As the highest summit within the boundaries of Keelung City, Mount Jiangziliao (729 meters) has long been a popular destination for hikers, and today there are at least three ways to its little summit of close-cropped grass, commanding a magnificent, 360-degree view over the upper Keelung River valley, the East China Sea, and – yes! – Keelung.
The last time I came up here was well over a decade ago, while scouting for routes to include in Taipei Day Trips Two. The Jiangziliao walk didn’t make the cut, not because it wasn’t interesting enough, but because it was too darn strenuous! So much has changed…. Today day trippers can easily make the climb to summit by a wide, stepped path from the north. The original trail is still there though, and is hands down the best, most interesting way to reach this magnificent viewpoint.
The hike begins at Lingjiao Station, three stops before the terminus of the Pingxi Railway. Follow the road up the valley behind the station, keep left beside the stream as a road on the right climbs up to the big temple at Dripping Water Guanyin Cave and at the end of the road simply continue straight on, beside the stream.
It’s an easy walk for a short while, but then the trail drops to the stream itself and the way is very rough and tricky for a spell, although great fun and very scenic. After a while the trail veers right a bit up the bank above the stream and the going is much easier, although still a tadge overgrown unless a group has been through recently.
It’s pretty simple going now until the trail climbs fairly steeply for a short spell to a saddle and a junction of trails. The trail on the left (one for future exploration!) heads down to Pingxi village. Instead turn right, along the narrow wooded ridge and in a minute or two it suddenly steepens to climb the flank of Mount Jiangziliao summit ridge. The next bit is as steep as any trail I know in the Taipei area and it’s an exciting if tiring climb, up ropes almost all the way, before the ground becomes much gentler and the trail reaches the summit ridge.
Walk through the tall silver grass, keep left at the clear fork, and in another hundred or two meters the natural landscape is rudely interrupted by a wooden viewing platform, one of three that stand on the summit (a small ring of short grass), peering out over a surrounding sea of neck-high silver grass (magnificently in bloom when we passed by at the end of October), and an exhilarating wrap-around view.
To continue, we retraced steps to the fork in the silver grass just below the summit and turned left, heading towards the next summit, Zhongyao Peak (中窯尖), which although not that far away according to the map, took well over an hour of rough walking to reach. About twenty minutes after leaving the summit of Mount J, it appeared briefly through the trees, and for the first time we could see the steep southern face, up which we’d hauled ourselves an hour earlier.
Zhongyao Peak, when reached, was one of those utterly worthless minor summits which abound in the Taipei area (and no-doubt elsewhere in Taiwan) – just a small concrete trig point in the middle of a small clearing in the trees. No view, no fun scramble up to it, nothing. The fun of getting there is in the getting there.
To continue there are several options. A path to the right (south) drops through the thick forest to emerge at Guanyin Dripping Water Cave, skirting the top of the little overhanging cliff above the temple after which it gets its name, and dropping to the temple grounds. I’d done this path many, many years ago, and although it would complete a very nice loop walk from Lingjiao, our goal today was to cross the ridge to Keelung. Several routes do just this, but we took the one descending to one of Keelung City’s inland scenic attractions, Nuandong Gorge (暖東峽谷). It was only some way along the trail that we found out that the route seems to be relatively little walked these days – nowadays the favored route (I since found out!) is via the attractively rocky knob of the Dragon Boat Peak (龍船朵), and on down to Nuandong Gorge that way.
Anyway … the trail was scenic, if hard to find in many places, and eventually meets the stream that flows down into the gorge, providing some attractively sylvan scenes on the way. This was despite a liberal scattering of abandoned Sky Lanterns littering the woods; unfortunately this fun bit utterly environmentally unfriendly practice has spread far from Pingxi to other areas (these would have come from the popular camping area at the entrance to Nuandong Gorge). I hate to think what these woods will look like in another decade….
Later the trail keeps high above the stream as it enters the gorge, crossing an interesting sloping bed of rock by a rather precarious log bridge on the way (it’s trickier to cross than it looks!
We finally came out on the surfaced trail at the lower end of Nuandong Gorge. A quick walk along the charming concrete road through the lower part of the gorge, and we emerged at the entrance gate, to find it shut and locked! Luckily it was an easy climb over the wall to the road on the other side.
The next bus down to Keelung from Dongshih village nearby wasn’t due for an hour, so we decided to start walking and hitch a way down. Things weren’t looking so great at first as a number of cars with free seats passed straight by us, but after about 15 minutes, a small truck, loaded with various machinery, stopped, we piled on the back, and rode down (perched on generators and other bits of hardware) all the way to Badu station – a great way to end a fairly long (7 hour, 20 kilometer) but rewarding hike!
Getting There: We started at Lingjiao Station on the Pingxi Railway Line (the8:20 am Pingxi bus from Muzha (no. 1062) also stops there). Be sure to take a good map, such as the Sun River hiking map to the Wufen Shan range (五分山山脈), however, as trails here are poorly signposted and it’s easy to get lost, as this is a big roadless area!