Syakaro Historic Trail (霞喀羅古道)

The Syakaro Historic Trail is a National Trail in Taiwan and one of the most iconic hikes in the country. Winding its way for 22km across a remote corner of Hsinchu County (新竹縣), the Syakaro Historic Trail connects indigenous villages in Wufeng Township (五峰鄉) and Jianshi Townships (尖石鄉). For the adventurous traveler, Syakaro should be on the top of the list of your travel experiences in Taiwan. 

Overview of Syakaro Historic Trail

The Syakaro Historic Trail is a linear trail that is 22km long and ranked level 3 difficulty. This ranking is primarily due to the distance covered throughout the hike. The total elevation gain is around 280m. The trail surface is mostly compact soil, with some sections that require ascending and descending along ropes. There is also a log ladder (also requiring a rope for support) and some scrambling along steep rooty sections. All-in-all this trail is not technical, nor treacherous. The trail is wide and flat in many places, but safety is always important while hiking in Taiwan.

Beautiful forests on the Syakaro Historic Trail (霞喀羅古道)

The trail sits between 1200-2000m and is considered a mid-elevation hike and boasts some of Taiwan’s richest biodiversity. This trail is mostly shaded and there is little need for sun protection (unless you spend time at Baishi suspension bridge). The trail is ideal for hikers throughout the year. In the Spring, hikers will witness the blooming cherry blossoms and the summer offers great refuge from the hot weather. The most popular season for this trail is in the Autumn. This is when the maple leaves change to bright yellows, oranges and reds. 

Red maple leaf found along the Syakaro Historic Trail (霞喀羅古道)

History of the Syakaro Historic Trail (霞喀羅古道)

The Syakaro Historic Trail was believed to once span nearly 50km across the southeastern area of Hsinchu County. Traditionally used by the local Atayal indigenous tribes, residents from both ends of the trail often traveled to and from each other’s tribes for social interaction, intermarriage, and trade. At the time, it was a very important social and economic artery for these communities.

Source: Taiwan Memory Exhibition (Atayal Tribe, Wulai, Circa 1910’s)

During the Japanese occupation period (1895-1945), it garnered significant attention from the Japanese. A series of violent armed conflicts between the Japanese and Indigenous tribes occurred in the area. Between 1910 and 1914, the Governor of Taiwan at the time, Sakuma Matai, carried out raids and restricted commercial and economic activities of the local Atayal peoples. The Atayal people pushed back against these initiatives and the two parties clashed frequently. These disputes culminated in a particularly brutal battle called the Xia Kaluo Incident (霞喀罗事件)

Ancient wine bottles found along the Syakaro Historic Trail (霞喀羅古道)

The Japanese began to occupy the trail in 1921. It became an important resource for further military activities and police suppression. In an effort to suppress the local indigenous peoples, several police outposts were established along the trail.

At one point, there was upwards of 25 Japanese stations along the Syakaro Historic Trail. This is the highest density of stations on all Japanese-occupied guard roads in Taiwan. There are currently remnants of 14 Japanese police garrison sites along this ancient road.

Remnants of the Japanese police stations along the Syakaro Historic Trail (霞喀羅古道)

While the names, activities and purpose of these facilities have changed over the years, it is said that the last guard left the station in 1989, officially ending its era as a law-enforcement resource. 

Old phone poles on the Syakaro Historic Trail (霞喀羅古道)

Now the trail is one of the most spectacular of Taiwan’s top outdoor and cultural attractions, drawing few, but pleasing many who make the effort.

Hiking Syakaro Historic Trail (坪溪古道)

The route outlined here will take hikers along the 22km route from the Shiluduan (or Skaru) Trailhead (石鹿端步道口) in the west to the Yanglao Trailhead (養老步道口) in the east.

There are several distinct trail features on the Syakaro Historic Trail. We think it is useful to recognize the distance and estimated times to help them prepare for this hike. 

