Although Taiwan’s history dates back thousands of years to early indigenous peoples, much of the country’s history can be lived and discovered by foot. One trail that offers a unique perspective as well as delivers absolutely stunning views is the famous Caoling Historic Trail. While a very popular trail in northern Taiwan, day trippers and hikers in Taiwan seek out this trail that stretches Yilan County on the east coast of Taiwan and New Taipei City.
- Dongman Trail Length/步道長度: 8.5km
- Total Hiking Distance/步行距離: ~10km
This includes accessing the trailhead in Gongliao and walking sections of the Taoyuan Valley Trail / 包含從貢寮區的入口和桃源谷步道
- Total Hiking Time/步行時間: 2-3hrs
- Suitability/難度: Easy hike with some stairs / 有階梯但簡單
- Mobile Network Reception/收訊狀況: Fairly strong reception on most sections of the trail / 大部分都有收訊
- Services/公共設施: Washrooms are located at ~1km marker and at ~5km marker. Washrooms also available at cafe at ~7km marker. / 廁所在1km、5km處，及7km的咖啡廳內
- Food/食物: Cafe serves a variety of hot and cold food, as well as drinks such as coffee, soft drinks and beer. Water is available at the cafe. Various food vendors, washrooms and water refill stations are available at Dali at the end of the trail. / 在大里端的咖啡廳有提供冷熱食、裝水處、飲料及啤酒
Starting the Hike / 草嶺古道全攻略
If you’re setting off to explore the Caoling Historic Trail be sure to hike this trail from northwest to southeast. This means you’ll be hiking from Gongliao District in New Taipei City to Dali Township in Yilan County. There are plenty of great reasons for that.
Despite Dali having good public transportation connection with a train station right in town, the trail head in Gongliao is not located close to any public transit services. When finishing a hike, it’s preferred to simply jump onto transit and head home.
Another good reason relates to the general vibe at your final destination. Completing this hike in Dali is leaps and bounds better than completing. While you could continue on to Fulong hiking from Yiland to Gongliao, it is partially on a busy road and its not the most comfortable experience. We prefer to finish our hikes with a place to relax, wind down and grab some snacks, drinks etc.
Finally, climbing the final ascent along the Caoling Historic Trail reveals a large viewing deck overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the rugged east coast and Turtle Island in the distance. This is definitely a view you want to finish with.
Getting Started on The Caoling Historic Trail / 草嶺古道攻略秘笈
With our Parkbus trips, the bus drops us off about 1.6km from Yuanwangkeng Water Park. Large buses can’t access this trail, so the drop off point is actually right on the side of the County Road 2 (台2丙線). The first 20 minutes of this hike are along a single lane, paved road. This area has an abundance of soaring Crested-Serpent Eagles in the wintertime (January to March) as the raptors love scouting for meals along the river beds and flatlands. While not particularly scenic, it is a nice introduction to the countryside of Gongliao. This road is in fact part of the Caoling Historic Trail.
若你跟著Parkbus一起探索草嶺古道，由於巴士無法開到草嶺古道的入口，我們的巴士會在距離遠望坑親水公園約1.6km處（台2丙道路上）讓我們下車，因此這次的健行活動前20分鐘會沿著一條單車道鋪設的道路行走到草嶺古道入口。該地區在冬季（1 月至 3 月）有大量翱翔的鳳頭蛇鷹，這些猛禽喜歡在河床和平原上尋找食物，雖然不是特別風景，但這也是在貢寮區一個特別的景色。
There is one public washroom available for guests at about the 10 minute mark. Continue along this paved road for a short 50m or so after the public washrooms and you can connect down closer to the river. It’s not very long, but it changes the scenery up a bit.
Once you have walked through Yuanwangkeng Riverside Park 遠望坑親水公園, you will cross over a small stone arched bridge. Here the trail narrows, but is still on a small road. After about 50m, you’ll see the trail marker on your left, leading you onto the more proper trail that many are likely envisioning when it comes to a “Historic Trail”.
