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The Enchanting Alishan to Xitou Through Hike

The Alishan to Xi Tou 2 Day 2 Night Through Hike Aug. 7 – 9 / 2020 (A – Xi Zong Zou)

This is a hike I have been waiting a long time to do. I first heard about it in the 1990s and had it on my ‘to do’ list since. It was very popular with locals dating back to the 70s and 80s at which time it was far easier. However, it was severely damaged in the ‘921’ earthquake of 1999 and remained closed to the public until 2019.

Due to typhoons and overcrowding in recent times we had to reschedule the trip 5 times before finally getting this opportunity with a good forecast and fewer people registered for this particular weekend. It is a very rewarding hike for both the landscape and historical significance.

After entering the Alishan National Forest Recreation Area (Entrance fee NT$200) it’s a short walk to the start of the trail on the original train lines dating back to 1912 during the Japanese colonial period. This section of the trail can be covered quite quickly as you walk for several kms along old train tracks. A head lamp is necessary for the tunnel sections. Once you reach the Mianyue Station the rest of the hike is on proper trail through a splendid natural forest with several ups and downs. There is one dodgy section to get past where the train line completely collapsed. Fine in dry weather, but tricky if it’s raining. The highest point of the trail is Sung Shan, 2,557m and from this point it’s mostly down hill to Shui Yang Forest Lake. Hiking along the Shigupan stream the trail is slippery and testimony to why so many Taiwanese wear rubber rather than hiking boots.

The magnificent Shuiyang Forest Lake

It took us 10 hrs. to reach Shui Yang Forest Lake at 1,825m, where we camped for the night. Shui Yang formed as a barrier lake after the ‘921’ earthquake in 1999 and has in itself become very popular as a 2-day hike from Shanlinxi. The lake is a great photo op at any time of day, but the afternoon mist that settles on it and the reflection of the sun in the early morning are of special appeal.

From the lake its’ a 4-5hr. hike mostly on forest road and downhill to the ‘Kindness Pavillion’ in Shanlinxi. There is a regular shuttle service which will take you to the entrance of the park.

I intend to do this hike again, but it would be advisable to do it in the opposite direction and for 3 days rather than 2 to make it a more relaxing experience. Also, by doing it in reverse you end the hike on the flat section of the train tracks.

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