For quite some time I’ve had this trail on my to-do list. But because of certain logistical issues, I’ve made it a low priority. That all changed after a message from a friend about a trip he was organizing.
The JinShuiYing Historic Trail is very well known and documented in many places on the Internet. I think it’s best to just copy Taiwan’s Forestry Bureau’s intro:
The Jinshuiying National Trail starts from Shuidiliao in Fangliao Township, Pingtung County on the west side and ends at the Jialuo Settlement in Dawu Township, Taitung County on the east side. Among all the ancient trails that cross the Central Mountain Range, the mountain-crossing point of this trail is the lowest and the most frequently used. It is also the oldest trail in service. Many ruins can still be seen along the way. The biological diversity is very high and the number of rare plants is among the largest in Taiwan. Ferns and Orchids are particularly abundant. It is a trail with cultural and historical traces and unusual natural ecology and landscape.
JinShuiYing is essentially a pretty easy hike. You only need to be in reasonable shape to complete it. Since it’s such an easy hike, I should have hiked it long ago. The problem with it is essentially it’s greatest feature, it more or less runs from the east coast to the west coast. I would need to drive to the east coast, hike it, have someone pick me up on the west coast and then try to figure out how to get my bike back; or vice-versa. Both ways aren’t very convenient for a solo hiker. Therefore, I put it aside.
Then a couple months ago, Mark from Blue Skies Adventures contacted me about a trip that was being planned to JinShuiYing. The timing and price was right, so I signed up!
Blue Skies took care of all the details: trail permits, transportation to and from the trail, some food along the way, and a trail guide.
We were picked up in Kaohsiung and driven to the east coast trail head with a couple pit stops along the way. Here’s us getting ready.
Starting from the east side you’ll mostly be going uphill the entire way. So why not make it much easier and start on the west side?
It was explained to us that most hikers start on the west side. On any given weekend there could be a hundred hikers there. It makes it difficult to hike because you’ll find yourself stuck behind slower hikers or have to try and pass them – sometimes awkwardly. This sounds like it would get old after an hour. There are fewer hikers that want to start on the east side. Also, there’s a “rest area” about 6.5 kilometers in. If you start early enough, you can make it there before the other hikers from the west arrive. If they arrive first, forget about finding a seat; you’ll be standing or sitting on the ground.
So here we are at a suspension bridge that marks the beginning of the hike.
The view from the bridge
And some faded info about the bridge
As it turns out, I’ve been here before…only below the bridge on my *failed* round island dirt trip.
One last bit of info before the real hike begins…
The trail itself is in very good shape all throughout the hike. It’s obvious how popular this trail is from how well worn it is.
It’s not long before the uphill battle begins…
Every so often there is a marker telling you how far you’ve gone and how much is left.
One reason the trail is interesting is because of all of the old “relics” from the past that you can see. Like this structure, for example:
Three of us were standing around speculating what it might have been, only to find out there was a sign 10 meters away that would explain everything to us. Doh!
We went on for some time, with much of the same views…
…occasionally finding a side trail to a mountain peak in the area.
One common sight are a bunch of holes dug all over the trail. I didn’t take any pictures of them. They’re dug by pangolin. This area has one of the highest concentration of pangolin that I’ve ever seen on any of my hikes.
About 2.5 hours in, we passed by what was probably an old police station or something similar.
Shortly after, we reached the first rest area.
We had the entire place to ourselves. Apparently we beat all of the hikers starting at the other end. Well, the hikers…not the runners. There were two older guys running the entire trail. They had started on the west side and had passed us before we reached this rest area. A couple hours later they passed us going back up. Wow! What hard core mother truckers! hahaha…
After a nice rest, some snacks and a little exploration of the area…
…we continued on.
There wasn’t a whole lot to see from here to the next rest area a couple hours later. Or I don’t think there was. I only took these two pictures.
At this point, we hadn’t passed any hikers coming from the other direction. Our guide thought this was very odd. We should have passed several large groups by now. But once we made it to the next rest area, we found out why.
There were a couple hikers here that mentioned there weren’t many people hiking from the west side. Apparently the threat of rain kept everyone from coming out – it did rain the past two days. It seems we really lucked out. It didn’t rain at all that day and there were very few hikers on the trail. Perfect!
Our rest here was short. Before we left, one of the other hikers found a leech on his lower leg. (sorry, no pic) As wet as it was out there, I’m not surprised.
We continued on…
Getting closer to the end we passed by another old police station. I didn’t feel like stopping to explore, so I just took a picture of the sign.
We had a nice long ascent to get to the this point…and a similar climb ahead.
We briefly stopped to read the signs while we waited for the rest of the group to catch up.
One thing to note is that there isn’t much of a view of the surrounding mountains at all on this trail. There are a couple places here and there, but nothing really great. Well, after a final little push in the fog…
…the area finally opened up.
And just beyond is the other end of the trail.
Anyone missing a shoe???
A short walk from here and we made it to our ride back to civilization!
Ummm…sorry, no picture of our awesome van and its cool driver. But here’s another sign for ya!
There’s a road to take you the rest of the way, so technically we only hiked the eastern portion of the old trail. Still, it was a good 16 kilometers uphill over about six hours. Not bad for a day hike.
This wasn’t my usual type of hike, but I enjoyed myself. I would 100% recommend that you find some time to hike it.
Date hiked: 2019 March 24
GPX Track Download Instructions: Click the track on the map to see the download link