Dakeng 大坑 is a hilly area that has a good selection of short hiking trails that lead to some wooden lookouts perched on a ridge at around 800 meters. There's no better place in the region to watch the sunset!
On weekends, the entire area is crammed with tourists who come from Taichung. It's not uncommon to see groups carrying heavy cooking gear and backpacks filled with food (shrimps, watermelons, jugs of wine, big bags of rice) all the way to the lookouts and cook for all the other hikers who will pass on the ridge. I love these Taiwanese picnics - when I don't have to carry anything...
The trails are numbered from 1 to 10 and have different starting points. All the paths are man-made and range from dead flat to near vertical. The steepest parts aren't too dangerous though, as there are ropes and rails to hang on to.
Trail #1 to #4 are the longest and steepest ones. To get there from Taichung, drive east on Wenxin Rd until it becomes Dongshan Rd. Keep driving all the way to the roundabout with the big tree. Turn right on Hengkeng Lane and follow the hiking or campground sign.
Trail #5 is on the ridge and it connects the four previous ones. This is where you'll find the lookouts.
Trail #6 to #10 are short, not-too-steep walking paths right at the entrance of Dakeng Scenic Area. The tracks take you through thick forests, and stay at lower elevation. When you're coming on Dongshan Rd, look for a cemetery on your left, just before the big traffic circle. The trails are right behind.
Trail #6 to #10 are the most popular because they are the closest to the city. For that reason, they can get very, VERY crowded on weekends. I personally never go there on weekends, I prefer hiking during the week when there's only a few other walkers.
The trails in this area can be done in loops which can be walked in about one hour. For example, going up trail #6 and back down #7 takes about 1 hour. The elevation gain is about 150m from bottom to top. The paths are man-made from either stones, cement, logs, or stairs.
You'll hear people giving advice: "oh, the best place to see them is at the start of trail #2..." or "I've seen them by the bridge after the campground..." I've even heard people saying that they now stick around one of the huts at the top of the ridge for food.
Truth is... the Dakeng monkeys are nomads and can be seen anywhere in the area. I've spotted some on many occasions at different places - in altitude as well as at lower elevations, right on the trail or high up some trees. What's the secret to seeing them? Get there as early as you can in the morning - these guys are true early birds.
Chung Cheng Campsite is the closest public campground you'll find around Taichung. Taiwanese families gather there on weekends to have late barbecues, so you'll want to bring earplugs if you're not gonna join them for a bite or a sip. The campground is right at the entrance of trail #4 and is very easy to find.
You can rent tents there, but they're old, dirty and probably missing few poles. Better to bring your own. There's showers, toilets, and an area where you can build a campfire.
Tel: (04) 2239-0685
Address: Beikeng Lane, Beitun District, Taichung
This hot spring resort pumps natural spring water into luxurious rooms and outside public pools. You can also use their modern spa facilities and a small gym. It's an absolutely perfect place to relax your muscles after a long hike.
To get there, keep your left at the roundabout and look for a hot spring sign. It's about 5 minutes past that point. Can't remember how much it was, sorry.
Taichung The Sun Hot Spring and Resort
Tel: (04) 2239-9000
Address: 78 Guangxi Lane, Beitun District, Taichung
Another nice hiking area you might like is the Sun Moon Farm to Baguashan country road in Changhua County. It's also pretty close to Taichung City.
Also, make sure you have a look at the other trails I introduce in my Hiking in Taiwan Travel Guide.