Taipei Day Trip: Visit Shiding, hike Huangdidian or the Tanlan Old Trail

Spring has finally arrived in Taiwan, which means there is about a two week window to get out and enjoy what may be the best hiking weather on earth until the temperature cranks up to unbearable levels. If you want to go somewhere that's close to Taipei, doesn't involve cramming it into a train to cat town, and is not full of other foreign faces, get down to Shiding 石碇. This is a day trip isn't far down the road from Shenkeng, the self proclaimed stinky tofu capital of Taiwan, but you'll still be getting long looks for being a foreigner here.

The river view west and slightly south of the old street.

A tribute to the village's mining history. Highway 5 runs overhead, Tanlan trail below.

Off the beaten path? Not really, anymore, but still a great place to be for a day out of the city. It features genuine hiking, low-tempo river walks, and old street, and is based around an old school mining community.

The main draw here is the hike at Huangdidian 皇帝殿, a rope and ladder filled trek along the worn rocky peaks of the local mountain range. Compared to the ropes of Nangang mountain, the chances of you dying here are much, much lower thanks to some recent improvements by New Taipei City's public works department to improve safety.

Taipei 101 is visible on the very right in super tiny size.

Ropes line the hike and make scaling things easy.

Panorama from an upper peak.

Unlike many of the hikes around Taipei there isn't a real peak or ultimate point to reach with Huangdidian, but rather a nice journey which takes you along some paths with stunning views of the nearby countryside. You're walking along the very top - and at times very narrow - stone outcroppings of the mountain here, so don't be surprised when the east or west peak plants you firmly in a crop of shrubs. The hike is the destination, and it doesn't fail to deliver, even if you're a hardcore trekker. Give yourself about three hours to enjoy the hike to its fullest, including the seemingly obligatory unending staircase at the hike's base.

A fellow hiker scrambling along the trail.

If doesn't look it, but there isn't much to grab on to if you fall.

Strongly suggested are a pair of the white worker's gloves available at every major convenience and grocery store in Taipei. They look like cheap white cotton gloves with textured grip surfaces. It'll save on the rope burn if you take the challenging way up and down each of the obstacles on the hike, and they can be reused for the Nangang mountain hike mentioned on this blog. It can be hot on the rocks, so bring enough water, and a snack never hurts. If it's rained recently the rocks could be quite slick and slippery which will really impact your enjoyment of the trail.

Stairs carved into the side of the rock face.

New steel supports make this walk a lot less threatening.

View from one of the rock peaks.

The hike starts near the main intersection in Shiding where you can fuel up on water, and thanks to a recent influx of weekend visitors from Taipei there are a few restaurants with hot food available. There are two places to start the hike, but assuming you took the bus 666 from Taipei the best start is in town. Get off the bus in downtown Shiding and walk along the main road which has the public library and a Hilife. If you see the mining statue (pictured below) you're on the wrong road. Walking away from town you'll see a traditional Chinese gate on your left with tons of parking spaces nearby. Head through the gate, go up the steep incline, and a stairway which starts the hike will emerge on your right before long. There are tons of signs which point the way.

The gate seen here is your first landmark in reaching the hike.

Shiding itself has developed a bit like other once forgotten towns in this area by starting to cater to weekenders looking for a less crowded place to hang out. There is rouzong 肉粽, or zongzi 粽子, in this town which apparently won the best award for best rice dish in all of Taiwan. If you're in the
market for leaf-covered sticky rice and fillings, you can find the store along the south westren side of town with a modern looking interior. Strongly recommended are the Shiding style or Sweet Purple rice. Both of them have a great extra aroma, one sweet the other savory, that you'd struggle to get elsewhere in Taiwan, so grab a few for your hike or stop and eat one on the spot.

The store seen from across the street.

The menu. 50nt is steep, but arguably worth it.

Shiding style on the left. Sweet purple rice on the right.

The rest of the town shouldn't take too long to see, but it's a cute coffee or tea stop in addition to food. There are signs that the old street will eventually turn into another one of those places with nothing unique to offer. At the moment it's a short and tame walkway which features a free, self guided tour of the first floor of a 100 year old stone house! Come here to enjoy the nature, not the village.

The old street. Not much here yet, thank god.

Main town square along the river. Pass this on your right if you're going hiking.

Same square seen to the west. The store at left has famous tofu, apparently.

The Tanlan Old Trail was a surprisingly well marked find, and it's a great place for people who aren't in the market for clambering down steel ladders or along sheer rock faces. The trail links Shiding with WuTu, an even smaller, more remote place down the road - which has the same bus 666 service to Taipei - and is relatively flat. It follows the riverbed leading south out of Shiding, and the trail at times splits into an upper and lower level. There are side hikes along the way, so those looking for a bit more adventure won't be disappointed.

Direct water access along a lower trail.

Tree roots along an upper trail.

Spending an hour or two walking along this trail is quite peaceful due to low foot traffic and the slowly churning waters beside you. When you head out to cat town (Houtong), Nuannuan, or similar places, this is the hike you're secretly hoping to take. Quiet, tranquil, running waters, and you can even stop off for some real Chinese style tea in Shiding when you're done with it.

Biggest incline of the day with water passing below. Everything smelled of osmanthus.

Using public transit you should take bus 666 from nearby Muzha station to Shiding and get off in the town. The entrance to the huangdidian hike is uphill on your left along route 106乙. When you're done hiking you may end up coming down a different way, passing a fleet of garbage trucks and temples. You can grab the same bus, 666, back to Shiding, Shenkeng, or Taipei from the stop along the 106乙 which is aptly named Huangdidian 皇帝殿. On your way out to Shiding, be careful however, as there seem to be two different routes for 666, one to WuTuKu, and the other to a university on top of the mountain.

A map to put everything in perspective: