Taiwan Miaoli Cycling Southern Loop Route Summary:
- Starting Location: Below LiYuTan Arch Bridge (鯉魚潭拱橋). There is parking space below.
- Length: 92km. Elevation gain: ~1700 m.
- Hill profile: varied. No long hills but have many short steep ones.
- Good for:
- Winter training. Short steep hill repeat.
- WARNING: Aggressive dogs may present at country side.
- Route Highlights:
In Taiwan, Miaoli is an often neglected place for cyclists. It is a relatively poor agricultural county, lacks no good roads up to high mountains, and does not have a big city to for a big cycling community.
Miaoli, Taiwan’s country-side county.
On the other hand, Miaoli is great for cyclists who prefer a quiet ride rather than “epic”, “must-do”, “tourists-fighting” rides. Its hilly terrains also created many isolated point of interests that are ideal for cyclists to visit.
The locally famous LongTeng Broken Bridge (龍騰斷橋).
Our South Miaoli Loop began at an unmarked bike trail head beneath a train arch bridge. It was windy and chilly in the morning.
The first time I had to wear a jacket outside Taiwan’s mountain areas.
Saw 10 in Taiwan.
Under the great arch.
This trailhead is unmarked on Google. I found it by accident.
Arch bridge at a distance.
The routes first went towards LiYuTan Reservoir (鯉魚潭水庫), our first point of interest. Very few cars along the reservoir’s downstream valley.
A little tree farm?
A downstream secondary dam, not our main target.
The main dam at a distance.
The main reservoir welcoming sign. Left was toward the dam, and the right was the management office.
I bumped into a few cyclists groups along the way. Seemed like the was a popular local route.
A few more climb and we reached the dam’s vista points.
Emptied 2nd parking lot.
Great downstream valley.
Unfinished vista point structure? Probably ran out of funding. The Taiwanese government really should learn that “Less is More”!
Towards the main reservoir entrance.
Took a peek for the parking lot.
The dam did not allow bicycles to get in, so I had to take a long walk down to the dam, having fun walking on cleats.
Try walking down and up this road with cleats. Ouch!
Very cool “V” shape spillway.
The LiYuTan reservoir is the only Taiwanese reservoir with “tooth shaped” upper dam body.
The dam’s teeth and upstream view.
Having enough of the main dam we continued the route that went from the reservoir’s other side.
A street fruit vendor. Lower Miaoli was a major fruit production area. Now in January the seasonal fruit is Ponkan (椪柑), an orange category with loose peels.
At top of the route was a big orchard area, featuring pears (not in season now.) and ponkan.
Pear field uphill view. January was not pear’s season, so the pear trees did not have leaves.
Pear field down-hill view.
Overseeing the great ZhuoLan (卓蘭) plain area. Over the far hills was TaiChung. The plain area was Taiwan’s major grape production area.
Ponkan fields with orange fruit baskets.
Colorful road-side fruit stand.
Pear trees protected by white plastics for flowering?
Our route soon connected to the main reservoir road. But for me I took a short detour up to a flat area (西坪) south of the reservoir to see some more orchards and fields.
The reservoir. Beneath it was its main road.
The flat agricultural area.
It said “DaHu Strawberry Special Truck”…. does this mean that the famous DaHu strawberries (later in this article) were actually produced here???
Following the white butterfly.
Left was a green house.
Taking a peek into the green house.
“XiPing (西坪) Recreational Farm Area.”
In additional to recreational farms, there were also some beautiful private gardens here for tourists, like this one.
A recreational flower garden.
Having seen many farms the route descended sharply and back to the main reservoir road. Here there was another vista point to see the upper reservoir.
LiYuTan literally means “Carp Lake”, hence the carp statue.
Steps back to the main road.
High viewing platform.
Another reservoir sign. We would soon crossed the bridge far below.
The reservoir road merged with the famous State #3 route that went from Taiwan’s north to south. It crossed the reservoir and passed all the way through Miaoli’s inner area. A great road for motorbikes.
Viewing upper reservoir from State #3 bridge.
Other reservoir side from the bridge.
DaHu District welcoming sign (still far from the main strawberry area.)
The State #3 here was 4 lane wide and had relatively few cars. Nevertheless I felt the speed limit was too fast for a quiet ride.
As Miaoli was abundant with fruits, I decided to leave State #3 and took a detour into rural fruit production area, also adding some more mileage.
The detour started at a local place called ShiJin (石景).
Big orchard turn.
Very cool fruit pillars community mark. Bumped into it when I
missed a turn felt like climbing more.
Typical Miaoli terrain. Miaoli was separated by lines of hills all going from north to south.
Water conservation ponds.
Passing a reservoir branch.
Reservoir and ponkan.
Pitaya fruit (火龍果) field. The circular stack helped support the plants.
The detour route took us south and back to ZhuoLan (卓蘭), which we rode before toward Shei-Pa National Park. In between was a hill-side cemetery which we descended through via a few switch-backs. Kind of cool though.
From closest to far: orchards, cemetery (white buildings), plain and hills.
Cemetery closer look.
I took a short detour up a hill to take some pear flowers shots.
Beautiful white pear flowers.
