If you ask people who’ve lived in Taipei, one of the perks they’ll tell you is how easy, fast, and affordable it is to go from the one of the biggest cities in the world to the quiet rural outskirts. When you live in a city with noise and air pollution, it’s both emotionally and physically needed to get that escape every once in a while.
One of my favorite easy city escapes is at Sandiaoling (三貂嶺), a quiet hiking trail home to waterfalls, abandoned buildings, and some pretty exciting rope-climbing treks. Via the Taiwan Railway rural train (區間車), it takes about 50 minutes from Taipei Main Station to Sandiaoling, slowly creaking by all the smallest towns imaginable.
Right outside the one-manned Sandiaoling stop sits a broken home that seems to have been torn down half way in order to build the station. You can see where its original bathrooms, kitchen, living room were exactly, all overgrown with weeds amongst its original floor tiles and missing walls. The back of the abandoned home also seems to have completely vanished, and has a 20-feet drop into the creak below.
Once you continue down the only way out of the station, you’ll walk through a creepy dark tunnel underneath the train tracks, then trek through what seems like people’s backyards and homes before finally entering the trail itself.
The trail is relatively easy, with great sights and exciting rope-assisted climbs to keep your heart pumping. You will pass by a few waterfalls, one of which is easily accessible to swim in (trespass). The trail also leads you to the top of the waterfall, where an amazing view of the whole area waits for you.
I only discovered this trail while accompanying my mother to her I-Kuang Dao rituals (一貫道, a branch of Taoism). The tradition consists of worshippers heading to five different mountains all over Taiwan, singing songs in ancient languages, then burning paper money for the ancestors. I joined along to find out what it’s all about, and discovered one of my favorite trails close to the city that is still relatively remote.
You can follow the trail and circle back to Sandiaoling, or continue for several hours to end up in Houtong (侯桐, aka. overrated Cat Village).