Taiwan’s Stairway to Heaven: Hiking in Dakeng

Hiking in Taiwan is a paradise for outdoor lovers. There are so many trails, from easy and simple for novices to multi-day hikes at altitude in many of their +250 peaks over 3000 meters above sea level. I loved all the hikes in Taiwan that I was able to do, and one particularly scenic was hiking the Dakeng Trails in the city of Taichung.

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The Dakeng Trails are one of those places I first learnt about when talking with some locals I met in Taichung and I asked them on where to go hiking.

As there are actually not so many hiking options near the city they all said the same thing: go hiking to Dakeng!

Hiking the Dakeng Trails

Dakeng Scenic Area is a range of small mountains with a few hiking trails. The Dakeng Trails are numbered from 1 to 10 and the highest lookout points are at around 850 meters, offering great views of the region.

What makes Hiking the Dakeng Trails different to other hiking places in Taiwan is that although they’re mostly over man-made paths, they’re over man-made wooden steps!

You may have seen many times images of the “Stairway to Heaven” in Hawaii. I can’t compare both places of course, but I quite like Dakeng as the stairs are made out of wood!

Dakeng 2 Trail

Within the 10 different trails there’s something for everyone. The most famous trails are the numbers 1 to 4 which run almost parallel to each other with the trail number 5 linking them together through the highest ridge. Trails 6 to 10 are mostly short and not very steep.

On this post I will go through the most famous ones: the Dakeng 2, 4 and 5 trails.

How to get to the Dakeng Trails

One great thing about Taichung is that most bus journeys up to 10Km are free! make sure just to have an Easycard to take advantage of this.

Wooden steps at Dakeng

Depending on where you are in the city you will very likely have to take two different buses to arrive to the Dakeng Scenic Area.

On my days backpacking in Taichung I was staying at the Mini West Hotel, which was well priced for my backpacker budget. The hotel is really clean and “western-style” modern and offers a basic but decent breakfast.

Booking.com

From Mini West Hotel I took the bus 15 which was 5 minutes away and then the bus 66.

Bus 66 is the one that you will have to link to no matter where you stay in the city as that bus is the one that goes through all the 1 to 4 Dakeng Trailheads. It stops literally in front of the 1,2 and 3 trails.

Dakeng trail viewpoint

For the Dakeng Trail 4 you will have to walk some 20 minutes on a paved road to reach the trailhead from the bus stop.

What to take when Hiking the Dakeng Trails

The Dakeng Trails are perfect for just a half-day hike so no much equipment needed apart from the main hiking essentials.

As always, plenty of water is a must as the trails are short but steep at times so they can be demanding, specially on hot weather. I always take my camelback reservoir on my daypack which is the most useful thing to hydrate when hiking.

MY HIKING ESSENTIALS

Some snacks or fruit are always good to have while you chill and enjoy the views.

Dakeng 5 Trail forest

As the trails go mainly on wooden platforms, the “terrain” is not changing, but if you get a rainy day as I did then the logs can get dangerous at times so a good pair of hiking shoes with good grip are always better than slippery sneakers.

Hiking the Dakeng Trails

When I was told by my friends about hiking in Dakeng I of course asked which trails are the best ones as there are 10 of them!

The most scenic ones and (apparently) harder are the Dakeng 2 and Dakeng 4 Trails. So those are the ones I did!

Taiwan's stairs to heaven

I went up the Dakeng 2 Trail and then crossed the mountain through the number 5 trail to finally go down the mountain on the Dakeng 4 Trail.

I say “apparently harder” because although you do go up and down, sometimes on short but steep sections, the trails are pretty short. The Dakeng 2 trail is only 1.2 Km long, the Dakeng 5 trail is 2.1 Km long and the Dakeng 4 trail is almost 1.9 Km long. so, in total you hike just over 4 Km in total considering that on this route you don’t do the number 5 on its entirety.

I got off the bus 66 by the stop of the Dakeng 2 Trailhead. The walk is instantly uphill on a wide paved road and takes a couple hundred meters until you finally reach the wooden steps.

Hiking the Dakeng Trails

After just a couple of minutes on these steps you can already feel this is a different sort of hike. I like much more to be on wild places than in man-made overly visited ones, but this one definitely deserves to be experienced.

Even that I got a rainy day and the clouds didn’t allow for the best views ever, it was still pretty cool.

The wooden steps are in pretty good condition overall, only in a couple of sections I found some logs in need of repair but didn’t feel unsafe at any point. If any, you only need to pay attention where you put your feet on as the distance between the logs is not regular so just be careful on that and you will be fine!

Dakeng 5 trail views

Going up the Dakeng 2 Trail will take you anything between 20 to 40 minutes depending on your pace and number of stops. There are a couple of viewpoints along the path but I found the most scenic views to be the ones featuring the stairs themselves.

Once you reach the top of the mountain you will find the intersection with Dakeng 5 Trail. At this point there’s a small stall selling drinks in case you didn’t bring any.

It’s also here that I saw some larger groups for the first time as I only saw a few people on my way up. I also started at around 11:30am so I guess most people will go earlier.

HIking in Taichung

Dakeng 5 is a flattish trail that goes through the ridge linking the 1-4 Trails. You still find some up and downs though. And the best views of the region can be seen from this one.

There are a few pavilions along trail number 5 where people were having picnics. When I reached the end of trail number 5, I stayed at one of these pavilions waiting for the rain that grew harder to stop before going down on the Dakeng 4 Trail.

The Dakeng 4 Trail was similar to the way up on the number 2 trail. Just almost double the length.

4th Trail start

Going down on the wet logs was safer than I thought it’d be as only a few of them were a little bit slippery. I did see a couple of people missing their foot though so it’s still good to focus on the task at hand as it could be pretty easy to get injured there.

Along the Dakeng 4 Trail the views are also spectacular. In some parts it’s also possible to see some monkeys.

The end of the trail is crossing the Changqing Bridge which will lead downhill through a paved road towards the bus stop which is about 2Km away.

End of trail

5 minutes after the bridge you will find the Zhongzheng Camping Ground in case you’re looking to go Camping in Dakeng. I didn’t like too much the look of this campsite as it was next to the road, when I passed by they were also having some sort of event and there was a lot of people around, so it didn’t feel peaceful at all. Perhaps it was only that day…

From the bus stop it was time to retrace the journey back to the city with the bus 66 and then bus 15 that took me back to my hotel in Taichung.

Are you going hiking the Dakeng Trails?

Go for it! this is one of the best things to do in Taichung. It’s a perfect half-day or even full-day activity and will give you a bit of a break from the city.

Hiking in Dakeng Trails

At just about an hour away by bus from the city this is a place you should definitely visit!

Feel free to drop a comment or question about hiking the Dakeng Trails and check out the rest of my stories while solo backpacking in Taiwan for more ideas on your next adventure! 🙂

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