Please check out the other blog entries I've written about the Pingxi Valley over the years. Between them I think I've covered the majority of the major and small sites.
I'd never spent much time in Pingxi town (平溪 - Peaceful Stream) itself before. The old street is fairly ordinary: Not quite as charming as Jingtong's and not as unusual as Shifen's. There's the usual array of tastefully decorated cafes and multiple souvenir shops.
The main attractions are sky lanterns and the hike up the crags nearby however the town does have a couple of other unusual sites.
Above the town past a ghoulish looking zebra (stay weird Taiwan) are a series of small caves. These were used as bomb shelters during World War 2.
I thought that was all there was up here but passing by the extremely golden Guanyin temple I noticed another cave entrance. This was the Eight Immortals Cave.
Originally it was a bomb shelter but it was further excavated in 1983 to create a tourist attraction. The cave is quite long and dark. Most of the lights were off while I was exploring. Beyond a little entrance fountain with a Guanyin statue the walls are unadorned. Little side chambers branch off and contain chairs and tables. The interior was wonderfully cool on what was a really hot day and I wondered why more people weren't sheltering from the heat in here.
I soon got my answer. A mass of legs and antennae the size of my face was wriggling up a wall. With just my phone torch for light I began to get paranoid. Was I surrounded by these horrible cave centipedes? Walking quickly out of the a side chamber into the main tunnel I followed it to the end. It seemed to end in some sort of gated off garage or utility room so I headed back out.
Other than these sites there's a small wooded trail above the town and a Japanese era bridge. The bridge is marked on Google Maps but it's so unimpressive that I passed right by it before I noticed it.
The Pingxi Crags, Zhongyang, and Dongshige Old Trail
Above Pingxi is one of the better hikes in the area. The Pingxi Crags are a series of pinnacles and points straight out of an old ink landscape painting with some dizzying climbs and great views. As the lower peaks are well covered in many other blogs I'll just go over them briefly here. The entrance to the trail and a good map can be found next to the 阿真的店 Restaurant (routes are all marked on the Hidden Taiwan Map). This first trail is also called the Xiaozishan Trail.
Even if you aren't the most confident climber the peaks are well developed with ropes and ladders, but you will still need a good head for heights. This is especially so for the dramatic Xiaozi peak which is a sheer pinnacle of rock. It looks as though it would be impossible to climb from most angles. The surrounding trails to the tops of Cien, Cimu and Putuo Peaks are easy to see from up here. The story behind the peak names goes that an old guard in Chaing Kai Shek's regime carved the steps and trails. He chose the names Cimu (Loving Mother) and Xiaozi (Dutiful Son) as CKS was famed for his filial piety. There's a bat cave marked on some maps in the area but it wasn't very impressive.
Zhongyang and the Dongshige Trail
The only exception to the easy difficulty is the more out of the way Zhongyang Piton (piton is some strange translation of point or peak). This peak has a quite dangerous cliff face with poor footholds on the near side and it’s fairly steep on the far side as well. You need to be an experienced climber with some good upper body strength to climb this one.
I would highly recommend finding the trail to Zhongyang from the near side and not looping around from the far side. The descent on a damp day with little grip was one of the scariest I've done in Taiwan. The peak of Zhongyang is small but there are some nice views. Coming down on the far side you'll reach the remains of an old coal mine. The few outbuildings here are in ruins but the river valley is beautiful. A cerulean blue pool blocks any passage into the abandoned tunnel.
If you want to skip Zhongyang but still visit this valley there's a trail next to a dramatic sheer cliff that connects it with the crags area. From the mine the flat bed of an old mining railway leads back to Pingxi (this is the Dongshige Trail) or simply follow the cliff trail back to the crags. This area is a maze of routes but I've marked stuff out on the Hidden Taiwan Map for some clarity.
From the mine a trail heads towards Stinky Head Peak, which I'm yet to visit. You can also reach Fengtou Peak from here. I had an extremely vivid dream I fell off Fengtou so rather than tempt fate I've decided to skip that one forever. From other accounts it's a dangerous hike with small ledges and exposed narrow ridges (though on one blog Zhongyang is the more dangerous peak).
The entirety of the sites in Pingxi Town and the full hiking routes should take about a day if you're quite fit. Just the crags and the town would be more relaxed and easily completed in a day. Sites are as ever marked on the Hidden Taiwan Map. The adventures that make up these entries are often posted as Instagram stories at tomrookart first. So give that a follow too if you like as it can sometimes be a year or more before stuff turns up here!