Firefly Spotting in Pingxi District

This year I have decided to head a little further afield in search of fireflies. Taiwan has many species of these fascinating critters, and in fact it is possible to encounter them almost year round. That being said, April to early May is still the best time to see fireflies in Taiwan, and during this peak firefly season you’ll find small groups of people venturing out after dark to try and catch a glimpse of them. One area with several well known firefly viewing locations is Pingxi District.

It should go without saying, fireflies come out to get on with their very important business of mating and making new fireflies, so when you visit their homes, do so without disturbing them. Don’t use bright lights (take a red light with you if you need to), and stick to the established paths, don’t trample through the grasses or over areas where they could be breeding.

Distance: 0.9km maximum, I think we probably walked less.

Time: We spent about 2.5 hours at the site, but just the climb from the station to the old mine ruins will take about five minutes.

Difficulty (regular Taiwan hiker): 1/10 – This is a very easy wander.

Difficulty (new Taiwan hiker): 2/10 – Navigating the steps in the dark might be a little tough if you’re not used to it, but it’s short and the experience is worth it.

Total ascent: Less than 50m.

Water: We both took our 0.5L bottles, but barely drank anything, it was quite a cool evening.

Mobile network: Signal is clear here.

Enjoyment: The ruins of the old mines make for quite a unique backdrop to the firefly viewing experience.

When to visit: To see fireflies at Jingtong Coal Mine, the best time to visit would be sometime in April, or maybe the start of May.

Other: Make sure to take mosquito repellant and wear clothing which covers your skin. It would also be safer to wear sturdy shoes that cover your ankles, firefly viewing time is also good snake spotting time (we didn’t see any unfortunately). It might also be best to take a torch or headlamp which has red light capabilities. When we visited, the light pollution caused by city lights reflecting on the low cloud cover meant that we didn’t need to use ours at all.

Route type: Small loop or there and back depending on which way you choose to go.

Permit: None needed.

Jump to the bottom of this post for a trail map and GPX file.

We arrived at Jingtong Station far too early really, around 5:30pm which was almost an hour before sunset, and a whole ninety minutes before the sky was dark enough to full appreciate the fireflies.

Even before the sun went down, the evening felt close and gloomy. Low hanging clouds brushed the tops of the hills to either side of the valley, making the lights of the station and the few shops that were still open stand out.

The remains of the old Jingtong mining site are accessed via a set of steps which climbs up the hill on the far side of the tracks from the station.

Looking back towards the small village of Jintong as we climbed the steps towards the old mining buildings. When we’d gone just up a little higher and turned a corner we could hear the 17:54 service pulling into the station. I didn’t realise before our visit, but despite being mostly a tourist line, the Pingxi Line keeps operating until well into the evening. The last train to leave Jingtong (the end of the line), departs at 20:33 and reaches Ruifang almost an hour later, with the last one to arrive at Jingtong pulling in at 21:52.

The entrance to one of the coal pits, now fenced off sits to the rear left of the colliery site.

A lot of the above-ground facilities remain in varying states of structural soundness. There are mine offices, workers’ rest areas, warehouses, electrical rooms, basically everything that you’d need to run a functioning mine.

Towards the very rear of the site we met a taxi driver who had set up camp in one of the old buildings and was working as an unofficial guide to the area’s firefly viewing. He’d got lights and tables around one of the buildings, and was watching what appeared to be some type of religious dance performance on the TV.

As darkness settled, I decided to set up my camera by the old warehouses. There was only myself and one older chap there to take photos, although he said he was also there the night before (a Sunday), and that the place was very busy. Two or three couples also wandered around quietly for a while, in fact they passed through while I was taking the above picture, but didn’t show up in the end result. We stayed for about forty five minutes, but in the end we were forced to retreat by the quickening rain. Each time I attempt this I learn a little more about what to do and how this type of photography works. Maybe next year I will get the results I’m after.

How to get to Jingtong Station

Google maps address: We parked our scooter by the side of the road in front of a recently shuttered shop. There is a carpark nearby which charges $100 per time, but I don’t think anyone is there collecting a fee this late in the day, particularly not on weekdays.

GPS location: N25 01.440 E121 43.440

Public transport:

  • By train – board any train that will take you as far as Ruifang (all local and I think most express services stop here), then switch platforms to catch the Pingxi Line Train heading in the direction of Jingtong. If you’re using an Easy Card you will need to swipe out then swipe in again at Ruifang since the two lines use a different fare system. (There is an ticket booth with staff to help answer questions if you’re unsure.) Assuming this timetable is accurate (which it seems to be), then your best bet is to board the 17:01 train from Ruifang (arriving at 17:54) then return on either the 19:47 or 20:33 service.
  • By bus – the 795 Taiwan Tourist Shuttle departs from Muzha MRT Station and takes you all the way to Jingtong. To arrive in good time, you’d better get on either of the 17:08 or 17:38 services (arriving at 18:16 and 18:46 respectively). To return there are services at 19:29, 19:59 and a couple of other later ones), whichever you aim to take, make sure to arrive early, since these later rural services often pass through earlier than expected.

More trails with fireflies:

Jingtong Firefly Spotting Trail Map

GPX file available here on Outdoor Active. (Account needed, but the free one works just fine.)

Come and say hi on social media:

If you enjoy what I write and would like to help me pay for the cost of running this site or train tickets to the next trailhead, then feel free to throw a few dollars my way. You can find me on either PayPal or Buy Me a Coffee.

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