The first part of the the Taipei Grand Hike has you putting in some serious legwork to make it all the way from the flat land of Guandu right up into Yangmingshan National Park. This section takes in art, grand tombs, an irrigation canal, and many, many steps.
DISTANCE: The official guide lists this section as being either about 10km (website), or 14km (map sheet). My tracker registered just under 13km with a slight accidental detour.
TIME: I completed this section in about 3¾ hours. The guide suggests allowing 7-8 hours for this part, (the longest time allocated to any individual section). I assume this must be because they are expecting such a climb to take longer.
DIFFICULTY (REGULAR TAIWAN HIKERS): 4/10 – Almost exclusively for all the elevation gain. Nearly 900m of climbing is tiring for anyone. Also, there are one or two parts where the signage is unclear if you’re not already familiar with the area.
DIFFICULTY (NEW HIKERS): 8/10 – Just this amount of climb alone would make this walk a bit too much for most new hikers. I would strongly advise doing this section in two or three parts. It might also help a little to do the walk in reverse too, so heading downhill, but downhill walking is also quite taxing on the legs.
TOTAL ASCENT: My device registered 880m of elevation gain. The starting point at Guandu is about 10m above sea level, and Erziping sits at about 830 metres above sea level.
SIGNAGE: Mostly ok, but there were a few sections where it is a little unclear. Having said that, I think the wrong turn I made was probably my own fault in this case.
WATER: I took 2.5L and more or less finished it. Uphill walking is thirsty work.
SHADE: On and off – I made good use of my umbrella both for sun and showers today.
MOBILE NETWORK: Sketchy in places. Between Qingtian Temple and Erziping there was pretty much no signal.
ENJOYMENT: 6/10 – This section doesn’t really have the outstanding views of some of the other parts, and nor does it scale any peaks. (I was considering adding Miantian Shan on as a side-trip, but decided that I’d done enough climbing.) However, it is the only section of the Taipei Grand Hike (TGH) that takes in an agricultural canal, and it was fun to get such a big climb in.
SOLO HIKE-ABILITY: The path itself isn’t difficult or dangerous, and the section from Qingtian Temple onwards is pretty well trafficked, so I don’t think you need to worry too much. The only section I wouldn’t have liked doing on my own was the dirt track between the graves and the road, (luckily I accidentally had the company of other hikers here).
OTHER: There isn’t really anywhere to restock once you’ve started, so make sure you pack enough food and water to see you through. Also, some salt candy would definitely come in handy here – I sweated unseemly amounts, and I credit them with leaving me free of the aches I’d normally associate with such exertion.
TAIPEI GRAND HIKE PHOTO POSTS: One – one of the two ‘北’ characters can be found at the Guizikeng trail head.
TAIPEI GRAND HIKE OFFICIAL ROUTE:
- Guandu MRT Station / 關渡捷運站
- Xueyuan Road (Taipei National University of the Arts entrance) / 學園路(經臺北藝術大學大門口)
- Zhongxin Shan Trail / 忠義山步道
- Kuohua Golf Club / 國華球場
- Guizikeng Trail (‘bei’ character) / 貴子坑步道 (‘北’字)
- Xia Qingque Trail / 下青礐步道
- Qingtian Temple / 清天宮
- Qing Shui Temple / 清水宮
- Datun Multi Peak Trail (part way only) / 連峰步道
- Miantian Ping / 面天坪
- Erziping Trail / 二子坪步道
- Erziping Visitor Centre / 二子坪遊客服務站
OPTIONS FOR SPLITTING THIS SECTION: There are two possible splitting points. The first is at Kuohua Golf Course, there is a scheduled, (infrequent), bus back to Beitou (in one direction, Tamsui in the other), from here. The second is to take the S6 back to Beitou from Qingtian Temple – this is probably the best option since it is closer to half way (effort-wise), and the buses run every half hour.
TAIPEI GRAND TRAIL SECTION 1 TRAIL MAP
GPX file available here.
00:00 – Starting from exit 2 of Guandu MRT Station, head right along the alley to the first junction, then turn left up Lane 577, Section 4, Zhongyang North Road. The lane runs up past Guandu Elementary School, but since I passed through around 10am I was able to miss the morning crowds.
