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Syakaro Historic Trail: A Hike with History, Suspension Bridges and Fall Foliage

Posted by:  Anusha Lee
Published date: March 30, 2021
Syakaro Historic Trail
Syakaro Historic Trail
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Table of Contents:

About Syakaro Historic Trail: The First National Trail in Taiwan

Syakaro or Xiakelo Historic Trail (I’ll use Syakaro on this post because it's Atayal language) is a trail between Wufeng Township and Jianshi Township in Hsinchu County, Taiwan. It is also the first National Trail (Chinese) finished and open to the public in 2003 and attracted so many hikers to witness the beauty and history of Syakaro. However, when Typhoon Mindulle struck Taiwan in 2004, the floods and landslides destroyed this trail and Syakaro was closed again.
Syakaro Historic Trail
Yoro Trailhead of Syakaro Historic Trail
It took years for the government to rebuild the trail, which has been battered by typhoons so many times. The trail was closed and open to the public on and on for years. In December 2018, it was finally open to the public again and becomes one of the most popular historic trails in Taiwan.
Syakaro means Formosan Michelia 烏心石 in Atayal language, and there were a lot of these trees in the upstream of Touqian River 頭前溪 in this area. Around 250 years ago, a group of Atayal people moved here, and this tribe was named after Syakaro.

A Trail with the Highest Outpost Density to Control Atayal People

According to Xu Rulin, the author of A Story of the Xiakalo Historic Trail, the total length of Syakaro was 49.2 km (30.6 miles), but the north and south sections of the trail were transformed into modern roads. So, the total length of Syakaro Historic Trail is only 22 km (13.7 miles) now.
syakaro-01-book
A great book to learn more about the stories in Syakaro
Like Zhuilu Old Trail, Syakaro Historic Trail was also a trail paved by bloods. During Japanese Occupation, the Japanese government used this trail to control the indigenous people, Atayal, which ignited two Syakaro Incidents 霞喀羅事件. According to Dr. Lee Ruizong 李瑞宗, there were 25 outposts build on the trail to supervise and control Atayal People, almost one outpost every 2 km, which made Syakaro have the highest outpost density among the trails during that time. Now, most of the outposts are gone, and very few are well-preserved.
Syakaro Historic Trail
History of indigenous Atayal people

From Syakaro Trail to Mt. Dabajian and the Holy Ridgeline

In August 1927, a group of Japanese hikers with their indigenous Atayal guides started from Syakaro Trail, took several Cautionary Paths/Security Paths (this is the translation I saw on the signs, but I think it means Security Paths) 警備道路 and reached Madala River Trailhead 馬達拉溪登山口, which is the trailhead to Mt. Dabajian 大霸尖山 today.
100 Peaks: Mt. Dabajian, Mt. Xiaobabajian, Mt. Jiali, and Mt. Yizhe
The trailhead to Mt. Dabajian over Madala River
Those Japanese hikers successfully reached the top of Mt. Dabajian (which is not allowed now). However, the Mt. Dabajian was deemed as a sacred mountain in Atayal culture, those Atayal guides only stayed at the base.
100 Peaks: Mt. Dabajian, Mt. Xiaobabajian, Mt. Jiali, and Mt. Yizhe
Mt. Dabajian, 3,492 meters (11,456 feet) above the sea level
When one of the Japanese hikers, Numai Tetsutaro 沼井鐵太郎, reached Mt. Yizhe 伊澤山 3,297 meters (10,817 feet) and looked at the spectacular ridgeline from Mt. Xue to Mt. Dabajian, he acclaimed this ridgeline as Holy Ridgeline (aka Shengleng Trail) 聖稜線. This is where the Holy Ridgeline came from and climbing the Holy Ridgeline has become hikers’ dreams ever since.
You can see Syakaro Old Trail is close to Mt. Dabajian. Smangus is close to Syakaro, too.

How to Get There and How to Plan Your Hike

There is no public transport to get to either trailhead. Since it’s a point-to-point trail, it’s difficult to drive your car to get there, either. No buses are allowed to get to the trailheads. You either hire a van with a driver to take you to one of the trailheads and wait for you to finish at the other, or have a group of friends driving two cars and hike from both ends and exchange the car keys in the middle.

