This weekend we followed the advice of some fellow bloggers and headed north to Dali, where the Caoling trailhead can be found. The trail originally led travellers between Yilan and Taipei, but now it only exists for recreational purposes. It was just a quick train ride from Yilan City and the start of the trail is just a short walk from the train station.
The trail starts at the Dali temple, which is situated directly next to the Dali visitors’ center, and impossible to miss. The beginning of the hike is full of dense forest and plenty of butterflies, along with the buzzing and whirring song of myriad jungle creatures. We heard monkeys all along the first part of the trail, but sadly we didn’t actually see any. There was tell of venomous snakes, of which we also didn’t see any. We did however see plenty of giant Asian hornets, which like any flying insect with a stinger, while slightly unnerving, seemed to be mostly harmless as long as you keep moving and don’t mess with them.
We soon reached the stone walkway, which at first consists of seemingly eternal steps, but they are definitely worth it once you reach the view at the top. Along the way hikers pass the remains of an old inn; a rest stop for travellers along the trail. Of course now all that’s left is a foundation and a small wall, but apparently every year in November during the Silver Grass Season Festival, a tea stand offers ginger tea to refresh celebration-goers.
After the steep climb, hikers are met with an amazing view, and the option to head toward the Taoyuan Rift Valley, which leads south towards Daxi, or to continue towards Fulong. We opted for the latter this time around.
A welcome, gentle descent brings you to the Tiger Inscription Rock. According to the descriptive plaque next to it, General Liu Ming-Deng inscribed the symbol for tiger to give him and his army safe passage against harsh weather conditions. He was also apparently very well known for his ability to write the symbol more beautifully than anyone. Regardless, it seemed to do its job on this particular day. With a small stream running by and the cool breeze that blew through the valley, this was a refreshing and peaceful stop along the trail. Another of Liu’s inscription follows at the Siong Jhen Man Yan (雄鎮蠻煙) Inscription. It means, “Bravely quell the violent mists.” It was another plea for himself and his troops, but I think the simplicity of it makes it versatile enough to be applied to any aspect of life. It was a really beautiful message to meet along the way.
The trail continues through the valley, past some gorgeous farmland, and back into a more forested area, until you finally reach the Yanwankeng Water Park. The park is navigable by a wooden-deck path, which winds around its ponds. We sat here, had a snack, and watched egrets before we made the final 4-kilometer descent to the Fulong train station. By the time we reached Fulong it was already dark, so we decided to skip the beach, but apparently it’s a nice one, and they are currently holding the yearly Sand Sculpting Festival there.
Honestly, though, hiking the Caoling trail was enough for us. With its varying landscape and views, it has so much to offer visually. The jungle song of cicadas, birds, monkeys, flowing water, and mountain breezes serenaded us as we hiked. I would definitely recommend a visit to anyone who is on the northeast coast of Taiwan. I am sure we will return again before we leave Taiwan to take the alternate route from Dali to Daxi.