Every April and May the mountains around Taipei are cloaked with the white blossom of the tung tree. Getting out to observe this April (or May) ‘snowfall’ is a popular activity amongst the locals, and this trail in Tucheng is one of many places you can go to join in.
Distance: about 8km
Time: 2½-3 hours
Difficulty (regular Taiwan hiker): 3/10 – for steepness in the spring heat and not always clear signage.
Difficulty (new Taiwan hiker): 5/6 – steps and heat are tough to get used to, and you’ll need to follow a map or go with someone who can read Chinese as there are very few dual-language signs.
Total ascent: about 340m to a high point of just over 340 metres above sea level.
Water: I drank about 0.8L – tung blossom season can be quite warm, so make sure you take enough.
Shade: on and off – I used my umbrella for most of the walk.
Mobile network: pretty clear the whole way.
Enjoyment: great if you enjoy busy places that are bustling with others also enjoying the great outdoors, less great if you go seeking peace and quiet.
Other: since the seasons overlap, you could come in the late afternoon and bring a picnic dinner to enjoy both tung blossom and fireflies.
Permit: none required.
Tucheng Tung Blossom Trail Map
GPX file available here.
When you arrive at Yongning Station head for exit two and then do a 180° turn after leaving the building. From here you need to keep on Chengtian Street until you reach the creek. There are signs in Chinese directing you towards the Tung Flower Garden (桐花公園), but they don’t stand out that much.
Unlike the signs, standing out very much was apparently what I was doing, because (despite being dressed similarly to the many other walkers heading in the same direction), I found myself being stared at by every passing motorists – some spinning their head so far back for a second look that I was worried they might disrupt the traffic. I am used to this in some of the smaller places that I visit, I guess it must still be a little unusual to see foreign women wandering around alone out in the sticks, but I’d forgotten that it can be that way in some parts of New Taipei City too.
Chengtian Road quite quickly becomes semi-industrial with factory units to either side. Where the road splits, head right. Again there are signs, but only in Chinese.
At the next junction cross over the road.
Head for the wooden walkway that runs alongside the creek and follow it upstream.
I got the sense that this waterside park had only recently been constructed/renovated, as everything looked a little rough around the edges. Hopefully after a couple of years it will grow into itself and look a bit better.
The waterside path passes a toilet block and then veers you some steps next to a two-level pavilion. The pavilion sits on a road, here cross over again and continue along the stream. (I think it might be possible to follow a path that runs up the hill on the right, but I was on a deadline so I kept going where the signs were directing me.)
At a scooter parking area keep left next to the water, then cross over and carry on up the slope some more.
The climb up really isn’t the prettiest part of New Taipei City that I’ve visited (although it’s also far from the ugliest).
Where the water flows beneath the road continue heading straight up.
After crossing the water once more the road enters into an area that feels a bit like an old housing estate, keep with it as it bends to the right. (More blue signs indicating the correct way to go if you can read Chinese.)
A short while later the road arrives at the grand approach to Chengtian Temple. From the road it doesn’t look too special, but later on I saw the graceful arc of the recently built road (constructed in 2018) curving towards the car park. Built to accommodate all of the excess cars, it didn’t seem to be open when I visited, perhaps they only open that particular gate on weekends and holidays, (there’s another entrance further up). Continue walking straight up towards the mirror and assortment of signs.
Very shortly there is a trail leading towards the water on the left. A poster by the entrance suggests that this is a good place to come firefly spotting in April.
Just after entering the trail I passed a small temple where a collection of people sat enjoying tea and conversation. Another few steps beyond this is the creek that the trail follows up for the next portion of the walk.
At the creek turn left and head upstream along a wooden walkway.
The trail passes through some farmland, and I encountered a very bold whistling thrush hopping around on the branches that overhung the water. After a short distance the trail splits in two, both directions are ok. If you take the left one then you’ll need to follow the road right, and if you take right one then you’ll arrive pretty much straight in front of the shop that marks the entrance to the next portion of the path.
The loop I did headed up between these two buildings, (and would eventually return back from a path just left of frame).
2020’s tung blossom season was subject to Covid-19 social distancing requirements, with signs placed all along the trail reminding people to keep a minimum of 1 metre apart.
The reason why visitors come here to see the tung blossom was soon apparent – droves of the white, five-petaled blossoms lay scattered across the path and gathered in pools on the surface of the stream.
True to their May snow moniker, white flakes spiralled down from the tree tops to the path below. Some aunties had amassed garlands of the things, one large enough to become a necklace, the other a crown.