00:02 – The lane emerges onto Zhongyang North Road and I crossed over, heading left towards the petrol station. Immediately beyond the forecourt, you’ll spot a TGH signpost leading you right and uphill along Xueyuan Road towards Taipei National University of the Arts.
00:07 – At the main entrance to the campus, the trail indicators for the TGH suggest to head straight up the road, skirting around the side of the campus, but it is much more enjoyable to head cross this zebra crossing, then bear right through the campus.
Taipei National University of the Arts has been in its current location since 1991, (prior to that it was in Luzhou). The campus hosts and/or organises several festivals over the course of a year (including Kuandu Arts Festival and Kuandu International Festival of Animation). But what makes it more interesting to walk through than the roads is the fact that the campus is home to three water buffalos and a whole lot of sculptures. There have been water buffalos on campus since 2005 when an artist (S. Chandrasekan), employed a pair as the artistic medium in a piece entitled “Bleeding Mandala”. More recently, they became the stars of a live webcam which launched in 2018 – apparently intended as a way to help people slow down in the fast-paced, modern world by getting acquainted with the rhythms of bovine life.
00:14 – Just after passing a small cafe on the left, a flight of stairs on the left leads you away from the main road. It soon splits into a lower and upper level both of which are ok – basically just keep heading uphill along the campus keeping the road close to you on your left without ever actually arriving onto the road.
00:22 – The path briefly comes out onto the road between some dormitory buildings before climbing up to the left again.
00:23 – Soon the steps break out onto a pedestrian road, here you need to head right, still uphill. If you glance left here, you’ll see a TGH hike signpost. As you pass through the very top reaches of the campus you can see an open-air theatre structure and an interesting modern take on a Land God Temple. I also encountered a group of Formosan Blue Magpies enjoying the fruit of some trees alongside the road.
00:28 – Right at the end of the campus there is a barrier, rejoin Xueyuan Road (left of this picture), and then turn right towards the hills. The road passes a small temple on the left.
00:30 – On the right you’ll notice tennis courts, and the tennis club carpark. Follow the road as it edges round the club buildings, (ignore the smaller road heading down to the left).
00:31 – The start of Zhongyi Trail is unassuming enough, some steps leading uphill next to a relatively new map.
I wasn’t really expecting the trail which unfolded after that – the steps soon face way to be replaced by a steep and natural path. This photo was taken just before the rocky part started, so it doesn’t really give you a good sense of what it was like. I ran into a very large hiking group of retired people, several of whom seemed to be struggling down the trail, “還好玫瑰今天沒來，要不然…” said one of the women. The sentence hung in the air unfinished, and I wondered about the state of Mei-gui’s knees.
00:41 – After only a brief spell of climbing, the path opens out onto an impressive and well-kept mountainside graveyard. The first grave you pass has a lovely framed view out over towards the far bank of the Tamsui River.
Further up there are two even larger and more impressive graves. The paths sticks close to the edge of the open area as if not wishing to disturb the resting occupants. One of these graves belongs to He Kuo-hua, an overseas Chinese businessman and investor whose shoe and sugar businesses made him wealthy during the period of Japanese occupation. Another grave is that of his mother.
It seems that He Kuo-hua had quite an eventful life, three marriages, (two of which were to Japanese women), which resulted in a total of ten children. He also established the Kuo Hua Golf Club that this part of the TGH passes a little later. Today ownership has passed to one of his sons from his third marriage, (understandably there were legal disputes over who got what), who apparently has a taste for expensive cars.
The path curves left in a wide arc around the edge of the open grassy area. Tucked away into the trees at the back of the clearing is this much less ostentatious abode of several deities. There wasn’t much of a path trodden through the weeds, so I’m not sure that they have many worshippers visiting them regularly, but their altar was at least mostly free of leaves and debris.
00:44 – After walking almost to the back of the largest grave, a track appears on the right. This is normally the sort of place that I don’t like walking alone, (especially after the weird encounter I had with a guy on the Feng Gui Zui to Bishanyan section), so I felt happy that I was walking at a similar pace to the couple ahead of me. I actually slowed down so that I could avoid getting too far ahead of them. As it happened, I needn’t have worried, but there’s no point in ignoring these instincts, they don’t come from nowhere. Part way along the trail there is a no-longer-road-worthy truck which appears to have been backed into a dwelling which may or may not be inhabited. A little further along there are some steps on the right which lead up to another grave with a view, (I was curious, so I had a look).
