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Mt. Wulai to Mt. Datong: A Trail to See Exotic Wild Orchids and Beautiful Woods in an Indigenous Village near Taipei

Posted by:  Anusha Lee
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Most people's first impression of Wulai in Taiwan is the hot springs. Yet, there are many amazing hiking trails and wild orchids near Wulai to explore. This post is about the hike between Mt. Datong and Mt. Wulai. If you do this trail in spring, you can also enjoy the stunning Tung Tree Blossoms, May Snow, in Taiwan.
Mt. Wulai to Mt. Datong trail
Mt. Wulai to Mt. Datong trail

Table of Contents:

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About Wulai and Mt. Datong

Wulai 烏來, or Ulay in Atayal, meaning water is hot, is the home of indigenous tribe, Atayal, in New Taipei City, Taiwan. Wulai is also the largest but the least populated district in New Taipei City. Compared Wulai's population density, 20/km², to Yuanhe District's 永和區 30,000/km². Wulai is a popular tourist attraction, but also a hiker's heaven. However, the devastating aftermath brought by Typhoon Soudelor in 2015 made Wulai suffer for a long time.
WuTong Trail
The beautiful suspension bridge near Wulai Old Street and Wulai Terminal
Typhoon Soudelor brought floods in Yilan and Wulai. It produced vast amount of 422 mm (16.61 inches), within 6 hours in Wulai. The intensity of Soudelor also triggered landslide in the mountains, and the impact lasted for years, which also made me think twice to hike here.

How to Get There

Take Bus 849 at MRT Xingdian Station. If you want to start your hike from Miaoxin Temple 妙心寺, get off at the last stop, Wulai Terminal 烏來總站.
If you want to visit Wulai Old Street right after your hike without taking the bus back to Wulai Terminal, you get off at Zhongzhi Stop 忠治站 and walk slightly uphill for around 45 minutes to Mt. Datong Trail 大桶山登山步道. Please note that it might be more difficult later if you start from this trailhead.

Peaks to Reach

Mt. Wulai Front Peak: 烏來山前峰, 789 meters (2,588 feet)
Mt. Wulai: 烏來山, 820 meters (2,690 feet)
Mt. Datong: 大桶山, 916 meters (3,005 feet), Class 3 Triangulation Stone, no view
Mt. Datong East Peak: 大桶山東峰, 910 meters (2,985 feet), no view
There's a short name for this trail called Wutong Trail, from Mt. Wulai and Mt. Datong.
See the map and itinerary first

A Steep Beginning to Mt. Wulai Front Peak and Mt. Wulai

GPS coordinates of the trailhead from Miaoxin Temple 妙心寺: 24.8658207,121.5520373
GPS coordinates of the trailhead from Zhongzhi 忠治, the entrance of Mt. Datong Trail 大桶山登山步道: 24.8903745,121.558496

My Plan B Became Plan A Because of the Virus

My Plan A for my birthday was to hike Mt. Jiali 加里山, because I was hoping I could find Taiwan Pleione (or Pleione formosana Hayata) 台灣一葉蘭 and Indian Pipe 水晶蘭. However, the outbreak of Covid-19 messed up many things and I wasn't sure it was okay to travel there in April. So, I decided to pick up a trail that required me to travel less by public transport. Then, I came across this trail, which also gave me one of the most pleasant surprises.
This is a point-to-point trail, and you can start from either trailhead. I started this hike from the steeper one, which was very close to Wulai Old Street 烏來老街. The other one was near Zhongzhi Village 忠治部落.
WuTong Trail
The gate to Miaoxin Temple is close to Wulai Terminal Station
You have to look for the trailhead on your left carefully, because I missed it at first and walked all the way into Miaoxin Temple, while my GPS watch showed that I was further away from the trailhead.
WuTong Trail
The trailhead on the Miaoxin Temple side is easy to miss.

