Taiwan has one of the highest densities of tall mountains in the world and is famous for its 100 Peaks list. The list is of the 100 best peaks over 3,000 meters and is used to promote high-altitude hiking. In fact, there are over 260 mountains with peaks over 3,000 meters in Taiwan!
With this in mind, we started looking for day hiking opportunities that did not require mountain permits and were near the big-city conveniences of Taipei. What we found were some fantastic day hikes that are easily accessible using public transportation. While they are nowhere near 3,000 meters in height, they are spectacular!
After clearing immigration at Taoyuan International Airport, we each purchased an EasyCard at the Airport Electronic Ticketing Joint Service Counter. The second generation EasyCard is sold outright at NT$100 / 3.15 USD each (no deposit or stored value). In addition to the ease and time savings of using the EasyCard for transportation, there is a 20% discount when taking the metro compared to single trip ticket fares. You can also use EasyCard in many designated stores for purchases .
To get into Taipei from the airport, we walked directly to the airport buses, bypassing the ticket counters, and got onto bus 705, simply tapping our EasyCard for payment. Bus 705 departs every 15 minutes for the 5 mile shuttle to Taiwan High Speed Rail (THSR) Taoyuan Station (NT$30/ 1 USD each).
The EasyCard does not work for the HSR train to the Taipei Main Station (EasyCard cannot be used for the purchase of HSR tickets unless linked to a credit card), so we used an electronic ticket machine, bypassing the long queues at the ticket counter, to purchase our one-way tickets to Taipei Main Station (NT$155 / 5 USD each). Note: The Taoyuan International Airport Access MRT System is scheduled to be open late 2016 or the first months of 2017. Express services will allow for travel to Taipei Station in 35 minutes.
From Taipei Main Station we took the MRT to Daqiaotou Station and walked the very short distance to our hotel – 9ine Hotel (NT$1870 / 59 USD per night). We loved our stay at 9ine Hotel. It was comfortable and very convenient to pubic transportation. We purposely opted for a hotel without breakfast because we wanted to be up and headed to the trails before breakfast was served!
After checking into our hotel, we explored the area around our hotel on foot and had dinner at the Yanping N. Rd. Sec. 3 Tourist Night Market, a night market just across from our hotel that has local snacks at very reasonable prices. Some vendors have been open for over 30 years. For our dinner, we had delicious pork trotters at the famous Lao Pai Chang Pork Knuckle Restaurant.
Hiked Xiangshan (Elephant Mountain) Trail to Jiuwu Peak (free) – Xiangshan MRT Station (Line 2), Exit 2. Walk straight down the street following the park (Zhongqiang Park) on your left. At the end of the road, take a left and continue to the entrance of Xiangshan Hiking Trail. The area and trails are well marked.
Since the majority of people opt for the short 15-20 minute hike to the Six Giant Rocks and the viewing platform to get photos of Taipei 101 and the city, once you are past this point you will see very few hikers and the views get even better!
Elephant Mountain is one of the Four Beasts (Elephant, Tiger, Leopard and Lion) – four peaks on the east side of Taipei. Elephant Mountain is the most easily accessible of the Four Beasts and is also the start or finish of the Four Beasts Circuit. In addition to the Four Beasts, there are two more mountains on the trail system – Nangang Shan and Jiuwu Peak (our destination).
The trails can be completed in loops or you can exit on the other side of the mountains. We opted to back track to our starting point in order to eat lunch at NOLA Kitchen. It had been a very long time since I had a good New Orleans seafood jambalaya!
Taipei 101 (free) – We took the subway one stop to Taipei 101 Station. We explored Taipei 101 and the mall inside before heading back to our hotel. If you want to ride to the top of Taipei 101 it costs NT$600 / 19 USD. We’d rather hike for our views!
Huangdidian Hike (free) – MRT to Muzha Station, transfer to bus 666, exit bus at Shiding Station (Alternatively, take bus 666 from Jingmei MRT – less time on the bus, but you may not have a seat). Walk straight through the town of Shiding – you will cross the road after exiting the bus, but do not follow the main road (106) curving to the right. Turn left through the red temple gate. Walk up this road about 200 meters to the stairs on the right where there are signs for the trail.
