Cycling through diverse hillside scenery – Luoshan Bikeway
By Cheryl Robbins
The Luoshan Recreation Area is in Fuli Township of Hualien County. The entrance is located along Hualien County Road 79. This can be reached from Provincial Highway 9, which runs through the East Rift Valley and connects Hualien and Taitung counties. A major landmark at the intersection of this county road and provincial highway is the Fuli Township Farmers’ Association visitor center. Many cyclists make use of this facility as a rest stop. It is also a place to purchase locally produced agricultural products. Across from the visitor center, a field is often used for outdoor exhibits such as those produced from rice straw or rice husks.
The 10.8-kilometer Luoshan Bikeway begins at the Luoshan Visitor Center. It is a beautiful ride, but it is winding and uphill most of the way, and sometimes narrow. Thus, this cycling path is recommended for those with an above average physical fitness level and with some cycling experience.
It is unfortunate that there are no bicycle rental shops nearby. If you want to rent a bicycle it is best to do so at one of the rental shops near the Yuli train station and begin your ride from there. Otherwise, you will need to have your own bicycle with you. At the Luoshan Visitor Center it is possible to see oBikes parked, but these require downloading of an app and advance registration, so may not be suited to short-term visitors to Taiwan.
The ride begins deceptively easy, passing by some historical sites. The first is a six-decades old grocery store. Its original bamboo structure can still be seen in some places, as can old advertising signs, giving it a nostalgic feel.
Across the street is a land god temple, which also serves as the local school bus stop, complete with bench. Next to that is the Luoshan Tuque House, a historical residence nearly a century old. The word “tuque” refers to bricks of clay and rice husks with glutinous rice paste mortar. After undergoing some renovation, this will be turned into a community cultural hall.
From here, the road winds upward. A must-stop is the Luoshan Waterfall. From the parking lot, it is a steep hike to the top of the waterfall. This trail is sometimes temporarily closed for repairs, as it was at the time of my visit. A shorter and easier walk brings you to a natural pool at the base of the fall, perfect for cooling off on a hot summer’s day. Above this pool is a bridge from where to view the surrounding scenery. This bridge once connected two trails leading to the top of the fall, but both are now closed due to typhoon damage, and it was unsure at the time of my visit when they will reopen.
After getting back onto County Road 79, keep heading upward past rice paddies and a long irrigation canal. Luoshan Village was developed during the Japanese occupation era (1895-1945), and the first rice paddies were established here during that period, as was this above-ground canal, through which water flows from the Luoshan Waterfall to the Luoshan Big Fish Pond. This pond although once important to local agriculture is now mostly a place for recreation.
The Luoshan Big Fish Pond, as its name suggests is a large pond, crisscrossed by wooden bridges with verdant hills and the Luoshan Waterfall as a backdrop. From here, it is only a few hundred meters of flat gravel trail to an area of mud volcanoes. These are not large cone-shaped structures, but places where mud, rich in minerals, bubbles up from the ground.
A local association trains guides to accompany groups through this area. This association also encourages farmstay experiences. Visitors can stay overnight with a local farming family, and try out some farming activities. English-speaking community guides are available, but it is best to reserve in advance by contacting the Fuli Township Farmers Association at (038) 882-1705.