One of the best things about this route is how easy it is to see how far you’ve traveled by foot. The course starts at sea-level in northern Taipei City and travels east along the Yangmingshan National Park until it arrives on the coastal side of Yangmingshan. It ends at a scenic natural hot spring area and a small farming village. As you make your way up to the top of this course at 850m above sea level, don’t forget to glance back at Taipei City fading into the distance from the many vantage points along this route.
Starting at the popular Dazhi Riverside Park, the constant whir of cyclists, families and planes overhead make you feel like you are almost in the center of the city. From here, it is only a kilometer jaunt over the Dazhi Bridge and onto trail. Entering the trail at such a low elevation means that you have your work cut out for you, quickly climbing 100(+) meters to clear the Ziquiang tunnel, which connects Neihu and Shilin districts. The first small peak you will encounter is Wenjian Mt, at a modest 187m above sea level.
From the Neihu/Shilin ridge, you begin to slowly climb the east side of Yangmingshan National Park. The first small region you encounter is Dalunwei （大崙尾）Mt and Daluntou （大崙頭）Mt, which are part of the Wuzhi (五指）Mt range. It’s interesting to note that although the top of Daleiwei Mt is only 475m (the bigger of the 2), the trees show the characteristics of a much higher mountain range, despite the subtropical region. The shorter height of the trees in this area is due to the strong winds and cold monsoon rains, forming a unique ecosystem.
The trail to this point (kilometer 9) has been relatively varied, a mixture of dirt, paved stones and rock; but upon leaving Daluntou Mt, the trail becomes much less traveled, probably due to the lack of significant peaks in the area. The next 4 kilometers are some of the best, most isolated trail you will find on the route. Single track, technical trail leads between roads through some of the deeper forest found in Yangmingshan. Expect a little mud, some rock and undulating trail. Clearing the final small hill near the end of this trail, keep an eye out for a rock opening on the left, this is a great place to have lunch and enjoy the view of Taipei City in the distance.
From here, continue to the road and take a right uphill for 900m of road running. The DingShan-Shiti Historical trail is on your left. The DingShan-Shiti trail is 6.6km paved with stone. It weaves in and out of old Japanese cedar forest on its way to Qingtiangang (擎天崗) . On either side of the trail you can spot various water buffalo paths, and if you are lucky, you might even spot the water buffalo themselves. This was historically a tea growing area during the Qing Dynasty, but Japanese colonialism converted it to farmland and it has remained that way ever since.
Arriving near the top of Qingtiangang, it is now time to make your way down the other side of Yangmingshan Park, in the direction of Jinshan. Take the Jinbaoli (金包里) trail towards your final destination, the Bayan (八煙) hot spring area. As soon as you leave Qingtiangang behind, the landscape begins to change. You can smell the distant wafts of sulphur rising out of the fumaroles which heat the springs below. There are 2 ways down from here, you will see signs for both. One displays Bayan as being just more than 2km away, while the other longer route says they are around 4k away, both of these refer to the region, not the hot springs themselves. Taking the longer route, you are still approximately 7k from the finish. The shorter route goes straight down the steps, while the other, more runnable route, zig zags back and forth along the hillside. Some of this trail was used by early settlers building on the slopes of Yangmingshan; later it was used by the Japanese to mine clay from the mountainside. Along the trail you will see various plaques outlining the historic value of the trail.
There is an intersection around kilometer 21 – avoid the road and continue on the small trail parallel to it. You will find yourself with a natural spring, channeled by concrete on the right side, with a steep ledge on the left. The trail eventually swerves down to meet up with the road for 500m, before arriving at the Bayan area.
Here there are many vendors and a working rice farm for you to explore; you can buy a light snack or a beer before heading down the remaining 1200m to the hot spring. Bayan hot spring area does have a sign indicating that you will be fined should you enter the restricted area. Despite this, the springs are well developed and the sign is usually disregarded. Relax, dip your feet in, and explore the many pools surrounding you, despite your long run, Taipei City is only a bus ride away.
- A light jacket in the Spring and Fall, warm clothes in the winter, Yangmingshan is always a few degrees colder than Taipei City.
- Food, water and some cash. There will be the occasional vendor along the way, and certainly at the end.
- Wear light trail or road to trail shoes, there is a good mix of trail, paved trail and minimal road.
- Bathing suit
- Easy Card or spare change. The bus number is 1717, it comes approximately every hour but check the schedule when crossing the road at kilometer 23.5. And don’t miss the last bus!
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