NOTE: Qingtiangang Grassland was closed for part of 2019 and 2020 following incidents in which visitors were charged by cattle, but as of late 2020, it has been reopened. To improve public safety, there is now a fenced in walkway for part of the trail, as well as cow proof bollards for hikers to seek cover behind in ‘cattle hotspots’.
Distance: 2.9km for a slightly extended loop.
Time: 1 hour and 25 minutes at a gentle pace.
Difficulty (regular Taiwan hiker): 0.5/10 – a pleasant stroll.
Difficulty (new Taiwan hiker): 1.5/10 – there are some steps up and down, but not a huge amount (see below), it’s short, mostly well-signposted and paved the whole way. You couldn’t do it with a pushchair, but it would be easy enough with a willing toddler.
Total ascent: 127m
Water: 0.5L – there is a shop selling drinks and snacks at the start, so even if you get thirsty, you can replenish your supplies, and you can usually fill your bottle up from a water dispenser in the visitor centre.
Shade: almost none, if you’re sun-shy you’d need something to protect you on a sunny day.
Mobile network: clear almost the whole way.
Enjoyment: It’s great on a clear day because the scenery is so beautiful for somewhere so close to the city. It’s maybe not so fun on a cloudy day though. Although the views are amazing, the walk itself is not quite my cup of tea given how easy and short it is. Having said that, the fact that I can get up here and back down on a workday is something really special.
Other: if you would like to experience the gladiator pit that is the Lengshuikeng public hot springs you’ll need to take a towel, swimming hat or shower cap and skin thick enough to withstand the scrutiny of the locals. The opening hours can be found on Google maps or at the bottom of my recent post on another walk in the same area.
Qingtiangang Trail Map
GPX file available here.
The path starts from the visitor centre. There’s a small museum with some information about the history of area and a shop selling basic drinks and snacks.
Right behind the visitor centre there is a small earth God temple.
And right behind that, there is another even smaller shrine. An information board in front of both of them says that the smaller of the two was moved here from the foot Mount Zhuzi in the mid-to-late Qing Dynasty, (which ended in 1912). It is at the end point of the Jinbaoli trail which connects Yangmingshan park to Jinshan, and it’s the oldest of the shrines along the route.
Passing through the cattle gate, we headed left to do an anti-clockwise walk of the Qingtiangang loop.
The path is paved with stone blocks the whole way.
For a short way, the Jinbaoli trail and Qingtiangang loop run together, but the former quickly departs to the left through the Jinbaoli gate.
Apart from two chewing the cud rather apathetically by the visitor centre, the water buffalo weren’t really obviously around, but being up on the hills on a clear day more than made up for the lack of benevolent bovines.
At a junction, the loop walk takes a (well-signposted) sharp right.
The path ambles past a few hill top pools, in which Teresa spotted a single tadpole. It also skirts around the number one bunker.
From here, steps dip down a little towards a stream and then climbs up again.
At the highest point, there is another bunker and the path bends to the right and down. (There is another path on the left but I forgot to check where it went.)
The view looking down and over towards Qixing shan is absolutely amazing on a clear day. I feel really lucky that it’s somewhere I can visit so easily.
Passing the old cow shed, we still had a bit of time so we decided to add a little extra to the walk and took a left turn instead of going straight back to the visitor centre.
The pasture on the right seems like it might have had a path at some point, but it’s closed off now.
We’d been planing to turn left here, but there was a sign saying that the path was under construction so we continued down the steps just a little further.
Where the path splits, we took the right fork (signposted towards Lengshuikeng).
Just a little further on, we arrived at a bridge over a stream which I’d recently passed on my journey up the Juansi waterfall trail.
Over the bridge, we took the right path again, (this time signposted towards Qingtiangang).
We passed some vivid orange flowering trees which had just come into bud and looked like they were about to blossom any day now.
Then before long, we reached the road and headed left back to the visitor centre.
