Panshiling to Yongding Village via Mount Sifenwei
(台北天際線2B段 – 盤石嶺/四分尾山/永定)
This section of the Taipei Skyline Trail was the last section that I walked, and covered ground that was entirely new to me. Walking it was an unexpected delight. I had been anticipating something a little out of the way and hard-going, but with its twin charms of both a fun ridge walk and a waterside temple-studded historic trail, it turned out to be such a good walk that I plan to return with Teresa.
TIME: This walk took me almost exactly five hours. I didn’t stop much or often because the weather was a bit grotty.
TOTAL ASCENT: About 260 metres. More significant is the 650-metre descent. (So if going downhill doesn’t agree with your knees, you might want to look at doing this one in reverse.)
DIFFICULTY (REGULAR TAIWAN HIKERS): 3-4/10 – On a damp day, this was made harder by the numerous ups and downs over slippery surfaces, as well as the many forking junctions in the fog.
DIFFICULTY (NEW HIKERS): 5-6/10 – This would have been a little intimidating to me when I started hiking in Taiwan both for the reasons mentioned above, and for the kind of out-of-the-way feeling on some of the road sections.
SIGNAGE: TSLT signage seemed slightly less compared to others –maybe because this is because it’s also part of the Siwu Long Trail (四五縱走). That being said, almost every junction has little red-and-white handwritten signs left by hiking teams.
FOOD AND WATER: I drank about 0.5L on a cool and drizzly day. I should probably have drank a little more, but the hassle of getting in and out of my bag with a raincoat made me lazy. Foodwise, you’ll definitely want snacks. I got through quite a lot of dried tofu, but an extra fantuan or steamed bun would have been a good idea.
SHADE: The majority of this walk is under quite dense shade, but there are a couple of stretches along the road that would be very exposed.
MOBILE NETWORK: I had quite good mobile reception along the ridgeline between Panshiling and Sifenwei Shan, but beyond that, it became patchy.
ENJOYMENT: I had low expectations for this stretch of the TSLT, but it wouldn’t be an understatement to say it ended up being a surprise highlight. The first half is some good fun ridge-line walking while the second half follows a charming historic trail down a lush stream valley.
SOLO HIKE-ABILITY: Apart from a couple of steep drop-offs along the Zhiliaokeng Historic Trail portion of the walk, there isn’t anything that should prevent a competent map reader from walking this alone. That being said, don’t expect to meet many other walkers, especially if you walk this on a weekday. I didn’t see a single soul between leaving the road at Panshiling and arriving at the bus stop five hours later.
OTHER: Gloves and a hiking stick are recommended. And if you walk this in warmer months, take salt candy too.
ROUTE TYPE: Point to point.
PERMIT: None needed.
TRAILS AND POINTS OF INTEREST ALONG THE WAY:
- Two Spires (雙石塔)
- Mount Erkonggui (耳空龜山)
- Mount Sifenwei (四分尾山)
- Mount Zhikengliao (紙坑寮山)
- Zhikengliao Historic Trail (紙坑寮古道)
OPTIONS TO SPLIT THIS ROUTE: You could make the route a little easier by heading down from Sifenwe Shan towards Xizhi’s Dajian Shan, but I think the overall distance would end up being pretty similar.
Jump to the bottom of this post for a trail map and GPX file.
Numbers by photos refer to the GPS coordinates at the end of the post.
09:07 – After an interminable long and winding climb up to Panshiling, I disembarked with a handful of others and make my way into the shelter of the temple to get myself sorted. The others–a group of four hikers–were going in the same direction as me, at least until Sifenwei Shan, and they were the last people I saw until I arrived at my final destination several hours later.
(1) To start on your way, take the path leading into the greenery between a portaloo and a trail map. (It gets better from here, I promise.)
Well, admittedly, the pylon isn’t much better than the portaloo, but it really does get better after this. Ignore the trail on the left and just keep heading along the ridge.
This diverging route is Jingtong Historic Trail (菁桐古道), yet another walk that’s been loitering in my “I will visit this one day” pile.
The tone for the first part of the walk is set pretty early on. Lots of short, sharp ascents are followed by similarly short and steep descents.
Plenty of rock formations are scattered along the way to keep things interesting.
09:34 – There are also multiple side trails to keep ignoring. This one would take you towards Shulang Peak (薯榔尖). Just keep straight along the ridge.
09:51 – Almost twenty minutes later, another trail darts away to the left. Again, ignore it and continue to follow the ridge.
