Xitou Bamboo Forest Loop Trail
The Xitou Bamboo Forest is one of the most popular parks in Taiwan. Anyhow, if you like to experience the park with few people only you have to hike. Another important fact is the weather and also the clouds which roll in around midday. Continue reading to get all the information for this stunning circular hike to the top of Xitou.
This is something which is almost impossible in Xitou. On weekdays it is a very popular place for the retired Taiwanese people, and they come here by bus for hiking. The first buses arrive around 8 am and from 9 onwards the park fills up soon. Around 3 pm the first buses leave the area, and from 4 onwards the park and the skywalk are less busy. We arrived midweek, and there were roughly several hundred busses. We got told by a hotel manager that it's always crowded like that. On weekends it's very popular for families especially in summer they come here to escape the heat.
In our opinion, the best option to enjoy this incredible beautiful nature is this loop trail which ends on the highest level of Xitou Nature Education Area. It took us 4 hours due to the long descent through the whole Xitou Park. The trail is 12 to 14 km long depending on the paths you chose on the way back through the park. The trail is almost not marked. Nevertheless, you don't get lost. Just follow other hikers or ask them how to continue.
Start the hike early morning; often clouds roll in around midday and spoil the incredible view of the mountains and the sea of clouds.
Opening Hours Xitou
Xitou is open from 7 am to 5 pm.
Due to the higher elevation, the air is cooler, and it often gets foggy. The wettest months are during spring and summer from April/May until August.
The loop trail starts at the end of the campground in the Recreation Area. The trailhead is not marked, but other local campers will show you the beginning as soon as they see you looking for it. The trail has a steep ascent from 1100 m elevation to 1810. It’s a steep climbing above tree roots and in some parts slippery through native forest. Although not well marked you can’t miss the path and you may see other retired Taiwanese hikers. All of them are 65 and older which impressed us a lot. The hiker on our picture was already 71 and spoke English very well. We had several nice chats with some other hikers.
At the first junction turn right. Soon you get a spectacular view of the mountains and sea of clouds. Anyhow, the ascent continues. The next intersection is an old logging trail. Have a look to the right and follow the path on a small ladder. After 10 minutes you reach the Fenghuangshan (Phoenix Mountain) with a bench but without any view. Continue for another 10 minutes for a breathtaking view and lunch break. From here it takes around 15 minutes, and you enter the Xitou Forest Recreation Area at the very end close to the Astronomical Observatory. To get back to the campground you hike through the whole park for around 6 to 7 km depending on the way you chose. The hiking trails in the Xitou Park are mostly made of concrete and steps. These trails are all well marked. The one we hiked is still a hidden treasure.
About the Xitou Nature Recreation Area
Xitou is located at Lugu village south of Taichung and is surrounded by mountains from three sides. It is an experimental forest of the National Taiwan University with several different types of woods like the bamboo, gingko, and cedar.
The Bamboo Arboretum established in 1974 was a marvelous collection of 56 species of bamboo. Due to the 921 Earthquake, a typhoon and several landslides only 21 were left. For the educational purpose, 41 new species were planted, and the Arboretum was reopened in 2004. Now it contains about 60 different species. It’s not far from the entrance and worth a visit.
The skywalk is very popular almost 23 meters above the ground and 220 meters long. The canopy walk is fascinating and gets less busy after 4 pm.
Where to Stay
There are several hotels inside the park at the very beginning. The advantage you can stay longer in the forest and again already at sunrise around 6 am. At this time, you have the park almost to yourself. Prices are shown in the last picture. There is another hotel outside of the park within walking distance. The staff is kind and attentive, and the manager speaks English well. Check the availability of the Gingko Hotel here.
Next to the park on the left behind the parking lot 1, is the camping and picnic area. The entrance fee is 100 TWD around 3 Euro if you travel by rental car and the price for a campsite is 500 TWD (Nov.2017). The campground offers basic facilities, but you are allowed to use the hot showers and restroom inside the campground administration office. The administration is open from 7 am to 9 pm with a basic store, cooking options, and an electronic charging point for free. The stuff is very kind and attentive. Be aware of mosquitos from dusk until dawn.