Old Rails and Rope Bridges Along Jancing Historic Trail
Jancing Historic Trail* is probably one of the most instantly recognisable trails in Taiwan. It’s up there with Taichung’s wooden ladder trails, Mount Yuanzui and Zhuilu Old Trail in terms of how often images of it appear in lists of Taiwan’s most photogenic, must-hike paths. Indeed, as the signage at the trailhead points out, it once won inclusion on a global list of the 28 most beautiful pathways in the world (although the sign fails to say what publication the list appeared in, just that it is ‘foreign’). Because of this I went expecting to be underwhelmed by the reality, but instead I ended up understanding why people love it. The trail is exceedingly easy, whilst being also very pretty, a combination which makes it accessible to a lot more people than some of the other picturesque places that we’ve visited.
*A note on the naming choice. Generally speaking I try to use the Hanyu Pinyin system when writing trail names because it makes sense to have some order rather than none, but in this case, the majority of the official materials about the trail produced by Taipingshan National Park refers to it as Jancing Historic Trail, so that’s what I’ll stick with. Having said that, elsewhere (including on signs in the park itself) I have seen it called Jiancing Old Trail, Jianqing Huaigu Trail, and every possible permutation, so pick whichever name you like and use that.
Distance: 4.6km – This includes the 2.6km from and back to the carpark, the trail itself is only about 900m in each direction.
Time: 1.5-2 hours – It took us about an hour and forty minutes including the walk to and from the carpark. If you visit by bus and and are dropped off at the trailhead, then you can expect to spend about an hour on the trail.
Difficulty (regular Taiwan hiker): 0.5/10 – Nothing difficult at all.
Difficulty (new Taiwan hiker): 1.5/10 – The path is a little uneven in places, and there is one rope bridge that you have tp cross towards the end of the trail.
Total ascent: About 125m.
Water: We took 0.5L each. If you want to travel light you should be fine to go without, but it’s always better to take something.
Shade: On a sunny day I would have needed an umbrella or hat for the road section, but the trail itself is very shady.
Mobile network: Patchy.
Enjoyment: The amount of beauty you get to enjoy for very minimal effort makes this a superb trail choice.
Other: It’s probably wise to take an umbrella, the weather can change quickly up here. Also, due to its popularity, this trail is likely to be quite busy on weekends, so aim for weekdays if you prefer peace and quiet.
Route type: There and back.
Permit: None needed, but you do need to pay to enter Taipingshan National Forest Recreation Area.
Jump to the bottom of this post for a trail map and GPX file.
The one downside to walking Jancing Historic Trail is that there is a 1.3km slog from the carpark to the trailhead along the side of the road.
Although on a more positive note, the walk is flat and pedestrians get to walk on a neat little elevated walkway that’s separated from traffic.
At the trailhead proper there is what looks to be an old carpark, presumably it’s no longer enough for the volume of guests. We saw a few people getting dropped off here by their drivers, and some
brave foolish soul had chosen to park up with their hazard lights left on…their car had a ticket on it when we returned.
As soon as we left the road we found ourselves walking along the old train tracks beneath the shade of tall, straight trees.
A break in the trees revealed a cloud-veiled landscape. Apparently on clear days it is possible to see the Lanyang Plain from this trail, and on really clear days you can see south as far as the peaks that comprise Taiwan’s Holy Ridge.
And just like the other trails we visited in the park, there were plentiful signs of just how much the plant life can thrive in these permanently humid conditions.
Many of the old trestle bridges have been left where they are (with the addition of a few modern supports by the looks of things).
All of the remaining sleepers are so covered in thick moss that they resemble squishy green pillows.
In sections where the old tracks would have cut across a steep stream valley there are now new bridges.
This is the second and longer of two rope bridges, and in fact it’s the only one you have to cross since there is a trail running parallel to the first one which you can take if you’re not a fan of heights.
Another 50 metres or so beyond the far side of the bridge is the end of the trail. When this old logging route reopened in 2004 as a tourist trail, it covered 2.35km of the original 5.5km section of track. Currently the trail only takes you 900m into the forest because a powerful typhoon in 2013 wiped out the trail beyond this point, and the slope is still considered too unstable to repair.
When it came time to turn around, we found ourselves facing that infamous Taipingshan afternoon low cloud base.
Casting my gaze to the left and down the steep sides stream valley yielded little more than a wall of white.
The cutting-off of far away sights made me refocus my gaze on the up close and small, like these ferns and strange mosses.
The fog also entirely changed the atmosphere of the trail. People became indistinct silhouettes against the backlist misty forest…
…and the dull haze made the brightness of the greenery seem even more vivid in comparison.
In fact I highly recommend that you try to come here later on in the day precisely so that you are able to enjoy these atmospheric conditions.
The fog was thick and soupy by the time we were back on the road and making our way towards the carpark, so thick that Teresa had melted into the whiteness by the time she got thirty metres ahead of me.
When to visit Taipingshan
The park is open year round, and is beautiful in any season, but the area is prone to heavy rain, so check the weather forecast before your visit. The park is open to guests from 8am to 9pm daily, and you should aim to arrive early if you want to see some views before the afternoon clouds roll in.
Tickets can be bought at the entrance to the park and cost $200 for a regular visitor on holidays and $150 on weekdays. There are concessions available for people over 60, kids under 6 years old, and people with some types of disability. There are also fees for parking (cars $100, scooters $20). For more information you can check here.
Staying in Taipingshan
The park has accommodation in the form of Taipingshan Villa (which is actually five separate buildings, each named after a species of conifer). As of 2022, prices range from $1200 for a bunk in a four-bed dorm to $9800 for an eight-bed room. They can be booked through this website as far as two months in advance, but rooms tend to sell out early.
How to get to Jancing Historic Trail
Google maps address: Taipingshan is accessed by driving inland from Yilan, then crossing the vast expanse of Lanyang River and driving up Taiping Forestry Road. You’ll have to stop at the toll booth to pay the entrance and parking fee, then continue up the road for quite a way until you reach the carpark.
- Carpark – N24 30.000 E121 31.950
- Trailhead – N24 30.320 E121 31.540
Public transport: Kuo-kuang Motor Transport (also known as King Bus) run the 1750 (weekends) or 1750A (weekdays) once-a-day service which picks up passengers from Yilan Transfer Station at 7:40am and Luodong Transfer Station at 8:00am. The bus makes its return journey from Taiping Villa (where this walk starts) at 2:30pm with an hour long stop at Jiuzhize (鳩之澤, also often spelled Jiouzhihze) on the way back. This trail is the penultimate stop along the way, but I wouldn’t really recommend doing this using public transport unless you’re desperate to walk it, since the trail is so short, you’ll have to walk along the road to Taipingshan Villa, or else be stuck here waiting for the bus to return.
Other trails in Taipingshan National Forest Recreation Area:
- Cueifeng Lake Circular Trail
- Cypress Trail
- Maosing Loop Trail
- Maosing Main Trail
- Taiwan Hemlock Trail
Jancing Historic Trail Map
GPX file available here on Outdoor Active. (Account needed, but the free one works just fine.)
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