A Steep Beginning to Wake You Up

The trail terrains were typical in Taiwan: soil intertwined with tree roots and rocks, but it wasn't difficult to navigate. There were also many plastic ribbons tied on the trees to help me follow the trail, and I saw steps leading up to a huge water tank on my right. I continued to hike, and the trail quickly it went uphill. While I was working hard to climb up, I saw Wulai and River Nanshi through the trees.
WuTong Trail
The slopes are much steeper on the temple side, but I think your knees will thank you later.
The more I went, the steeper the trail became. Some slopes were almost vertical, but it wasn't too hard to get myself up because there were many strong tree roots for me to grab.
WuTong Trail
The intertwined tree roots came to the rescue when I needed to climb up.

Auntie, You Are Really Good 阿姨好厲害

To my delight, there weren't many hikers on the trail. The first people I met were the residents living in Wulai, a guy and two teenage boys doing a short hike. When the guy learned that I went solo, he turned to the boys and said: "Auntie (which is me) was really good 阿姨好厲害".
WuTong Trail
It does take some self-motivation to climb up hills like this. So I guess I'm really good.
When I do solo hikes and meet other hikers on the trails, I usually get either one of the following two reactions. The first one is ‘You are good', and the other is ‘you shouldn't hike by yourself'. Lucky me because I encountered both comments on that day. In Taiwan, it's not popular or even encouraged to do solo hikes, because people think you can't get help if accidents happen, not to mention females doing solo hikes. To be honest, I'm not special at all. I just want to enjoy the trail by myself.
WuTong Trail
Enjoying the beautiful view by myself on the trail is a great treat.
After saying goodbye to them, I continued my hike. it was quiet on the trail and I had to stop several times to catch my breath. There weren't many junctions on this trail, so I didn't have to spend much time to navigate. Then, I reached my first peak on the trail, Mt. Wulai Front Peak 烏來山前峰, 789 meters (2,588 feet).
WuTong Trail
Reached my first peak Mt. Wulai Front Peak
There wasn't much to see from Mt. Wulai Front Peak, so I didn't spend much time there. Within 20 minutes, I reached my second peak, Mt. Wulai 烏來山, 820 meters (2,690 feet). Like Mt. Wulai Front Peak, there wasn't much to see, and it was cloudy on that day. So, I left quickly.
WuTong Trail
Reached my second peak, Mt. Wulai. You need to go to the edge to see some view.
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A Surprised Detour to Enjoy the View

After 20 minutes, I saw a junction. The trail on my left went up to somewhere and the other one went downhill. For some unknown reasons, I was curious about the one going up, even though I knew I should turn right. So, I decided to take the uphill one to explore a little bit. I could always get back to the trail if that wasn't the right one.
WuTong Trail
Decided to take a detour to explore the trail on the left.
Then, I saw a pile of big rocks pointing to the sky. The trail to those rocks was sounded by two trees and became very narrow and I had to leave my backpack there to get through them.
WuTong Trail
It didn't take long for me to find out what the trail led to.
When I reached those rock and climbed up there, the view was amazing. During that time, I didn't have an app called PeakFinder. I had no idea what mountains I was looking at, which was a shame. I think I could have gotten a better view if I dared to climb on the top of those rocks. But I decided not to.
WuTong Trail
Stunning view from those big rocks.
This is one of the things I enjoy a lot when doing solo hikes: discovering hidden gems like this. Of course, I have done research as thorough as I can before the hike, but I can always find pleasant surprises on the trails. And this wasn't the only surprise I got on that day.