10:18 – A little over an hour after I started walking, I found myself at the first summit of the day-an unnamed peak marked simply by its elevation, 581m on the maps. I stayed a few minutes to have some dried tofu and water, but resumed my journey as soon as I heard the voices of the hiking team approaching. They must have stopped at the peak for a rest too, because I didn’t hear them catching up to me again. Take the exit leaving from the right side of the clearing as you approach it, following signs for Mount Erkonggui and Siwu Long Distance Trail.
I was enjoying the whole feel of this walk. The fog and yelping muntjacs certainly made the atmosphere a little… eerie, but it was undeniably beautiful and very fun to walk. I’d love to come back to do this one with Teresa at some point, because she normally likes this type of place. (I think I passed another small junction somewhere around here.)
In the damp conditions, I had to be extra mindful of where I was putting my feet, but I was wearing a pair of wellies which were doing a good job of stopping me from slipping, even on the rocky sections.
10:49 – After another short climb, the trail dips down into a clearing. A trail on the right leads down to join Zuopinei Historic Trail (作埤內古道), but the TSLT heads straight over and up towards a pair of looming towers.
10:51 – On the map, the structures are given the rather mythic-sounding name of Two Spire (雙石塔), and although the do look rather wonderfully dramatic in the mist, the reality is rather more prosaic. They are the base of an old mining winch from the days when the hills in northern Taiwan were riddled with mineshafts.
11:02 – The next ten minutes is a steep and steady upwards slog up to the summit of Mount Erkonggui. I paused at the top to have some more dried tofu and water before setting off again along the ridge.
There are a couple more junctions several minutes out from the peak. At the first, take the right hand path, then another five minutes later, take the one on the left. At each junction, make sure to follow signs towards Mount Sifenwei (四分尾山).
Just another couple of minutes later, a third junction leaves on the left. Once more, ignore it and head along the main path.
I picked up a bit more speed on this section between Mount Erkonggui and Mount Sifenwei. There are still ups and downs, but overall, this stretch is a lot flatter.
At one point, the trail breaks out of the tree cover and cuts over a silvergrass cloaked slope. I imagine there are probably some views
11:51 – At the end of the open area, a side trail on the right leads to Zhanwang Peak (展望峰), some walkers do a detour here, but if you don’t plan to, just keep straight on the main trail. At the next junction, follow the fingerpost right towards Sifenwei Shan.
In a clearing just before the path meets the road, someone has hung up a string of prayer flags.
12:12 – (2) When the path hits the road, turn left and cross over to find the entrance on the opposite side.
12:14 – Steps climb up to the summit of Mount Sifenwei. I took a few photos, but there is absolutely no point in sharing them because you can’t see much except for a wall of white.
Head back down the same way to the road, then take a right turn and follow the road downhill. There isn’t a whole lot on the road to talk about. I met a deer, but I think the only building I passed was some kind of hybrid house and temple with a noisy guard dog which stopped barking and went silent to stare at me as I passed.
12:36 – (3) When the road reaches a T-junction, ignore all of the roads and head straight over into the trees on the far side.
Almost straight away, the trail splits in two. Take the right hand fork.
12:41 – Just a few metres further along, I found myself in the clearing on the summit of Mount Zhiliao (紙寮山). It didn’t feel like much of a summit, since I’d walked down to reach it and then continued walking down once I’d passed through the clearing. There are two more paths leading away from the peak, take the one on left and keep heading down. After walking for another five minutes, I came upon the first of several small wayside land god shrines.
12:46 – This one sits in a small clearing has the very standard name, Fude Temple (福德宮) engraved above the entrance. The clearing was unfortunately a bit of a junk heap, there were loads of bits of random plastic scattered around. Keep heading straight through the clearing and out the far side.
12:53 – The next junction is probably the most complex intersection of the whole day’s walk-there are a total of five trails that converge in this area. The TSLT takes a sharp left and heads down a flight of steps fashioned from pillow-sized boulders.
12:59 – (4) Because of the constant drizzle, the steps had turned into more of a stream than a path. Water cascaded down the channel, and I felt quite smug about my decision to wear wellies. The path emerges into a road by a couple of houses. A chained-up dog barked at me as I passed, but if there were people inside, they didn’t come out to check why it was barking.
13:03 – Follow the track as it curves down, then turn right onto Guangming Road (光明路). (In fact, you could just have walked down the road to get to this point, but where’s the fun in that?) I passed the very closed-looking Guangming Area Activity Centre, then the TSLT takes a left turn down a steep, single-lane road which leaves the main road from the outer edge of a ninety-degree bend.
13:06 – (5) Before you reach the end of the lane, turn right back into the trees. The junction isn’t signposted, but it’s marked with lots of hiking tags.
This section from here until it joins the road again was probably my favourite part of the day. From the lane, you descend along the crest of a densely forested ridge with the sounds of streams flowing to either side of you.
