Changhua’s Great Buddha Statue may well be Baguashan’s八卦山 most famous attraction, but by no means could it be counted as the area’s only interesting site. Baguashan, or Mount Bagua, covers an area of around 22,000 hectares and is home to dozens of hiking trails and bike paths.
With the ongoing surge in popularity of hiking in Taiwan, many of these routes have had makeovers recently. Nothing has been drastically altered, but walkways have been tidied up, new signposts and information boards have been added, and car parks and bathroom facilities have been improved. Another change, and one which is especially useful, is that new road signs have been erected. Changhua County Highway 141, which runs from Linnei林內 to Yuanlin員林, has a wealth of these brown signs, all of them directing you towards the hiking trails and scenic spots that would have otherwise remained hidden in the mountains.
One such sign points to Chingshuiyen清水岩. This bustling little hiking destination is home to several short, but highly entertaining walking trails. The first paths you come to after leaving the car park, crisscross their way to and from Wufeng Mountain’s various peaks. Each peak is marked by a pavilion and a great view across the ever-interesting Changhua Plain. Rice fields stretch as far as the eye can see, and it’s not hard to see why some have nicknamed this area, “Taiwan’s granary”. Increasingly though, the fields are punctuated by industrial influences; large towns, busy highways, and the new high speed railway can all now clearly be seen.
Nice as they are, these paths are not very long and even the most occasional of walkers will complete them with little real effort, so when you get to the Third Peak, look out for the sign marking the start of the Central Ridge Trail. This undulating walkway will lead you over and around Chingshuiyen’s valleys and peaks. The route’s many trees, a result of a 1950’s reforestation project, keep the area green and full of life. Pavilions again line the route, and they help give the place a communal and friendly atmosphere.
A steep staircase at the end of the trail leads up to large, tea and pineapple plantations. The heavily cultivated plateau is wide and flat, and serves as a wonderful contrast to the wooded hills you will have just left behind.
From here it is possible to join up with Chingshuiyen’s other major hiking trail, The Ancient Trail of 18 Turns. To do so, turn left at the top of the steps and follow the path to a small seating area. It would appear that a farmer has tried to block the path at this point, but it is still fairly easy to climb over the fence and continue on your way.
The Trail of 18 Turns dates back to the 17th century and, up until the modern era of cars and highways, served as the main trading link between Shetou社頭 Township in Changhua County, and Mingjian名間 Township in Nantou. Salt was the main commodity transported along the route, and it’s fascinating to think that pathways we use today for pleasure and recreation were being used 400 years ago by merchants and workmen hauling huge bags of salt from the coast.