Most weekend mornings the ominously named bus no. 666 from Taipei to Shiding is packed with walking stick-wielding hikers, almost all of which are off to tackle Huangdidian, Shiding has one more classic hike, however, and although far from unknown among hiking clubs and keen walkers, it’s far less busy on fine weekends than the famous knife-edge ridge nearby, as we found out on our hike there on a beautiful day in early December.
The Mount Bijia Ridge Walk, as it’s usually known, is perhaps a less immediately exciting proposition than Huangdidian, because it lacks the exposed, thrilling ledges of rock poised high above the trees here, plus it’s also a considerably longer walk, but the Mount Bijia hike has a firm place among the finest ridge walks in the Taipei area, six hours with nothing but a trail across the mountains: no roads, no steps, (almost) no handrails, a few nets to save a careless hiker from a long fall if they lose their footing in a few of the more precarious places, a couple of short ladders and lots of ropes!
It’s less ‘exciting’ than Huangdidian because there are no real knife-edge ridges here, and none of those long metal ladders like the ones that climb the West Peak at HDD, but that’s a small price to pay for the joy of not having to climb untold hundreds of neatly trimmed stone steps just to get to the ridge, and then face crowds of giggling students once at the top.
Mount Bijia (like many hikes near Taipei) has seen its share of development, and it’s less ‘wild’ than before, but it’s still one of the great ridge walks in the Taipei area, and an absolute pleasure to hike when you get weather as good as we had the day we went.
The hike begins at Shiding (the terminus of bus 666 from Jingmei MRT station), along a small lane beside the stream through town, beginning almost under the lofty elevated carriageway of national freeway three. From there the trail climbs to the ridge, turns right, and simply follows it for the next 3-4 hours to Mount Erge, above Maokong tea gardens in Muzha. Every time I hike this trail, I intend to follow the trail further along the ridge to Houshanyue (Monkey Mountain) and finally reach the road only at Zhinan Temple, but we’ve always had quite enough by this time, and take the easier trail down the hillside to a little lane which winds for 4 kilometers down to Chengda University. Now the Gondola is up and working, this time we instead turned right onto another lane, a third of the way down, up to the Zhinan Temple terminus of the Gondola for a scenic, eminently civilized journey down to the city. Dishevelled and dirty, we attracted a few odd looks, but it was a great way to end one of Taipei area’s more wonderful hikes.
Getting There: The trailhead for Mount Bijia is pretty easy to reach by taking bus 666 from Jingmei MRT station (the stop opposite Jingmei High School, near exit 2) to Shiding village. The trailhead is on the opposite side of the little river that runs through the village, downstream.
The hike is covered in Taipei Day Trips 1 (page 175, walk 22) and the route description is still fairly accurate. The hike will of course be in the new book, which is due out April 2011!