While the first 30 minutes is a scenic and enjoyable walk, the real beauty of this trail begins here. The rambling creek that runs along the stone trail here is really picturesque and sets the stage for a beautiful hike in Taiwan’s northern region.
Short sections of stairs and some slight inclines are really all hikers will deal with for this section of the trail. It provides a great opportunity to take focus away from the hike and onto the scenery and history around you. Information kiosks along the trail provide insight into the history and heritage of the trail and are well worth the stop to read.
The Caoling Historic Trail is actually the only pre-Qing Dynasty non-indigenous route that is still preserved today. Several years ago the Tourism Bureau and local stakeholders rediscovered the original routing of this trail and began revitalizing an ancient trail that was originally constructed 130 years ago to provide the only land link down the Northeast Coast from Tamsui to Yilan. The present trail is approximately 10 kilometers long and offers a pleasant hike of two to three hours.
After about a 30-40 minute hike, you will arrive at a second and last washroom facility along this trail before you reach the coast. There are raised benches and shaded gazebo to make this a perfect place to sit and relax for a short break. The trail is not strenuous, but you may just want to sit here and enjoy the mountain views.
步行大約 30-40 分鐘後，你將在到達宜蘭端海岸之前的第二個也是最後一個洗手間，如此之外還有長凳和涼亭，儘管這條步道並不需要耗費太多體力，你可以坐下來放鬆一下、欣賞風景。
Leaving the washroom / rest area, you continue along the signature stone path (take the time to appreciate how well maintained it is!) you begin your journey towards the east coast. The trail opens up here and only parts of this section of the trail is shaded. The tree coverage begins to disperse and you’ll find yourself walking between two large boulders covered in Silvergrass. You’ll see Qing dynasty inscriptions on large stones.
One of the inscriptions has four Chinese characters meaning “Bravely Suppress the Wild Mists” and the other bears the single character “Tiger”. In Qing Dynasty times it was believed that the tiger controlled the winds. Both were ordered by the regional commander of imperial forces in Taiwan, and were meant to ward off the baleful influences of nature in this once-remote area. It is believed that these inscriptions were made on these rocks in 1867, nearly 150 years ago.
From here you will arrive at the 桃源谷休息亭 viewing platform overlooking the east coast and Pacific Ocean. The coast views here are some of the best in Taiwan and are a perfect way to celebrate on a hike. You could sit here for hours (and many do) reading, chatting with friends or simply contemplating life.
At this point in the hike you are only just over 2km from the coast and the town of Dali. You can continue to hike south along the scenic Taoyuan Valley Trail or head down the stone steps or paved roadway (car-free) down to the cafe and onwards to Dali.
The Taoyuan Valley Trail connects to the town of Daxi and offers some of the most scenic coastal hiking in East Asia. It’s well worth hiking at some point if you don’t get a chance to combine it with the Caoling Historic Trail.
Hiking down to the cafe, frequent stunning views are seen as you weave your way down the mountain towards the coast. With Turtle Island ever in the distance, take your time and enjoy this easy hiking.
Arriving in Dali, many hikers stop in at the food vendors set up out front of the Dali Temple 大里天公廟 and head inside the Dali Visitor Center that offers really insightful interpretation the local culture and ecology.
Silvergrass Festival / 芒草季
If you hike this trail in the winter, between December and February, you’ll have the chance to experience the area’s beautiful waving meadows of Silvergrass. In fact, there is an annual Silvergrass Festival and established in 2015 is the Old Caoling Trail Silver Grass Center.
如果你在冬季（12 月至 2 月）之間走這條步道，你將有機會體驗這邊最知名、最美麗的的芒草海，每年冬天也都會有芒草季，2015年也成立了草嶺古道芒草中心。
This government building has four thematic areas and showcases Taiwans’ variety of silver grasses. Visitors can also learn about Caoling’s geology and the insects, animals and plants that may be found along Caoling Historic Trail. The center also demonstrates how silver grass has been used in everyday life by local and indigenous peoples, in terms of food, clothing, housing, and transport.