too dark to hike. So, I made up my mind to come another time to experience the world-class trail. However, allow me to give a brief introduction to the trail here.

The Jancing Historic Trail was built on part of the old “Forest Railway- Jancing Line,” and the total length of the trail was originally 2.35 km. However, due to landslides, only 0.9 km is accessible to visitors today. 

The Jancing Historic Trail (Photo from Flickr by johnroyer)

The Jancing Historic Trail (Photo from Taipingshan National Forest Recreation Area official website)

The old “Forest Railway- Jancing Line” was about 5.5 km in length, and it still retains the natural beauty and historical heritages along the railway as decades ago. Nowadays, visitors will see the railway tracks, wooden log carts and bogies on the trail, which can invoke the memory of the old logging business.

After a day of hiking and picture taking, nothing is better than bathing in Jioujhihze Hot Spring (鳩之澤溫泉) near the toll station. The hot spring water comes from the cracks of stones on the hillside. The temperature there is about 140°C and is ameliorated to 38-42°C at the hot spring bathing area. The hot spring here has no odor and is clear.

Jioujhihze Hot Spring (Photo from Taipingshan National Forest Recreation Area official website)

After the trip, I learned that the best bet to enjoy Taipingshan is to stay overnight at a village near the forest recreation area or even better at one of Taipingshan's two villas-- Taipingshan Villa and Cueifong Villa (both requiring online booking two months in advance)--and start the trip early.