At a fork in the trail I took the more established path to the left (although both emerge in a similar location after five minutes or so).
Steps climb up to some farmland and where they join the road you can look back to get a clear view over the white-flecked tree tops. Here you’ll find a road side coffee shop – I can’t attest to what it’s like off-season, but when I visited it was doing a roaring trade.
From the cafe, head left and through the car park. The road almost immediately bends right and then passes an old stone house.
A little further along you’ll spot the white archway over the entrance to the Tung Blossom Park, but I never got quite that far. Instead I took a right turn and headed uphill along a path that was steeper and absolutely covered in blossoming trees.
One particular fallen blossom caught my attention – a perfectly formed six-petaled beauty that stood out amongst its five-petaled companions. Either this mutation is more common in specific locations (as is the case with four-leaved clovers), or else it happens relatively frequently because I spotted three of them on this walk.
The trail reached a little rest platform and split in two – I took the smaller, rougher trail on the right. It soon rejoined the other trail, but then the one on the left continued heading down as I kept heading up.
Along the way I passed a group of aunties who’d come out together. They were complaining about their husbands and kids, but then one of them came out with a ridiculous statement: “I basically just don’t like flowers.” When pushed by her friends to explain why, the reason she gave is that they look like rubbish on the floor. Everyone’s perception of beauty is different I guess.
At the highest point I passed on this walk there is a pavilion for shelter and for enjoying the view.
From the front of it you can see over the winding road leading to Chengtian Temple and across Tucheng District then Shulin District to the ridge that separates Shulin from Linkou. One day in the not too distant future I hope to walk this ridge as part of the Taipei Skyline Trail (as well as the ridge behind this tung blossom trail).
The conversation was flowing freely and loudly, the platform in front of the shelter dominated by two aunties-in-training (maybe someone could describe me like that, welp) holding forth on the topic of “hills I have climbed or will climb,” so I lingered only briefly before moving on. Just beyond the pavilion tung oil trees framed wisps of cloud, the spread of colours perfectly describing a spring morning.
A scattering of tung blossom caught in a puddle of sunlight.
At the junction I headed downhill to the left. (The right was signposted as heading towards another pavilion.)
Very soon after that there is another junction, again I went left, but I believe both paths end up in the same place.
Left once more.
Left a final time – each junction should be bringing you closer to the road.
Then steps rejoin the road, (it’s the same one I was on about thirty minutes earlier), and head straight across and down.
After a short distance there is another junction, I went right and kept heading down, but not until after I’d taken a quick detour to the left.
Heading left takes you to the main plaza of the Tung Blossom Park, it was full of people enjoying the late morning sun. I was happy to find a sink where I could wash my face and soak the back of my shirt with cool water before heading back to the junction and continuing on my way down.
As I was walking, something that definitely wasn’t a flower drifted down on the breeze to land at my feet – closer inspection revealed it to be the shed exoskeleton of a mantis, (apparently they molt six times before reaching their full size).
The remainder of the path down skirts to the left of the remnants of Nantianmu Forest Paradise (樂園 translates as paradise, but maybe some hybrid of park and theme park would be better). In its day it was a place for families to come and enjoy outdoor activities like camping, swimming and climbing all surrounded by forest, but it has been abandoned for over two decades now. These days it mostly draws urban explorers (like this explorer who took many photos of the park), and ghost hunters (these two seem very preoccupied with finding a toilet – the rumoured site of an unpleasant occurrence) who are drawn to the urban legends that have gathered around the crumbling buildings.
After a while I found myself back at the trail entrance between the shops on Chengtian Road – from here it was just a case of retracing my steps back down to the MRT station.
How to get to Tucheng Tung Blossom Trail
- Chengtian Road entrance – N24 56.950 E121 26.970
- Tong Hua Xiang Coffee Shop – N24 56.720 E121 27.020
- Entrance opposite Tung Blossom Park archway – N24 56.760 E121 27.090
public transport: I walked up from Yongning MRT Station, but many people were taking taxis up to the trail head. You could also hop on the 575 bus that runs between Yongning MRT Station and Nantianmu Square.
further reading: there is a small amount of information about the Tung Blossom Park on the local government’s website, and the Hakka Tung Blossom Festival website boasts of it’s “full-sized tung blossom trail,” (what about a miniature one – I’d enjoy that). There doesn’t seem to be much about the tung blossom trail in English, but I did find this guy’s post about going here to see the fireflies.
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