00:51 – The track is short and soon ends at a gate – its presence seems to be mostly for the purpose of deterring cars because there is easy access on the right. Just the other side of the gate I ran into a large hiking group who (rather sweetly) were asking amongst themselves to find out whose English was up to the task of getting me to help them take a picture. Rather than wait, I offered my services and was soon given a phone which was set to selfie-mode.
After playing photographer, I turned left up Daoxiang Road, (this is not the small lane on the left, it’s the higher and bigger one).
01:02 – I chatted briefly to some of the hiking group since we were all headed in the same direction, but one by one I overtook them, so it was basically a rotation of three questions as I leapfrogged up the column. Where are you going? Where are you from? What do you do? By the time I passed the golf club they were all behind me.
IF YOU’RE PLANNING TO SPLIT THE TRAIL INTO TWO OR THREE SECTIONS, THIS IS THE FIRST OPTION. YOU CAN CATCH THE BUS BACK TO EITHER BEITOU OR TAMSUI FROM HERE – MAYBE TAKE WHICHEVER COMES FIRST SINCE IT IS INFREQUENT.
To keep on walking, take the smaller lane on the right. There is a TGH marker, but oddly it is installed just far enough back from the main road to render it kind of invisible until you’re already there.
Walk directly between two practise areas and right to the far end of the car park. Here there is a trail marker pointing left and up a track.
01:07 – The trail comes upon some semi-built on land and a sign directs you to the right.
01:09 – This next junction is a little confusing – a track heads left, then another path heads left and the path I was on heads straight on and maybe down. Either way, there is luckily a nice and clear sign here pointing you along the left hand trail.
At this junction I met an aunty who was looking a little unsure as to where to go. She asked if I lived in the area, and when I said I didn’t, she said she was trying to walk a loop along the Guizikeng Trail and asked me if I knew how. I said I didn’t and that I was heading to Erziping and was looking for the post at the Guizikeng trail head. She told me that she’d just come from there, and since she didn’t know which way to walk to loop back to her car, she would just accompany me, because that way she could ask me to help her photograph her with the post, rather than her having to do it as a selfie. As we walked, she explained that she was also completing the TGH, but only by walking to the posts, she seemed surprised that I was planning on walking the whole way. We chatted about her daughter who’d gone to university in Exeter in the UK, I like it when I meet people who’ve been to the UK, because then I can throw all the questions at them that I normally get about Taiwan. She said they’d both liked the UK, but the cost of living was very high – particularly the cost of eating out.
Because we were talking, I didn’t really take any photos, but this little stretch of trail was really pleasant, it runs along next to an irrigation canal – I am sure I will come back again at some point to walk the whole of the Guizikeng Trail, since the TGH only joins it briefly.
01:23 – At the junction we met two more walkers, (they helped the aunty take a photo and then swiftly departed in the direction that we’d just come from). The aunty helped me take a photo, and then she went downhill, and I followed the TGH sign left uphill towards the Qingtian Temple trail entrance.
The next section is a bit of a climb – fat skinks darted away from me as I headed up the steps.
After leveling out again, the path cuts through farmland around a small settlement which looks to have partially fallen into disrepair.
01:35 – Follow the paved path all the way to the end of the houses where it turns left uphill. There is no marker here, but about 5-10m uphill there is a lamppost marker that is almost so tall that I didn’t notice it.
The trail led past some small cottages – the kitchen door of one let out to the path and inside I saw a group of people gathered around the table to eat lunch – they all stopped to observe my passage and I was reminded of the way my family back home all looks up from the dining table to observe whatever interesting character has walked past our kitchen window.
01:40 – From the village, steps lead uphill through some farmland, then finish at a road – a marker here says that the path is called Xia Qing Que Trail. Turn right up the road, then keep heading right when you join a second road after a few metres.
What follows is a 5-10 minute road walk. (My timings here a little off because I went the wrong way for a bit.) On the right you have views down to the Guandu Plain, and if you’re observant you might notice an urn placed in an alcove on the left.
01:55 – After turning a bend, the TGH heads up some steps towards the village. The steps climb up several metres and then straight away you turn right onto a small lane, then turn left again and follow the road up around a bend to the right. Each turning is well sign posted here. The brief glimpses of village life you catch as you pass by the open windows and doors of houses are rather lovely. It makes me miss my home a little.