A Beautiful Treasure to Make My Day

It was almost noon when I left the rock and got back to the trail. I wasn't hungry yet, so I continued my hike. Suddenly, I saw something white out of the corner of my right eye, and I stopped to take a closer look. It turned out to be three white little flowers with vertical red strips on the flower paddles. Those were the cutest flowers I'd ever seen!
WuTong Trail
Those delicate stunning flowers caught my attention
During that time, I had no idea what those lovely flowers were. I got a feeling that they were some kind of orchids. I kneeled down immediately and took as many photos as I wanted. Those flowers were Striped Jug Flower Orchid 一葉鍾馗蘭, 一葉罈花蘭. I didn't expect to see such beautiful flowers on that day, and I was so happy that I could stay there for more than 10 minutes just taking photos of them. If I hiked with a group, I probably could stay there for a few minutes. What a wonderful surprise.
WuTong Trail
Those Striped Jug Flower Orchid really made my day. I could feel my heart was screaming with joy.
After I was satisfied, I decided to take a lunch break. Before lunch, I heard people's voice ahead of me. I wasn't in a hurry and I wasn't keen to meet other hikers, either. I took my time and started brewing coffee.
WuTong Trail
Time to enjoy a cup of trail coffee
The trail terrain became more friendly here, and it wasn't as steep as the previous parts of the trail. More timber posts saying Mt. Datong Trail 大桶山步道 could be seen on the trail. You can see GPS coordinates of your current location written on those posts.
WuTong Trail
Trail terrains became mild from here.

Reached the Highest Peak: Mt. Datong

Then, I reached Mt. Datong 大桶山, 916 meters (3,005 feet). There wasn't much to see around here, but this was the highest peak on the trail. This was also easy to recognize, because Central Weather Bureau set up a small station to collect precipitation data, but I didn't take photos of this station.
WuTong Trail
I decided to take my cupcake to have a photo on the summit.
There is a famous river called River Tonghou 桶后溪 near here, and it means the river behind Tong in Chinese. Here, Tong means Mt. Datong, meaning bucket in Chinese. The shape of Mt. Datong looks like an upside-down bucket, and that's how this mountain got this name.
There are many beautiful trails near Tonghou River, and I got to hike two of them: Tonghou River Source to Mt. Hongludi and Tonghou Traversing Trail.
Wutong Trail
One of my favorite hiking trails: Tonghou River Source hike.
Taiwan Trails and Tales also has a great post about her hike along with Tonghou River to Mt. Hongludi.
Here at the peak of Mt. Datong, I finally caught up with the hikers who were ahead of me, one male and two females. We had some chat, and I got lectured by the male hiker saying that I shouldn't be hiking alone. Yes, you either get “You are good” or “You shouldn't hike alone” on the trails when you do solo hikes in Taiwan.

Jungle to Forest: the Views under the Woods Open Up

The trail terrains and vegetation were very different after Mt. Datong. They went from a lush dense jungle to the forest mixed with many tall straight Japanese Cedar Trees when I reached the junction to Mt. Datong East Peak 大桶山東峰, 910 meters (2,985 feet).
WuTong Trail
Mt. Datong East Peak.
Not much view to see here, either, but those tall straight Japanese Cedar Trees were delightful to enjoy.
WuTong Trail
Beautiful Japanese Cedar Trees
I also saw beautiful mosses close to the sign of Mt. Datong East Peak.
WuTong Trail
A patch of moss laying near the Triangulation Stone of Mt. Datong East Peak
From here, the trail was mainly wooden steps, and I also got a glimpse of the view between the trees to see Wulai valley.
WuTong Trail
Wulai Valley covered by the fog

Witness the Geological Formation on the Ridge

Those wooden steps led me up to a ridge again. There were many big and almost square rocks on the ridge. Those rocks were the wonder made by the nature, a unique geological formation called Chessboard Rock 豆腐岩. If the weather is great, you can see Feitsui Reservoir on the east and Mt. Badaoer 拔刀爾山 on the west.
WuTong Trail
Chessboard Rock on the ridge of Mt. Datong.
According to the sign, those rock layers were squeezed and creased by the plate movements (not sure it's the right way to describe it in English). When it rained, the water expanded the creases on the rock, and made the rock layers look like chessboards over a long period of time.
WuTong Trail
A sign explaining how the Chessboard rocks were formed
Although it was cloudy on that day, I still could see some views on my left among the trees. I continued my hike and saw a junction, and I took the left trail, and those wooden steps showed up again.
WuTong Trail
I took the left trail.
Then, I saw Mt. Sikanshui 四崁水山 written on the timber post, and it didn't take long before I reached the junction to Mt. Sikanshui.
WuTong Trail
Timber post pointing the direction to Mt. Sikanshui