Shiluduan or Skaru Trailhead (石鹿端步道口) → (1.3K, 30 minutes) → Tamuratai Residence (田村台駐在所) (& composting washroom) → (1.7K, 60 minutes) → Xiakaro Mountain Trailhead Branch Road (霞喀羅大山登山口岔路) → (1.7K, 60 minutes) → Towards Xiashan and Maibalaishan forks (往霞山及麥巴來山岔路) → (1.7K, 40 minutes) → Narayama Residency (楢山駐在所) → (3.8K, 70 minutes) → Asahi Residency (朝日駐在所) → (0.4K, 20 minutes) → Xiakaro Suspension Bridge (霞喀羅吊橋) → ( 1.2K, 20 minutes) → Shiraishi Station (白石駐在所) → (1.5K, 40 minutes) → Shiraishi Suspension Bridge (白石吊橋) → (1.2K, 50 minutes) → Martial God Station (武神駐在所) → (2.4K, 50 minutes) → Saddle Station (馬鞍駐在所) → ( 1.6K, 45 minutes) → Liyuan Residency (栗園駐在所) → (0.6K, 25 minutes) → Charcoal kiln (木炭窯) → (2.9K, 100 minutes) → Yanglao Trailhead (養老步道口)

What you need to know

Hiking Xianshan 仙山 Trail Distance
Trail Distance: 22km
(Linear two-way)
Hiking Xianshan 仙山 Trail Conditions
Trail Conditions:
Compact soil, wooden steps, roped sections and ladders
Hiking Xianshan 仙山 Altitude
Total Elevation Gain:
300 meters

Degree of Difficulty:
Novice (3/5)

Time Required: 8 hours
Trail Type: Linear

Map & GPX File for Hiking the Syakaro Historic Trail

Is the Syakaro Historic Trail (霞喀羅古道) for you?

For those interested in hiking Syakaro 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 novice hiking experience and moderate fitness levels. The terrain is relatively easy and there is nothing technical about this hike. However, it does cover a lot of distance and people get tired while walking this far. The hike itself takes between 7-8 hours, while it may take a little longer for others. Completing the entire trail in daylight should be something that hikers consider during the winter time (shorter days).

Booking Private Transportation or a Tour (Coming Soon)

Interested in visiting Syakaro Historic Trail, but need some support? Whether you require a bilingual guide and/or pick-up and drop-off transportation services, please contact our partner’s at Parkbus Taiwan. We’re currently working tirelessly on getting our booking system online!

Starting the Hike

The Syakaro Historic Trail can be hiked from either the western Skaru Trailhead or the eastern end called Yanglao Trailhead. Many local Taiwanese hike half of this trail in day hikes or complete it over a two-day trek, camping at the abandoned Baishi Police Station at around the 11km marker (right in the middle). 

Approaching the western trailhead, the journey along the road is rough and long. The single-lane mountain road skirts the edge of a mountain and is surfaced with cement blocks with reinforced rebar. Suitable for 4×4 or small 9-passenger mini-vans, approaching this trailhead reminds visitors just how far off the beaten path they’re coming.

The trailhead at the Skaru side is a small clearing with a few interpretive signs that designates this starting point. A descriptive trail map outlines the key trail features, estimated duration to hike between them, and provides a clear outline of the elevation gains/losses throughout the trail. There are no washrooms at the trailhead itself, but a composting toilet is available at the 1.3km mark of the trail. 

Hiking amongst the trees on the Syakaro Historic Trail (霞喀羅古道)

For the first 4.5km, the trail climbs to its highest point of over 2000m in elevation. The trail along this stretch is nestled deep in the forest. Hiking along a ridgeline, at one point the hikers are treated with a brief, but spectacular lookout point from a cliff. The first 4km feature the most elevation gains and some of the more rugged sections of the trail. After these scrambles and climbs, the trail feels much more like a traditional historic trail with its wider base and gentler and gradual inclines and descents of elevation. Here the trail begins to hug the sides of mountain ridge lines. 

Hiking up stairs on the Syakaro Historic Trail (霞喀羅古道)

Keep an eye out for the trail:

At around 4.75km of the trail, hikers will need to keep an eye on their GPS. As hikers approach the end of a mountain ridge on their right, they will see a trail leading off to the left (at the time of writing this, signage is only in Chinese). There is a trail that leads around the rocky outcrop requiring visitors to follow a right-hand hairpin turn. Follow the trail right. Do not continue straight. 

