The Nanxi Forest Road (楠溪林道) was originally established for logging operations in what is now Jade Mountain National Park. The road descends to the south from the main trailhead for Jade Mountain, and was previously off-limits to all tourists. With the recent opening-up of all old forestry roads to the public in Taiwan, park permits for hikes on this road are now available to tourists.
For our initial exploration of this road, we planned an easy two-day trip. The road descends gradually for several kilometers and is well maintained, as Park vehicles and researchers still drive down here occasionally.
After 7.5 km, we reached the end of the drivable road and the Conservation Research Centre. This is the site of a former worker's camp from the old logging days and traces of this remain. The area has plenty of flat space for camping, running water, and a covered area to take shelter from the rain. Arrangements can even be made to stay indoors in the Research Centre. Despite the proximity to Route 18, this place feels a world away from the packs of tourists and the traffic normally found around Tatajia and is the perfect place for a relaxing overnight camping trip.
We had time left in the afternoon to continue exploring further down the forest road. This section of road has been abandoned and is no longer drivable, with certain sections covered in rockfall or washed away. Eventually, the old road reaches its low point as it crosses the Qishan River (旗山溪), formerly known as the Nanzixian River (楠梓仙女溪), from which the road got its name. The bridge here is still fully intact and this touch of civilization makes for an interesting sight in the middle of this remote forest. This river's source can be traced up to the peak of Jade Mountain, and down between Meinong and Qishan in Kaohsiung City before it empties into the Gaoping River.
Since this area is so remote and seldom visited, we came across a large amount of wildlife here, including several sambar deer. In addition, black bears are known to have recently invaded the Research Centre, but we were unable to spot any this time. Hints that this road was once heavily trafficked and carefully maintained turned up here and there during our hike as well.
We returned to the Research Centre and enjoyed a beautiful night under the stars.
This hike is suitable for most ages and abilities, and is ideal for someone who wants to get out and experience the remote mountain environment in Taiwan without necessarily having to reach a peak. Stay tuned to the website for future dates, or contact Blue Skies directly if a trip on the Nanxi Forest Road has piqued your interest.