Aborted the Last Peak but still Got Popsicles after 4 Months

The trail condition to Mt. Sikanshui wasn't as good as the previous one, and I had to go downhill here and climb back later. You could tell that not many people hiked this trail for a while. My original plan was to reach Mt. Sikanshui and turn back. But I was already tired and really didn't want to climb uphill again. So, I decided to abort my plan to this peak and got back to Mt. Datong Trail.
WuTong Trail
Not many hikers had been to this trail for a while,
Later, I was told that you can just leave the trail after Mt. Sikanshui and get to Kueishan Power Plant 桂山發電廠 to enjoy cheap but delicious popsicles. Well, I did get one popsicle from a different hike after 4 months.
WuTong Trail
I got a passion-fruit-flavored popsicle from a different hike which was also near Mt. Sikanshui.
Kueishan isn't the only power plant that sells popsicles in Taiwan, and you must be wondering why power plants sell popsicles. When Kueishan Power Plant was under construction in 1940s, Taipower Company needed tons of ice to cool down the concrete to build the dam. So, they bought many ice making machines to produce the ice.
WuTong Trail
It was very hot when I visited Keishan Power Plant, which was great to enjoy popsicles.
After the dam was finished, Taipower decided to keep those machines and hired people to make ice for their employees, and sold those popsicles at the employee canteens. Later, those popsicles become very popular, because they still maintain the old Taiwanese flavors and are really cheap, NT 10 for each. If you are curious, Kueishan Power Plant was also the first hydroelectric power plant in Taiwan.

Back to the Wooden Steps and Time to Eat My Birthday Cupcake

When I got back to Mt. Datong Trail, the wooden steps were back. The heights of steps were not even, which is common on the trails in Taiwan. I decided to take off one of my rainboots as the reference to show you those annoying uneven steps.
WuTong Trail
Uneven wooden or stone steps are common on the trails in Taiwan.
After a while, I felt hungry and I finally got to eat my birthday cake. I definitely have to do solo hikes on my birthdays after this.
WuTong Trail
My birthday cupcake. It tasted okay, but I was happy about it.

April Snow in Taiwan: Tung Blossoms in Spring

While getting closer to the other side of the trailhead, I saw many white flowers lying on the trail. If you get to visit Taiwan in April or May, please don't forget to check out Tung tree blossoms. They are very easy to recognize. You can also check out the Hakka Tung Blossom Festival to see whether the flowers are ready at those areas where you intend to visit.
WuTong Trail
Tung tree blossoms are very beautiful.
Sometimes, I feel bad to put my feet on those delicate beautiful white flowers.
WuTong Trail
I think I can spend hours just by looking at those delicate white tung blowers.
It didn't take long for me to reach the trailhead. There was a sign saying Mt. Datong Trail with two Atayal statues guarding the gate.
WuTong Trail
It's very easy to find the trailhead of Mt. Datong trail if you start from here.
This trailhead was very close to an Atayal village called Zhongzhi Village 忠治部落. There was a bus stop close to the entrance of Zhongzhi Village on Xingwu Road. When I got back to Xingwu Road, I was lucky that I didn't have to wait long for my bus to come and call it a day.
WuTong Trail
The bus stop was very close to the entrance of Zhongzhi Village.
One more thing. As you know the weather is very humid in Taiwan, it's not a surprise that there are many leeches on the trails. I accidentally brought one home.
WuTong Trail
I brought a leech home and it was obvious it wasn't fed well. It didn't get a chance to suck my blood.

