Fri, Sep 01, 2017 - Page 13 News List

Off the Beaten Track: Dajian Mountain: Short but steep

New Taipei City’s Sijhih District has a lot to offer hikers, especially the scenic and mildly strenuous climb up the fine peak and the astounding mountain views on its summit

By Richard Saunders  /  Contributing Reporter

Approaching the waterfall, the path clings to the side of a rocky gorge.

Photo: Richard Saunders

As anyone who visited or lived in Taipei back in the early 1990s or before will know, the metropolis (and its surrounding satellites) have undergone an amazing, almost unrecognizable transformation over the last 20 years. However, no part has changed more startlingly than New Taipei City’s Sijhih District (汐止), on the Keelung River about halfway between Taipei City and Keelung.

In the past, this low-lying area (the name means “limit of the tide,” since it lies at the upper limit of the tidal Keelung River) was once prone to suffering flood damage, a dubious reputation that came to a dramatic head with astounding TV footage of local houses under as much as one story of floodwater, following the deluge dumped on northern Taiwan by Typhoon Nari in 2001.

Sioufong Waterfall lies a short detour off the trail to the top of Dajian Mountain.

Photo: Richard Saunders

Following the disaster, a levee built along the river in 2002, and the completion of Yuanshanzi Flood Diversion Tunnel (圓山子分洪道) in 2005, finally rid the area of its curse, and these days Sijhih has undergone a major facelift, with modern high-rise office and apartment blocks much to the fore. The dramatic improvement in the district’s fortunes in recent years might not be a compelling reason to pay it a visit by itself, but its environs are rich in beautiful scenery, including one of New Taipei City’s most enchanting natural lakes, a smattering of shapely summits, three sets of waterfalls and several extraordinary curiosities.

The complex of temples at Zihhang Tang houses the incorruptible remains of a former monk.

Photo: Richard Saunders

Most hikers take the train to Sijhih to climb the deceptively easy-looking eminence known — for reasons not at first apparent — as Dajian Mountain (大尖山), and it’s a very worthwhile hike. If you cheat and take the minibus part of the way up, the hike can be completed in a couple of hours, but the trip can be lengthened into a full day by heading southeast across the hills to New Taipei City’s Pingsi District (平溪) along a network of undeveloped dirt trails (bring a map).

The Dragon Boat Cave is a natural curiosity on the path to Sioufong Waterfall.

Photo: Richard Saunders

For a much shorter hike, walk (or take a minibus) up to Tiansiou Temple (天秀宮), passing close to the extraordinary temple of Zihhang Tang (慈航堂), and climb to the summit of Dajian Mountain via the beautiful Sioufong Waterfall (秀峰瀑布).

If you start the hike at Sijhih train station, walk south (away from the river) to the main road through the district (highway 5), turn right and then left onto Sioufong Road (秀峰路), which climbs up to Tiansiou Temple and the trailhead nearby. It’s a long and fairly dull climb.

The view from Dajian Mountain is a splendid panorama taking in a grand sweep of countryside from Taipei to Keelung.

Photo: Richard Saunders

An easier alternative is to take the F911 minibus service that leaves from Sijhih Park (汐止公園; close to the train station) every hour or so and shuttles passengers almost all the way to Tiansiou Temple, near the trailheads to both Sioufong Waterfall and Dajian Mountain. From here it’s just over an hour’s climb via the waterfall to the summit.

Pray for a heavy downpour before climbing Dajian Mountain. The deluge won’t affect the quality of the wide, stepped paths too much, but it will make one of the scenic highlights of the walk, Sioufong Waterfall, worth seeing.

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