Aowanda (奧萬大) Forest Recreation Area maple season - How to go, tips and tricks | luomujie blogspot

Aowanda (奧萬大) Forest Recreation Area maple season - How to go, tips and tricks

Taiwan Aowanda (奧萬大) maple season

Aowanda in Nantou. The home of Taiwan's maple trees.  Also known as the Aowanda National Forest Recreation Area (奧萬大國家森林遊樂區),it's a wonderful place to visit in the mountains of Central Taiwan.  The luomujie blog hit the jackpot again when I went to this tourist destination to see some autumn foliage.   Just a one-hour drive from Cingjing Farm, it is a must-see during the winter season (pseudo-fall season of Taiwan).   I know a lot of people are having difficulty in making an itinerary to go here.  Others going home disappointed. So I made a comprehensive guide to help Taiwanderers see not just a couple of maple leaves, but mountains with hues of yellow, orange and red!

Taiwan Aowanda (奧萬大) maple season

1. When is the best time to see maple leaves/autumn foliage in Aowanda National Forest Recreation Area (奧萬大國家森林遊樂區)?

The best time to experience autumn foliage in Nantou's Aowanda is during the winter season on December.  It's a common misconception to see lots of red maple leaves here during October or November.   You will see maple leaves if you visit the place during these months, but there is no assurance that they will be plenty.  They look good in photos but you only see one, two or three trees.  The changing of color in Aowanda National Forest Recreation Area usually have its peak on the second half of the last month of the year, with a lot of the deciduous Formosan sweet gum in particular, turning green to yellow even up to red.  

A lot of people come to this place during the expected “autumn” season and end up seeing a few red leaves. The metamorphosis on this national forest recreation area like any other place in Taiwan, is dependent on the arrival of the cold northeast monsoon coming from Siberia, and the shortening of the length of the day during winter.   When nighttime becomes longer than daytime, the chlorophyll of leaves become less important and other coloring pigments begin to dominate.   This shortening of the day is often correlated to the dropping of temperatures in the mountains of Nantou to less than 10°C.

When temperatures suddenly drop to 8°C in Aowanda at night, then expect a sudden outburst of orange or red colors after two weeks.  Autumn in Taiwan is different from countries like Japan and South Korea which is located at a higher latitude.   The subtropical island is located at the Tropic of Cancer so the country experiences fall and winter at the same time at its tall mountains in Nantou.  Down below the city of Taichung, it is as if nothing is happening on the maple leaves.

Taiwan Aowanda (奧萬大) maple season

2. Maple/autumn foliage viewing locations in Aowanda

Aowanda which covers 2,787 hectares is a very huge place to explore in one day and the luomujie blog listed the maple viewing spots to make life easier for tourists.  Just remember that to get to these place, one must walk or hike along the trails.  

Taiwan Aowanda (奧萬大) maple season - Formosan sweet gum

2.1. Maple Viewing Platform

Located near the pumping station, visitors must climb a wooden staircase to see the tall trees of the Formosan sweet gum.  Its scientific name is  Liquidambar formosana.  Commonly mistaken as a “maple”, the leaves of this deciduous trees do not belong to the maple family.  They look like maple but are really not.  A standard maple has five leaflets while the Liquidambar has only three.  Tourists usually don't care.  As long as they see red leaves, then they become happy.

The so-called “king maple” tree has the best set of leaves at its peak fall foliage.   The maple viewing platform is the first place in Aowanda to change colors starting on October and serves as the “opening show” for the entire maple season.   It would take 1 to 1.5 hours of walk to get here and back to the Visitor Information Center.   Elderly and those parents who brought their baby in a stroller will have difficulty climbing the staircase.

