Xitou is one of Taiwan’s most popular National Recreation Areas. However that is both a blessing and a curse in Taiwan. It is an incredibly beautiful forest with some excellent hiking trails. There are enough trails to keep the typical hiker occupied all day. We didn’t have time to hike the Fenghuangshan (Phoenix Mountain) trail but that looks like a nice trail to get away from the crowds. That is the lead in to the mixed reviews. Xitou is a very popular place to visit on the weekends. Traffic becomes terrible going up the mountain and there will be people everywhere. This can be remedied by going on a weekday if possible.
Another interesting aspect of Xitou is that it is an experimental forest for National Taiwan University and you can visit several different types of sub forests including cedars, bamboo and gingko. The other part that wows you at first but unsettles you is that everything is a little bit too manicured. Many probably won’t even notice this and some will enjoy that everything is kept tidy but I enjoy the the natural forest with down trees and random undergrowth. Also the area must have also have been logged by the Japanese and replanted with Japanese cedars since the spacing is a little too perfect. Despite Xitou being stunningly beautiful I prefer a more natural environment and a little off of the beaten path. This doesn’t mean that I didn’t have a great time or that I won’t return though.
One of the many pavilions to rest at. The interesting part of the Xitou pavilions is that the wood is not really wood including the roof. Most of the mountainous areas in Taiwan are continually damp and wood rots very quickly in this environment. It is very common for trails and pavilions to be made from concrete but made to look like wood. I was fairly certain that the roof was concrete but I had to touch it because it looks so real.
I believe this is Fenghuangshan (Phoenix Mountain) but the actual peak could be on this ridgeline to the right. That looks like a worthy hike to do sometime and you should be able to escape most of the crowds.
The cedar forest was huge. This trail was only 1.5kms long but I loved the trees. Overall there must be about 15-20 kms of trail in the forest.
Adrian brought along Arthur and he was fascinated by everything.
One of the most popular things to do at Xitou is to walk on the skywalk. The skywalk is basically a 22.6m high bridge (180 meters long) that makes a loop. It takes you right next to trees but doesn’t touch any of them and is instead suspended on massive stilts. I found change in perspective interesting but I preferred to view the forest from ground level. It’s not scary but I find the plant life at ground level fascinating.