Do the Hike in One Day

As to how many days it should take to finish this hike, it depends on your physical fitness and your preference. If you are fit but don’t want to carry too much weight, you can do it in one day.

Do the Hike in Two Days and Carry Your Own Things

If you are fit but want to take your time to enjoy this trail, you can do what I did and plan a two-day trip. Most hikers will camp at Baishih Outpost 白石駐在所, and you will find toilets there. Please don't leave your used toilet papers there, and DON'T camp inside the old building. It’s NOT allowed to camp inside the building. But as you can imagine, it’s very crowded at Baishih Outpost, and it was like a tent city when I was there.
Syakaro Historic Trail
History about Baishih Outpost

Do the Hike in Two Days BUT Hire Porters to Carry Things for You

If you don’t want to carry your own food, tents, and sleeping bags, you can hire porters to help you.
Syakaro Historic Trail
Our group hired porters to carry gear and food for us.

Peaks and Places to Reach

Shihlu Trailhead: 石鹿登山口, 1,677 meters (5,502 feet), starting at 0 km
Rope Suspension Bridge: 繩索吊橋, at 9 km
Syakaro Suspension Bridge: 霞喀羅吊橋, at 10 km
Baishih Outpost, old name Sakayachin Outpost: 白石駐在所 or 薩克亞金駐在所, 1,629 meters (5,534.5 feet), at 12 km. Sakayachin is Atayal language meaning grindstone. Baishih in Chinese means white stone, literally.
Baishih Suspension Bridge: 白石吊橋, built in 1921, at 13 km
Yoro Trailhead: 養老登山口, 1,240 meters (4,068.2 feet), at 22 km. Yoro in Atayal language means a plank to prevent mice from getting inside the buildings.
See the map and itinerary first

Day 1: A Trail with Many Beautiful Suspension Bridges

Distance: 12.3 km (7.6 miles)
Brief itinerary: Shihlu Trailhead (Height 1,677 meters) ➔ Syakaro Suspension Bridge (Height 60 meters) ➔ Baishih Outpost (Height 1,629 meters)
GPS coordinates of Shihlu Trailhead: 24.561246, 121.169258
I joined Dudu 嘟嘟 for this hike. Actually, this was my second time to hike this trail, but I didn’t finish the whole trail in December 2018. I always wanted to do the whole trail and I’m glad I finally made it 2 years later.
We started from Shihlu Trailhead 石鹿登山口 near Qingquan 清泉 at 10:46 am. If you want to do the whole trail, Shihlu Trailhead is usually the one you start because you will hike downhill mostly from here. You’ll find many signs and maps telling you the history and information you need to know on this trail.
Syakaro Historic Trail
Unless you only do half of the trail, most people will start from Shihlu Trailhead.
If you need to go to toilet, there is one at 1.2 km.
Syakaro Historic Trail
This is the only man-made toilet before you reach Baishih Outpost.
The trail terrain was quite flat and easy to hike. We were accompanied with tall slender Japanese Cedar Trees, and it was quite relaxing to walk there. It was a little bit cloudy when we started the hike, but we still could see beams of sunlight seeping into the woods.
Syakaro Historic Trail
Beams of sunlight mixed with fog on the trail
This trail is well marked, and you’ll find the millage marks in increments of one kilometer.
Syakaro Historic Trail
This trail is well-marked.