Taiwan Aowanda (奧萬大) maple season

Taiwan Aowanda (奧萬大) maple season - dawn redwood
dawn redwood trees

Taiwan Aowanda (奧萬大) maple season - bald cypress
young bald cypress trees

Taiwan Aowanda (奧萬大) maple season

2.2 Sakura Garden and Maple Pond

A leisurely stroll to the cherry blossom forest will surprise visitors if they come here in late November to the first-half of December.   There is a possibility of seeing both autumn foliage and pink sakuras if the metamorphosis of leaves become delayed up to the first half of January.  If you are lucky to see leaves in some of the sakura trees, they might be also in red color.  Adding more hue to the place are the bald cypress and red dawnwood.   They are pine trees but shed their leaves during winter.  Red to brown in color during “autumn” in Aowanda, the needles fall when it rains or become freezing cold. 

To get this place, one must walk a kilometer from the Visitor Information Center.  The elderly and parents with babies on strollers will not have any problem walking along this place if they will only come at the right time.  Rain and abnormally hot weather brought by climate change can drastically enhance the falling of maple leaves on the ground.  During my visit on Christmas Eve, most trees were only left with branches with the needles of pine trees on a brown color. So its best to walk here in mid-November to the early December.

Taiwan Aowanda (奧萬大) maple season

Taiwan Aowanda (奧萬大) maple season

Taiwan Aowanda (奧萬大) maple season
The mountain slopes of Aowanda as seen from the Maple Trail

Taiwan Aowanda (奧萬大) maple season

Taiwan Aowanda (奧萬大) maple season

Taiwan Aowanda (奧萬大) maple season

Taiwan Aowanda (奧萬大) maple season

Taiwan Aowanda (奧萬大) maple season
Visitors walking at the Maple Trail

Taiwan Aowanda (奧萬大) maple season

Taiwan Aowanda (奧萬大) maple season

Taiwan Aowanda (奧萬大) maple season

2.3. Maple Trail

I have taken this route during my visit and this is one of the best places to see maple in Aowanda.  There are two ways to get to the maple trail and visitors must take note of these to conserve their body's energy.  Going to the Maple Trail until to Aowanda Suspension Bridge and back to the Visitors Information Center will take 2.5 to 3 hours.   Remember this if you don't want your shuttle bus or private car to leave you in Aowanda.

Taiwan Aowanda (奧萬大) maple season - Maple Trail Strongman Slope

Taiwan Aowanda (奧萬大) maple season - Maple Trail Strongman Slope
Goodluck to all visitors who want to hike the Strongman Slope!

visiting routes:
a).  Visitor Information Center → Sakura Garden → Strongman Slope → Maple Trail 
b).  Visitor Information Center → Wooden Ladder → Maple Trail 

Both a) and b) will be same pathways to walk in going back to the Visitor Information Center.  It is easier to walk down in a) than to climb it.  The Strongman Slope is so steep that you will be gasping in air if you are not used to hiking.   I tested my physical fitness here when I was in a hurry to get back to my service. Haha!  It's a shortcut but will take most of your energy.

Pathway b) takes a longer time to take with the Wooden Ladder as the last challenge to hurdle if you are climbing up.  But  turn your heads and look at the mountains and you will be amazed with the scenery.   The mud-flooded Wanda River is surrounded by hills with yellow to red hues of trees on its slopes.   Although not at par  with  what you can see in South Korea or Japan, at least it can make you fall in love with Aowanda.

Taiwan Aowanda (奧萬大) maple season - Formosan sweet gum
Formosan sweet gum

Taiwan Aowanda (奧萬大) maple season - Formosan sweet gum

Taiwan Aowanda (奧萬大) maple season - Formosan sweet gum

Taiwan Aowanda (奧萬大) maple season - Maple Forest

Taiwan Aowanda (奧萬大) maple season - Maple Forest

Taiwan Aowanda (奧萬大) maple season - Maple Forest

Taiwan Aowanda (奧萬大) maple season - Maple Forest
The Maple Forest as seen from the Bird-watching Platform

2.4. Bird-watching Platform

visiting route: Maple Trail → Bird Watching Platform

After the Maple Trail, visitors will find themselves at the Bird-watching Platform.   There's a gazebo here surrounded with tall trees which are said to be visited by various kinds of birds.   Looking at the Wanda River, one can see the mysterious Maple Forest.  When the temperatures in Aowanda falls to 8°C, which only happens if there is a strong cold front that arrives in Central Taiwan, the leaves here start to change color in two weeks, revealing its red and yellow colors.   The transformation usually starts in November and becomes intense on the second-half of December.  