The trail is easy to follow and is sign-posted. There are different route variations that you can choose from based on the amount of time (and energy!) that you have available. A map at the trailhead is useful for planning your route, but it does not have an English translation.
This is a terrific 4-5 hour hike that was the favorite of our hikes in Taiwan. This hike is infamous for the almost hour long hike up very steep stairs to the actual hiking trail.
Once on the trail, however, you completely forget about the stairs as you navigate ropes, chains, and ladders! This is why most shops near the hiking trails sell gloves!
On the ridge line, you are treated to spectacular views of the surrounding mountains.
After our hike, we returned to the town of Shiding to explore. We loved this quaint mountain town! Shiding is the home of century-old tofu shops, tea shops, suspended architecture, Bujientien Street, old blacksmith shops, and more.
Shiding Old Street is divided by the stone-made Wanshou Bridge into East Street and West Street. West Street developed earlier and was a passageway for tea during the Qing Dynasty. Following the coal mining boom, East Street, formerly a beggar’s street, became the more prosperous area in Shiding. East Street has Bujientien Street – the “Skylight-Less” inner street.
Shiding is renowned for its tofu-based delicacies. We ate “Tofu Eaten 3 Ways” at the famous Fubou Restaurant on Old Street. It was delicious!
After lunch, we spent time down at the river relaxing before walking out to catch our bus back to Taipei.
We exited the bus at Jingmei MRT Station and headed back via the MRT to our hotel to recover from our tiring hike!
Maokong Hiking Trails and Tea Plantations – MTR to Taipei Zoo Station, Maokong Gondola (NT$120 / 3.8 USD) to Maokong Station. The Maokong Gondola accepts Easycard – skip the long ticket queue and go straight to the gondola boarding line.
The 4.3 km (2.7 mi) Maokong Gondola line has four stations. Opened in 2007, the gondola was built by the Taipei City Government to address the problem of heavy weekend traffic on the narrow mountain roads. We rode it to the last station to start our hiking at the top – we were still tired from the Huangdidian hike!
The Crystal Cabins (Eyes of Maokong Gondola) have their own waiting queue and it takes a little longer than jumping on a standard gondola, but the views are worth the wait! They have a glass bottom floor and only hold 5 people vs 8 for the standard gondola.
Maokong used to be the biggest tea growing area of Taipei. Now it is a tourist destination popular for its hiking, tea plantations, and numerous teahouses.
Yinhe Cave Temple Hike (free) – While we explored many different trails; this was our favorite hike of the day. Yinhe Cave Temple is a branch temple of the larger and more visited Zhinan Temple, which has its own gondola station.
You are able to walk into the temple. The temple is in a cave behind a 30 meter waterfall.
After exploring Yinhe Cave Temple, we headed back toward Maokong Station to find some lunch. We ate Tea Fried Rice and Tea Oil Stir-Fried Chicken at Si Ge de Dian Tea Restaurant. Both were delicious!
Taipei Tea Promotion Center (free) – After our filling lunch, we walked 20 minutes down the road to the Taipei Tea Promotion Center which provides information about the local teas – Tieguanyin and Baozhong. It has gardens, free Tieguanyin tea, and a demonstration hall showcasing the tea producing process – picking the leaves, drying the leaves, spinning, and roasting.
After our visit to Taipei Tea Promotion Center, we walked a short distance down the road and caught bus 10 to return to Taipei Zoo Station. It was not as scenic as the gondola, but we were too tired to make the journey back up to the Maokong Station!
Hike Xiaozi Shan (free) – MRT to Muzha Station, transfer to bus 795, exit bus at the town of Pingxi (about 45 minutes, most people will exit the bus). The well-marked trail head is across the river and road from the train station, just up the street from Family Mart. Before starting our hike we explored the picturesque town of Pingxi.
Pingxi is a small railway town that is featured in many Taiwanese movies and TV dramas. It draws many visitors for its hiking, coal mining history, and sky lanterns. Since it was a weekday, many of the shops were closed during our visit.
