Exploring Xitou Nature Recreation Area in Nantou, Taiwan

Bamboo Forest - Xitou
Bamboo Forest – Xitou

Whenever the forested area called Xitou pops into my mind, I recall a very amusing conversation I once had with my 5 year old students when I taught in Taipei. I was introducing the word ‘bamboo’ to them, but none of the students fully understood what I was talking about (too bad the famous baby panda at the Taipei Zoo, Yuanzi, wasn’t around at that time. I could have just told them that bamboo is what Yuanzi eats every day.)

Anyway, after several failed attempts at drawing, I finally admitted defeat and promised I would bring a picture of bamboo that I took in Xitou.

I was met with confused looks!

A little while later, my Chinese co-teacher returned to the classroom and they asked her ‘Why is Teacher Constance bringing in pictures of washing her hair?’

Another situation of same pronunciation, different tones! Xitou, the place, sounds like xitou, meaning ‘to wash one’s hair’; however, said with different tones!

Now, let’s get to the real purpose of this post and I promise that if you continue reading, you will not see any pictures of me washing my hair! 😉

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General Information about Xitou

‘Xitou Nature Recreation Area’ (溪頭森林遊樂區), often referred to as just ‘Xitou’ (Sitou), is located in Nantou County. It is a beautiful area known for its spectacular natural scenery, good hiking trails, and pretty high ‘sky walk.’ (Well, high for me! – I am not a fan of heights!) It is one of the places I love returning to again and again.

This forest recreation area is the perfect weekend escape from the hustle and bustle of every day life. And at an elevation of 850 meters, it is the ideal spot to cool down from the hot humid heat of summer and it is the perfect hiking area in winter as temperatures don’t get too cold there. The well-maintained trails weave through wooded areas and are perfect for a weekend leisurely stroll. Benches are also scattered around the trails and paved walking areas for those who would like to take a moment to relax and soak up the natural scenery. Plus, there are a few hotels conveniently located near the entrance as well as a campsite.

Xitou has a lot to offer so get there as early as possible. Here are a few of the highlights from our last visit.

Entrance to Sky Walk - Xitou
Entrance to Sky Walk – Xitou
View from Sky Walk - Xitou
View from Sky Walk – Xitou

The Sky Walk

This is one of the latest additions in Xitou and one thing that is not to be missed. It gives you a different perspective of the forest as you are above the tree line and looking down.

I hadn’t been to Xitou in awhile and I couldn’t wait to check the sky walk out. However, as we walked along the path from the entrance to the sky walk, I began to over think the whole thing. Just the thought of crossing it made my heart start to pound and my head feel dizzy. And who could blame me? I am terrified of heights and crossing a 22.6 meter high structure, which is equivalent of a 7 or 8 story tall building, is not for the faint of heart. Picturing myself walking those 18 meters above the trees started to terrify me.

However, I wouldn’t dare allow my husband to have sole bragging rights that he crossed it and I didn’t, so I did it. It provided me with a bird’s eye view of the forest above the tree line. Once I adjusted to the height and the constant shaking of the structure as people passed, I enjoyed the views from above. I couldn’t believe that I had the nerve to stay on it for so long, especially since the walking platform was made of see-through grids of steel.

The Forest Trail - Xitou
The Forest Trail – Xitou

The ‘Forest Trail’

This trail offers awesome scenic views as the path weaves through a forested area. The surrounding tall trees provide the perfect shade from the sun.

As we made our way passed the old tree and continued through the forest, we enjoyed the surrounding natural scenery. I could still feel the adrenalin in my body from crossing the sky walk. Yes, there was a bounce in my step as I trotted along the path passing the neatly scattered trees. I bet everyone noticed the huge smile on my face that day as I relived those minutes on the sky bridge.

Bamboo Forest - Xitou
Bamboo Forest – Xitou

Bamboo Forest

The trail is absolutely lovely – I mean, who would not love walking a well-maintained path surrounded by tall bamboo trees? There is also a bamboo cottage along the way as well.

This is another one of my favorite areas to explore in Xitou and last time was no exception. Once we veered left off the main paved trail and walked for a minute or two, I was surprised that the bamboo forest was deserted. A sole hiker passed every 5 or 10 minutes, but other than that, we had the entire place to ourselves. We sat, ate our lunch, and just enjoyed the sound the birds and insects. And from the looks of the picture located above, it just proves that you don’t need to pay top dollar for perfect views!

University Pond - Xitou
University Pond – Xitou

University Pond

University Pond is a another beautiful area and it is located in close proximity to the entrance and parking lot. However, it tends to become congested with visitors during the weekend – with people who want to enjoy the fresh clean air and cool mountain breeze but are not willing to do venture too far. It is here where you can find the iconic bamboo bridge, which has become the image associated with Xitou, with its reflection casting a reverse image in the water. There are also several places serving food here – the perfect place to refuel after a day of hiking.

