The Fenrui Historical trail is one of the best hikes we’ve done in Asia and definitely the best bamboo forests we’ve seen anywhere in the world.
If you’re going to do one hike in Taiwan, make sure it’s this. It’s worth going to Fenchihu, near the popular spot Alishan, for this alone.
What is the Fenrui Historical Trail?
Distance: 7.19km one-way (you may need to walk the same route back).
Elevation: 330m, long sections with stairs.
Markers: The track is pretty well signposted overall but not at every junction, if in doubt look out for the ribbons tied to the trees for guidance.
The Fenrui Historical Trail is a 7km trail between Fenchihu and Ruelli in Chiayi province in Taiwan. The track is moderate if walked one way and hard if walked as a return, with the majority being either sharply up or downhill, with only a few short sections being flat.
This hike is characterised by the incredible tall and dense bamboo forests that lie between the two villages. Just taking in these amazing plants up close is awe-inspiring, they reach up so high that they block out the sun. We’ve never seen anything like it.
There’s also a beautiful lookout point in the middle of track which offers stunning views across the surrounding mountains and is the perfect place for sunset.
Starting the track
The Fenrui Track starts at a car park on the corner of the main road in Fenchihu (marked on the map below). There’s some stairs at the north of the car park which leads to the start of the trail in the middle of the forest.
The path is very well formed and starts uphill almost immediately and won’t let up for 1.5km. If you’re lucky, you’ll hear monkeys crashing through the trees as you venture into a rural area that feels like a million miles away from the densely populated West Coast. It was the first time in Taiwan where we felt we had space and solitude and we loved it.
It’s not long before you get to your first bamboo forest that is only a few hundred metres into the track. It only gets better as you walk further.
The track continues uphill and weaves around the side of the mountain. We heard many exotic bird sounds, none of which we could identify but were lovely backdrop to the hike! There are sections of the track that can be really narrow with a steep drop on one side, so take care along this section. After 1km you’ll reach another bamboo forest where the path is a long, narrow channel which feels like you are walking through a movie set. It is difficult to put into words how amazing it felt to be walking through these forests completely alone.
As this section of track is pretty high up, you’ll likely have fog and clouds blowing in and out making it even more mystical.
The path turns a corner and reaches a clearing with a small shelter and sign. From here the track changes to an undulating path but offers some of our favourite views.
You’ll see a few openings between the trees and bushes that look out towards some of the surrounding mountains and valley. You’ll eventually reach a big clearing marked as a halfway spot (note it is a halfway spot not the true halfway point of the trail!) which is the perfect spot for sunset if you are walking the track as a return, you may get lucky and see the sea of clouds in the right conditions! If you do catch sunset here it obviously means you will have several kilometres of track to walk in the dark so bring a good torch.
The track downhill to Ruelli
After 4km you’ll soon take the path which leads almost continuously downhill. It’s pretty steep the entire way and is even worse in the other direction! You should take care with this section as you really do begin to feel the downhill in your knees after a while.
This is all made much better by the return of the bamboo forests. If you liked the ones on the Fenchihu side, then you’ll love the ones on the Ruelli side.
The Forest of Forgetting Sorrow
Never have I known a more apt name for an area than the “Forest of Forgetting Sorrow”. It is a mesmerising place of giant bamboo trees densely packed together in their thousands and you quickly forget everything that may have been on your mind. Prior to arriving in the Alishan area, we hadn’t particularly liked any place in Taiwan too much and this hike really made us feel grateful to have stuck with it and ventured on into rural Taiwan.
We’ve seen nothing quite like it. It was an incredible place.
In the mid-afternoon light the forest has a beautiful golden glow to it which made it feel even more special. It’s surprisingly warm in the forest given that you are in the mountains and the bamboo was cool to the touch. A unique way to cool yourself down!
The teafields of Ruelli
You’re not quite done with the bamboo yet as the remainder of the trail is pretty much bamboo forest after bamboo forest. Then all of a sudden the forest stops and you’re presented with tea fields and open views. This is the sign that you’re very close to Ruelli.
Soon the path finishes by a road that has a few more tea fields around it. There is slim to no chance that you will find a ride back to Fenchihu so if you want to walk this track one way it is better to catch a ride from Fenchihu to Ruelli and walk the track in the opposite direction to us.
If you didn’t organise anything I guess there are worse things than having to walk one of our favourite tracks in Asia twice. 😂
How to do the Fenrui Historical Trail
No one really wants to walk the same trail back especially when it is steep, but unless you organise transport beforehand this is what you’ll have to do. The track finishes at a remote road in Ruelli where you’ll struggle to find another person, let alone a bus or taxi. There is also nowhere to buy food or drink unless you walk a further 1.5km towards the village proper.
Ruelli is about 30km away from Fenchihu, so getting back by road is very difficult. An option is to use Tripool or organise transport in Fenchihu to drop you in Ruelli and walk back to your accommodation. Although the track is a lot harder this way (the track from Ruelli is incredibly steep uphill for 3km), you won’t have to do a 14km round trip.
Best time to do the trail
You won’t have to worry about crowds on the trail, we saw only one couple all day. While you don’t need to start really early, you shouldn’t leave it too late. We took 2.5 hours to do the trail in each direction, so you should leave before midday if you are planning to do the walk as a return.
Getting to Fenchihu
There are three buses from Chiayi Train station (7.05am, 9.35 am and 12:05pm) and one from Chiayi HSR. Alternatively you can take the Forest Train, but it’s incredibly popular and gets booked up weeks in advance. There’s only one service a day on weekdays (9AM, 2 hours 20) with an additional one for weekends (10am, 2 hours 20).
We’d recommend using Tripool instead if you can spare the money. It is like Uber but designed for longer distances. We took Tripool from Taichung to Fenchihu (2 hours) and it cost $1,800 TWD (about $60 USD) for the both of us. It is a lot more expensive than public transport, but at least you can set your own timetable.
Where to stay in Fenchihu
It was ok, we were extremely grateful that we had our room upgraded when we arrived as we saw the one we had booked and it was tiny! The upgraded rooms upstairs all had windows with village and tree views and were large.
The room was clean and had the usual basic wet room style bathroom, hot water is only available in the evenings, I think it was from around 5pm - 11pm. Again pricey for what you get but in our experience that was all of Taiwan!!
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Are you heading to Taiwan? Do you think there’s any other walk in Asia quite like the Fenrui Trail? Let us know in the comments below!