Fri, Apr 13, 2018 - Page 13 News List

Off the Beaten Track: A walk on the edge of history: Batongguan Historic Trail

One of Taiwan’s finest day hikes features vertiginous precipices and impressive waterfalls in an easy and safe half-day ramble

By Richard Saunders  /  Contributing Reporter

Back in the 1990s, on my first visit, this was still a particularly precarious stretch of the trail, cut into the sheer rock face. Much improved after being nearly destroyed by Typhoon Morakot in 2009, the trail is wide and safe, with rugged iron tube barriers to dissuade the careless from falling over the brink.

CLOUD DRAGON WATERFALL

From here to Cloud Dragon Waterfall (雲龍瀑布), much of the trail is cut into the sheer cliff, with a breathtaking drop into the gorge far, far below, punctuated by short sections where the mountain gradient becomes gentle enough to support pockets of forest. Four kilometers (about two hours) from the trailhead, Cloud Dragon Waterfall plunges in two spectacular leaps, both invisible from the trail until the last moment. The upper fall can be enjoyed from the bridge across the stream below. To see the much higher and more spectacular lower fall, walk to the suspension bridge, another hundred meters or so further.

After Cloud Dragon Waterfall, the trail disappears into the woods, the terrain becomes less precipitous and there are only occasional views over the great gorge below. Paradoxically, though, the hiking becomes a bit more taxing. About 40 minutes past the waterfall, the trail passes a trekkers’ shelter called Lele Cabin (樂樂山屋), standing on the site of a former Japanese police substation.

Beyond the hut the trail soon emerges from the trees, and there are views across to a stream plunging in multiple cascades down the mountainside at Yinu Waterfall (about six kilometers from the trailhead). The trail crosses the stream by an iron footbridge just below a particularly fine fall in the series; the rocky scree at its base is a great place to stop, relax and enjoy the beauty of the scene before contemplating the walk back to Dongpu.

Beyond Yinu Waterfall, the Batongguan Trail continues to climb to Guangao (觀高). For day trippers, though, the best is over (and you definitely need permits to go any further), so turn round and start the walk back to Dongpu.

There-and-back walks almost never finish as well as they start, but with a whole new set of panoramas unfolding on the return journey, the walk back this time is every bit as enjoyable as the outward route. Just hope for clear weather.

Richard Saunders is a classical pianist and writer who has lived in Taiwan since 1993. He’s the founder of a local hiking group, Taipei Hikers, and is the author of six books about Taiwan, including Taiwan 101 and Taipei Escapes. Visit his Web site at www.taiwanoffthebeatentrack.com.

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