Beautiful Fall Foliage and Sea of Clouds

Autumn is the high season to hike Syakaro Historic Trail because of fall foliage. I didn’t get to see much of it, but it was still a great delight to see some bright red leaves dancing among trees.
Syakaro Historic Trail
I went there in December but still could see some colorful leaves.
Because we started the hike late, we stopped soon to take a lunch break. I took a spot facing the slope. At first, all I could see was trees and clouds.
Syakaro Historic Trail
A relaxing view to enjoy my lunch
Suddenly, I saw parts of blue sky appearing in the distance. I put down my lunch and rushed to the edge of the slope and waited. This was what I saw.
Syakaro Historic Trail
The vibrant colors with sea of clouds and blue sky
After lunch break, we continued to hike. Our guides told us that there was a bypass to avoid the dangerous ridge section. I saw ropes circled around the dangerous area, and there was sea of clouds! I reached the rope area, carefully not to step on the loose slope and took photos.
Syarako Historic Trail - sea of clouds
Watch out the cliff when you try to take photos here.
This has reminded me again and again that things might be much different when you break through certain heights on the trails, or in your life.
Syarako Historic Trail - sea of clouds
The peak on the right is Mt. Maibilai 麥巴來山, 2,113 meters (6,932.4 feet), and it's a challenging trail to hike.
After the ridgeline, we were back to the woods again. Inside the woods, the mist floated on the trail, which made the trail look mystical.
Syakaro Historic Trail
This section was downhill and very flat.

Stone Bearing Walls Left by Old Outposts and Beautiful Suspension Bridges

Then we saw some man-made walls and signs about what those walls were. Those were stone-bearing walls left from Hanheno Outpost 楢山 (青山) 駐在所, 1,980 meters (6,496 feet), during Japanese Occupation.
syakaro-07-Hanheno-outpost
We took a break at Hanneno Outpost
The trail became rugged after this but still manageable. Suddenly, we stopped. It turned out that we had reached the first suspension bridge, Rope Suspension Bridge 繩索吊橋. There were so many hikers on the trail and it wasn’t a surprise we had traffic jams. It took us 10 minutes to cross the bridge.
Syakaro Historic Trail
Traffic jam on the trail
Syakaro Historic Trail
This is a very narrow bridge and only one person can pass.
After 15 minutes, we saw another outpost remains, Asahi Outpost 朝日駐在所. I didn’t see anything left from the old outpost, but I saw tents set up by hikers.
Syakaro Historic Trail
Some hikers camp near Asahi Outpost.
If you plan to camp at Baishih Outpost and don’t have enough water, you will find a water source around 5 minutes after Asahi Outpost. The water was quite clean, and I drew about 1L with my water filter.
Syakaro Historic Trail
The only water source before reaching Baishih Outpost
After another 10 minutes, we reached Syakaro Suspension Bridge, our second one on the day.
Syakaro Historic Trail
Syakaro Suspension Bridge, slightly wider than the previous one.

Arrived at Baishih Outpost 白石駐在所

Within 20 minutes, I saw a lot of tents on the trails, which reminded me of my hike to Songluo Lake. We had arrived at our campsite, Baishih Outpost, 1,629 meters (5,534.5 feet) after passing 11 km sign.
Syakaro Historic Trail
A tent city at Baishih Outpost
Please note that Baishih Outpost is a very old building, and please don’t camp inside it. You’ll find toilets at Baishih Outpost, but please remember to take the toilet papers with you.
Syakaro Historic Trail
Baishih Outpost is the most well-preserved one on Syakaro Historic Trail.

Day 2: Very Easy and Downhill Hike to the Other Trailhead

Distance: 10.4 km (6.4 miles)
Brief itinerary: Baishih Outpost (Height 1,629 meters) ➔ Baishih Suspension Bridge ➔ Mawan Outpost (Height1,460 meters) ➔ Yoro Trailhead (Height 1,240 meters)
GPS coordinates of Yoro Trailhead: 24.589243,121.253694
The next day, my hiking mates told me that they saw beautiful stary sky when then got up in the middle of the night. I knew we might see that but having so many hikers around really put off my desire to see the sky.
Syakaro Historic Trail
I still carried my own tarp and tent.
Not surprised, the whole Baishih Outpost looked like a traditional market in Taiwan 菜市場, a metaphor to describe the crowded places.
Syakaro Historic Trail
People mountain people sea

Baishih Suspension Bridge with Wider Bridge Hangers

The trail after Baishih Outpost was mostly downhill. After 40 minutes, we reached Baishih Suspension Bridge. Unlike the previous ones, the gaps among those bridge hangers were much wider. If you are not comfortable with height, this one might be a little difficult for you.
Syakaro Historic Trail
Baishih Suspension Bridge
Syakaro Historic Trail
If you don't like height, walking on Baishih Suspension Bridge might be scary.