River crossing on a bridge on the Syakaro Historic Trail

From the 5km marker to the first roped suspension bridge, take note of the incredible condition this 100+ year old trail is in. As it follows adjacent to winding ridge lines, one can imagine the countless Atayal families, warriors and trades people who plodded this journey in times past. 

Just past the 9km marker, hikers will cross the first of three suspension bridges along the Syakaro Trail. This roped suspension bridge (titled “繩索吊橋” on the trail maps) is situated in a brief open area of the forest and is very picturesque. It spans a 15-meter wide and 10-meter high gully. The trail continues to offer so many amazing sites, such as small creek crossings, a second, larger suspension bridge and frequent views out to the mountains of Hsinchu.

Suspension bridge in forest on the Syakaro Historic Trail

As visitors hike the Syakaro Historic Trail, be sure to pay attention to many signs of the Japanese developments along the way. There are some fantastic interpretive signs along the way that help paint a picture of this trail’s storied past. There are many old telephone poles still standing along the trail. These were built from local cedars and were considered ‘lifelines’ for those Japanese police stationed along the trail. The phone lines were built with zinc plated steel, so as to prevent vandalism and disruption to these communication lines. Japanese police frequently patrolled the entire route to ensure communication stayed functional.

The trail continues winding through a beautiful broad-leaf forest that is filled with mid-elevation song birds before arriving at one of best preserved of the cultural sites.

The Abandoned Baishi Police Station (白石警官駐在所)

Baishih (means “white stone” in Mandarin Chinese) is also called “Sakayachin”, which means grindstone in the local Atayal language. During the Syakaro Incidents in 1917 and 1920, the Atayal people provided shelter for their fellow tribesman and women at this location. The place later became an important strategic outpost for the Japanese and a police station was set up in 1922. In addition to various offices and dormitories, the Japanese also built a battery and watchtower surrounded by sharpened stakes and fences as forms of defense. The name of the station was changed from Sakayachin to Baishi in 1937. The last guard left the station in 1989. 

Baishi Police Station on the Syakaro Historic Trail

Most of the historical remains here are buried in tall reeds and bushes surrounding the cleared areas. These are, by far, the best preserved structures along the Syakaro Historic Trail and leave hikers with an eerie and desolate feeling. There are two wooden houses that still stand today. One used to be the Baishi Police Station, which was renovated once in 1969, while the other was the dormitory/office. The white concrete building next to the house is now a hydrology station run by the Shimen Water Bureau.

Inside looking out at Baishi Police Station on the Syakaro Historic Trail

These are historical sites and we encourage all visitors to be respectful. Take some pictures, duck inside the police station, but please don’t vandalize or desecrate these important national sites. Always leave a site better than you find it. Pick up any garbage you may find here.

The Epic Baishi Suspension Bridge (白石吊橋)

Baishi Suspension Bridge on the Syakaro Historic Trail

Leaving the Baishi Police Station, visitors will continue for less than 2km before coming upon one of the highlights of this trail. Built in 1921, Baishi Suspension Bridge originally had a width of 1.2 meters so that supply trucks can pass over it! In 1947, the bridge underwent renovation to reduce the width to 90 centimeters. With the increasing flow of tourists in recent years, it has been reconstructed again. The 145-meter-long bridge overlooks the beautiful, yet rugged Sakayachin River.

Immediately after crossing the Baishi Suspension Bridge, the trail veers left and down towards the river. The old historic trail can be seen continuing level but usually has a few sticks crossing the path as indication that you shouldn’t go that way. There has been some damage to the trail in past years and this is one of those places where a new trail has been created to bypass the damage.

Using ropes to climb down the trail on the Syakaro Historic Trail

The trail gets a bit more challenging at this point. It might be the fact that hikers will have already hiked over 13km and are getting slightly tired. Although this new, renovated trail is more undulating and certainly more taxing, it’s more interesting for hikers. This detour from the old trail features some roped sections and a unique log ladder before connecting back to the original trail. 

Log Ladder on the Syakaro Historic Trail

From here, hikers will climb about 200m over several kilometers along gently sloping terrain before leveling out for most of the remainder of the hike. The Syakaro Historic Trail largely follows the contours line, rising and falling only slightly (relative to many other trails in Taiwan). This is a common trait of many historic trails in Taiwan.

