PINGDING HISTORIC CANAL TRAIL (坪頂古圳步道)

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Distance: 4.1km

Time: 1¾ hours – it could be a lot quicker though, I spent a lot of time just enjoying the scenery. 

Difficulty: 2/10 – some pretty slippery sections, a sometimes uneven surface, and occasional steep downward sections, but nothing difficult or dangerous. With appropriate footwear (and maybe walking poles if you’re anxious about stability), most people should be able to do this without too much difficulty.

Total ascent: 288m, but for once the descent was significantly greater (456m).

Water: a 0.7L bottle would be enough.

Shade: mostly quite shaded, but it’s always hard to tell what it would be like in the summer if you visit in the cooler months.

Mobile network: pretty good, save for the bus stop at the end.

Enjoyment: This is a lovely waterside walk with views of terraced farming, there are also lots of options for extending the walk in different directions.

Pingding Historic Trail Map
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GPX file available here.

I got off the S19 bus at the wrong stop and ended up walking down the road. I had been expecting the other hikers on the bus to disembark at the same point, but when they didn’t, I realised that I had missed my stop and needed to back-track. I actually started before the trail itself really starts, and consequently I found myself following the canal through farmland. (There are various starting points to this route – look to the directions below for explanations.)

It’s obvious that I am not the only one to have done this though, since it is pretty easy to follow, and there is almost a path. In places it was just a case of balancing on the wall of the canal itself – for some reason (not enough coffee?) I was feeling slightly wobbly, but I still managed not to fall in.

The canal runs under a small lane next to a farm so I crossed over to keep following it.

Immediately after crossing the road the canal intersects with a river. It was just possible to cross without getting wet feet, but it would have been a different matter if I were wearing my old shoes. The canal then winds through more small farms, and as I followed it, an older gentleman sitting outside his house waved to me. Where the water cuts into a tunnel I followed the path as it bore right until it arrived at a wall.

Arriving at a T-junction I turned left and uphill. This small part is extremely slippery, (it seems to get no sunlight), but it’s short. Here I encountered two people who seemed to be farmers heading up from the road.

* It is possible to start the trail from here if you get off at an earlier bus stop. The bus goes up a dead end road, then u-turns to go back to where I got off. 

Where the narrow path joins a narrow road, turn left and walk up past the water tanks. 

Very soon the path arrives at the start of the ‘proper’ trail. The board explains the history of Pingdeng village and how the canal was built to satisfy the water needs of the framers who lived there. 

Steps climb up to a pavilion and a junction. I passed this point twice – the first time I went down and left following the signs for Pingding Canal Trail. 

Just as the path levels out and rejoins the water you can see the second gate as the canal enters the tunnel. 

Although the signage isn’t so clear, I realised afterwards that point is where the canal trail diverges away from the canal and heads down to the river. However I decided to ignore the steps and keep walking along the water. From here I had the path to myself for a while. 

The canal meanders gentley around the curves of the landscape, the water mostly fast, but sometimes slowing where the channel widens a bit. 

There are a couple of sections which ran through semi-covered tunnels, presumably in areas where the rocks are prone to falling. 

The canal enters a gated area. The sign on the gate says that entry is forbidden, although it is unlocked and it is very clear that many people have ignored the restrictions. Not wanting to explore off limit areas alone, I decided to take the small path in the left down to the river before retracing my steps. 

After making my way down to the level of the river, I was intrigued by the presence of hiking tags disappearing into the trees on the far bank. However, solely hiking is not the best way to go exploring such trails in Taiwan so I have mentally earmarked it as somewhere to come back to.

Since I didn’t want to cross the river and explore alone, I went back up the same way I’d came and retraced my steps.

Walking the return leg, my attention was drawn to the view over to the hills across the valley. In fact this area has a whole network of trails following the ridges and valleys to towards Qingtiangang. The only one I’ve done at the time of writing is the Jiaokeng trail, but hopefully I will make my way up some of the others in the future.

After walking back to this point, I took the steps heading up the steps along Daqitou trail so that I didn’t have to go back the same way I’d come.

Looking more closely at the sign by the trail head, I saw that visitors to this area are advised to beware of bee-stink. Until that moment, I had never feared malodorous anthophila, but I continued my journey newly aware of the dangers ahead.

Most of the route was downhill from here. As I was heading downwards, I passed a family with two young boys heading up. The father was huffing and puffing between exclamations of how great the weather was for walking in the hills whilst his two sons were complaining about how hot they were and the mother brought up the rear in silence.

The steps reach a hamlet, then the path veers right between a couple of farm houses.

It felt like I was trespassing as I walked past the front door of the building, but a woman who appeared carrying a bowl of washing smiled at me, so I was reassured. Down the steps to the side of the house, a guy sat cleaning something out, but he didn’t look up as I passed.

As the trail nears its end, it skirts the edge of some terrace farmland. It looked like most of the land wasn’t being actively farmed at that point, although the was a man working on clearing out part of the drainage system a little further down.

As the path got close enough to the water to peer in, it became clear that they were all teeming with life.

There was an abundance of both frogspawn and tadpoles swimming around in the shallow pools.

Following the path down to the road, there is a small house/karaoke place


How to get to Pingding Canal Tail

Google maps address: Neicuo bus stop is right next to the start of the trail. To get here, the bus goes up a small lane and then does a u-turn to get to the next stop: Yuhuang Temple bus stop which is where I alighted to walk the section of the canal which runs along farm land. From the other end, I caught the bus back from the lengthily named Pingding Gu Chuan Trail Entrance stop.

GPS location: I started from N25 7.955 E121 34.620

Public transport: the S19 goes from Jiantan Station to the village of Pingding.

Nearby trails:

Further reading: the (somewhat lacking) official guide on the Yangmingshan Park website. In Chinese you can find Tony Huang’s (now very old) post on it here.

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