Beichatian is in my opinion one of the best days hikes you can do in the north of Taiwan. It’s high, 1700m+, and a tough hike, especially if the weather is bad but the scenery and the challenge more than make up for it.
The last time I came to Beichatian was during the summer when I hiked from Manyueyuan 滿月圓. It was really hard work in the heat but I enjoyed it immensely. When we got near to the top a park ranger of sorts chatted with us and mentioned that the hike could also be done from Xiao Wulai 小烏來.
From Manyueyuan, it’s a least an eight-hour hike, more if the weather is poor but from Xiao Wulai it only takes arouind 5-6 hours. To get to there, we drove to Sanxia from Taipei and then along the number 7 (The North Cross-island Highway). The turn off is about 15mins after the village of Fuxing.
Immediately after pay the entrance fee, (60NT for motorbike, more for cars) we caught a glimpse of the famous Xiao Wulai waterfall. It’s beautiful but I didn’t take a picture mistakeningly thinking I’d have time to do it on the way back down.
The trailhead is some way into the park area and it took a further 20 minutes of driving to get there. At the bottom there’s a car park of sorts (muddy field) and they charge a 100 dollars for cars. Motorbikes can go a little further up the road and park right next the trail for free.
On this day the weather was very changable. One second the sun would come out and it would be a perfect temperature, the next second the wind would pick up and it would start raining. It can be a very muddy place to be and this makes the going that much tougher. You have to think about every step, especailly on the parts where you need to scramble as it’s so easy to take a fall.
From the beginning, the forest is very beautiful and as we ventured further in the sun began to come out more and more. After and hour and a half, we reached a fork in the trial and took the right branch. It led to an area of huge, giant redwoods. I’ve seen trees like this in California that are bigger but the redwoods here seem so much more impressive and it’s prehaps beause of the more natural setting. No buses full of tourists flying past.
There are dozens of these redwoods scattered about on the trail and each one seen to be more spectaular than the last. My favourite is the one you need to walk through to continue below.
Shortly after the redwoods, we met up with the trail that comes from Manyueyuan and this is where the real hiking begins. It is very, very steep and there are lots of roped sections and home-made ladders to aid climbers. The closer we got to the top the worse the weather became and the chances of getting a good view disappeared.
Another thing that makes this area famous is the 紅毛櫸 which I think are elm trees. Typically in Taiwan at lower elevations trees never really lose thier leaves. However up on Chatianshan, for a brief period of time, the elm tree leaves turn into beautiful red, orange and yellows and then drop. It only occurs for a very short time, prehaps a couple of weeks or so and it seemed we were just too late as most of the leaves had already fallen which was a shame.
At the top we ate and then quickly headed down as it was freezing cold! Not sure how I’m going to cope with Snow Mountain in a couple of weeks time where it might be minus 10!
Bring water and food from wherever you set out. The last store is by the gas station in Fuxing.