Some of the interesting sites that we visited in Pingxi included:
- The Eight Immortals Cave – a cave temple carved out of the soft sandstone, housing eight Buddhist idols.
- The Bomb Shelter – a bomb shelter built during World War 2 and consisting of 5 shallow, interconnected caves.
- The Bell Pavillion – a pavilion built during World War 2 and was used as a guard post for sending messages.
After visiting Pingxi, we headed to the trailhead and started our hike to Mt. Xiaozi. You can do all three of the peaks (Xiaozi, Cimu, and Putuo), but we were just hiking to Xiaozi, which is supposed to have the best views.
The last section of the hike to the peak is fun, steep, and exposed!
From the top you have beautiful views of the surrounding mountains.
Sky Lantern (NT$150/ 4.75 USD) – After our hike, we headed back to Pingxi to release a sky lantern before our return bus trip to Taipei. The first step was to pick out the color of the lantern that we wanted and then to paint it with our wishes. Each lantern color has a distinct meaning. We chose yellow for “Success.” After the paint had dried, we were ready to launch.
Away it goes! Fingers crossed that our wishes will come true.
We caught the bus back to Taipei just across the street from where we exited the morning bus.
Hike Mt. Qixing (also known as Mt. Cising) in Yangmingshan National Park (free) – MRT to Jiantan MRT Station, bus red 5 to Yangmingshan Bus Station (end of the line).
After exiting the bus, we walked to the visitor center following the signs. The trail that we wanted to take, Mt. Qixing Trail (Miaopu Entrance), starts just past the visitor center. The steep 2.4 KM trail leads to the peak of Mt. Qixing, the tallest mountain in the park – 1120 meters (3,674 ft).
The trail is well marked and even has kilometer markers to let you know your progress.
Sections of the Miaopu trail are very steep.
At the peak you will have very good views of Taipei and the mountains beyond on a clear day. The clouds rolled in on our trip before we made it to the top, limiting our view.
From the peak, we took the 1.6 KM East Peak Trail to Xiaoyoukeng Visitor Center. On the way, we passed many fumaroles. Fumaroles are vents from which volcanic gas escapes.
You can feel the heat as you hike past them!
At Xiaoyoukeng Visitor Center, we simply jumped on bus 108, exiting back at Yangmingshan Bus Station. From there, we reversed our morning trip back to our hotel.
Soak in a Beitou Onsen – MRT to Beitou Station, transfer to the pink line, exit Xinbeitou MRT Station (one stop). Beitou Hot Springs Park is right in front of you when you exit the station.
After five days of hiking, we decided to give our feet a rest and to find an onsen to soak in! Beitou, located between the Tatun Volcano Group and the rim of the Taipei Basin, is famous for its hot springs. It developed as a hot spring resort area during the Japanese era (1895-1945) and has one of the world’s largest concentrations of hot springs and spas.
Beitou Hot Springs Park (Qinshui Park) has an outdoor public hot springs (Millennium Hot Springs), fountains, the Beitou library, and the Beitou Hot Springs Museum.
Millennium Hot Spring (NT$40 / 1.25 USD) – Open 5:30AM to 10PM. The pools close for 30 minutes every 1.5 hours for cleaning. There are 4 pools of various temperatures. The pools are outdoors and shared by men and women, so bathing suits are required. There are lockers available to rent for your belongings. Forgot your swimsuit? They have them for sale!
Beitou Hot Springs Museum (free) – Built in 1913 during the Japanese occupation, this building was once the main public bath in Beitou. At one time, the baths were the largest in East Asia.
Plum Garden (free) – The Plum Garden was the summer house of the famed calligrapher Yu You-ren. The wooden Japanese structure was built in the 1930’s.
Our biggest decision of the day was whether to go to the inexpensive outdoor public hot springs in Beitou Hot Springs Park or to rent a private room at one of the resorts. After considering our lack of swimsuits and the security issues of the outdoor hot spring (we had our passports and wallets), we decided on a private onsen.
