Jiaoxi is a small town in the northern part of Yilan county and although the county has some beautiful scenery, the city itself has previously been referred to as Taiwan’s worst tourist trap. But has it really earned this reputation? The entire township is home to just more than 35,000 people but the hotspring hotels are ubiquitous, and although it doesn’t have the charm of some other hotspring towns (think Wulai), the township actually does have a lot to offer.
Besides the numerous hotspring hotels, there are several hiking trails in the area – such as the PaoMa Historical Trail (跑馬古道). After exploring the trail once in foggy, rainy weather, I felt I had to return to give it a chance in a more pleasant light. What I found is that the trail was beautiful in any weather. It leads from the city directly, making it easily accessible, and it clings to a ridge line, which at first follows the city and offers spectacular views, before heading inland.
Starting from the train station turn left, follow the next street over, called DaYang Rd. Follow it 350m until you reach a 5 way intersection, here go to Lane 1 Jhongxiao Rd, from here you will already be starting your climb at the trail head. Over the first 2.5 kilometers the trail slowly rises over the city below and soon you have a not only a panoramic view of the city and Yilan County, but also the ocean in the distance, including Turtle Island. The trail is a mix of paving, gravel and stones as it hugs tightly to the ridge.
Around kilometer 4.2, the trail opens up onto a road, make a sharp left, there is a small entrance onto a trail. The trail here is seldom used and 600m long but it is marked clearly and will lead you to a river crossing. the water here is beautiful, so feel free to take a quick swim before continuing.
Immediately after exiting the trail you arrive at a small village with a temple, follow the road across the bridge and towards the large Buddha. After briefly following the road, you will get to an intersection. Turn left to head uphill, where you will again find a trail at kilometer 6.8. Here you climb the trail for 300m before getting to a viewing platform. If you are feeling energetic you can explore some of the other trails in the area, just look for the elevated sign posts. Buy some drinks from the various vendors in the area and enjoy the view before heading back down to the start.
When returning to the start, you can either take the same route you came up on, or you can skip the small village and continue on the road, where you will eventually find yourself back on the PaoMa Historical Trail heading back to the city.
This is only one of many trails in the area. For more trails check out the hiking section of the wikitravel page, or look at a trail map of the area. There are also wild hot springs, waterfalls and swimming holes, so feel free to spend the night and explore some more tomorrow. Although the night life in Jiaoxi might be non-existent, you are never far from a relaxing hot spring bath. Check out the Tang Wei Hot Spring Park, where you can soak your feet and take in the family friendly atmosphere. Or at the southeastern end of the park they have some hot spring fish spas, where you can relax , sip a beer, dip your feet in and let the fish do the heavy cleaning.
You can download the GPX map of this trail here.