What you need to know
Pingtung offers some of the most secluded and unexplored hiking trails in Taiwan. How many of them have you been to?
Only a few places can offer quietness and a peace of mind like the mountains. Pingtung has many well-preserved and secluded old trails to choose from, and visitors are encouraged to experience the natural beauty and serenity of a guided hike for themselves.
東源水上草原 Dongyuan Wet Grassland | Mudan Township, Pingtung County
With the picturesque Lake of Tears (哭泣湖) and surrounding fields of spectacular white ginger lilies, the scenic wetlands of the Dongyuan tribe form an earthly paradise, ideal for simply wandering and admiring the view.
For the protection of the fragile local ecosystem, safety, and respect to the customs and land rights of the indigenous tribes, visitors are highly recommended to enter this area under the guidance of a local docent.
四林格山自然景觀區 Mt. Sihlinge Recreation Area | Mudan Township, Pingtung County
Sihlinge (or “four forest grid”) derives its name from the rugged and checkered landscape of the area. Located in the center of Hengchun (恆春), its peak overlooks the entire peninsula, and it's the only place in Taiwan where the Pacific Ocean, the Taiwan Strait, and the Bashi Channel can all be viewed at the same time.
As “Hengchun’s finest lookout,” visitors can enjoy spectacular views of the ocean and the sky merging into one.
尾寮山步道 Mt. Weiliao Trail | Gaoshu Township, Pingtung County
As ideal as it is for more leisurely trips, the Mt. Weiliao Trail is also great for training and getting into shape before high mountain expeditions. The first half of the trail is a private and mostly single-lane road with a gradually ascending slope. As you make your way up the hill, the Maolin area and the river bed of the Laonong River (荖濃溪) below can be viewed, as well as a host of exquisite mountains in the distance. Both sides of the trail are covered by dense acacia forests, creating shades from direct sunlight. On steeper sections, stairways with safety ropes for climbers to hold on to. Further up, the trail lies the Dajin Falls (大津瀑布), a secret scenic spot that can't be found in the guidebooks.
With a wide variety of plant and animal species to be found on and around, the trail is an excellent place to simply admire nature, to enjoy the great outdoors, and to conduct field trips to learn more about the local ecosystems.
涼山瀑布步道 Liangshan Waterfall Trail | Majia Township, Pingtung County
The Liangshan ("cool mountain") Waterfall Trail is actually a series of three distinct waterfalls along the Niujiaowan Creek (牛角灣), and it is located upstream from the Donggang River (東港溪) in Pingtung. The first waterfall is the most accessible, thus it’s the best choice for travelers who just want to get their toes wet. However, it requires a trip of climbing numerous steps along the steep mountainsides, which would be more suitable for those who are ready to hike.
It takes approximately 30 to 40 minutes to get to the third waterfall on foot, which is the most spectacular of the three. Although it’s more challenging, the walk along the trail promises rewarding views of the rapid streams and deep pools, as well as incessant and soothing murmuring of the creek.
The Liangshan Waterfall is a perfect spot for bird watching, as well as for observing ferns.
北大武山步道 North Dawu Mountain Trail | Taiwu Township, Pingtung County
Located at an altitude of 3,092 meters, and situated on the south side of the Central Mountain Range, North Dawu Mountain is one of the five highest mountains in Taiwan. Rich in natural resources, it offers stunning views from its summit. This is especially true between fall and winter, when climbers are treated to the magnificent "cloudfalls" at sunrise and beautiful rosy sunsets. Definitely worth a visit!
The local indigenous Paiwan people regard the North Dawu Mountain as their sacred mountain and call it "Meli-miligang," which translates into "Beauty of a Reverie."
浸水營古道 Jinshueiying Old Trail | Chunri Township, Pingtung County
Since the weather is always cloudy, foggy, and very humid all year round along this route, it has been aptly named Jinshueiying ("soaked camp"). This trail is one of the oldest and most frequently traversed cross-mountain trails in Taiwan. Tracing along the path, one may find a rich diversity of life form both animal and plant, with ferns and orchids being the most notable species. In addition to these unique natural sights, the Jinshueiying Old Trail also bears traces of significant events that mark different milestones in the rich history of Taiwan.
Going back around five centuries, the Jinshueiying Old Trail was originally used mainly for patrolling the area. Since then, the Dutch, the local indigenous people, the Han settlers, and the Japanese have all made use of it for different reasons. As a well-trodden and historical path, it’s been shaped by the footfall of tribes, gold miners, missionaries, merchants, and soldiers.