We’d timed our walk to finish so that we would have time to head back down to Lengshuikeng and visit the free public hotspring when it opened at 2:30. When we got there at about 2:15, there were already a number of grey-haired lovelies lining up for a soak in the waters and as the entry time drew closer, a heated debate broke out in Taiwanese between one of the grannies and the male hot spring attendant. This culminated in the attendant calling everyone waiting together into a group for a short lecture about why we shouldn’t use soap before partaking of the waters, (apparently hikers downstream use the water for cooking). He gave his mini speech in Taiwanese, then Mandarin, and then parts of it again in English for my benefit, which was rather embarrassing but at least he was nice about it. Lecture over, we were allowed in, but Teresa and I were all but knocked flat by the stampeding pensioners who were clearly not here for the first time. Once inside, we saw two wooden benches and against the back wall some storage space for putting clothes and shoes. The old ladies had whipped off their clothes and got their shower caps on before we could even get our shoes and socks off. It was after this point that the real fun started. Once naked, we were directed to the right place and even method for washing ourselves. I can’t say that I had ever been told how to wash my nether regions by a granny before this day, but I have now. In flagrant disregard of the rules, illicit soap was passed around to wash ‘there’ so that we didn’t make the water too unclean. The instructions didn’t stop once we were in the water though, we directed on how to sit, (in the water, without legs open), how to move (don’t), and subjected to a constant barrage from one particularly disgruntled granny on the best way to wash your pigu (your behind) to prevent little bits of tissue paper entering the water. It was not an especially relaxing experience. After twenty minutes of being observed by hawk-eyed old ladies, a bus must have arrived at the bus stop, because a cacophony of voices broke the not-peace. The pool was already almost full of bodies, and with the additional 12 or so who had just arrived, it was clear that not everyone was going to fit. Glances were thrown around by those already in the water, dark and mutinous expressions, each sizing up the new arrivals and the remaining space with furrowed brows. After listening to the shouting take on a more aggressive tone, Teresa and I decided that 20 minutes was enough got out to free up a little space. It very quickly became apparent that we’d made the right call, because the arguing just continued to escalate. Some grannies stuck to muttering about the personal hygiene of various individuals, the pigu obsessed granny kept telling anyone who would listen about the importance of proper butt-wiping, another urged the rest to keep their voices down so that they didn’t get kicked out by the staff again. I heard one lady call another da pang zi (big fatty) under her breath, and one particularly disgruntled woman told us that previously one of the ladies already in the hot spring had pushed her head down into the water during a fight. As much as I was intrigued to see what would happen when all of the new arrivals were ready to get into the water, I didn’t think it was wise to stick around and get any more involved, so we got dressed as quick as we could and left. Once outside, the clamour of aggrieved geriatric bathers was still very much audible. We passed by the men’s bath house and heard…nothing, almost total silence, just the occasional splash of water.
How to get to Qingtiangang
Google maps address: Qingtian Grassland Car Park, 111, Taipei City, Shilin District, 菁山路101巷246號
GPS location: N25 10.000 E121 34.440
Public transport: the S15 minibus leaves from just outside of Shilin MRT station, (take exit 1, the bus stop is on the left before you cross the road).
Further reading: This is the official government webpage for the trail, (there are also links here to some other walks in Yangmingshan Park). There isn’t actually that much out there – presumably because this walk is so straightforward that you don’t really need any guidance, (although having said that, a group of teenagers in front of us were apparently not sure of where there were or where they needed to go).
My new words learnt on this hike:
- 陌生人 / mòshēng rén / a stranger – on its own, 陌生 can be used as an adjective to mean strange, (as in unfamiliar)
- 苦瓜臉 / kǔguā liǎn / sour faced or look like s/she is sucking a lemon- actually this is literally bitter melon face, evidently bitter melons make you pull worse faces than lemons in Chinese-speaking cultures – having tried bitter melon, I can understand, they’re not my favourite vegetable, no matter how nutritious people tell me they are.
- 旅途平安 / lǚtú píng’ān / have a safe journey.
- 噱頭 / xuétou / a gimmick, or to do something just for show.
- 不要催他 / bùyào cuī tā / don’t push him – as in don’t pressure him to do something.
- 八卦 / bāguà / gossip
- 很驕傲 / hěn jiāo’ào / very proud (of one’s self)
- 分身 / fēnshēn / dopplegänger – although this might also be used to describe one’s online avatar
- 痛苦 / tòngkǔ / painful or pain
- 屬於 / shǔyú / belong