Beauty Age Hot Spring Resort (NT$990 / 31 USD for 2 hours) – We inspected several resorts and chose Beauty Age Hot Spring Resort. It was perfect!
The room was very comfortable and romantic.
The onsen was big and filled very quickly with hot spring water. So relaxing – just what our sore muscles needed!
Relaxed and rested after our two hours, we headed back to our hotel the same way that we came.
We checked out of 9ine Hotel and returned to the airport the way that we came. One thing to note is that the line for bus 705 to the airport from THSR Taoyuan Station became very long (luckily after we were in it!). I would recommend budgeting extra time to ensure that you do not miss your flight.
We loved out trip to Taiwan! Similar to Seoul, South Korea, the hiking is easily accessible and rewarding. Where Taipei beats Seoul is on costs. Hotels and meals were much less expensive than in Seoul, making this a very affordable city to visit.
There is much more of Taiwan we want to explore and hike. We look forward to returning to Taiwan and tackling a few of the Top 100!
- Time of Year: October 2016
- Length of Stay: 8 Days, 7 Nights
- Total Trip Cost – 2 People: 800 USD*
- Cost Per Day / Per Person: 50 USD*
- Visa Information: U.S. citizens are granted 90 days visa-free entry, Bureau of Consular Affairs
*Excluded from the cost analysis:
- International Airfare – International airfare is not included because fares vary depending on your starting location.
- Travel Health Insurance – Travel health insurance is not included because we have an international policy.
GPS Coordinates: Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4 Day 5 Day 6 Day 7
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Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport (Terminal 1) @ 25.081006,121.236674
THSR Taoyuan Station @ 25.013792,121.214217
Taipei Railway Station (Main Station) @ 25.047749,121.517049
Daqiaotou Station @ 25.063199,121.512801
9ine hotel @ 25.062527,121.511505
Yanping N. Rd. Sec. 3 Tourist Night Market @ 25.064022,121.511196
Lao Pai Chang Pork Knuckle Restaurant @ 25.068565,121.511039
Xiangshan MRT Station @ 25.032258,121.569871
Elephant Mountain Trail Head @25.027386,121.570756
NOLA Kitchen @25.028452,121.569739
Taipei 101 @ 25.033058,121.563186
Muzha Station @ 24.998239,121.573144
Shiding Station @ 24.991411,121.657627
Turn Left Through Temple Gates @ 24.990858,121.661029
Huangdidian Trail Head @ 24.992388,121.663723
Fubou Restaurant @ 24.991004,121.660259
Jingmei MRT Station @ 24.993113,121.540610
Taipei Zoo Station @ 24.998259,121.579430
Maokong Station @ 24.968945,121.588247
Si Ge de Dian Tea Restaurant @ 24.967205,121.591317
Taipei Tea Promotion Center @ 24.969071,121.594290
Muzha Station @ 24.998239,121.573144
Pingxi Bus Stop @ 25.024512,121.738001
Mt. Xiaozi Trail Head @ 25.024367,121.739265
Jiantan MRT Station @ 25.084872,121.525076
Yangmingshan Bus Station @ 25.151863,121.546306
Yangmingshan National Park Visitor Center @ 25.155295,121.546567
Mt. Qixing Peak @ 25.170832,121.553334
Xiaoyoukeng Visitor Center @ 25.176434,121.546896
Beitou Station @ 25.131841,121.498633
Xinbeitou MRT Station @ 25.136931,121.503473
Beitou Hot Springs Park @ 25.136454,121.505954
Millennium Hot Spring @ 25.137004,121.508534
Beitou Hot Springs Museum @ 25.136606,121.507181
Plum Garden @ 25.137022,121.508673
Beauty Age Hot Spring Resort @ 25.137062,121.510762
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You can copy and paste the latitude and longitude into Google Earth, your browser, or into your GPS.
*Disclaimer- ALWAYS verify locations, transportation routes, GPS coordinates, etc. Errors are made, routes changed, sometimes we are just plain wrong. No one knows what you like more than you. If the trip is worth doing, it is worth doing right! Do your homework.