Lakeside cycling: Hualien County's Liyutan
By Cheryl Robbins
Liyutan is located at the foot of Liyu Mountain, for which it is named, in Shoufeng Township, less than 20 kilometers from Hualien City. "Tan" in Chinese means lake, and this is the largest natural lake in Hualien County, measuring about 1.6 kilometers in length and 930 meters in width. A series of events led to the formation of this lake. The first was erosion, which created a river-capture phenomenon. A change in direction of flow of one of several rivers initiated the development of this body of water. Subsequently, an increase in the amount of silt blocked the outlet, expanding this lake, which continues to be fed by subterranean river drainage.
With deep blue waters surrounded by dark green mountains, this lake was once a popular destination especially for people traveling between Hualien and Taitung through the East Rift Valley. However, as roads for faster travel were constructed, bypassing this lake, it became somewhat forgotten. This means that this is a place to enjoy outdoor recreation and beautiful natural scenery without the crowds.
One of the most popular activities is completing the five-kilometer cycling path that loops around this lake. Much of the path is only open to pedestrians and cyclists, allowing for safe and tranquil enjoyment. There are some uphill climbs, making this path a bit of a challenge, while the downhill sections offer a thrill. Those of average fitness should be able to complete it in around one hour, or longer if lingering to enjoy the scenic views. There are a number of rest areas with benches and tables perfect for doing just that.
If you do not have your own bicycle, there is a rental service at the visitor center and a couple of rental shops nearby. One such shop is Shan Hu, which is officially open from about 8:00 am to dusk. However, the couple who runs this shop is often up early, so in the summer months if you want to ride before temperatures rise, you can give them a call (Tel: 038-8641562). They offer two wheel bikes for NT$100 to NT$150 depending on how long you ride. A four-wheel tandem carriage is available for NT$600 per hour. Small electric scooters can be rented for NT$300 per hour, but scooters need to be brought back to the shop at the end of one hour to avoid running out of power.
The somewhat unfortunate thing is the small selection of bicycles on offer compared to other cycling areas. Many of the bicycles are somewhat old and it can be difficult to find battery powered or electric scooters for those not as physically in shape.
Once you have obtained a bicycle, you can begin your exploration of this picturesque area. Maps and information can be obtained from the visitor center, and maps are also positioned at various points along the cycling path. Next to the visitor center is a lakeside park filled with a diversity of stone sculptures.
There is also a hiking trail up the 600-meter-high Liyu Mountain. To enjoy the lake itself, rent a pedal boat or kayak, or take a motorboat ride.
This lake is located within the Chihnan Forest Recreation Area, which was once the site of a logging camp. This camp closed down in the 1980s due to a government ban on logging of natural forests. Near the lake, you will find exhibitions on its history, as well as nature trails.
There are several guesthouse options and campgrounds, including one that features parked recreational vehicles, for enjoying all of the diverse recreational options on and around this lake at a leisurely pace.