The Caoling (also sign posted as Tsaoling) Historic Trail traces a route through the mountains between the coastal towns of Dali and Fulong. One Saturday after a wearying morning class, Charlie and I took the thirty-minute train journey out of Luodong and into this breath-taking mountain-meets-the-sea landscape.
Two significant points about the trail: it is as steep as it is beautiful, and certainly requires a good effort from anyone hoping to ascend from Dali station to the mountain path. At least an hour of steps is what you’ll encounter before making the summit and heading down again. But once you reach the mountain pass, with only a slight detour of another kilometer or so, you’ll be able to look down on Dali to your right, the golden sands of Fulong to your left, and behind you you’ll see the mountain range stretch on endlessly southwards. Here there are a number of different trails to take, making this one a repeat destination for sure.
The trail used to be the major route from Taipei to Yilan county, and the place is alive with a sense of history. You can find the ruins of an well-used tavern, as well as a couple of significant artifacts in the form of ancient, but elegantly inscribed stone tablets, not to mention the temples at either end of the route.
Encompassing jagged coastline, mountain tops, dense tropical forests, riverside parks and a sandy beach at the end, I can’t think of a more varied hike for under four hours of your time. There were only a few sour notes to the journey: 1) the trail proper ends before you reach the beach, so you’ll sadly spend twenty to thirty minutes trudging by the side of a fairly busy road. Not at all the ending that this otherwise magnificent trail deserves! 2) The South African run bar at the end of the trail was closed, what bad timing! 3) Fulong beach was sign-posted as no-swimming. By the time we arrived at the beach, it was sunset and with darkness fast approaching, we didn’t feel to keen on swimming. However on a sunny day, its a real shame that swimming is restricted in such an otherwise inviting location.
Minor complaints aside, I can confidently say that this is one of the most interesting hikes I’ve ever taken, and I look forward to returning soon! The trail is fairly clearly signposted right from Dali station, which is on the Yilan line. If you got up early enough, I’d guess it would be possible to do the trail as a day-trip from Taipei by starting at the Fulong station and going to Dali. One benefit of going this way round would be that the climb is much more gradual this way round!