There was a time when the Maple Forest used to be bigger than what tourists are seeing now.  Many years ago, a typhoon caused a landslide in Aowanda, bringing mud in Wanda River that covered the maple trees that grew along the banks.

A sad story to hear but I still felt lucky when I saw its beauty.  To come here on Aowanda during the autumn foliage season is a rare chance that I should always be thankful of.

Taiwan Aowanda (奧萬大) maple season - Aowanda Suspension Bridge
The 180-meter long and 90-meter high Aowanda Suspension Bridge

Taiwan Aowanda (奧萬大) maple season - Aowanda Suspension Bridge
The Maple Forest and the Aowanda Suspension Bridge

Taiwan Aowanda (奧萬大) maple season - Aowanda Suspension Bridge

Taiwan Aowanda (奧萬大) maple season - Aowanda Suspension Bridge
entrance of the Aowanda Suspension Bridge

Taiwan Aowanda (奧萬大) maple season

 Taiwan Aowanda (奧萬大) maple season - Aowanda Suspension Bridge

2.5. Aowanda Suspension Bridge

visiting route: Bird Watching Platform → Aowanda Suspension Bridge

Gazing at the Maple Forest form the Bird Watching Platform, one must not miss seeing the 180-meter long and 90-meter high Aowanda Suspension Bridge.  It's the most exciting place to be on the forest recreation area.  It was a replacement for the old bridge that was damaged by Typhoon Sepat that devastated the Maple Forest.   Visitors could not get into the Maple Forest, but they can look at it down below from the hanging bridge.

 Taiwan Aowanda (奧萬大) maple season - Maple Forest
The Maple Forest as seen from the Aowanda Suspension Bridge.  It's a pity to see those empty branches that were used to be maple trees.

 Taiwan Aowanda (奧萬大) maple season - view from Aowanda Suspension Bridge

Walking along the bridge, one can stare at the Maple Forest, Wanda River and the mountains surrounding them. When I gazed at the area of the Bird-watching platform (from where I started), I noticed the yellow leaves of the Formosan sweet gum trees that dominate the scenery.   They are the reason why the forest of Aowanda has that distinct golden streaks of autumn.

Taiwan Aowanda (奧萬大) maple season - bald cypress

Taiwan Aowanda (奧萬大) maple season - bald cypress

Taiwan Aowanda (奧萬大) maple season - bald cypress

Taiwan Aowanda (奧萬大) maple season - bald cypress
needles of a bald cypress

Taiwan Aowanda (奧萬大) maple season - bald cypress

Taiwan Aowanda (奧萬大) maple season - bald cypress

2.6. Green Resort Village

But wait there's more!  Before you go home, don't forget to take some selfies at the trio of bald cypress in front of the Green Resort Village.   If you think that pine trees are only evergreen, then it's time to know that some variety that are deciduous.   These pine trees look orange during the fall season and shed their leaves or needles at winter.

Taiwan Aowanda (奧萬大) maple season - bald cypress

Taiwan Aowanda (奧萬大) maple season - bald cypress
The orange to copper red color of the bald cypress indicates that Aowanda has reached its peak of autumn foliage.

During my visit on Christmas Eve, the sun was shining brightly on Aowanda and the real color of bald cypress showed its beauty.  The leaves were shining under the sun! The timing was so perfect to get nice photos.  After one week, the leaves would change color from orange to brown, giving the signal that they would fall soon to the ground.  Their dropping of leaves would be enhanced if there would be rain in Aowanda.  If that happens, then expect to see a carpet of orange needles below the tree.