This was our last stop. We knew it was going to be crowded but that was okay. We still got to stroll around, enjoy the beauty of the flowers surrounding the pond before making our way back to the entrance and parking lot and commencing our journey to lower elevation and continuing towards home.

~~ Note: An admission fee of NT$200 per person is charged on weekends (NT$150 on weekdays) and there is also a NT$100 parking fee. For more info, check out this website. Also, if you continue to drive a little further up passed Xitou, you can also enjoy another forested area which is free.

Now, over to you! What is your favorite hiking area? Be sure to share your thoughts in the comment box below!

And if you would like to see more of my photos and read more about my daily adventures and hopefully not too many(unfortunate) mishaps, feel free to like me on facebook and/or follow me on twitter.

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58 thoughts on “Exploring Xitou Nature Recreation Area in Nantou, Taiwan

  1. Lovely! I loved the story about the photos with you washing your hair, how funny! 😀
    Looks like a beautiful and peaceful areaーdoes it get quite busy on the weekends?
    I would have had a bit of trouble with that skywalk tooーI don’t mind heights as long as I feel secure (like in a building), but being able to see straight underneath me? *gulp* I walked across a pedestrian-only suspension bridge (its sole purpose was to be one of the longest pedestrian-only suspension bridges in the world, it didn’t really “get” you anywhere… unless you were prepared for a 3-4 hour hike on a very steep mountain. I wasn’t. XD http://www.tripadvisor.jp/Attraction_Review-g1121569-d1573972-Reviews-Aya_Suspension_Bridge-Aya_cho_Higashimorokata_gun_Miyazaki_Prefecture_Kyushu_Oki.html
    Of course the view was lovely, but… well. It made me ponder the purpose of bridges more than I ever would have otherwise!)

    I’m not much of a hiker, but I enjoy walking around new areas. I miss being able to roam as freely as I’m able to in Sweden, so most of my walking here is urban, or countryside”ish”.

    1. I know, right? I taught those kids for 3 years and now they are in junior high. I still keep in contact with some of them!

      And I know how you feel about suspension bridges. I remember crossing my first one and I was terrified (ah – the story of my life now but believe it or not, I haven’t always been scared of heights. I will tell you more about it in a post next week). And that suspension bridge would have my heart pounding out of my chest!!

      1. Aww, that’s great that you still keep in touch with some of your students. 😀 It’s always fun to see how they change and develop, even after they’ve “graduated” from your teaching.

        Ugh yes, that bridge. I was like “Okay you guys, please stop stopping. Move along, Let’s GO. Stop looking DOWN. T-T” A similar experience to when YJ and I went to a haunted house here (Japanese haunted houses are the *most* terrifying) and I was basically physically pushing him to move faster throughout. Man, I still get nervous thinking about it, haha!

  2. This looks very welll maintained (compared what I am personally used to from parks in mainland China…).
    Is it usual in Taiwan that it is so well maintained and furthermore, are there many nature parks ?

    1. I guess I should have listened to my husband and included the fact that these trees were actually planted in the 60’s (I think). This is one of the best maintain nature areas in Taiwan. It is very beautiful there and it is one of my favorite areas, but there are several other places to hike in Taiwan – places with great mountain views and with more challenging, more natural trails.

  3. Wow, the sky-walk is lovely and I’d love to adventure in a bamboo forest, I’ve never seen one in real life, only in photos. This is truly a magical place 🙂

  4. It looks like a beautiful place! The sky walk reminds me of something similar I saw in a park in Yunnan province (southwest China), but it wasn’t that high, maybe 3 or 4 meters from the ground.

    Can you actually cross that bamboo bridge?

    BTW, I wouldn’t have had problems to describe bamboo I always say “what pandas eat”, and when I see bamboo somewhere I always say “this is the panda’s restaurant” 😀

    1. Yes, you can actually cross the bamboo bridge. Several pieces of bamboo have been evenly spaced horizontally which provides visitors with something to grip on with their feet when they cross. I wish I had taken a picture of it – I will check to see if my husband took one with his camera that day.

      Yes, I bet bamboo and pandas are readily known in China. And now in Taiwan, too!! Thanks to the pandas at the zoo.

  5. If Xitou is half as beautiful as your photos, I’d love to go there. I particularly like the photo of the bamboo forest.

    A couple of my favorite hiking places are on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state. One is any of the trails starting from Hurricane Ridge. The other is hiking through the Hoh Rain Forest.

      1. The Hoh Rain Forest has an extremely high rainfall, so people usually choose the summer. But Hurricane Ridge is good hiking in the early fall before the snow falls.

  6. I love your intro story… twice funnier because I’m familiar with the word but I’d ended up pronouncing Xitou as that as well hehe. I didn’t manage to explore Xitou much so it’s nice to have sneak peek from your post. The Forest Trail and Bamboo Forest looks incredible!

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