Over 70 percent of Taiwan is covered in mountains, from small-scale fells topped with lush forests, to great peaks where only experienced hikers should tread. Taiwan has a well-established network of hundreds of hiking trails, and the vast majority do not require a guide.
Hiking tracks are rarely crowded, and visitors are more likely to meet rambling locals than other international visitors. The best part of hiking in Taiwan is that most of them are a day hike. Small mountains surrounding the city with astonishing views such as waterfalls, huge chomps of cherry blossoms, and thickly tangled jungle. Here are some recommendations for you to start your trail of adventure.
Elephant Mountain Hiking Trail
The most popular hiking trail in Taipei. It is an effortless climb and so easy to get to with plenty of spots to take a rest along the way. People climb Elephant mountain for the magnificent view over Taipei City with Taipei 101 tight in front of you. Usually, it is crowded during the afternoon just before sunset, filled with people who come to admire the power of magic hour sunlight over this wonderful city.
- How to get there: MRT Red line Xiangshan Station (R02)
Seven Star Mountain
Did you know there is a national park inside Taipei City? And what’s best is that you can hike here! Yangmingshan National Park is named after one of Chiang Kai-shek’s favorite philosophers. the highest summit in Yangmingshan is Qixing, which is also known as Seven Star Mountain or Cising Mountain. During your hike, you’ll be able to see volcanic steam vents, yellow sulfur crystals, plenty of silver grass and beautiful rolling mountain vistas.
- How to get there: Take the R5 bus from Jiantin Station to Yangmingshan bus stop > Yangmingshan National Park bus (108 heading to Xiaoyoukeng)
Caoling Historical Trail
The only remaining section of a route built during the Qing Dynasty, once serving as the sole land link between Tamsui and Yilan, the Caoling Trail is a 10km stretch beginning in Dali and ending at Fulong Beach. Cultural heritage such as Diesima Bridge, Xianji Rock and third-grade national treasure “Xiong Zhen Man Yan” writing and “tiger inscription” can also be seen along the hike. At the trail’s highest point, a sea of silver grass seem can be seen swinging in the winds in autumn time, as if they were ocean waves. The scenery along the trail is pleasant, making it a highly enjoyable hiking path with both natural and cultural charm.
- How to get there: From Fulong Train Station > walk along Provincial Highway > arrive at Formosa Plastics Gas Station > Turn left for Provincial Highway > Yuanwangkeng Entrance (Earth God Temple). Turn left again > Yuanwangkeng Water Park (the trail entrance).
Zhuliu Old Trail
Another reason to visit Taroko National Park. Zhuilu Old Road was originally built as a hunting path by the indigenous Truku tribespeople in the early 1800s. Zhuilu Old Trail allows you to experience the magnificence of Taroko National Park through bird’s-eye views of Taroko Gorge. Ascend through the sub-tropical forests of Taroko, and be rewarded with stunning views of the marble canyon as you thread on a narrow path along the cliff’s edge.
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For environmental reasons, the number of hikers is limited to 96 per day, while the number is increased to 156 on weekends. Time to apply starts from one month ahead of the hiking day. These slots can fill up FAST. permit applications can be filled out and submitted on the Taroko National Park website. Be sure to print all permits and bring them along with your passport to the trailhead.
- How to get there: Take a Hualien Bus bound for Tianxiang(1133A or 1133), Luoshao(1126), or Lishan(1141), and alight at Swallow Grotto (Yanzikou).
Alishan Mianyue Trail
Found inside the Alishan National Scenic Area, a national park in southern Taiwan’s Chiayi County, the Mianyue Trail follows the abandoned Mianyue railway line that closed in 1999 due to earthquake damage. The trail leads you through forest, tunnels and along old railways lines for a very photogenic hike. The bridges are beautiful but a little dangerous. If you are afraid of heights then you may want to reconsider this hike. Besides hiking in Alishan, another big draw is the fact that Alishan High Mountain Oolong Tea, the most famous tea in a country that produces some of the world’s best oolong teas, is grown around Alishan.
- How to get there: Chiayi High-Speed Railway Station > Taiwan Trip Bus (7329-Alishan Route A / 7322C-Alishan Route B) > Get off at Alishan stop
Located in north-east Taiwan in Ruifang District of New Taipei City, Jinguashi is a famous yet touristy destination for many foreign visitors who, attracted by the Gold Museum and the heritage sites of the old mining area. The whole area is covered with old structures, tunnels and buildings as the reminders of it’s mining history. Teapot Mountain gets its name due to the peculiar shape that, when seen from the west, resembles a Chinese teapot. Inside Teapot Mountain, you will soon discover it consists of several huge boulders that form an interesting system of natural caves that are connected to each other.
- How to get there: Ruifang Station > Bus 788 (direction Jinguashih (Gold Ecological Park)) or 965 (direction Gua Shan Elementary School) > Stop at Jinguashih (Gold Ecological Park)
Taiwan, dubbed by Portuguese explorers the “Ihla Formosa,” or “Beautiful Island,” is home to over 200 mountain peaks above 9,800 feet. From walking through deep green pine forests filled with birdsong to watching the sunrise over a carpet of clouds, a trip to the mountains is one of the best ways to appreciate Taiwan’s immense natural beauty and biodiversity. Whether you want to go for a multi-day expedition in the remote Central Mountain Range or wander through historic trails at a lower altitude, you’ll be blown away by what you’ll discover. If you have not hiked Taiwan’s mountains, you have not truly visited Taiwan.