Taiwan Aowanda (奧萬大) maple season - dawn redwood
dawn redwood trees

Taiwan Aowanda (奧萬大) maple season - bald cypress
The bald cypress trees and Luo-Mu Jie

Not far away from the bald cypress are trees of the dawn redwood,  a kind of pine tree that is native to China.  They look the same with the bald cypress but one characteristic sets them apart from their relative.  Dawn redwoods have a perfect conical shape whereas bald cypress have uneven branching or have flat tops.   The former are abundant in other scenic areas in Taiwan but I consider the latter to be an indicator of good autumn foliage in Aowanda.   When they turn orange at winter solstice (Dec. 22 or 23), it means the peak of maple season is already happening.  Once they become brown, then the show is about to end.  And when they totally shed their leaves, then it's finally over.  The next attraction to see on Aowanda after the maple season will be the blossoming of the pink sakuras.

Taiwan Aowanda (奧萬大) maple season - National Forest Recreation Area

3. How to go to Aowanda National Forest Recreation Area (奧萬大國家森林遊樂區) in Nantou

I know you are dying to see this scenic spot in Taiwan.  So here is how you can get to this place:

3.1. by Bus 6662

The service is only available during weekends and you need to reserve your seat two weeks before your trip by calling the Nantou bus company.    I tried calling them last December and they were able to hand the phone to an English-speaking woman.  They asked me about my preferred date of visit and but it was way too early to be booked, so I wasn't able to reserve the seat. Prospective passengers can only reserve tickets two weeks before the day of their trip and only for Saturday and Sunday trips.

Reservation by phone (049-2984031 ext 29, look for Miss Lin) is on a first-come, first-serve basis.  Booking schedule is as follows: Monday to Friday, 8:30 am to 12:00 noon and at 1:30 pm to 5:00 pm.   In theory, you can get a seat.  But remember that you are not the only Taiwanderer on this world.  You will be competing with thousands of tourists who also want to get a ticket.  Hence, slots will be filled sooner than expected.   Call immediately at the very first minute if you want to ride the bus.  The service starts on October 1 and ends on the last day of March.

If you were able to book, then come on time.   The bus will not wait for you and slots will be given to those people on the waiting list.   The system is:  Bus 6662 will leave Taichung Gancheng bus stop at 7:50 am and will reach the town of Puli in Nantou at 9:15 am.  People who are waiting at the Puli Bus Station can get inside the car as long as there is space to sit on (Those that were supposed to be seated by late-comers).

But there is a catch in this Bus 6662 method,  remember that you are reserving two weeks before your trip.  You still do not know what would be the foliage conditions in the mountains after 14 days.  So you might come to Aowanda with only green leaves to see.   Climate change had drastically affected the changing of colors in forest recreation area by slowing it until January.   Historical data reveals that in the month of January 2017, the maple trees have turned orange and red, two weeks late after its expected metamorphosis in the second half of December.  I even saw one Taiwanese woman on television saying, “Mei you hong ye!”.  No red maple, she exclaimed. Yikes!

3.2. by kkday Half Day Tour to Aowanda Forest Recreation Area from Cingjing

A better alternative to get to Aowanda is by kkday's half-day tour package ([Reserve here]).   For only NTD 750 per person, visitors who are from Cingjing Farm can get to Aowanda in no time.  Depending on the number of passengers,  a van or a mini-bus takes them to the scenic spot from their minsu or hotel.   One thing that I like about this package is that the minimum timeframe needed from the date of reservation to your desired date of adventure is 3 days.  So you already have an idea on what would be the latest foliage conditions in Aowanda before deciding to book.  

For those who are not staying in any of the expensive hotels in Cingjing Farm, or let's say you will be coming from Taichung, you can board the Taiwan Tour Bus (Sun Moon Lake route) at Gancheng Station in the morning (Travel time to Puli is 1 hour and 15 minutes).  Then, get off at Puli Bus Station to transfer to Bus 6658, 6659 and 6664 which will go to Cingjing Farm.   Alight at the Cingjing Guesthouse (國民賓館) bus stop [Google Map] before the 1:00 pm meetup time (Travel time from Puli to Cingjing is 1 hour).  If ever the Chinese-speaking driver comes late, then ask help from the friendly staff of the hotel to talk to the phone.