Hiking along a mountain's edge on the Syakaro Historic Trail

The 2nd Half of the Syakaro Historic Trail

The remaining 9km of the trail continues to offer hikers a variety of unique sights. One of these is the changing ecology. Visitors will pass through a section of dense maple trees (16.5-17.5km marks). In late November to early December this area of the trail becomes ablaze with fall foliage that is unrivaled in Taiwan. Further along the trail, hikers will enter into a section that features a spectacular bamboo forest. Each of these areas gives visitors a distinct feeling and keeps the trail interesting throughout the long hike.

Hiking in a bamboo forest along the Syakaro Historic Trail

Ending the hike, hikers will arrive at the Yanglou Trailhead with a map board and a small shed perched on the edge of the mountain. This area provides stunning views of the surrounding mountains. Continue for about 200m before you reach the small paved road and the 22km marker of this trail. Washrooms can be found 100m down the road, along with parking for about 20 cars. 

Best Time to Hike Syakaro Historic Trail

For those ok with large crowds, one of the popular times to hike the Syakaro Historic Trail is in the Autumn, between late November to late December. This coincides with famous fall foliage of the Taiwanese Red Maples found along the trail. There are few destinations in Taiwan that have changing leaves. None of them are quite as spectacular as those seen from the Baishi Suspension Bridge.

The Spring and Fall are likely the best times to hike, as the temperatures are perfect and the crowds are smaller. During the winter months, the temperatures are cool and the weather (rain and wind) is more unpredictable. Hiking in the summer in Taiwan can be unbearable for some due to the hot temperatures, but the altitude, shaded trail and cool mountain air along the Syakaro Historic Trail is actually quite pleasant.

What to Bring when Hiking the Syakaro Historic Trail

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 2.5L of fresh drinking water. There are water sources on the trail, however, we always suggest hikers bring fresh water with them. Some people can get sick if they don’t properly filter mountain water.
  • Food – There are no food services along this trail. Over a long, 22km hike, visitors should bring a lunch and ample snacks and fruit to keep energy levels up throughout. Chocolate and candies never hurt anyone who’s hiking these distances.
  • Washrooms – There are two toilets available along this route. One located at the 1.3km marker when hiking west to east. Another washroom is located at the trailhead at the Yanglou (eastern) trailhead.
  • Sunscreen – This trail is nearly completely shaded. Approximately 90% of the trail is shaded. If you plan to spend time hanging out on the Baishi Suspension Bridge, you may want some sun protection.
  • Camera/Phone – Reception is not very good along most portions of this trail. Particularly over the final 8-9km, where reception not available. 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 Syakaro Historic Trail (坪溪古道)

Visitors can hike the Syakaro Historic Trail from either the west or east. If you have a car you can drive, but you’ll be required to double back the entire 22km if you want to hike the trail in its entirety. Another option you may wish to consider is booking private transportation or join a group trip with our partners at Parkbus Taiwan; arguably the most convenient. No convenient public transportation is available in this area of Hsinchu

Driving to Shiluduan Trailhead (石鹿端步道口) in the west: If you are driving to the western trailhead, you can set this as your location – HERE. The drive is mostly on secondary highways, with the last 4km along a single-lane, very rough road. This drive takes approximately 3 hours from Taipei. There is parking for about 5-10 cars along the road. As always, be careful while driving in Taiwan. 

Driving to Yanglao Trailhead (養老步道口) in the east. ): If you are driving to the eastern trailhead, you can set this as your location – HERE. This drive is actually much more comfortable that the drive up to western trailhead. A wider, well-paved road continues all the way up to the 22km marker. Parking is available for about 20 cars. This is the more common parking / launch location for day trippers and overnight hikers. During the late autumn, this parking area fills up very early. It takes about 3 hours from Taipei Main Station.

Booking Private Transportation or a Tour (Coming Soon)

Interested in visiting Syakaro Historic Trail, but need some support? Whether you require a bilingual guide and/or pick-up and drop-off transportation services, please contact our partner’s at Parkbus Taiwan. We’re currently working tirelessly on getting our booking system online!

Published by Taiwan Outdoors

Taiwan Outdoors is the pre-eminent source for Taiwan's outdoor recreation and adventure-based experiences on the Internet.

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