As someone who spends most of their time in Taipei, it seems like Taitung-ites already have quite a laid back pace of life, but if they ever feel like things are getting a bit much, then Taitung Forest Park must be the oasis of calm that they head to for some respite. The sprawling 280 acres of park land is a peaceful haven, perfect for a jog, bike ride, or just getting away from it all.
The park as it currently exists dates back to the 1960s, when the local government planted a whole lot of whistling pines (those fluffy, dusty-looking long-needled pines), to try combat erosion and and protect the city from being inundated with dusty sand brought by seasonal northeasterly winds. Over time the facilities were expanded, and the land was part managed, part left to settle into its own shape. Towards the coast you’ll find a large manmade ‘living’ lake where visitors can swim or kayak (‘living’ because it is connected to the sea), and more inland there are semi-managed wetlands which provide shelter for all sorts of birds.
Distance: 5.6km to loop around half of the park, probably double if you manage to visit both halves.
Time: 2-4 hours – Two hours for a quick wander or cycle, four to cover the whole place, more if you want to swim or kayak.
Difficulty: 0.5/10 – Not at all difficult, it’s all flat, paved roads.
Total ascent: Almost none, it’s flat the whole way.
Water: 0.5L should be enough, there are drink vending machines at a couple of places.
Shade: Not enough shade for sun sensitive folk. I had to take my umbrella.
Mobile network: Perfect the whole way.
Enjoyment: This is a lovely way to pass a morning or afternoon in Taitung, wetlands, birds, and lots of trees.
Other: To get the most out of your visit I’d highly recommend renting a bike. We walked and only ended up covering about half of the park because that amount of walking on roads is tiring for anyone’s feet. And if you’re a bird lover, then definitely pack your binoculars.
Route type: Loop
Permit: None needed, but there is an entry fee of $30 per person for non-residents of Taitung.
Jump to the bottom of this post for a trail map and GPX file.
We entered via the main gates just off of Mahengheng Boulevard (Teresa found it unreasonably entertaining to make me say the name of the road repeatedly), and decided to do a clockwise loop, heading left through the back end of the car park.
At first we followed the walking trail past a whole series of exercise equipment – naturally this required testing out.
A Malayan night heron giving us a rather distrusting look.
At some point we decided to veer left away from the footpath and head towards the wide track which heads along the perimeter of the park.
The path is very popular with cyclists and joggers, we saw this couple pedal past us at least three times during our walk.
At the junction we headed left again to visit the most inland section of the park.
The lane cuts through a stand of taller pines. Evidently the locals have nicknamed the park ‘The Black Forest’ on account of all the dark patches of pine trees. I’m not sure it really warrants that name, at least not yet, but given a couple more decades it might do.
The trail reaches a three way junction by a block of toilets. the lefthand trail takes you around the southern edge of Egret Lake (鷺鷥湖), where you can find a duck hide and more exercise equipment, the righthand trail takes you around northern edge. We decided to take the middle track between the two sections of the lake then return via its northern edge.
The lake is full of fish, bird life and the odd terrapin – I have to imagine that people have broken the rules to feed this critter, because it was lurking by the bridge and watching us expectantly.
At the top end of the lake, the path passes over a wooden walkway and you can look back over the marshland.
This Eurasian coot was about the only bird I managed to get a photo of, but there were many there, the whole walk was soundtracked by their chattering and warbling.
After looping round Egret lake, we returned back the same way we’d come as far as this junction. Here we continued our clockwise loop by heading straight.
The park authorities have grafted many of these bright orchids onto the tree trunks along this stretch of the path.
The trail remains flat and spacious the whole way, and we saw many locals out for their daily exercise. This stand of trees had all grown slightly towards the south creating a funny, slanting appearance.
An avenue of the whistling pines that were originally planted to help protect the city from airborne dust. They have such a bizarre, feathery quality to them.
Just before the track reaches Provincial Highway 11, it takes a sharp right turn and starts to head back towards the main gates. If you want to explore the seaward area of the park (which I recommend you do), then take a left turn under the road through a tunnel just before the main track veers right again.
We would have liked to see Pipa Lake and the manmade living lake, but our feet were tired and we had to go in search of dinner and reclaim our suitcase before heading to the station to catch the train home. So instead we followed the track as it curved around an open expanse of lawn (golfing prohibited – try telling that to the two groups of grey-haired golfers that we saw), and back to the gates.
Naturally, we couldn’t leave the park without first greeting two of its resident dogs – the black and tan one was called Niuniu and seemed to have lots of friends.
How to get to Taitung Forest Park
Google maps address: The main entrance to Taitung Forest Park is just off of Mahengheng Boulevard, evidently there are other entrances, but we didn’t pass any. There are parking spaces for cars and scooters here.
GPS location: N22 45.785 E121 09.500
Public transport: A couple of buses run from both the bus station and the train station to the entrance of the park, but if you’re in the centre of town (close to the bus station), then it would be almost as easy to walk here as it would to catch a bus.
Renting a bike in Taitung Forest Park
There is a bike rental store just inside Taitung Forest Park where you can rent normal and electric bikes, but it appears to have terrible reviews. You’d be better off renting elsewhere and riding into the park. We had a good experience renting from 探索自行車出租店 which you can find a little further away along the seafront. We rented standard bikes for $100 a day each, but they have electric and tandems too.
Taitung Forest Park Trail Map
GPX file available here on Outdoor Active. (Account needed, but the free one works just fine.)
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