A Short Walk Through the Maosing Station’s Old Trees
A visit to Taipingshan National Forest Recreation Area would not be complete without a trip on the iconic yellow Bong Bong Train (an onomatopoeic name which references the sound of the engine chugging along the tracks – not the sound of the horn as I had initially though). The twenty minute journey takes you from the hub of the old village clustered around Taipingshan Villa, out to Maosing Station. After opening in the 1920s, the tracks were part of an network of logging railways and aerial ropeways which fanned out across the slopes, all coalescing in the valley below at Tuchang where the lumber would be further processed and put on trains bound for Luodong and beyond. The section connecting Taipingshan Village with Maosing Station is now the only part that’s still operational.
There are two trails to explore once you get to Maosing Station which are collectively known as Maosing Reminiscent Trail. The signage there seems to suggest that it would only be possible to complete one trail in the time that you have before your train heads back, and whilst that may be true for families or slower walkers, we found we were able to complete both. This trail guide covers the shorter, circular loop, for the trail guide about Maosing Main Trail you can check here. If you want to do both, then I advise starting with this one and then doing the Main Trail, that way you can always return and make your way to the station if you’re running out of time.
Distance: 0.7km for the full loop (taking in the two halves one above and one below the tracks).
Time: 15-30 minutes – the signage suggests it will take thirty minutes, but I guess only if you’re going very slowly.
Difficulty (regular Taiwan hiker): 1.5/10 – Very short, well surfaced trail, a little harder due to the elevation.
Difficulty (new Taiwan hiker): 3/10 – Some steps to climb which are more tiring due to the increased elevation up here, but the walk is very, very short.
Total ascent: Less than 50 metres.
Water: A single 0.5L bottle should suffice, you’re limited to quite a brief time here before having to return on your allotted train.
Shade: Nice and shady throughout.
Mobile network: Pretty weak.
Enjoyment: The train ride was a lot of fun, and there are some grand old tree stumps to enjoy along the way.
Other: Train tickets cost $180 per adult (in addition to the cost of entering the park).
Route type: Loop
Permit: None needed, but you do need to pay to enter Taipingshan Forest Recreation Area (more info at the bottom of this post).
Jump to the bottom of this post for a trail map, GPX file and details about getting tickets for the train.
The gentle ride meanders through shady forest and over tumbling streams. When there is a break in the trees on the left you are treated to big views of the landscape below (although after midday all you’re likely to see is clouds). There were only eight passengers on this first train out, so we had a whole compartment to ourselves.
Once at the station we decided to start by making our way around the loop trail (reasoning that at least we could turn back whenever we needed to catch our train on the main trail). We followed the tracks back the way we’d come in the direction of the toilet block.
Easy to walk on wooden steps lead down to the loos, and from there the trail curves to the left, cutting below the station’s platform.
Tall trees and a carpet of moss and ferns create a calm, hushed atmosphere, only two other visitors had come the same way as us, and their voices were quiet in the still of the morning. Instead we could hear the constant sound of bird song, something sweet and repetitive which I interpreted as sounding like “我愛你” (“I love you”), and Teresa insisted was actually “什麼鳥” (which can mean either “which bird?” or “what is this crap?”).
Beside the trail there are the green-shrouded stumps of giant trees, some with second or third generation trunks sprouting defiantly out of their old growth.
Very quickly the trail starts to curve to the right, passing a shelter and then climbing shallow steps on its way back towards the station.
When you draw level to the tracks, cross straight over them and the main trail, and take the steps leading up the hill on the far side.
We failed to pace ourselves at first, and despite having spent the night at this elevation, it felt hard to get enough oxygen and my limbs were leaden.
Thankfully the climb is mercifully brief, and we were soon wandering parallel to the railway, the station visible through the trees.
As the steps start to descend again, there are many more huge, mossy tree stumps to either side of the trail. From the paths trodden into the earth its clear that these are popular places for people to stop and pose for photos.
At the bottom of the steps we turned right onto the trail which runs beside the tracks and followed it back into Maosing Station.
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.
Bong Bong Train Tickets
There’s no online ordering for bong bong train tickets, so have to be physically in the park to purchase them. If you’re staying the night you can buy tickets for the following day any time up until 5pm, which might be smart given that tickets for all but the first two trips (7:30am and 8:80am) tend to sell out pretty quickly according to staff who spoke to us. There are a total of nine services every day (with a few extras on national holidays), leaving at half past the hour and returning ninety minutes later from 7:30am through to 3:30pm. In order to make sure that there are enough seats for people wanting to come back you are asked to return on the service specified on your ticket. A regular ticket (13-65 years old) will set you back $180 while a concessionary ticket (kids between the aged 3-12 and those over 65) is $120.
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 Taipingshan
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. The walk itself starts from in front of Taipingshan Villa Service Station.
GPS location: N24 29.545 E121 32.205
Public transport: Kuo-kuang Motor Transport (also known as King Bus) run the 1750 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. If you’re planning to walk more than one of the trails then you should definitely look into staying at the park in order to make the most of the trip.
Other trails in Taipingshan National Forest Recreation Area:
- Cueifeng Lake Circular Trail
- Cypress Trail
- Jancing Historic Trail
- Maosing Main Trail
- Taiwan Hemlock Trail
Maosing Reminiscent Loop Trail Map
GPX file available here on Outdoor Active. (Account needed, but the free one works just fine.)
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