Caoling Historic Trail (草嶺古道) is one of several ancient trails in Taiwan from the Qing Dynasty. The trail crosses from Yilan County to New Taipei City and was the main route for 200 years.
After the railway was completed in 1924, which connected Taipei to the south of Yilan County, most of the ancient trail was made into roads, and only the Caoling trail remained as a walking trail.
Every fall and winter, the mountain is full of miscanthus flowers or silver grass, where shimmery grass moves to the rhythm of the north wind. People from all over the country attend the Annual Festival of the Silver Grass Season to get a glimpse of the magic.
Besides the natural scenery, you can see historical relics along the trail, sweeping mountain views and panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean. And best of all, you can see all these highlights via an easy hiking trail.
In this post, I’ll show you how to hike the Caoling Historic Trail and experience one of the best day trips from Taipei or Yilan County.
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What you need to know before hiking Caoling Old Trail
Before you start your hike, take a look at my post on everything you need to know before going to Taiwan. I included information like how to get a Taiwan SIM Card and get around Taiwan and other travel tips. Plus, I have entire blog posts on the best things you can do in Yilan Taiwan, and a solo guide to Taipei.
Here are additional travel tips that you may find useful for hiking Caoling Historic Trail in Taiwan:
- Trail length: 8.5km
- Duration: about 3 hours (in 1 direction)
- Difficulty: easy (but lots of stairs)
- There are three toilets along the trail
- The latest you should start hiking is 3pm
- Bring everything you need for hiking and going to the beach (see list below)
What to bring for hiking the Caoling Trail
The Caoling trail is pretty easy, so you don’t need a lot of technical equipment. The most important thing is to wear proper footwear and bring enough water for the day.
Here is what I would suggest bringing for the day hike:
- Comfortable shoes like Birkenstock or sneakers
- Layer your clothes as the mountain weather is a bit cooler and windier
- Sunscreen, sunglasses and hat as part of the trail is not shaded by trees
- Snacks and water for the trail (there is one spot to pick up food at the maintenance and management office and Fulong Station)
- Bathing suit and towel for the beach
- EasyCard or iPass for taking the train
How to hike Caoling Historic Trail
There are two ways to hike the Caoling Historic Trail:
1. Dali Station to Fulong Station (south to north)
From Dali Station, pick up a map from the visitor centre, and you can immediately hike up the trail after the Dali Tiengong Temple.
Once you are at the top, you can see Taoyuan Valley Trail to the south, but you need to continue downhill by following the guided path. When you finally reach Fulong Station, you can go home or to Fulong Beach.
2. Fulong Station to Dali Station (north to south)
From Fulong Station, turn left at the exit and follow a series of signs. The hike begins with about 30 minutes of walking through a series of small roads to Yuanwangkeng Riverside Park.
Continuing to Taoyuan Valley is an option. But if you want to finish the Caoling Trail, follow the signs and finish the hike in Dali Station.
1. Caoling Trail: Dali to Fulong (south to north)
As I mentioned, there are two ways to hike Caoling Historic Trail. It is more of a preference for how you want to end the day.
I prefer hiking from south to north because it allows you to visit a beach at the end of your day hike, which is what I did and what I recommend.
First, take the Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) train to Dali Station from Taipei or Yilan County. Check the TRA train schedule and cost here.
Arrive at Dali Station
Once you arrive at Dali Station, you will start seeing many signages in English and Chinese, like the one pictured below. It makes it very easy to navigate, and it is not possible for you to be lost.
And if you are not sure, follow the crowd because almost everyone arriving at Dali Station is there because of the Caoling trail.
Visit Dali Visitor Centre & Dali Tiengong Temple
First, visit Dali Visitor’s Centre to get an overview of the trail and pick up a trail map. The brochure is a one-pager with a map and information about the Caoling Historic Trail.
Next to the visitor’s centre is Dali Tiengong Temple, also known as Caoling Qing Yun Temple, which is very popular during the Lunar new year as many people visit the temple to celebrate the upcoming year.
Start hiking up Caoling Trail
Along the trail, you will see a detailed map of the whole trail with some travel and time information (see below).
Initially, the Caoling trail is pretty steep. There is a road that zig-zags up the mountain (seen in Google Maps). But you don’t have to walk up that way. Walk up the set of stairs cuts through the middle of the zig-zagged road, but it goes straight up the mountain. The stairs look similar to the photo below.
Get a snack at Maintenance & management office / Café
According to the paper map, this building is a maintenance and management office. It looks more like a small cafe serving Taiwanese food. And it has bathroom facilities here.
The brochure says to bring your own food and drinks as there are no options along the Caoling trail. Perhaps the cafe is new, and the publications have not been updated yet because there is a busy little cafe.
It’s good to have food options, especially when it looks pretty good here. They serve Taiwanese snacks, tea eggs, juice, coffee and tea. And they are all reasonably priced.
Continue hiking up Caoling Trail
Here are more photos of the Caoling path between the cafe and the top of the mountain.
The entire path is paved, and trees even shade some parts. But for the most part, it is exposed to the sun. Make sure to have sun protection while you are hiking.
I hiked Caoling Historic Trail in November so you can see the miscanthus flowers or silver grass. Once you start seeing more and more silver grass, you will soon be near the top.
See the panoramic view of Taiwan’s northeast coast
As you hike along the path, the left side of the trail opens up. And you’ll begin to see the east coast, the Pacific Ocean and Guishan Island (Turtle Island). This is your first glimpse of Taiwan’s northeast coast.
