Thanks to its moderate summertime temperatures of 18 to 21 degrees Celsius, Tengjhih National Forest Recreation Area（藤枝國家森林遊樂區）is a well-known escape from the scorching heat of central Kaohsiung. It takes only two hours to drive from downtown Kaohsiung to this idyllic woodland, where you can breathe in cool, fresh forest air.
The area’s abundant moisture sustains a rare tropical broadleaf mist forest that is home to a variety of plant species and a habitat for numerous animals. Lai Ming-cing（賴明慶）, one of the recreation area’s staff members, shares his daily experience. “Some of my colleagues have seen black bears on the forest trail, and I’ve encountered Formosan serows in the parking lot,” he says, the latter being an endemic bovid species.
Within the forest recreation area, there are four trails, and each has its own distinct character and unique features. Perhaps the most representative is the Begonia Trail（秋海棠步道）, where nearly half of Taiwan’s native begonia species can be found, including the Tengjhih Begonia（藤枝秋海棠）named for this location. The Begonia Trail gradually ascends to an observatory located 1,804 meters above sea level. On clear days, distant ridges are clearly visible, forming a layered and seemingly endless picturesque mountainscape.
The Spruce Trail（雲杉步道）is shorter, and along it you can see the Plank Road Demonstration Area（木馬道示範區）, which shows how logs were moved in the mountains. The first section of the Rhododendron Trail（西施花步道）was formerly part of the Liouguei Police Patrol Road（六龜警備道）, built during the 1895-1945 period of Japanese rule by the colonial authorities to prevent indigenous communities from obstructing Japan’s exploitation of forest resources. Hikers can see tree shadows gracefully falling across the mottled stone riprap and remains of old police stations. At the end of the trail lies a towering Amygdalate-leaved Tanoak（苦扁桃葉石櫟）, the buttress root of which is an awesome height, nearly two meters.
The Sea of Trees Trail（樹海步道) is the most accessible and suitable trail for people of all ages. Along the wide and flat gravel path, dense cypress trees form a natural green barrier. The melodious calls of the Taiwan yuhina（冠羽畫眉）and Formosan lesser scimitar babbler（小彎嘴畫眉）resonate, forming a birdsong symphony that blends seamlessly with nature.
In 2009, Typhoon Morakot devastated the mountain areas of southern Taiwan, and the only access road to Tengjhih collapsed. After years of restoration, the forest recreation area is now open for visitors without any need to make prior reservations. However, due to damage to the access road, visitors are required to walk an additional one kilometer from the parking area to the entrance. If possible, visitors should allow enough time for both an ecological tour and to enjoy forest bathing. Understanding Tengjhih’s past helps us better appreciate this hard-earned forest sanctuary.
Tengjhih National Forest Recreation Area
No. 150, Baoshan Ln., Baoshan Vil., Taoyuan Dist., Kaohsiung City
Opening hours: 8:00~17:00 daily