The package requires a minimum number of two passengers to get approved by kkday.  If you are only a solo traveler, then there is a possibility that your reservation can be canceled even though the tour has been confirmed by the travel agency (Already two people booked but the other one suddenly canceled).  This happened to me during the cherry blossom festival,  I was sitting comfortably inside the High Speed Rail train going to Taichung when I received a call from a representative from kkday, telling me that the tour has been canceled. I executed my plan B but for first-time travelers in Taiwan, this might become a headache.

3.3. by tripool taxi

I think this will solve the problem of most tourists wishing to see Aowanda.  Whether you are traveling alone or not, tripool taxi will take you from any point in Taiwan to the scenic area.   Why not just ride a yellow cab and ask the driver to take you to Aowanda? Go ahead but don't blame if you later discover that there is a cheaper option with absolutely no hidden charges!  Just take a look at the price comparison table below, you will see that tripool taxi is the best.  

Price comparisons of a general taxi vs tripool taxi, for two passengers going to Aowanda from Taichung or Nantou
Pick-up pointDistanceTravel timeGeneral taxi fare Tripool taxi fare
HSR Taichung Station96.3 km1 hr and 49 minsNTD 2,700NTD 1,401
TRA Taichung Station95.5 km1 hr and 56 minsNTD 2,700NTD 1,453
Puli Station43.3 km1 hr and 17 minsNTD 1,400NTD 931
Cingjing Farm31.6 km1 hr and 1 minNTD 1,000NTD 776
Wu She Parking20.7 km41 minsNTD 720NTD 605

So how do you book your trip?  Just go to this web app:  and then type your desired pick-up point and drop-off point which is Aowanda.    The web app automatically adjusts according to the query which is based on the names of places and bus stops in Google Maps.

The power of tripool taxi comes with the convenience that this service can give.  The traveler is given the option to schedule his or her own trip in Aowanda.  Let me remind you that the visiting this place to experience autumn foliage will require you to do some hiking.  About 3 hours of a leisurely walk along the trail with some challenging ones.  Haha! I have reviewed kkday's half-day tour and it seems that prospective customers will only be given two hours to explore the area which is not that good.  The national forest recreation area covers large acres of land and one to two hours of Taiwandering won't give you the best maple viewing experience.    

3.4. by bus, then transfer to a tripool taxi

If you are on a tight budget, then you combine tripool taxi with a bus ride.  I call this technique a “combination play”.  The key here is riding a public bus that has a fixed schedule (the departure and arrival times at each bus stop are already known) and after that transfer to a tripool taxi.  Based on my extensive five-year experience in exploring this country, the likes of the Taiwan Tour Bus, specifically the Sun Moon Lake Route from Gancheng Station is the bus that we are looking for!

How to do it?  Book tripool taxi from the web app: (  Reserve at least one day before your trip, cut-off time at 3:00 pm. Pick-up point: Puli Station or Wu She Parking; Drop-off point:  Aowanda  → Wait for approved pick-up time.  This will determine the time you need to board the bus going to Puli -> Ride Taiwan Tour Bus at Gancheng stop [Google Map].   Board the bus that will depart at least 1.5 hours before the pick-up time in Puli Station (For those who chose Wu She Parking [Google Map] as drop-off point, total travel time will be two hours excluding the waiting time for the bus at Puli Station).  → Get off at Puli Station [Google Map]  or Wu She Parking → Transfer to a tripool taxi  → Arrive in Aowanda
Check the schedule of the Taiwan Tour Bus Sun Moon Lake Route below to know what time you will be arriving at Puli Bus Station.   Visitors coming from THSR Taichung Station can also board the bus.  However, it won't be easy to get a seat during weekends and holidays because of the large number of tourists who also wants to ride the vehicle.   You might arrive late in Puli if you will take the bus from the Taichung High Speed Rail Station.  The surest way to get a seat is to ride the bus from Gancheng bus stop.   

Departure times of the Taiwan Tour Bus Sun Moon Lake Route at Gancheng Station [Google Map](weekday):

Departure times of the Taiwan Tour Bus Sun Moon Lake Route at Gancheng Station [Google Map] Station (weekends/holiday):

*The bus will reach the HSR Taichung Station after 25 minutes.  Total travel time from Gancheng Station to Puli Station is 1 hour and 15 minutes.