The Eroded Trail with Log-ladders Hanging

After crossing the bridge, there was a fork, and we took the one on the left and went downhill. Then, we went up again on several long log ladders. In Taiwan, you will find trails paved with concrete, planks, pebbles or materials taken by nearby surroundings.
Syakaro Historic Trail
We took the left and went dowhill at this fork.
But, those log ladders were phenomenal, because the slopes/dirts underneath the ladders were already washed away. However, those ladders remained there hanging, which made climbing on them more difficult.
Syakaro Historic Trail
A fun ladder to climb.

Reached to the Section Where Motorbikes Could Ride

After the hanging ladders and some slightly rugged terrains, we reached at 13 km where some motorbikes could reach. From there, the trail was very flat and almost downhill all the way.
Syakaro Historic Trail
Although this trail is relatively flat, it still takes skills to ride a motorbike here safely.
You’ll find the sign of Takegami Outpost 武神駐在所 around 14 km, but the building is nowhere to be found. Then I saw a small bridge over Sakeyachin Creek (aka Baishih Creek) 薩克雅金溪/白石溪, which originated from the north of Mt. Dabajian.
Syakaro Historic Trail
Overlooking Sakeyachin Creek

Beautiful Makino Bamboo Woods

After the bridge, I reached a section with the open view of mountains from the distance.
Syakaro Historic Trail
One of my favorite spot on this trail.
Within a few minutes, I arrived at the Bamboo Landscape. Those Makino Bamboos are so tall and beautiful, which has become one of the landmark of Syakaro Historic Trail.
Syakaro Historic Trail
There are several bamboo woods when you get closer to the Yoro Traihea side.
Inside the bamboo woods, there was Mawan Outpost 馬鞍駐在所. This outpost was named after an Atayal man who first here to cultivate the land. Nothing much left here, either. We took a one-hour break at Mawan Outpost.
Syakaro Historic Trail
I didn't see any outpost building left, but this was a great spot to take a break and enjoy the tranquil surrounding.
The trees at Mawan Outpost were tall and beautiful. Having the clouds and blue sky in the background made those trees even more spectacular.
Syakaro Historic Trail
The green and yellow leaves went so well with the clouds and blue sky.

Tarakkis Outpost with A Mysterious Sign Saying Chestnut Garden

From there, there were several bamboo woods. Then we found the last outpost we could see before reaching Yoro Trailhead, Tarakkis Outpost 塔拉卡斯駐在所. According to the sign this place was home to one of Atayal tribes, Tarakkis, which means millet in Atayal language.
Syakaro Historic Trail
Tarakkis, nothing to do with chestnut.
However, the sign said “Tarakkis-the Chestnut Garden”. I have no idea where chestnut came from. I Google and find an online forum in 2019 saying the Forestry Bureau, who is in charge of this trail, said this was a mistake made by the supplier and they would correct the mistake. Well, it’s still there…
I think the mistake came from the Chinese fonts. The Chinese character of millet is 粟, and the pronunciation is SU. The Chinese of chestnut is 栗 and the pronunciation is LI.
syakaro-31-tarakkis-outpost-zoomin
It's common to find errors or funny translations on the signs on the trails in Taiwan.
From Tarakkis Outpost, there was 3.7 km left to Yoro Trailhead, and it took 1 hour to get to the trailhead according to the sign. It took me 50 minutes because I got bored and wanted to get back to our bus as soon as possible.
Syakaro Historic Trail
Yoro Trailhead