13:12 – There are numerous minor tributaries to be crossed along the way. Some of which have wooden bridges like this, while others involve splashing across narrow channels. (On a non-rainy day, you probably wouldn’t have to get your feet wet.)
A little further down, the trail starts to stick close to the course of Zhiliaokeng Stream. At times, there are some pretty steep drop-offs on the left of the trail. Most of these are well-equipped with sturdy ropes, which makes the walking easier. However, a twat of a muntjac decided to yelp-bark at me from a hidden spot in the bushes just as I was about to climb down this one. It doesn’t really look like it in the photos, but there is an especially steep drop all of the way down to the water here. (Apologies for the gloomy photo, it really was this dark.)
13:18 – The path forks at a T-junction. Take the left hand trail continuing down along the stream. The other fork leads up to a road and then over to Cockscomb Mountain (雞冠山 – I can clearly picture the profile of this hill), I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of the trails in this area.
13:20 – I came across the second Tudigong Temple in a far more pleasant clearing than the first. A stainless steel table has been set up in front of the simple stone shrine, and it’s clear that either passing hikers or maybe local bamboo farmers still regularly pay their respects.
Just a few paces further down, there is a weathered stone stele. According to Tony Huang’s description of the route, this stele commemorates an immigrant farmer surnamed Wang. When Wang died without an heir to inherit his farm, the villagers decided that the best course of action would be to allow Wang to posthumously adopt another person with the same surname who would then take over the land. It fell to other members of the broader Wang clan to pay for this commemorative stele (and presumably his burial).
The trail continues to meander its way down through fern-decked trees, and another path joins from the left. (I would not have wanted to walk that route on this occasion since it involved a river crossing, and the water was looking quite powerful.)
13:44 – I passed a couple of spots which looked like they may have been old farmsteads or perhaps just farmland-the remains of walls almost fully consumed by the greenery, and creaking stands of bamboo. This historic trail previously connected residents in Shiding with those in Xizhi, and it’s likely that there were many small communities along the way. This is also evidenced by the number of land god temples. This one holds a great spot in a clearing, facing upstream and sheltered on the rear by the slope of the land.
As the trail leads away from the third temple, it draws even closer to the water. I imagine this must be a pleasant trail to walk on a hot summer day.
13:48 – Sadly, this portion ends all too quickly. The trail crosses over the first of several jerry-rigged bridges, then turns left to head down a brushed-concrete track.
The bridges appear to have been built so that the owner of a nearby property can access it on a scooter. Despite their appearance, they seem relativity sturdy.
The final one of these bridges crosses the main body of Zhiliaokeng Stream before joining the top end of an unnamed road.
13:55 – (6) Where the trail ends, the road begins, and from here, the trail leads down alongside the river for the remainder of the walk.
14:01 – The road has a couple more treats to throw at you. The first being this old mining pit entrance. (A trail right beside the tunnel mouth leads up to Guniang Mountain (姑娘山.)
A little further down, a trio of very loud guard dogs barked at me from the far side of the water, and at a junction, I passed the final land god shrine of the walk. This one is set high up above the road, accessible via a short flight of steps. The road heads down to a junction, keep left here.
14:16 – Then almost as soon as you’ve turned the corner, take a right over Yongding River. Ahead, the dramatic peaks in front of Huangdidian’s main ridge line. They’re enticing, but I was very ready for a little sit-down and some proper food.
14:18 – The bus stop is on your left immediately after joining Jingan Road. I arrived with about 35 minutes to go before the next bus, which gave me plenty of time to brush the worst of the mud off my boots and hiking stick.
Google Maps address: The walk starts from Panshiling and ends at Yongding. I think it should be possible to find road parking at both ends of the walk, but you’re better off taking public transport.
- N25 02.420 E121 42.990
- N25 02.465 E121 40.875
- N25 02.135 E121 40.675
- N25 01.870 E121 40.725
- N25 01.885 E121 40.835
- N25 01.285 E121 41.220
- Getting to Panshiling – You’ll need to take the F920 bus from Xizhi (stops by the train station and Evening Market). As with most of the free bus services, there aren’t many of these each day. In fact, only two of these (the 5:40am and 8:25am services), will get you to the trailhead early enough to complete the walk. If you choose the latter service, make sure to head to the train station bus stop and arrive early, because the minibus has a limited capacity and no standing passengers are allowed. Alight at Panshiling bus stop.
- From Yongding – Board the 795 Tourist Shuttle heading towards Muzha from the bus stop in Yongding Village. Once you reach Muzha, you can transfer to the brown MRT line.
TAIPEI SKYLINE TRAIL SECTION 2B – TRAIL MAP
GPX file available here on Outdoor Active. (Account needed, but the free one works just fine.)
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