For the return trip back to Taichung: Reserve tripool taxi again via the web app ( at least one day before your ride.  Pick-up point: Aowanda,  Drop-off point:  Taichung Station or Puli Station→ Ride tripool taxi from Aowanda → If you choose Puli as the drop-off point, then ride a bus going to Taichung.

If you want to transfer by tripool taxi at Wu She Parking [Google Map], then consider the departure times below.  Board any Bus 6658, 6659, 6660, 6661,6663 and 6664 from Puli Station and then get off the vehicle at the Protection Station (保護站) [Google Map]

Departure times of the buses from Puli Station [Google Map]
Bus 6658: 7:10/10:20/14:00

Bus 6659: 6:00/8:35/16:35

Bus 6660:8:00/13:00/18:20

Bus 6661: 7:25/9:20/10:00/11:20/14:30/17:25/18:45

Bus 6663: 11:30/16:00

Bus 6664: 6:40/9:30

Going back to downtown Taichung: Expected time of arrival of these buses at Wushe.  The next stop would be the Protection Station

3.5. Summary of transportation options (public bus, tour bus, tripool taxi) to reach Aowanda from Taichung or Nantou

Price comparisons of bus, kkday and tripool taxi for a one-way ride going to Aowanda from Taichung or Nantou. The table also includes the minimum number of people needed to book the car, reservation timeframes, and expected arrival/departure times. Adult tickets to enter Aowanda costs NTD 200.
OriginDrop-off pointFare (NTD)Reservation needed?Booking timeframeminimum # of persons needed to book a carArrival time in AowandaDeparture time in AowandaAowanda tickets included?
Bus 6662Taichung Gancheng StationAowanda297 (roundtrip discount: 580)yes14 days (weekends only)1 (maximum of 4 persons per booking)10:5515:30no
kkday half-day tourCingjing Guest House750 (roundtrip fare)3 days22:004:00yes
tripool taxiPuli Station9311 day (cut-off time every 3:00 pm)1 (The fare is the same for 2 passengers.)anytime between 8:00 am to 5:00 pmno
TRA Taichung Station1,453
HSR Taichung Station1,401
Wu She Parking605
bus to Wu She ParkingPuli StationProtection Station stop~ 86no-
bus to Cingjing FarmCingjing Guest House~ 123
Taiwan Tour Bus Sun Moon Lake RouteTaichung Gancheng StationPuli Station~ 132
HSR Taichung Station Exit 5~ 132

4. Additional reminders

Aowanda National Forest Recreational Area
address: 546, Nantou County, Ren’ai Township, 親愛村大安路153號
Adults tickets: NTD 200
Open from every day from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm (The park is closed on Chinese New Year's  Eve)

1. Thousands of people are expected to visit Aowanda on a single day during the peak season of its autumn foliage.  Visitors are advised to visit on weekdays using public transportation or via carpooling.

2.  Aowanda has a limited parking space.  Once it is filled, traffic control will be imposed on the highway leading to Aowanda

3.  Your tour in Aowanda will be dictated primarily by how much time you have after arriving at this scenic place.   Allot at least three hours if you want to get to the Aowanda Suspension Bridge

4.  Cingijing Farm (morning) + Aowanda (afternoon) on a single day is possible via tripool taxi

5.  Hehuanshan (morning) + Aowanda (afternoon) is possible via a kkday's Hehuanshan half-day tour package [Reserve here] which starts at 8:30 am in the morning and ends at  noontime.  You can get to Aowanda in the afternoon via tripool or the kkday half-day tour in Aowanda from Cingjing Farm: [Reserve here].

6.  Don't forget to use the power of tripool ( to get to Aowanda from Sun Moon Lake.  Repeat the booking process for the return trip
          Pick-up point (ex.  Shuishe Visitor Information Center)
          drop-off point (ex. Aowanda)



Sakura Series - Taiwan

Sakura Series - Taiwan

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Maple Series

Yehliu to Jiufen? Yehliu to Shifen? Cheaper than yellow taxis

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Other attractions in Taipei

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