Caoling Trail – Taiwan’s Beautiful Northeast Coast

Fulong Train Station

On Tuesday, I took a train to Fulong Station [福隆車站] to enjoy a walk along the Caoling Trail [草嶺古道]. The Caoling Trail once served as an important link between Danshui and Yilan. The area I hiked is the only surviving section of this historic trail. I learned of this trail from a post by David Reid a while back. I had been determined to go ever since reading about it. Luckily, due to recent events, I don’t have to work on Tuesdays until I move next month, so I have a little extra free time on my hands.

RR Sculpture

There are a couple of sculptures outside Fulong Station. They were created by the Taipei Railway Workshop of the Taiwan Railway Administration using discarded parts from diesel-electric locomotives. They were installed at Fulong Station when it was reconstructed in 2005.

RR Sculpture

Across the street from the station there is a visitor center complete with a few brochures, some displays on the history of the area [Chinese only], and a room of carved driftwood art. Needless to say, I didn’t spend long there. I walked to the nearby 7-11 for some food and water to take on the trip and was on my way.

On the way... [panorama]

View the large

The path to the trail has a lot of small farms and nice scenery to enjoy. The weather was cool that day and there was a gentle breeze [which ultimately turned into a much stronger wind at the higher points of the trail].

Butterfly

There were a few butterflies along the lower elevations of the trail. This gorgeous one is the only one that stuck around long enough for me to photograph. A big thanks to one of my Flickr contacts and fellow Nikon-shooter Frederic D., who identified the creature as Symbrenthia hypselis scatinia [姬黃三線蝶].

Butterfly

Before long I made it to Yuanwangkeng Riverside Park [遠望坑親水公園] which is where the real trail begins. At the park I found a restroom and a vending machine, which was wonderful because I was going through my 7-11 purchases a little faster than expected.

Yuan- Wuang-Keng Riverside Park

Being a weekday, the trail was almost deserted. I only passed by a dozen people on the whole route.

On the way to the Caoling Trail

The trail is made up of cut-stones like those found on most of the popular recreational walking trails around Taiwan.

Caoling Trail

Also along the trail are a few smaller trails which aren’t marked on the map. I assume the majority lead to the area’s private farms.

Caoling Trail

“Boldly Quell the Wild Mists” Inscription [雄鎮蠻煙]:

The Northeast Coast National Scenic Area Administration is kind enough to have installed plenty of Chinese and English information plaques along the way…

The four Chinese characters on this tablet were inscribed by Taiwan Regional Commander Liu Ming-deng, who, when traveling to Yilan along the winding stone pavement of the old Danshuei-Lanyang Trail in 1867, encountered stinging rain and thick mist. This made him conscious of the difficulties faced by the brave men and women who opened up this part of Taiwan, and he inscribed “Boldly Quell the Wild Mists” on a huge stone lying on the flank of Caoling Mountain. This is the largest stone inscription in Taiwan.

Branches
Caoling Trail

Tiger Inscription [虎字碑]:

Tiger Inscription

The Northeast Coast National Scenic Area Administration:

When Taiwan Regional Commander Liu Ming-deng arrived at the Caoling Pass during an inspection tour of northern Taiwan in 1867, he was buffeted by such strong wind and thick fog that he could not tell his directions. In accordance with the ancient Chinese saying. “Clouds obey the dragon, winds obey the tiger” he inscribed the Chinese character, “Tiger” to suppress the wind. Legend has it that Liu Ming-deng loved to write the character for tiger, and that his calligraphy indicated differences of gender. The “Tiger” inscription written by him in a Boai Road military compound in Taipei is male, while the “Tiger” on this stone is female.

Caoling Trail

On the way to Dali [大里], hikers are rewarded with a spectacular view. It is around here that the trail splits, with the option of heading down towards Dali or taking a longer route to Daxi [大溪] via the Taoyuan Valley [桃源谷]. I was told by some hikers that the longer path takes 5 hours. Given that it was already early afternoon, I opted to take the shorter path to Dali.

Caoling Panorama

View the large

The Lu House [Reed House] was once an important stopping place for people making the journey along the Caoling Trail. Its ruins are all that remain:

Lu House

Walking along the beach on the way to the train station, to the left of this photo is Dali Tian-Gong Temple [大里天公廟]:

Dali

And finally, the journey came to an end at Dali Train Station:

Dali Train Station

Waiting, waiting, and waiting…

Dali Train Station

Two workers were busy building a wheelchair accessible ramp when I arrived:

Dali Train Station

Maybe next time I’ll take the hiking path from Dali to Daxi along the Taoyuan Valley… I still have a few Tuesdays left before I move to Nantou…

Dali

23 thoughts on “Caoling Trail – Taiwan’s Beautiful Northeast Coast

  1. what a great photo essay Todd. I especially enjoyed watching the spectacular view from the hike (just below the tiger inscription picture) and also the rock filled beach picture. most interesting thing that i came to know here that you are going to move to nantou wow … what an amazing place to work. I wish I could do that

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  3. Catherine – You’ll have a wonderful time!

    David – I know, the weather was absolutely perfect, I wish I could say the same for this week.

    Ashish – Yes, I will be starting there soon. I didn’t realize I had accumulated so much junk in Taipei until I started moving some of my things down to Nantou.

    Craig – The total time from station to station was about 3.5 to 4 hours.

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  5. Wow. Thank you SO MUCH for this post. I’m going on that very trail on March 30th, and it’s great to be able to get a preview. Now I just hope for weather as perfect as you had it…

  6. Hi, I am Anna from MSN space, I added a link of your website cos you got great pictures and more details about Caoling Historic Trail, hope it’s okay with you .and I wanna say thanks.

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  8. Excellent report on the trail, although it’s not always available some info’ on exact distance or time it is likely to take would be useful, would also like to know if the trail is rideable or if you are even allowed to take a bike on it.

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  12. Thank you for this good description. Very well done!
    Directly from the international airport I take the train to Fulong:
    Thus, my first time in Taiwan 4 hours after landing I arrive in Saturday crowded Fulong: Buses carry tourists over there and they are nearly all renting bikes…
    A few minutes later I am alone when I walk in the direction of the hiking trail. From the Great Banyan Tree (last place to access by car) I met only a dozen hikers.
    On the pass you have a very scenery ;-) on Taiwan’s brand new nuclear power plant.

    I’ve taken a photo of a very good map for this hike including photos, English and Chinese description.

    Todd, would you like to include this in your blog?

  13. Cool post!

    I did this hike, from Fulong to Dali, in October of 2009. When I reached the top it started to pour rain, lol, Anyway, I’m going to try it again on March 4th (weather permitting!) on the way back from Yilan, this time starting in Dali.

  14. Pingback: The Caoling Historic Trail | A Fulbright Experience in Taiwan

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