Shuiyang Hiking and Camping
Geographically, Taiwan may be a small country, but for outdoor enthusiasts and adventurers it has an overwhelming appeal. Shuiyang (水樣) is a perfect example of Taiwan’s many natural hidden treasures. Having been greatly affected by the Jiji earthquake in September of 1999, it created a cluster of dying trees and a lake (which was originally a small stream) in between Sun Link Sea and Alishan National Forests.
As Ryan put it, “It looks like the type of place where you should be seeing alligators”. And he wasn’t wrong. There was a beautiful eerie feeling to being surrounded by dead trees and fog. What made this location exceptionally beautiful, however, was the sunset.
In the last hour as the sun was setting, campers gathered around the lakeside to take pictures of the incredible silhouette of the trees in the still water. The beautiful reflection of the lake along with the prime real-estate was the icing on top of our trip. For dinner, we built a small fire, cooked up some pasta, and played a few games before going to bed for some well-deserved rest.
Those wanting to retreat to this haven in central Taiwan might be deterred, however, when they know the requirements it takes to get here.
We departed from Taipei at 9:30pm driving three hours south to a beautiful campsite just outside of Sun Link Sea. The site was ideal as we only needed to park and set up our tents. It also provided some faint lighting so we weren’t entirely blind. When we woke up the next day, the view from the mountaintop was breathtaking.
Our campsite was surrounded by tea farms and bamboo forests. We could see for miles and the sights, sounds, and smells were out of this world. We ate some breakfast burritos, drank some coffee, and departed south for the National Forest.
Upon entering Sun Link Sea, each person needs to pay approximately 300NT for entry. Some may gripe about the cost, but I can understand why the fee after witnessing the pristine condition of the forest. We parked our van by the Sun Link Sea hotel and walked 20minutes to the trailhead which began as an old logging road. Logging in the area is strictly outlawed and is heavily fined which is extremely apparent due to the dozens of signs hanging up along the way.
When beginning the hike up to Shuiyang, you have the option of taking the wider logging road on the right or start off climbing up the trail behind the pagoda. Along the logging road, there are several short cuts eventually leading to the same location. Eventually, you will encounter a fork where you can choose climbing to Mt. Luju on the right (approximately 2,200meters) or going left for a more flat and direct route. Wanting to arrive at Shuiyang with plenty of time to rest and relax, we chose the leftmost route which was narrow and filled with dips, bends and silvergrass for several kilometers (as pictured below).
The final two kilometers of the hike brings you to a steep climb up to the coniferous forest above. The route is split to help hikers who don’t want to use ropes exclusively. It was a brief, but fun climb.
After arriving at the top, we were surrounded by beautiful lush pine trees covered in moss and monkeys off in the distance. The air felt cleaner and the scenery was otherworldly. This was the kind of place I would want to hang up my hammock and relax for hours.
The experience was short-lived, however, as we began our final descent back down the mountain on the other side. We were greeted with more silvergrass, thin trails, and steep rope climbs. When we finally made our way down, we were rewarded with the beautiful Shuiyang forest. It felt very much like the forest opened up and provided a perfect camping spot.
This awesome location, however, has become widely known and becomes very busy late in the evening despite the rigorous journey to get there. Hikers began setting up tents a few hours after our arrival and the campground was rife with laughter and conversation. If possible, I would suggest that visitors come during the weekdays to avoid and unwanted noise. Pictured below is the full campsite after everyone setup camp.
Later that evening, the noise died down which allowed for some excellent sleep. We woke at 6am for sunrise and to make breakfast before packing up and heading home. Due to the initial steep descent, the climb back up was even more arduous, but a great workout nevertheless. By the time we got back to our van everyone was exhausted and ready to head home.