IF YOU’RE PLANNING TO SPLIT THE TRAIL INTO TWO SECTIONS, TAKE THE BUS BACK TO BEITOU FROM HERE.
02:00 – A short walk though the village leads to Qingtian Temple and the giant banyan tree that spreads its arms over the tin shelter that the temple has put up. Two women were gossiping and waiting for the next bus. I walked around them and the tree and turned left just past the temple – there are sinks here where I splashed my face with water. In fact there are even public toilets here, which is probably a good thing given that the next ones aren’t until Erziping.
02:03 – Turning left up the road next to the sinks and a water dispenser, I prepared myself for the next step of the journey. Not far up the road, some steps head left, signposted towards Miantian Shan.
As the path climbs, you get a great view over the village below out to Guandu and the bumps of Guanyin Shan beyond the river. (This photo, as well as several that follow, come from a description of the mount Datun multi-peak trail.)
The path passes another temple (which has a large plastic horse, and an incense burner filled with succulents in its forecourt), before starting the long climb up to Miantian Ping.
Although there are several paths heading off on both sides, just keep on the same path towards Miantian Ping. I passed quite a few farmers and a couple of solo hikers as I climbed.
02:50 – After nearly fifty minutes of climbing, I reached the Miantian Ping pavilion where stopped to catch my breath and have a drink. I had an unpleasant encounter with a group of three older men. One photographed me without my permission, and when I tried to let him know that it was a bit rude in a friendly, “hey, maybe if you asked, I would have said yes” tone he just shrugged and waved his phone around and pretended not to understand. He then stopped speaking Mandarin with his friends and switched to Taiwanese. I don’t speak Taiwanese but I know ‘foreigner’ ‘can understand’, ‘can’t understand’, ‘Mandarin’ and ‘Taiwanese’. It was clear they had made the decision to speak Taiwanese because they didn’t want me to understand. I didn’t stay long after that, the atmosphere was kind of uncomfortable. It also made me decide to just complete the walk and head home rather than make a detour and go for one more push up to Miantian Shan – the exchange had somewhat robbed me of my energy.
03:12 – From Miantian Ping to Eriziping, it is possible to walk the whole way on the road, (as I did on this occasion), but it is also possible to take a slightly shorter route up some steps – the signpost now has TGH stickers on it, pointing both up the steps and up the road I think.
03:20 – Erziping was very busy for a Wednesday, large groups of retirees and families with young children were out and enjoying the pretty scenery. A pair of blue magpies entertained the crowds by swooping down to perch on a semi-submerged log and bathe. I made use of the bathrooms here, (regretting that I’d forgotten to bring a clean t-shirt), and then headed on my way.
03:23 – The path back to the visitor centre and bus stop was a gentle cool-down after all the elevation gain, and by the time I finished, I was definitely ready to rest my feet.
HOW TO GET TO THE TAIPEI GRAND TRAIL SECTION 1
Google maps address: Starting from Guandu MRT Station, you’ll need to arrive at: Guandu MRT Station, Beitou District, Taipei City, 112
If you plan to stop at the earlier of the two splitting options, you should catch a bus from: Kuohua Golf Course, 251, New Taipei City, Tamsui District
If you plan to stop at the later of the two splitting options, you can get on a bus at: Qingtian Temple, 112, Taipei City, Beitou District
The final point on this section of the TGH is: Erziping Visitor Center, 252, New Taipei City, Sanzhi District
- Guandu Station – N25 07.535 E121 28.015
- Zhongyi Trail Head – N25 08.475 E121 28.490
- Kuohua Golf Course – N25 09.220 E121 29.075
- Qingtian Temple – N25 09.595 E121 30.045
- Erziping Visitor Centre – N25 11.165 E121 31.520
- The walk starts from exit 2 of Guandu MRT station.
- Guohua Golf Course (國華球場) – the scheduled 631 passes through on its way from Qiyan to Tamshui or vice versa.
- Qingtian Temple – the scheduled S6 runs between here and Beitou every 30 minutes.
- From Erziping you can catch the 108 back to Yangmingshan Park bus stop from where you can catch buses to wherever.
Further reading: Tony Huang took a slightly different route on this occasion (from Datun Shan down to Guandu), so it’s not really the same. But if you’re looking for a Chinese language version to read, you can try this one.
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