阿塱壹古道 Alangyi Old Trail | Mudan Township, Pingtung County
The Alangyi Old Trail sits towards the end of Provincial Highway No. 26, connecting the counties of Pingtung and Taitung. It was once an important hunting route for indigenous peoples, as well as a main road for early settlers branching out to develop new areas. More recently, it’s also been an invaluable trail for scholars to explore its legacy. Differing from other walks, instead of dirt road or wooden planks, most paths of this trail is covered with pebbles in all sizes. Because the traces of hikers are comparatively few, it leaves the trail a more untouched and undiscovered feel, obtaining the title of "End of the Earth."
To enter the nature reserves of Alangyi, application is required prior to the visit (limited numbers per day), with a valid ID, and accompanied by a professional tour guide.
雙流國家森林遊樂區步道 Trails in the Shuangliu Forest Recreation Area | Shizi Township, Pingtung County
The recreational area is located in Shizi Township, Pingtung County, and covers approximately 1,600 hectares. It consists of the White Banyan Trail, the Maozih ("hat") Mountain Hiking Trail, the Mountainside Trail, and the Waterfall Trail; each with its own distinct features and diverse ecosystems. Clear streams and an abundance of fish further add to the rich natural resources of Shuangliu Forest Recreation Area.
One may enjoy viewing butterflies and orchid up close in spring, play in the water and watch the waterfall in summer, appreciate forest bathing in autumn, and spend time with the purple crow butterfly (Euploea tulliolus) in winter.
里龍山步道 Lilongshan Trail | Shizi Township, Pingtung County
As a southern extension of the Central Mountain Range, Mt. Lilong ("mile-long dragon") is not only the only mountain over 1,000 meters in Hengchun, but also the highest peak in southern Taiwan. Featured on the list of "Taiwan’s Top Hundred Hills", this challenging but scenic trail is seven kilometers long and takes two to four hours (one-way) to complete.
Though the first part of the trail is flat and fairly easy-going, there are several streams and boulders to negotiate as one approaches the summit.
石門山步道 Shimenshan Trail | Mudan Township, Pingtung County
Located in Mudan Township, Pingtung County, the Shimenshan Trail actually lies on a steep cliff shared by Mt. Shimen (石門山) and Mt. Wuchongsi (五重溪山). It earned the name "Shimen" (literally "stone gate") due to its strategic location and uncanny resemblance to a front door. The entire trail is surrounded by the forest, and it leads hikers among many natural and largely undisturbed ecosystems. It is also well-marked with milestones at regular intervals of less than 100 meters.
The Shimenshan Trail was the site of the famous Mudan Incident, so be sure to visit the Shihmen Ancient Battlefield Memorial Hall along the way, in order to pay respect to those brave indigenous souls who fell resisting during the Japanese invasion.
龜山步道 Gueishan Trail | Checheng Township, Pingtung County
Gueishan ("turtle mountain"), also named Mt. Dinghutou ("tiger head peak"), is a hill next to the estuary of the Baoli River (保力溪) and adjacent to the National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium in Checheng Township. Along the way, visitors are able to stay away from the heat under the shades of trees and manmade pavilions, except for the first observation deck. Beautiful butterflies can be spotted circling around in the sunlight splashing through leaves and branches above. Numerous additional lookouts along the trail promise a host of expansive sceneries to take in.
It only takes half an hour to reach the top of the relatively undemanding Gueishan Trail. From there, you can admire the spectacular scenery courtesy of the surrounding mountains and sea.
墾丁國家森林遊樂區步道 Trail in the Kenting National Forest Recreation Area | Hengchun Township, Pingtung County
Located in Sheding, Kenting, the elevation of this trail varies from approximately 230 to 300 meters above sea level. Lush tropical vegetation provides not only ideal dwellings for various animals and insects, but also welcome human visitors with paths of shade. In the renowned White Banyans Area, an exclusive view of the stunning "Forest by One Tree" can be found. Additionally, the looking-glass trees (or "Heritiera littoralis Dryand") have attracted more attention due to the remarkable vitality of their ever-extending buttress roots.
The surrounding landscape of the trail, composed mostly of limestone and coral reef, sets this extraordinary trail apart from most in walks in Taiwan.
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This article is reproduced under the permission of Pingtung County Government.
TNL Editor: Daphne K. Lee (@thenewslensintl)
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