Fri, Jun 22, 2018 - Page 13 News List

Off the BeatenTrack: Neishuangsi Old Trail

One of the finest of Yangmingshan’s easier historic routes, Neishuangsi Old Trail is a good choice for a summer hike, with its shady woodland, relatively gentle climbs and cool streams

By Richard Saunders  /  Contributing reporter

Saint’s Waterfall, at the start of Neishuangsi Old Trail, is one of the nicest waterfalls on Yangmingshan.

Photo: Richard Saunders

Pingdengli (平等里, “flat village”) is a large, and, yes, relatively flat area of land, lying at about 400 meters above sea level in the southern foothills of Yangmingshan (陽明山). Thanks to the Datun Mountains (大屯山群), which loom above it to the north and west, the area is protected from the worst of the nasty weather that comes in from the ocean, and this is one of the most sheltered and sunniest spots in all Yangmingshan.

The area’s excellent microclimate, coupled with its rich volcanic soil, makes it perfect for growing things. Originally fruit and vegetables were the main crop farmed here, but as competition from farms in southern Taiwan increased, farmers started targeting local tourists by growing flowers, ornamental trees and pick-your-own fruit, such as strawberries.

This is a wonderful, yet often overlooked, corner of Yangmingshan National Park (陽明山國家公園). Even better, the weather in this area is often dry during the winter monsoon months, when more exposed parts of the mountains to the north and east are cold, wet and foggy. Equally, the shady woods, relatively gentle ascents of many trails and a chain of natural pools in the Neishuang Creek (內雙溪) make it a relatively comfortable choice for a summer hike.

OLD TRAILS

The area has been farming land for over a century, and before the first roads were built up into the mountains, locals crossed the area by a network of old trails. At least 20 old trails in what is now Yangmingshan National Park can still be followed, and in Pingdengli alone, no less than four parallel old routes link old farming settlements with the ridges of Qingtiangang (擎天崗, better known to many expats as Buffalo Meadow) high above.

IF YOU GO

Bus S18 leaves from the row of bus stops outside Jiantan MRT station, exit one, every 30 to 40 minutes, daily. The adult fare is NT$15.

Returning from Qintiangang at the end of the hike, bus S15 leaves the bus stop at the car park beside the visitor center every 20-60 minutes. Alternatively, take the much more regular bus 108 from here to its terminus and change there to bus 260 or R5 to Jiantan MRT station. Both segments of the journey cost NT$15.


Of the four, Majiao Old Trail (瑪礁古道) and Zhugaoling Old Trail (竹篙嶺古道) keep to the high ground of two parallel ridges. For much of its length, Jiaokeng Old Trail (礁坑古道) keeps close to a wooded creek that flows through the valley between to the two. The fourth, longest and finest of the four routes, the Naishuangsi Old Trail (內雙溪古道), follows the headwaters of the Neishuang Creek, making a lovely, not too strenuous and (for most of its length) remarkably peaceful, solitary ramble.

Even today, the trail is far from popular. Maybe the unsurfaced dirt path deters most people (there’s not one stretch of stone-slabbed path to be seen on the trail proper), or maybe it’s because the stream has to be forded six times (which would be difficult or dangerous after heavy rain).

In any event, it’s a quiet hiking choice for a busy weekend. Even the bus ride out there, along the Waishuang Creek valley past the National Palace Museum, is hassle-free, since it’s a far less busy route than any of the bus services running up onto Yangmingshan proper, which are packed to overflowing most weekend mornings, and often on weekdays too.

To get to the trailhead, take bus S18 from Jiantan MRT Station to the last stop, near Shenren Waterfall (聖人瀑布). This lovely 15-meter-high cascade is one of Yangmingshan’s loveliest and easily accessible falls, although (thankfully) it’s become far less popular with tourists since a typhoon knocked out the bridge below in 2004. Although not officially allowed, it’s easy to cross the rocky bed of the stream for a closer look if the water level is fairly low (but don’t attempt it after heavy rain).

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