Hiking Caoling Historic Trail (草嶺古道)

Hiking Caoling Historic Trail is one of the more memorable hiking experiences in Northern Taiwan. Not only does this trail hold both cultural and historical significance for the country, but it also has stunning scenery.

Let’s take a quick minute to learn about this historic and culturally significant trail in Taiwan. The Caoling Historic Trail (草嶺古道) is over two hundred years old and was once an important travel route in northern Taiwan. Connected with other historic trails in the region, such as the Pingxi Historic Trail (坪溪古道), these historical hiking routes were used extensively during the Qing Dynasty period for those trading and traveling between the Tamsui (淡水) and Kavalan (噶瑪蘭族) prefectures of northern Taiwan. In present time, these areas fall within Taipei City and Yilan County. These connected trails make up a network of trails called the Tamshui-Kavalan Cultural and Historic Trail Network (淡蘭古道中路). There are three major sections of this trail network; northern, middle and southern sections.

After the establishment of the Taipei-Yilan Highway, these historic hiking trails became less frequented. While they no longer are used for commerce or commuting, they are now popular hiking trails in Northern Taiwan. Looking to explore the local areas in Gongliao Township in New Taipei City and Toucheng Township in Yilan County? These may be for you. Caoling Historic Trail is perfect for those looking to enjoy a beautiful walk and stunning views across Yilan County, the east coast of Taiwan and out toward Turtle Island.

Hiking Caoling Historic Trail (坪溪古道)

The route outlined here will take hikers along a linear trail from Yuanwangkeng Riverside Park (遠望坑親水公園), connecting to the Taoyuan Valley Trail (桃源谷步道) and down to the coastal community of Dali (大里).

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What you need to know

Hiking Xianshan 仙山 Trail Distance
Trail Distance: 7km
Hiking Xianshan 仙山 Trail Conditions
Trail Conditions:
Stone steps, asphalt road, some compact soil
Hiking Xianshan 仙山 Altitude
Altitude: 344 meters

Degree of Difficulty:
Easy (2/5)

Time Required: 3-4 hours
Trail Type: Linear

Map & GPX File for Hiking the Caoling Historic Trail

Hiking the Caoling Historic Trail (草嶺古道)

For those interested in hiking Caoling Historic Trail (草嶺古道), you’ve zeroed in on one of the most spectacular hiking trails in Taiwan. But is it for you? This trail is suitable for those with beginner hiking experience and moderate fitness levels. The terrain is relatively easy and there is nothing technical about this hike. That said, guests must be comfortable hiking 7km over a full day. The hike itself may take between 3-4 hours, while it may take a little longer for others. There are a few sections with stone stairs and a little elevation gain, which can be tiring for some.

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Beginning the Hike in New Taipei City

The hiking route described here begins at the small parking lot of Yuanwangkeng Riverside Park (遠望坑親水公園), in Gongliao District (貢寮區). We cover how to get here in the last section of this article. There are no washrooms available here and parking is free for those driving a car. A short walk along an asphalt takes hikers up to a beautiful stone bridge and over a small creek.

Crossing over the creek, guests will see the first trail marker for Caoling Historic Trail. Continue along this section for about 400m before reaching the small creek again. There is a trail entrance on the left. Here there is one of many map kiosk along this trail. Signage along Caoling Historic Trail is very good. Once you’ve arrived at this spot, you essentially stay on a single trail the entire time. There are a few sections that require some guidance. We’ve covered the important information you need and highlighted the sections to be aware of below. After reading this article, you’ll be ready to start hiking Caoling Historic Trail (草嶺古道).

Stream-side Trails of Beauty

Starting from this map kiosk, the stone surfaced trail meanders along the small creek for 100m or so. It’s a very pretty and serene section of the trail; albeit short. These chiselled stones make up much of the remaining sections of the Caoling Historic Trail. While the look and feel of this type of trail is very picturesque, they can get slippery when wet.

The trail continues weaving its way to the coast with sporadic openings and is mostly shaded until the coast. Going from relatively flat, the trail begins ascending up stone steps. For many this is the most difficult section of the trail, as the stairs seem to be relentless. The trail is lined with a mixed forest and a dense underbrush. After about 1km of trail that features on and off stairs, hikers will arrive at large boulders that were inscribed during the Qing Dynasty.

Historic Sites While Hiking Caoling Historic Trail (坪溪古道)

Located about halfway of the Caoling Ancient Road (about 240m above sea level), hikers will find a small, shaded area with benches and a plaque commemorating Xiongzhen Manyan Mojie Stone Stele (雄鎮蠻煙碑). During the Qing Dynasty (1867 AD), a commander named Liu Mingdeng, visited Kavalan Prefect (now the area known as Yilan County). During their journey in the north their team encountered heavy fog. Liu Mingdeng wrote four characters “雄鎮蠻煙 ” on the boulder in an attempt to suppress the fierce winds of the area and this site is now listed as a third-class national monument. 

Shortly after reaching these inscribed boulders, hikers will reach a small rest area called the Caoling Historic Trail Pavillion (草嶺古道涼亭). Here hikers will find a small gazebo and washrooms with running water (non-drinkable). After a short rest at the gazebo, the trail continues with a mix of stone surface and compact soil. Visitor’s will know they are getting close to the coast as the forest opens up and the horizon features rolling, yet tall mountain peaks. At this section of the trail, the wind typically begins to pick up, and the forest coverage changes. This area is wind-blown and dotted with smaller trees, low-growth brush and grasses. The latter is one of the reasons hiking Caoling Historic Trail is so popular.