From ZhuoLan we headed onto County #55 (苗55) that headed back north toward DaHu (大湖), a major strawberry production area. Very quiet and nice on this route, with tons of orchards to look at.
A big ponkan statue.
I saw many of these mysterious metal boxes along the irrigation channel. I’m gonna guess it was the water pump station.
Beautiful orange flowers.
Taiwan’s winter color: brown, green and red.
Ponkan orchard. Ready for pick-up.
Along the way there was the ZhuoLan hydropower plant. Though it didn’t look impressive, it had a tunnel that went through over 2km of mountains east to ShiLin Dam for water.
ZhuoLan hydropower station.
As we continued north, we soon reached DaHu, the famous strawberry production area in Miaoli. Now (January) was the strawberry season, so many people came her for strawberry picking.
Type 1: on-the-ground strawberry field.
Type 2: on-the-stack field. Easier to pick for adults.
People picking strawberries.
There was a nice bike route along the fields.
Passing the strawberry fields, the route entered the main DaHu downtown. There was a
tourist trap DaHu strawberry wine place (大湖酒莊) at town center. To avoid traffic, one could cross the main State #3 to a small road at the other side of the river.
Main town welcome sign.
DaHu Strawberry Wine place.
The river flowing through DaHu. Right side was the town center. I’m going to the left side in search of piece of mind.
Field views with green onions.
Hakka kimchi (客家鹹菜).
The red bridge was our way out of the local road.
After leaving DaHu’s strawberry area there was a small old street, the WenShui Old Street (汶水老街), perfect for some food supply.
The bridge to the old street.
Old Street welcome sign.
After a new speedway (#72) opened that bypassed this area, the old street became much quiet.
GuoXin Beast Meat Shop…
These creepy black things were marinated, dried pigs’ liver/bravery, a traditional hakka dish.
Getting some strawberry sausages.
Having supplied at the old street, the route continued onto State #6 that went toward west and entered a big river plain area, Miaoli’s GongGuan (公館).
Big river along State #6. The high-rise road at the other side was #72 Speedway.
The sign of “Golden Town Recreational Farm Area” (黃金小鎮). Here GongGuan was famous for its red date cultivation.
A popular hakka noodle place: FuLe Noodle Store (福樂麵店).
Red date trees. Now (January) was not the season.
For some reason the red date fields were always accompanied by lotus fields.
A sign for an interesting local name: ShiWeiXiang (石圍牆), which literally means “stone walls”.
A racing pigeon veterinary hospital. Pigeon racing is a popular sport for country-side Taiwanese.
Lotus fields surrounding red date trees.
After passing GongGuan, the route went onto a big bridge and crossed the river south. There was a pedestrian walkway at the bridge’s side. Good for bicycles, but be cautious for some uneven parts.
Broken, rotten chairs that nobody used.
After crossing the river we turned left and continued heading south.
tourist trap great Miaoli recreational place: Hakka Courtyard (客家大院), featuring fake traditional hakka building.
Here the road was County #119, very wide and had very few cars, great for sprinting and enjoying the true country side of Miaoli.
The area here literally means “old chicken cage (老雞籠)”, hence the chicken statue.
Typical Miaoli country side. Notice the brush-like trees on the hills. They were bamboos. Miaoli’s hills had lots of bamboos rather than big leaf trees.
A Formosa Giant Locust (台灣大蝗). It was as big as your finger.
County #119 crossed the hills and entered to another Miaoli’s big town at the other side: SanYi (三義). It was famous for its wood carving and had a museum about it.
Deserted wood trunks for carving.
A wood carving workshop.
There was also a cool new point of interest here: the painted stairs of JianZhong Elementary School (建中國小).
We’ll see the painted object later.
From SanYi we headed onto a local route (County #49) to a famous place in SanYi: the decommissioned ShengXing Station (勝興車站).
Notice the road with the green bus? That road was National HighWay #1 (國道一號), one of the two major highways in Taiwan, going from Taipei to KaohSiung.
A cat-theme gift shop at the station area.
“Rusty Bike Stinky Tofu (老鐵馬臭豆腐).”
A blackboard hakka dishes menu.
Reminded me of zombie movie scenes. At far end was the tunnels.
That “No Crossing” sign was kind of ironic here…
The main station entrance. That statue was kind of creepy.
Some swag top skills.
An old well.
Historical station head’s dorm.
Having enough of the station the route began to descend further south, passing another famous Miaoli’s point of interest: the LongTeng Broken Bridge (龍騰斷橋). The bridge was built during the Japanese Occupation in 1905 and was damaged during a big 1935 earthquake.
Don’t go into this part when you saw this dragon statue and the “broken bridge’s entrance”: it was not the entrance and passed through food vendors. I found this a distasteful way of cheating people to go over shops.
The metal bridge behind was the new, functioning rail bridge.
After passing the broken bridge, the route eventually headed back to the LiYuTan reservoir valley.
Great valley view.
LiYu Elementary School
Heading back to the arch bridge.
Overall Ride Impression:
This was a really nice ride. The traffic was few throughout the route, the views were great, and there were many nice point of interests evenly distributed along the route. Highly recommended.