In a blog entry several years ago, I wrote that the awesome Zhuilu Cliff Trail is the finest day walk in Taiwan. I haven’t changed my mind yet, but in it’s different way the Western end of the cross-island Batongguan Historic Trail is probably an equal partner. I walked this stretch (from Dongpu Hot Springs to Yinu (‘one girl’) Waterfall), permits are required to go further) once twenty years ago and it blew me away. Despite plans to return and follow this route again, en route to the high mountains beyond (the trail forms the first (or last) stretch of several renowned high mountain hikes such as the seven-day South Second Section, the back-door route on Yushan (Jade Mountain) and Mt Xiuguluan (Taiwan’s third highest mountain), bad weather or Taiwan’s damned permit system always tripped us up.
I finally returned on a recent 2-day scooter trip to the area, when a group of us rented scooters in Puli and drove down to the area to explore a few favorite places (including the still awesome, still accessible Water Curtain Cave and the scenic but almost unknown Ningqing Gorge). The weather on the first day (Saturday) was so bad we almost turned back, and we were really grateful when we unexpectedly scored a room (with hot spring bath) for six in a hotel at the usually chock-a-block Dongpu Hot Springs.
Contrary to our worst fears, however, Sunday dawned with a clear blue sky, and for the entire morning we were on the trail (the return walk to Yinu Waterfall only takes about 5 hours) the weather did us proud. There are few, if any trails in Taiwan that command such incredible views of such amazing scenery for so very little effort. The trail as far as the Cloud Dragon Waterfall is truly an easy walk, with some uphill at the beginning and a few roughish bits, but the trail (after being wiped out in places by Typhoon Morakot) has been fixed so well that presently it’s within the reach of any able-bodied person. The last two kilometers from Cloud Dragon to Yinu Waterfalls is a few degrees rougher, with several short landslide bits that need careful negotiation, but it’s still far from a difficult walk.
I’ll save a full description of the route, GPS coordinates etc for the new book, but meanwhile anyone that wants to go will find it’s not a problem getting here. One thing’s for sure – don’t leave Taiwan without giving it a go – it’s an amazing experience on a fine, clear day, and although not quite as out-and-out spectacular as Zhuilu, the hike has the advantage of offering more variety (with 2 great waterfalls), there’s accommodation (and hot springs!) right at the trailhead, and – best of all – there’s no need to get a permit to walk it!