Caoling Historic Trail (草嶺古道) is one of several ancient trails in Taiwan from the Qing Dynasty. Located in northeastern Taiwan, the trail crosses over from Yilan County to New Taipei City, where it was the main route for 200 years. After the railway 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 silvergrass, 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 just to get a glimpse of the magic.
Besides the natural scenery, you can see historic relics along the trail, sweeping mountain views and panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean. And best of all, you can do that all in one day.
I’ll show you exactly how you can spend a day hiking Caoling Historic Trail and experience one of the best day trips from Taipei or Yilan County.
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What you need know before hiking Caoling Historic Trail
Before you visit Taiwan, take a look at my post on everything you need to know before going to Taiwan. I included a lot of travel information including how to get around Taiwan and other travel tips. Plus I have a full blog post on all the things you can do in Yilan Taiwan and a 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 the trail is 3:00 pm
- There is an option of extending your hiking day by hopping on another trail (more info below)
- 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 near the beginning of the trail and at Fulong Station)
- Bathing suit and towel for the beach
- EasyCard or iPass for taking the train
How to get to Caoling Historic Trail
Caoilng Historic Trail is an easy day hike from either Yilan County or Taipei. The Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) is an efficient local train that can take you from wherever you are to start of the trail.
There are two ways to hike Caoling Historic Trail: either from south to north or north to south.
If you want to hike from south to north, you will begin at Dali Station.
- TRA: from Jiaoxi Station to Dali Station
- Time: from 25 minutes
- Cost: NT$33
- TRA: from Taipei Main Station to Dali Station
- Time: from 1 hour 29 minutes
- Cost: NT$94
If you want to hike from north to south, you will begin at Fulong Station.
- TRA: from Jiaoxi Station to Fulong Station
- Time: from 25 minutes
- Cost: NT$45
- TRA: from Taipei Main Station to Fulong Station
- Time: from 1 hour 6 minutes
- Cost: NT$83
How to hike Caoling Historic Trail
Like I mentioned already, there are two ways to hike Caoling Historic Trail. It is more of a preference of 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.
1. Hiking south to north from Dali Station to Fulong Station
From Dali Station, pick up a map from the visitor centre and you can immediately hike up the trail after the Dali Tiengong Temple.
At the highest point, you can switch over to Taoyuan Valley trail or continue downhill by following the guided path. When you finally reach Fulong Station, you have the option to go home or go to Fulong Beach.
2. Hiking north to south from Fulong Station to Dali Station
From Fulong Station, start at the visitor centre where you can get a map. The hike begins with about 30 minutes of walking small roads to Yuanwangkeng Riverside Park, the start of Caoling Historic Trail.
There is an option of continuing on the path to Taoyuan Valley and finish the hike in Daxi Station. Or you can continue the guided downhill path to Dali Station.
Hiking from south to north: arrive at Dali Station
Take the TRA to Dali Station, the start of your trek from south to north.
Once you arrived, you will start seeing many signages in English and Chinese, like the one pictured below. It makes it very easy to navigate and 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 hiking trail.
Dali Visitor Centre & Dali Tiengong Temple
First, visit Dali Visitor’s Centre to get an overview of the trail and also to 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 Lunar new year as many people visit the temple to celebrate the upcoming year.
Along the trail, you will see this type of map. It is a detailed map of the whole trail with some travel and time information.
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. There is a set of stairs that cuts through the middle of the zig-zag but it goes straight up the mountain. The stairs look similar to photo above.
Maintenance & management office / Café
According to my map that I got at the visitor centre, this building is a maintenance and management office. It looks more like a small cafe serving Taiwanese food. And it has bathroom facilities here.
In the brochure, it says to bring your own food and drinks as there are no options along Caoling trail. Perhaps the cafe is new and all the publications have not been updated yet because there is certainly a busy little cafe.
It’s actually good to have food options, especially when the food looks pretty good here. They serve Taiwanese snacks, tea eggs, juice, coffee and tea, of course. And they are all reasonably priced.
Here are more photos of the Caoling path between the cafe and the top of the mountain.
The entire path is paved and some parts are even shaded by trees. But for the most part, it is exposed to 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 silvergrass. Once you start seeing more and more silvergrass, you will soon be near the top.
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 ocean and Guishan Island (Turtle Island). This is the first glimpse of Taiwan’s northeast coast.
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 suppose 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.
Option: Hike Taoyuan Valley
Caoling Historic Trail is connected to Taoyuan Valley (桃源谷) at Wu Kou Temple. You have an option to switch over to Taoyuan Valley trail or continue onto Caoling Historic 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, when you look north, you can also see the golden sand at Fulong Beach. The trail will eventually lead you back to Daxi Station, which is one station west of Dali Station.
However, for this itinerary, if you want to see part of Taoyuan Valley, I would highly encourage you to do so. Hike up to the highest point to see the view and the grazing buffalos on the grassy hill, then backtrack to Wu Kou Temple and continue on Caoling Historic Trail.
After seeing the gorgeous view of the coast, continue hiking the paved trail in between the mountains. Here are some photos of the trail condition.
The Tiger Inscription and Siong Jhen Man Yan Inscription
Along the way, you will find two large boulders with inscriptions. They are considered a third-grade historic 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 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.
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) which is not the one pictured above. The name came from an ancient story about the soldier and their horses travelled a long way and were tired. And as they crowd onto the narrow bridge, some horses fell from the bridge. Pretty literal name.
And for whatever reason, I missed it and walked right passed it.
Yuanwangkeng Riverside Park
Yuanwangkeng Riverside Park is the official end (or start) to the Caoling trail. The park has a car parking lot which is handy if you are driving.
But for those of you who are travelling solo and without a car, you’ll continue your path by 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.
Just make sure you don’t follow the big road as it will lead you to the highway. It is a much longer way and its dangerous to walk on the side of the highway.
It is not the most interesting part of the hike, but the final destination is well worth it.
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 and it is the ideal spot for swimming, kayaking, windsurfing and canoeing. But you may just 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 go back to Taipei (last train: 9:41 pm) or Yilan County (last train: 10:57 pm) by taking the train.
Are you including Caoling Historic Trail to your itinerary?
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.
I hope you enjoyed my post and find it useful while planning your solo trip to Taiwan. If you have any questions, please leave a comment below.