When researching for things to do in Taipei most of the articles will focus on Taipei 101, Chiang Kai Shek museum and the National Palace Museum. All of these these are must see if you visit Taipei Taiwan. All of them can easily be done in one day so if you have more than one day in Taipei. And if you are more of a country person rather than a city dweller, I recommend you get out an do one of the many hikes not far from the Taipei Downtown area.
Many visitors that come to Taipei Taiwan are surprised at the relatively easy journey it takes to get out of the big city and onto some great hiking trails. First on our list is one of the most notable, Yangmingshan. From downtown Taipei in just a little under an hour you can reach Yangmingshan National Park. Boasting the highest point in Taipei mount Qixing, or literally “Seven Star Mountain,” is 1,120m above sea level. Hiking in Yangmingshan is easy and the trails are clearly marked. Many of trails are stone walkways or stairs. Weather can quickly change up here and when the stone paths get wet they can be very slippery. So be sure to wear good non slip shoes and bring a rain coat or umbrella. You will likely start your journey out on the Miaopu trail, this part of the trail is well shaded and has a few resting spots. As you get closer to the top you can start seeing some clearings with a great views over Taipei.
When you reach the top of this trail, you will be given two choices: go up to Mt. Qixing East Peak or Mt. Qixing Main Peak. Depending on your time and energy levels you can go Mt. Qixing East Peak then onto the main peak or choose to go directly to the Main Peak. Choosing the latter option leads you toward the exit—Xiaoyoukeng. Both of these trails are uncovered and you will be in the direct sun. So remember to bring plenty of water and a hat. From the top of Mt. Qixing main peak you will see beautiful unobstructed views over the city of Taipei. On a clear day you will see the entire basin of Taipei as well being able to pinpoint the Taipei 101. For a quick hike outside the city this would be one of the easier ones to find by yourself. For a complete list of bus routes to Yangmingshan check the National Park website.
The next easiest hike is one you most likely have heard of, Elephant mountain. Famous for it’s spanning views of Taipei 101. But, did you know this is only one of four mountains known in Taipei as the four beasts? Leopard, Lion, Elephant and Tiger mountains make up the four beasts. Elephant mountain is the most well known but Tiger mountain is the easiest to ascent quickly giving you stunning views of the city without all those stairs. Elephant mountain is accessible with public transportation. Hiking Tiger mountain, on the other hand, will require you to arrange transportation to get to the trailhead. Leopard and Lion Mountains don’t have any trails so most have no reason to visit them. They are all located the Xinyi District of Taipei.
The paths in Elephant and Tiger mountains are mostly paved, with good signage and with maps located on the trails. Elephant mountain trail has lighting installed along the paths making it a very accessible place to hike day or night. There are many paths and routes that you can explore. Interesting sights along the paths include shrines, temples, gardens and workout stations. Be sure to catch the sunset and take an evening stroll to avoid the heat. To get to Elephant mountain take the red line on the MRT all the way to Xiangshan. It’s the last stop on the line, one past the Taipei 101 stop. Take Exit 2 from the MRT station and you’ll see signs for the hiking trail to the left.
Many visitors to Taipei Taiwan will combine a trip on the Magong gondolas with visiting teas gardens above. But, few know that with just a bit of planning you can also include a hike to one of the most unique temples in Taiwan. With a Raiders of the Lost Ark feel, hiking to this temple will transport you back in time. Built in 1914, and renovated only once in the 1950’s, Yinhe temple has led a quiet and mysterious existence for more than a century. Yinhe translates directly as “silver stream”, referring to the slim waterfall that gracefully drapes over the cliff face. Known to locals but still relatively unknown to foreign visitors, this cool little temple is built into the side of a mountain. Complete with a waterfall cascading right over the top of it.
With tiny verandas and octagon windows this temple has stood the test of time. Carved into a sheer rock face, it has a narrow cave-like interior that includes a small prayer hall. With enchanting and serene surroundings we can be sure that this will be one to write down in your record book. There are various routes to take to the temple either from the Maokong Gondola to the north or Highway 9 to the south. The most accessible trail via public transportation is from the Maokong Gondola. For anyone traveling along Highway 9, there’s a turn-off for Yinhe Road that will lead to the trail.
Many tourists visiting Taipei Taiwan will head for Shifen Waterfall given the Pingxi train runs practically right there. And even though this is a beautiful waterfall it probably won’t satisfy the true hikers visiting here. For those who would like a real trek in the woods should consider the Sandiaoling hiking trail. This easy to navigate trail is good for families and those with a decent physical strength. This hike starts out at the town of Sandiaoling on the Pingxi rail line. It will have you crossing streams on some of the most adorable rope bridges and you will enjoy numerous waterfalls along the trail. This trail is mostly covered by trees and is a great one to hike if you want to get out of the direct sun.
The cool pathway includes cobblestone stairs, dirt paths and a bit of climbing over roots and vegetation. You will walk along the river for a good part of the hike with lovely views of moss covered rocks and loads natural beauty. Three of the main waterfalls you will see are are Hegu, Motian and Pipadong. Views of these gorgeous, huge natural waterfalls are the rewards of hiking the Sandiaoling trail. After seeing Pipadong waterfalls you can return to Sandiaoling town by the way you came. Depending on your stamina and the time you have allotted for this trip, you can opt to continue along to Dahua station. Or you can continue further along to ShiFen station, note that trails are not marked as well past Pipadong waterfall.
Another great choice for real hikers would be TeaPot mountain trail. This trail will take you far away from the tourist traffic and give you the most stunning views of mountains and sea. Many feel this trail holds the most beautiful views in north Taiwan. Teapot mountain is a network of trails reaching various places, so hikers can reach the top from different trailheads. They vary in difficulty and will require differing abilities. You will need a bit more of physical stamina and the ability to withstand direct sun for this hike. But, if you are up to it, this will be one of the most rewarding hikes you can make right outside of Taipei. From the top of Teapot mountain you will see sweeping views of the North East Coast, including Jinguashi, Jilong, and the Yin Yang Sea. The trailhead is found behind the Jinguashi’s Gold Ecological Museum.
The first half of trail is a well marked and well maintained stone stairway leading to some nice rest stops. Then along the way, the trail will change and you will be scrambling over rocks, navigating steep ascents and lowering yourself down ropes. This hike will take you high up on top of the mountain ridge and will offer you 360 degree views. From Teapot mountain you can continue the hike over to Banping mountain. If you decide to do this entire trail be sure to wear pants and long sleeves as tall grass grows here and can be difficult to manage. Bring plenty of water and food to sustain you throughout the day. An awesome ending to an amazing day would be to combine this hike with a stop at Jiufen, a mere 2 km away.