Huisun Forest Area - 惠蓀林場

日期 2023.1.11
文:Michael McCreesh
Hiking in Taiwan's Huisun Forest Area in Taichung
Song Fong Mountain Trail connects to the Research and Education Centre in Huisun Forest Area along a 2.5km trail.

Huisun Forest Area is located in north central Nantou County in the heart of Taiwan’s Central Mountain Range. This protected area is the largest forest farm among the four experimental forest farms affiliated to National Chung Hsing University and is managed by this university’s Department of Agriculture.

The terrain is rugged and yet, undulating. The scenery is beautiful and diverse with an altitude that ranges from 450m at the entrance of the site to 2,418m at Shoucheng Mountain (守城山). With such an altitude difference, the area has a many diverse and different climate characteristics such as subtropical, warm zone and temperate climate. The forest is also distributed vertically, and there are essentially three zones of plant species micro-climates. The protected area covers an area of ​​7,477 hectares of the stunning mountains, river and deep, rugged valleys of Central Taiwan.

The purpose of setting up the forest area in 1982 was to provide teachers and students of the relevant institutes opportunities to produce experimental research. While the site continues to be used for academic purposes, it is also a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts. All trail and building construction are in line with the existing environment and aim to avoid destroying the original ecosystems as a principle, and use the existing forest landscape and topography to beautify, so that the park still maintains a good natural landscape.

Located a 70 minute drive east of Taichung, or 3 hours south of Hsinchu, this park is mountainous and difficult (and time consuming) to get from these major cities on the west coast of Taiwan. This makes it a perfect Parkbus Taiwan destination.

The site has a rich and long history and once belonged to the “Exercise Forest” of the Emperor of Hokkaido during the Japanese occupation.

Hikes/Trails & Points of Interest:

There are several trails within Huisun Forest Area and they vary in length and difficulty. The trail network here is perfect for day trips or overnight stays, as they are interconnected and loop to offer opportunities for visitors to have vastly different types of experiences here. The site itself is actually quite spread out, but there are a variety of different types of facilities throughout, including a coffee shop, two restaurants, a gift shop, and a visitor center.

While most of the trails are looped, there are a few that feature an ‘out-and-back’ hiking experiences, such as the Frog Rock Path and others. The trails at Huisun Forest Area are quite well-maintained and are suitable for all types of hikers from beginner to novice and advanced, depending on how far (and where) one wishes to hike. The trails vary in length, difficulty and accessibility providing visitors of all skill levels something to explore.

Song Fong Mountain Trail / 松風山步道 (2.5km) – This trail has an easy to moderate rating, primarily due to the slight elevation gained walking this trail north further into the forest area. It takes approximately 20-30 minutes to complete depending on one’s pace and offers nice vistas over the local mountains as one climbs the switchbacks at the start of the trail. The Song Fong Mountain Trail’s trailhead begins across the road from the waterfalls and the longer Fording Trail.

Fording and Misty Trails / 山嵐小徑 (2.2km) – A 1.5-hour forested loop trail starts from the far side of cascading waterfalls and natural water pools of the Fording Trail and concludes by connecting with the upper service area. This is an easy-to-moderate trail with elevation gains of approximately 200m. This trail showcases the multi-layered forest structure around the trail that attracts the many birds that frequent this section of the park. The Misty Trail also acts as a connection to the upper trail network of Huisun Forest Area, including the Giant Pine Deck Trail and onward to the Tang Monument Trail.

Banana Trail (600m)  A short linear trail that takes approximately 10 minutes to walk. This trail is flat and crushed stone. It runs adjacent to the Grassland area and offers great access to the forested hammocks that make Huisun a popular destination for forest bathing.

Frog Rock Trail / 青蛙石步道 (1.6km One-way) – The Frog Rock Trail is a linear trail that heads out towards the Beigang River (北港溪). The out-and-back experience should take the average hiker no more than 45 minutes to an hour if you take your time and enjoy the sites, which we always recommend! Washrooms are available near the end of this hike, where you’ll experience beautiful views of a rugged valley overlooking the Beigang River.

Giant Pine Deck Trail Connecting the Misty Trail with the upper section of the Guandao Mountain Forest Road, the Giant Pine Deck Trail is a moderate trail in terms of difficulty. The trail is well maintained and suitable for beginner hikers, but it’s the distance that visitors should be aware of. By connecting to the Misty Trail and back down to the upper service area, hikers would complete a roughly 7-8km loop.

Azalea Trail / 杜鵑嶺步道 (2km) – This 2km looped route is located near the northern section of the park and is a perfect 1-2 hour extension to the experience of hiking the Tang Monument Trail. It is accessible from behind the Souvenir / Gift Shop, where the closest restrooms are located.

Tang Monument Trail / 湯公碑步道 (4.5km one-way) – An estimated 3-4 hour hike from the upper service area, this trail is the longest single trail in Huisun Forest Area. Connected by the scenic forest road and the Giant Pine Deck & Misty Trails, a combined loop of the eastern section of the park can reach upwards of 6km.

Dozens of hammocks have been set up along the Banana Trail and offer a perfect location for forest bathing.
Dozens of hammocks have been set up along the Banana Trail and offer a perfect location for forest bathing.

Points of Interest:

Huisun Education Centre and Souvenir Shop – The education center at Huisun Forest Area is open to the public but doesn’t offer a tremendous amount of interpretation if you don’t speak Mandarin. Our suggestion is to head to the Souvenir Shop if you’re looking for books, maps, and other information on the local area and wildlife. There is also a wide range of snacks and drinks available here.

Huisun Coffee Shop – Located a few hundred meters from the Fording Trail and just at the trail head to the Banana Trail, this facilities offers tables and seats for outdoor dining and a range of hot and cold drinks. Some light snacks are also available here. Adjacent to the small coffee shop, hikers will find public washrooms and a water refilling station.

Restaurants – Located adjacent to the grassland area and picnic spot, the He-Xin Restaurant offers a variety of drinks and food, including set meals. Service is offered around set times including lunch that is served between 11:30-13:30 with last orders taken at 13:00.

Flora and Fauna – Huisun Forest Area is a haven for insects and animals. With over 80% of the area still offering a pristine forest, the paradise, the plants, trees, and flowers are labeled. The birdlife in Huisun is fantastic, so if you love to get outdoors and listen to songbirds or test your luck at spotting different birds with binoculars or your camera, Huisun Forest Area is a perfect spot. This protected area features diverse habitats, and for those hikers who take the time to stay quiet and look about, this protected area has an abundance of flora and fauna to see including several endemic plants and wildlife. Mammals in the park include the Red-bellied Tree Squirrel, the Formosan Striped Squirrel, the White-faced Flying Squirrel, Formosan Lesser Weasel, civets and macaques, and many more. Keep your eye out for the smaller insects and reptiles, such as snakes. On warmer days, hikers should be careful as the snakes enjoy coming out into the trails to bask in the sun.

Family-Friendly – For those coming from Taichung or Hsinchu, Huisun is a perfect family day trip destination with plenty of easier trails to tire out the little ones, with longer trails for the bigger kids or more adventurous ones! The site also features vast flat and grassy areas that overlook the research and education center, one of the two restaurants, and a gift shop. This site is perfect for picnics, frisbee, soccer or just lounging with family and friends. Just adjacent to this field area is a forested section next to the Banana Trail that features a dozen or so wood hammocks for guests to enjoy. This site is a perfect botanical garden and nature park where kids are safe to explore and and discover the wonderful nature of Taiwan.

Huisun Forest Area also offers plenty of space to relax off the trail and in nature. This site is overlooking the cabins adjacent to the Coffee Shop on site.