When it comes to Alishan (阿里山) in Taiwan, most people tend to think of its cherry blossoms, millennium red cypresses, beautiful sunrises, and the iconic forest railway. However, Tefuye Old Trail (特富野古道) is also a must-visit destination that many visitors wouldn’t want to miss when visiting the Alishan National Scenic Area.
Watch the following video of Tefuye Old Trail (特富野古道) in southern Taiwan:
Located in the foothills of Shueishan Mountain (水山) in southern Taiwan’s Chiayi County, this 6.32-kilometer-long popular hiking trail was transformed from an abandoned railway and an old hunting trail.
The railway was constructed in 1910 by the Japanese during the Japanese Colonial Period (1895-1945) for the purpose of transporting lumber in that area, and the hunting trail was built by the Tsou tribe (鄒族) for their livelihood.
The first 3.7 kilometers is an abandoned railway with lush green forests and is a rather easy walk. The remaining 2.62 kilometers is rather hard to hike as there are approximately 2,000 steps along the way, including many railroad tie steps. Therefore, most people return at the 3.7-kilometer mark. With diverse landscapes in all four seasons, the last section is a great location for birdwatching.
In addition to its historical significance, Tefuye Old Trail features a peacock pine plantation (柳杉人工林), which is one of the most typical forest forms in the scenic area. All the trees are tall, stately, and graceful, with straight, reddish brown trunks.
Peacock pine is also called Japanese cedar (Cryptomeria japonica) or Japanese redwood (日本柳杉). There were nearly 30 million peacock pine trees planted by the Japanese starting in 1911 following the clearcutting of the Taiwan red cypress and camphor trees by the Japanese.
Peacock pine is lightweight, strong, and resistant to decay. It is thus widely used for posts for traditional Japanese tea houses and interior paneling in Japan. However, due to Taiwan’s humid subtropical climate, peacock pine grows more quickly in Taiwan, where it reaches its senescent period in about 15 to 20 years.
Since the quality of peacock pine trees planted in Taiwan is not as good as that of the trees planted in Japan, it doesn’t have much economic value. As a result, many experts believe that Taiwan’s centennial peacock pine plantation practice is a failed policy. Nevertheless, the awesomeness of the peacock pine plantation adds much beauty to the historical trail.
Today, stumps of Taiwan red cypress can still be spotted along Tefuye Old Tail, which reminds visitors of Taiwan red cypress logging long ago.