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With its many national parks, Taiwan is full of incredible forest recreation areas. While Taichung is a quite a way from the nearest national park, residents are still spoiled for choice when it comes to forest escapes. For lush green countryside, waterfalls, and plenty of fresh mountain air, Shanlinxi is the perfect year-round wooded retreat within driving distance of the city.
Located near Xitou Forest Park and just under two hours’ drive from Taichung, Shanlinxi Forest is the least popular of the two forest recreation areas, and that’s a good thing. Xitou with its Monster Village draws in the family day trip crowd, and while it’s a great spot to visit, the masses of tourists can make a trip there a little much at times.
Shanlinxi, on the other hand, gets far fewer visitors. Of course, there are still crowds on holidays and weekends, but it’s a much more relaxed and peaceful place.
The best way to get to Shanlinxi is by bus from Taichung. The 6883 bus from Taichung takes you directly to Xitou where you can mingle with the throngs of tourists there to visit the Monster Village. From there it’s another bus and a 45-minute ride to Shanlinxi. Interestingly on the road between the two forest areas, there are twelve switchbacks each named for one of the animals of the Chinese zodiac.
If you’re traveling by car, it’s an hour and forty-five minutes from Taichung City. Take Highway 3 to Chelungpu Fault Preservation Park (worth a quick visit) then follow the signs for Shanlinxi.
Surrounded by mountain tea farms and at an altitude of around 1600 meters, temperatures here are certainly on the cooler side than you’ll be used to in the city. So it is best to dress for Autumn/Spring weather. If you’re planning to hike (or even just walk the paths) then, of course, you should bring the right shoes or boots. A trip to Shanlinxi, even if just for the day, is not one for flip flops.
As soon as you arrive, you’ll see that there’s pretty much only one reason that people visit the area; the waterfalls. There are five major falls in total Qinglong, Songlong, Shyi-jing-ji, Yenyen, and Tian-Ti-Yen all of which are an easy walk from the main recreation area.
The paths are easily navigated with clear signage for each of the falls, and there’s not much climbing involved at all so it should pose no problems even for those a little less light on their feet.
Within the recreation area, there’s a shop and a few places to eat so you don’t need to worry about forgetting your water. There’s also a pagoda with a bell that visitors are encouraged to ring when they pass which is fun for the first time, but as the sound carries throughout the forest, it can get a little tedious hearing it.
Perhaps the most interesting place to visit here is Shuiyang Forest although it’s not an option for day trippers. It’s a four-hour hike, but the scenery and the opportunity to camp by the lakeside are well worth the effort.
Not many people stay overnight in Shanlinxi, but there is a hotel within the park area that boasts a range of rooms to suit most budgets. The Sun Link Sea Hotel (a strange variation of the forest’s Chinese name) has both western and Japanese style rooms and considering it’s the only place to stay, is quite affordable. The hotel is also well with walking distance of the five waterfalls.