Taipei, Feb. 3 (CNA) Lalashan (拉拉山), a mountain bordering Taoyuan and New Taipei known for its nature reserve that features a forest of old giant trees, is set to become a national forest recreation area, according to the Forestry Bureau.
Bureau head Lin Hwa-ching (林華慶) told CNA recently that Lalashan will be designated as a national forest recreation park in the second quarter of 2023 and become Taiwan's 19th national forest recreation area.
According to the Forestry Bureau, which manages 1.62 million hectares of state-owned forest land, it has established 18 national forest recreation areas around the country to bring people closer to nature.
In 1986, Lalashan, or Mt. Lala, was formally designated as a nature reserve called Takuanshan Forest Reserve (達觀山自然保護區) and opened to visitors after scholars found a cluster of ancient Taiwan cypress trees on the mountain, the bureau said.
Since then, the Lalashan Giant Tree cluster, located about 1,500 meters above sea level at the junction of Taoyuan's Fuxing District and New Taipei's Wulai District, has been a popular attraction, attracting 170,000 to 180,000 visitors each year, the bureau said.
Shia Jung-sheng (夏榮生), head of the bureau's Hsinchu Forest District Office, which oversees the Lalashan nature reserve, lauded the protected area as having a rich ecosystem that includes a number of giant hinoki and meniki cypress trees over 2,000 years old.
It is also home to many protected wild animals such as the Taiwanese black bear, wild goat, crab-eating mongoose, Formosan yellow-throated marten, and Taiwan Hynobius salamander, Shia said.
Since 2016, the bureau has been preparing to turn the Takuanshan Forest Reserve into a national forest recreation area, and is set to formally announce the area's new status in the second quarter.
The nature reserve includes an 81.59-hectare cloud forest belt at an elevation of 1,400 meters to 1,900 meters above sea level, which provides an opportunity to see beautiful vistas in the afternoon year round, according to Shia.
Walking along the 3-kilometer-long wooden plank trail there, visitors can admire a meniki cypress and 23 ancient hinoki cypress trees towering into the sky, he said.
Another attraction in the area is the 17-km long Fuba Cross-ridge Historic Trail (福巴越嶺古道) that runs through Fushan (福山) in New Taipei's Wulai District and Baling in Taoyuan's Fuxing District, offering hiking trails with magnificent views, according to Shia.
The area is home to Indigenous Atayal people who used the ancient trail as a vital transportation artery between their villages.
Once Lalashan becomes a national forest recreation area, a tourist center will be set up to provide information for visitors that will enable them to better appreciate the area's landscapes, ecology, and culture, Shia said.
In addition, the bureau has been training Indigenous Atayal tribespeople as guides, improving the quality of environmentally friendly hotels on the area's periphery, and bolstering transportation in the area the past two years, according to Shia.