The Famed Silver Grass while hiking Caoling Historic Trail

After a few hundred meters of a meandering path, visitors will be met with a stunning view of rolling hills covered with long grass. After briefly walking through a shallow valley, hikers will arrive at the famous Tiger Tablet (虎字碑). This monument is located at the boundary between New Taipei City and Yilan County and sits at about 330 meters above sea level. There is a saying in Chinese, “the cloud follows the dragon, the wind follows the tiger”. In an effort to quell the local demons and get rid of the wind, the character “tiger” was inscribed here as well during the Qing Dynasty.

Get your camera ready, as the trail here is truly picturesque. Silver grass (Miscanthus sinensis) is a flowering plant endemic to East Asia and it grows in abundance along this section of Taiwan’s East Coast. During the Autumn, when the grass is in bloom, visitors are met with magnificent views of waving Silver Grass across the rolling mountains. For those interested in learning more about the Silver Grass of Taiwan, visit the Silver Grass Center located inside the Dali Visitor Center.

After passing the Tiger Tablet, hikers have finally arrived at the Pacific Coast. On clear days, views across Yilan County, the east coast and Turtle Island are some of the best in the country. A large, covered pavilion overlooking the coast makes this a perfect spot to stop for a rest. From here, hikers can choose to continue up and along the stunning Taoyuan Valley Trail or take in the views at the Caoling Viewing Platform and head down to Dali Train Station.


The Final Section of Hiking Caoling Historic Trail (坪溪古道)

Regardless of whether visitors hike part of the Taoyuan Valley Trail or head straight down to the coast, they will be taking the same path. The official Caoling Historic Trail continues from the coastal side of the large stone-surfaced clearing that is next/below the viewing platform. The final descent down to Dali Visitor Center is about 2km along an asphalt road that switches back several times. There is an option cut through the switch-backs by taking a series of stairs, but the views are so nice, it’s worth taking your time. There is a small cafe located about halfway down this final section of the trail. Here hikers will find washrooms and a water refill station. Light snacks and drinks are served here.

After another 1km of hiking, visitors will arrive at the beautiful Dali Tiengong Temple (大里天公廟), which looks out over the Pacific Ocean. A number of food stalls serve the local pilgrimes and hikers, while the adjacent Dali Visitor Center has washrooms, water refill station and a small cafe. Below Tiengong Temple, there are a number of other small food stalls.

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The Best Time to be Hiking Caoling Historic Trail (坪溪古道)

For those ok with large crowds, the best time to hike the Caoling Historic Trail is in the Autumn, between late September to late November. This coincides with the Silver Grass season and makes the coastal area of the trail a true sight to see.

The Spring likely the second best time to hike, as the temperatures are perfect and the crowds are smaller. During the winter months, the temperatures are quite cool and the weather (rain and wind) is more unpredictable. While hiking Caoling Historic Trail in the summer is popular and doable, the heat can be a bit unbearable as there is little shade once you reach the coast.

What to Bring when Hiking Caoling Historic Trail (坪溪古道)

When hiking in Taiwan, consider your capabilities before heading out. When it comes to the kinds of equipment or resources one should bring when hiking this trail in Taiwan, we’ve provided a list below:

  • Water – About 1.5L of fresh drinking water. There are no water sources on the trail, however, there is a water refill station available at the small cafe on the final section of the trail and at Dali Visitor Center.
  • Food – There are some light food services located at the small cafe and at Dali Visitor Center.
  • Washrooms – There are three toilets available on this route. One located on the single lane roadbefore arriving at Yuanwangkeng Riverside Park (遠望坑親水公園). Another washroom is located on the trail at the Caoling Historic Trail Pavilion. Finally, there is a washroom located at the small cafe on the way to Dali.
  • Sunscreen – It is recommended hikers wear sunscreen and proper sun wear (hat or long sleeves). Approximately 60% of the trail is unshaded. If you plan to spend time hiking along the Taoyuan Valley Trail, you’ll want to bring some sunscreen as there is no shade.
  • Camera/Phone – Reception is not very good along most portions of this trail until you arrive near the coast. We suggest downloading our GPX file in advance and a preferred mobile app that can run offline to help navigate without the Internet.
  • Clothing / Gloves / Equipment – It really depends on the time of the year you are hiking, but always consider the weather when preparing for your hike. We advise bringing rain gear and warmer clothes in the cooler, winter months. Bringing a pair of gloves is not necessary on this trail, however hiking poles may come in handy.

How to Get to Caoling Historic Trail (坪溪古道)

There are a few ways to get to and hike the Caoling Historic Trail. If you have a car you can drive, but you’ll be required to double back the entire 7km if you want to hike the trail in its entirety from Yuanwangkeng Riverside Park (遠望坑親水公園). There is also an option to take public transit with an additional 3km (~40 min) walk along, mostly unshaded, small road and trails. Finally, you can book private transportation or join a group trip; arguably the most convenient.

Driving to Caoling Historic Trail (草嶺古道): If you are driving to Wushan No. 62 Campsite (烏山62號露營地), you can set this as your location – HERE. The drive is mostly on secondary highways, with a short 1km along a single-lane road. This drive takes approximately 1 hour from Taipei. There is parking for about 15-20 cars. If you are hiking Caoling Historic Trail in the Autumn, it would be advised to arrive early to secure parking. As always, be careful while driving in Taiwan. 

Taking public transportation to Caoling Historic Trail (草嶺古道): If you wish to take public transportation to hike Caoling Historic Trail (草嶺古道) take the TRA regular train to Fulong Train Station (福隆車站) in New Taipei City. From here, signage for Caoling Historic Trail is pretty evident. We have included a GPS file for those wishing to hike from Fulong to Dali.

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Published by Taiwan Outdoors

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