Thoughts about This Hike: A Trail for Wild Orchid Fans

This is a pleasant trail to hike and not too difficult to finish. There are some steep slopes to boost your adrenaline if you start from Miaoxin Temple side, but they are manageable.
Later, I realize that you can find many exotic wild orchids in Wulai almost all year round, not just Striped Jug Flower Orchid in spring. This hiker, Max Kuo, spends a lot of time looking for wild orchids on the trails and he founds many in Wulai. After reading his posts, I feel tempted to look for those amazing wild orchids on the trails in Wulai.
Wutong hike: A hike from Mt. Wulai to Mt. Datong to see beautiful nature, wild flowers, and enjoy indigenous culture.
I found Calanthe sylvatica Thouars Lindl on trail to Mt. Badaoer on August 16, 2020
There are also many other interesting things to do in Wulai. If you want to visit Wulai Old Street, you can start your hike from Zhongzhi Village, end your hike at Miaoxin Temple, and go to Wulai Old Street within a few minutes.
WuTong Trail
Another beautiful suspension bridge on River Nashi in Wulai
Or just take bus at Zhongzhi Stop to Wulai after you hike from Miaoxin Temple if you don't want to spend 45 minutes trying to find the trailhead in Zhongzhi Village from the bus stop. It's pity that Wulai Public Hot Spring is long gone, but you still can enjoy it at the hotel.
I highly recommend this trail for those who want to experience the nature and culture within one day.
Have you been to Wulai and done hot springs? What do you think about those trails nearby? Please leave comments below. Don't forget to subscribe to newsletters to know more about the exciting trails in Taiwan.

Map and Itinerary

Group Hike or Solo Hike: Solo hike
Date of Hike: April 18, 2020

Route map for WuTong Trail: Mt Wulai To Mt Datong 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.

Based on my hike on April 18, 2020

08:27 Arrived at Wulai, took photos, and headed to Miaoxin Temple
08:36 Found the trailhead
08:57 Saw a junction and took the right
09:51 Took a rest
10:21 Reached a ridge
11:14 Reached Mt. Wulai Front Peak and took photos
11:33 Reached Mt. Wulai
11:54 Saw a junction and checked out the left one to see the rock
11:58 Reached the rock and took photos of the amazing views
12:11 Saw Striped Jug Flower Orchid and took photos for about 10 minutes
12:30 Took a lunch break for about 30 minutes
13:30 Reached Mt. Datong, and met other hikers
13:48 Continued the hike and noticed the change of the vegetation
13:57 Passed the big sign of Mt. Datong Hiking Trail and reached Mt. Datong East Peak within a few minutes
14:06 Took the left at the junction
14:21 Encountered the first section of wooden steps
14:37 Climbed up the ridgeline and saw the sign about the chessboard rock formation
14:42 Took the left trail at the junction
15:00 Saw the sign of Mt. Sikanshui on a timber post
15:05 Reached the junction to Mt. Sikanshui, headed to the trail, but gave up around 5 minutes later and turned back
15:25 Saw wooden steps
15:31 Saw the sign of 0.7K/2.3K Saint Jiuxuan Temple 九玄聖宮 on a timber post
15:40 Saw sign of Zhongzhi Police Statin 忠治派出所 and chairs. Took a rest to eat my cupcake
15:55 Saw Tung tree blosoms and took photos
15:59 Exited the trail through the gate of Mt. Datong Hiking Trail
16:29 Reached Zhongzhi Village
16:33 Reached Xingwu Road Section 5 and arrived at the bus stop
Total time: 8 hours 6 minutes, including breaks

Recommended Blogs and Resources:

Chinese only:
陳生: 大桶山、烏來山縱走
Max Kuo: 三訪烏來大桶山,尋蘭趣

Related Posts on Taiwan Hikes:

Tonghou River Tracing
Tonghou Traversing Trail