Taiwan is a hiking gem -- no matter where you are, you’re never more than a couple of hours from an emerald green mountain. In less than 36,000 square kilometer dimension, Taiwan has 286 mountain summits above 3,000 meters high.
With that said, it’s not only the experienced hikers that get to enjoy the nature we have here. Taiwan has the full spectrum of of hiking trails fit to people of every age, capability, and interest. What I’m going to introduce to you today is an entry-to-mid level hike that leads you up to a seemingly endless sea of bright green grass, edged by the ocean and layer after layer of picturesque mountains, all in one view.
Fairy Valley it is.
Fairy Valley, also known as Taoyuan Valley, is located on the boundary of I-lan and New Taipei City. It was where the farmers used to graze their cattle -- their cows mooing and chilling in the vast green grass, surrounded by mountains and sea reminding people of the peace to be found in the fairy lands, and thus the name -Taoyuan Valley, Taiwanese for Fairy Valley.
Today, the farmers are gone, but the cattle still remain. Fairy Valley is famous for its wide-spread grasslands extending some 3km along the base of a 500-meter high mountain where the cows and bulls are dotted around the fields, eating and doing nothing. What a life. On a clear day, you get a panorama view of the northern coast and Guishan Island on the sea, with Xueshan (Snow Mountain) on the other side.
The best season to visit is in the spring or autumn, as there’s not much shade to be found out in the valley, and during a hot summer day, the humidity and temperature can make it hard to endure. But then again, we suffer for beauty, and if you’re a photographer, heading out on summer day means a better chance of getting a photo of pure nature without many people in it. The best thing to do is to sit and lie down on the grass, have a picnic and rest, but always remember to watch out for the bullshit- literally something you’ll step in if you don’t pay attention.
No longer a secret, there are several passages into Fairy Valley – the easiest one is to go through Hsiao Village in Neiliao if you have a car. With a 1km hike on the stairs (30-40 mins), you can reach the Fairy Valley from there.
For backpackers, you can take a local train from Taipei Main Railway Station to Daxi station on the Yi-Lan line. It takes around 2 hours and the train departs once per hour, so remember to check the time table before you go. It’s recommend that you take the trains departing before 8:30am so you don’t need to rush through the hike. The total hike is around 5 hours, not including the time for rest and relaxation. Bring food and enough water so you can have snacks and lunch on the grass in the Fairy Valley. From Daxi station, follow the sign (Taoyuan Valley) and walk straight for 1km to a riverside park, where you’ll see a sign and stairs for the hike.
Reaching Fairy Valley is not an easy task. The first half of the hike is in the woods on paved stairs- not difficult to walk on, but the total distance is 3km with escalation to 459m to the top of Sweet Potato Village Mountain. Along the way, there are multiple spots where you can see Guishan Island. There are also multiple signs for directions. Just as important, after 3km, you’ll see a modern restroom (very important) where you can release the pressure of drinking too much water. Afterwards, take another 1km hike on the ridgeline where you’ll start to grasp the feeling of walking toward the valley. There is a pavilion at the end of the ridgeline where you’ll finally see the wide-spread grass and layers of hills – hold your “wow”s for 30 mins, and you’ll be inside the Fairy Valley, where you can start running, jumping, skipping, or more likely, lying down and having drinks and snacks on the beautiful grass.
Surprisingly, even if there’s no shade in the Valley, the wind/ breeze keeps things very cool in the spring and fall, maybe even cold after you’ve been there for still for a while, so bring a jacket if you have one.
After you enjoy the view and get enough rest, just take the same route back down to Daxi Station. If you’re still craving more cardio, just look to the other side of the valley and head on over to the Caoling Trail exit, which will lead you to Fulong Railway station, adding another 7km to the total distance. Caoling Trail is another popular hike in autumn where the route is surrounded by silvergrass – very beautiful though it’s usually crowded in that season.
Overall, the hike to Fairy Valley is definitely not an easy hike, but not a difficult one for people with regular exercise habits. It’s one of the best hikes to take for a one-day trip outside Taipei and the view is much different than the views in the mountains around the city. Also it’s charming to be able to walk through the woods, then come out and and relax in an enormous grass field with the gorgeous views. Don’t miss out if you’re a nature lover.
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