Rest at Wu Kou Pavillion
As soon as you approach the small Earth God Temple on the right, you will see Wu Kou Temple (埡口土地公廟) on the left, sitting in between the indents of the two mountains.
Not sure why it is called a temple because it looks more like a resting platform with two pagodas. But whatever it is supposed to be, it is an excellent spot for resting and fueling up. Plus, you can continue to admire the unobstructed view of the northeastern coast of Taiwan, Turtle Island and the Pacific Ocean.
Hike up to the highest point of Taoyuan Valley
Caoling Historic Trail is connected to Taoyuan Valley (桃源谷) at Wu Kou Temple. You have the option to switch over to Taoyuan Valley Trail or continue onto Caoling Trail.
Taoyuan Valley trail is about 4.5km, and it passes over Mt Wankengtou (灣坑頭山). At 617m, it is the highest point in the Northeast Coast National Scenic Area. Not only can you see Turtle Island and the Pacific Ocean and when you look north, you can also see the golden sand at Fulong Beach. The trail will eventually lead you to Dasi Station, which is one station south of Dali Station.
For this hiking itinerary, I encourage you to hike up to the highest point of Taoyuan Valley to see the views and the grazing buffalos on the grassy hill, then backtrack to Wu Kou Temple and continue on Caoling Historic Trail.
Return to Caoling Old Trail and continue downhill
After seeing the gorgeous coastal view, descend Taoyuan Valley, return to Caoling Trail, and hike the paved trail between the mountains. Here are some photos from the trail.
See the Tiger Inscription and Siong Jhen Man Yan Inscription
Along the way, you will find two large boulders with inscriptions. They are considered third-grade historical sites in Taiwan.
In 1867, a Taiwanese commander, Liu Ming-Deng and his troops travelled from Taipei to Yilan and experienced the harsh weather along the trail. He was then commissioned to have several words inscribed on several big rocks.
One of them says “tiger” in Chinese. As a Chinese saying goes, “Clouds obey the dragon, winds obey the wind.” The large boulder with the word “tiger” is supposed to suppress the wind.
The other four characters translate to “bravely quell the wild mists.” The inscribed words were supposed to help navigate the foggy trail. Today, it is the largest stone inscription in Taiwan.
See the Horse Falling to Death Bridge
The Caoling Trail continues downhill with many water creeks and bridges along the way.
One of the bridges is called Horse Falling to Death Bridge (跌死馬橋). The name came from an ancient story about the soldier and their horses who travelled a long way and were tired. And as they crowded onto the narrow bridge, some horses fell from the bridge. Pretty literal name.
And I’m not quite sure if the photo below is the actual bridge. But this is the scenery you will see when you descend the mountain.
Arrive at Yuanwangkeng Riverside Park
Yuanwangkeng Riverside Park is the official end (or start) of the Caoling trail. The park has a car parking lot which is handy if you are driving.
But for those travelling solo without a car, continue following the signs and small roads to Fulong Station. It takes about 30 minutes to walk the partly paved road to Fulong Station. If you need help with navigation, follow my map above or use Google Maps.
Make sure you don’t follow the big road as it will lead you to the highway. It is a much longer way, and it’s dangerous to walk on the side of the highway.
This is not the most interesting part of the hike, but the final destination is well worth the walk.
Visit Fulong Beach
And finally, you will reach Fulong Station in Fulong (福隆), a beach resort town. Walk another 10 minutes north, and you’ll be at your final destination, Fulong Beach (福隆海水浴場).
As one of the most popular beaches in northern Taiwan, Fulong Beach is the perfect spot to end a day of hiking in the mountains. There is 3km of golden sand, which is ideal for swimming, kayaking, windsurfing and canoeing. But you may want to sit back and relax. Whatever you choose, the beach is the perfect spot to end the day.
From Fulong Station, you can easily return to Taipei (last train: 9:41pm) or Yilan County (last train: 10:52pm) by taking the TRA train.
2. Caoling Trail: Fulong to Dali (north to south)
The other way to hike Caoling Historic Trail is to start at Fulong Station and finish at Dali Station.
Once you arrive at Fulong Station, a sign at the exit indicates the start of the trail. To go to Caoling Old Trail, turn left immediately at the exit.
At the end of the path, there is another sign. Turn left and walk through the underpass. Then turn right and follow the asphalt path until you reach Yuanwangkeng Riverside Park, the start of the Caoling hike.
Follow the itinerary above in reverse order so you can enjoy the Caoling Old Trail from north to south.
How will you hike Caoling Historic Trail?
Caoling Historic Trail has to be one of the best hikes in Taiwan! Plus, It is an easy day trip from anywhere in Yilan County.
Even if you are not visiting Yilan County during your trip to Taiwan, you can still hike the Caoling trail by taking a day trip from Taipei. The reward of seeing sweeping mountain views and the ocean is all worth a couple of hours of hiking.
How are you hiking the Caoling Historic Trail? Which way do you prefer to hike? Let me know in the comments below.
Thank you for reading my Caoling Historic Trail post
You might also like these other posts on solo travel in Taiwan:
Introduction to Taiwan
- Things to know before visiting Taiwan
- How and where to buy a Taiwan prepaid SIM card
- How to spend 3 weeks in Taiwan
- 22 must-eat food in Taiwan
- Top 10 must-try Taiwan 7-11 Food
Eastern Taiwan posts
- 43 Best things to do in Yilan Taiwan
- Yilan Food Guide: Where and What to eat in Yilan County
- Neipi Beach: how to get there and what to do
- Hualien Travel Guide: 1-4 Day Itinerary
- Hualien Food Guide: What and Where to eat in Hualien, Taiwan