Thoughts about this Hike and Other Trails Nearby

Although I got bored during the last 4km hike, I still think this is a great trail to visit again. But I will do things differently.
Syakaro Historic Trail
A wonderful trail to hike
There are several places that are worth paying a visit before the hike.
The first one is Zhang Xueliang Residence 張學良故居. General Zhang Xueliang was the instigator of the 1936 Xi'an Incident, and played an important role in China’s modern history. Long story short, he was placed under house arrest by Chiang Kai-shek for five decades, and he spent 13 years in Qingquan, Wufeng.
The second one is Sanmao’s Dream House 三毛夢屋. Sanmao (pen name: Echo) 三毛 is a very famous writer and translator in Taiwan in 1970s and 1980s, and her books, especially novels and travelling, have influenced many generations in Taiwan.
I will put Zhang Xueliang Residence and Sanmao’s Dream House on the first day’s itinerary and do the hike on the second day.
Other than visiting those places, there are peaks I’d like to hike. Mt. Syakaro, aka Mt. Shihlu, 霞喀羅大山 or 石鹿大山, 2,234 meters (7,329.4 feet). There’s a Class 3 Triangulation Stone on the peak. The entrance of Mt. Syakaro is at 3.1 km on Syakaro Historic Trail. Unfortunately, I didn’t see it when I was on the trail. Mt. Syakaro is also the watershed of Sakeyachin Creek on the east and Syakaro Creek on the west.
Syakaro Historic Trail
Baishih Suspension Bridge
The second mountain I’d like to add on my itinerary is Mt. Bunujiali 布奴加里山, 2,125 meters (6,971.8 feet), and there is also a Class 3 Triangulation Stone on the peak. According to other hikers, the views on Mt. Bunujiali are great. The entrance to this mountain is at 16.3 km, before reaching Mawan Outpost. But this one is more challenging. The cumulative elevation gain is 1600+ meters.
If you are more into hiking and don't have many days to spare, you can do this trail in one day, which is also a great training to help you prepare hiking 100 Peaks in Taiwan.
Syakaro Historic Trail
Bamboo woods near Yoro Trailhead

Map and Itinerary

Group Hike or Solo Hike: Group hike with Dudu
Date of Hike: December 19 and 20, 2020

Route map for Syakaro Historic Trail by Anusha Lee on plotaroute.com

Click Menu in the map to download, print or share the map.
Click timer to change the speed to meet your condition.
Note:
The GPS track is for reference only. This GPS track source is here, and this one goes to Mt. Syakaro.

Day 1: based on my hike on December 19, 2020

10:46 Arrived at Syakaro Shihlu Trailhead
11:06 Reached the toilet at 0.1k sign
11:36 Reached 2k sign
11:49 Took a 40-minute lunch break
12:33 Reached the cliff to see the sea of clouds
13:26 Reached 5k sign and the trail became very flat
13:48 Saw the first Stone-bearing wall and took a 10-minute break
14:55 Reached Rope Suspension Bridge and it took 10 minutes to pass
15:24 Reached Asahi Outpost at 10k
14:40 Reached Syakaro Suspension Bridge
16:02 Reached Sakayachin (Baishih) Outpost and campsite at 12.2k
Total time: 5 hours 16 minutes, including long breaks

Day 2: based on my hike on December 20, 2020

07:40 Left Baishih Campsite
08:21 Reached Baishih Suspension Bridge
08:26 Arrived at a fork and took the left one
08:39 Reached the eroded log stairs
09:19 Reached the section where motorbikes can reach
09:25 Reached Takegami Outpost
09:33 Reached 15k sign
09:49 Reached the bridge over Sakeyachin Creek
09:57 Reached Bamboo woods
10:06 Reached Mawan Outpost and Maple Viewing Area at 15k sign
10:21 Took one hour break
11:28 Reached 17k sign
11:46 Another Bamboo landscape again
11:51 Reached Tarakkis, the misnamed chestnut garden
12:40 Reached Yoro Trailhead at 22k
Total time: 5 hours, including the one-hour and small breaks

Recommended Blogs and Resources:

Chinese only:
Hiking Biji: 霞喀羅國家步道 Syakaro HisToric Trail
Tony Huang: [新竹尖石].霞喀羅古道(養老段) Syakaro Historic Trail: Yoro Section
霞喀羅國家步道
霞喀羅古道: local business for hotel, guided tours and meals
新竹五峰: 霞喀羅古道 順登霞喀羅大山、布奴加里山 Syakaro Historic Trail, Mt. Syakaro, and Mt. Bunujiali
陽明山腳下的法蘭克: 新竹縣五峰鄉清泉部落張學良故居-三毛夢之屋-環山步道-天主教堂 Sanmao’s Dream House and Zhang Xueliang Residence

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