Saturday, November 21, 2015

QingTianGang 擎天崗 in Yangmingshan Park

Qingtiangang is one of the most popular mountain-top spots for recreation in Taipei City. Weekend revelers stream up the narrow roads connecting to this Japanese-made cow pasture to enjoy an afternoon of fresh air and sun. Large open grasslands and ruined colonial buildings set a tone of relaxation, engagement with nature, and a sense of history.

Welcome!

The meadow everyone visits, with cows. Note the couple on the left.


The meadows surrounding the parking lot area were actually populated with livestock by the Japanese during the colonial era. There was a need for pastureland near the mines which were springing up all across northern Taiwan, and what is now known as Qingtiangang was their answer. Today the pasture is only a fraction of its original size due to the regrowth of inedible plants and trees in the once completely deforested space. The span of the pasture once went from the foot of Qixingshan to Fengguikou, which backs up to the neighborhood of the national palace museum.


Inedible grasses are returning to the meadow lands.

Today you can still see ancestors of the original cattle grazing in the meadows. Their numbers have been greatly reduced, resulting in a slowly returning crop of elephant grass and shrubs in areas where they rarely graze. In fact, there are two different areas which feature cattle, divided by about a half an hour hike through the forest.

A cattle track leading between pastures separated by regrown trees.

Hiker beware: the cows in the far pastures are not as friendly towards humans as the ones near the parking lot. One afternoon some friends and I witnessed an attack by a bull on an unsuspecting hiker who had gotten too close to one of the younger calves. You'll know these cows because their coats are a bit lighter than their pacifist brothers.

The cows near the parking lot however, which tend to be blacker in color, are quite docile and don't seem to mind the constant flow of humans into and out of their environment. While park services regularly repairs the fences to keep humans and cattle separate, it's not uncommon to see people having a picnic while a cow grazes mere steps away.

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Approaching the cows is not suggested - they are wild animals after all - but many people pose for selfies and group pics while the bovines graze indifferently. If you are going to go for an up close and personal look, be sure to take it slow and monitor the animal's response. This website does not condone touching or approaching the animals for safety reasons, however.

Don't get a foot full of cow poop.

Despite the obvious presence of cattle, like massive cow pies and muddy tracks along the trails, the real draw of Qingtiangang is the people who flock here in droves. Toting picnics, dogs, and little toddlers, you can spend hours up here people watching. Enjoy a walk through the pasture, taking time to enjoy all of the sights and sounds around you, as well as the mayhem of throngs of weekenders sharing the same space.

Picnic party.

Take some time out to visit the Japanese-era antiaircraft turrets, and make the short hike to the remaining gate from an old fort which had been set up on top of the mountain. There are signs in English and Mandarin to explain the strategic value of the area, although records suggest the anti-aircraft weapons were not so effective.

A turret from afar.

Cement remains of the turrets.


The best way to get here is by walking, or driving a car or scooter. For walking either come up from Fengguikou or get off the Yangmingshan bus at Lengshuikeng, and either follow the wooded trail (strongly recommended) or use the paved road with the cars. Traffic is surprisingly minimal even on busy weekends - see below - so you can walk the twisting road with relative safety. The hot spring at the fork in the road for Qingtiangang near Lengshuikeng is a great way to reward yourself for making the journey on foot.

If you plan to drive you'll need to wait in a massive line to pay a 50NT entry fee and then park. On a nice sunny weekend the line can take well over an hour, if not more, with cars lining up as far back as the Jingshan nature center 菁山自然中心. Scooters may also need to wait in a shorter scooter line, and pay 20NT to park. Free parking does exist for cars and scooters near Lengshuikeng, so walking can actually save you time and money.

Unless it is absolutely necessary you should avoid taking the bus here on the weekend. On the way in the bus could get stuck in traffic, so be prepared to hop off at Lengshuikeng if necessary. On the way out the lines are insanely long, so be prepared to wait. Weekends are notoriously busy all over the mountain, so much so the police restrict vehicle access during peak hours, yet bus service is maddeningly limited.

Back of the line for that little bus - about 75 people deep.

However you get here, bring yourself some snacks and a drink or two - or buy them at the shop nearby - and enjoy a day out with throngs of local families, some cows, and a bit of history.

Hikers can head back to Lengshuikeng and then on to Qixingshan or stay along the flatter lands south back to the main visitors center. Heading north will take you towards Datun Nature Center, Xiaoyoukeng or down towards SanZhi. Eastbound trails will end up at Fengguikou, about 8 kilometers away.

Hikes from the meadow entrance, Qingtiangang.

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