One of our Foresight staff members shares her experience and recommendations for hiking in Taipei, one of the best places to live for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers.
When I first moved abroad to teach English, I quickly discovered that, while I loved the thrill of living in a big city with new sights and sounds and cultural experiences, the small town girl in me would still crave the outdoors, open spaces, and the quiet, calming peace of being surrounded by nature.
Living in Taipei, where great mountain trails are so accessible, I fell in love with hiking in a new way and it became a regular part of my lifestyle. I went hiking nearly every weekend, taking on both easy day hikes in Taipei and eventually longer multi-day high-mountain treks in Taiwan’s central mountains (did you know that Taiwan has the highest density of high mountains anywhere in the world?).
If, like me, you love both being in the city and being able to escape to nature, Taipei is the ideal place to live. Not only does Taipei have a great balance between convenient city living surrounded by beautiful nature, its temperate climate makes it possible to enjoy the outdoors all year round. In Taiwan, you’ll see people of all ages out enjoying different mountain trails and scenic areas, including young people, families with kids, and the elderly.
If you’ve never hiked before, Taipei is a great place to try it! Hiking is the perfect leisurely activity for anyone who enjoys being outdoors because it doesn’t require any special skills or equipment, but you can still feel good about getting in some low intensity exercise while connecting with nature, or get together with a group of new friends and enjoy exploring together.
In this post, I’m sharing some of my favourite day hikes that are within Taipei City. All of them are easily accessible by MRT or bus and are suitable for beginners to experienced hikers. At the end, I also give some tips for those who are beginners, or new to hiking in Taiwan!
Xiangshan (Elephant Mountain) - Xinyi
This is hands-down the most popular trail in the whole country and will definitely show up on any Taipei hikes list, mainly because it’s very accessible (less than 10 min walk from Xiangshan MRT station - red line), short (it only takes 15 mins - or less if you’re fast and fit - to get to the viewing platform), and offers the best view of Taipei 101. It’s not uncommon to see people take on this trail in all kinds of attire - jeans, flip-flops, high heels, dresses - and while I don’t recommend doing it dressed like that, it does speak to who comes here. Everyone. Everyone comes here. Everyone wants that iconic photo with Taipei 101 in the background. I have several.
It’s a short hike, but it feels very intense the first time you do it. Stairs, stairs, stairs, up, up, up. Take breaks if you need them, and remind yourself that it’s not that much farther, and the view is worth it!
For a short casual hike, my recommendation is to come at sunset. You’ll get to watch the city lights come on and enjoy the night view of Taipei. The trail is also well-lit with lamps, so you won’t have to worry about being lost in the dark and using your phone flashlight to fumble your way back down. It’ll take you 25-35 minutes total to go up and down.
If you’re unsatisfied with such a short hike, you can extend this into a longer daytime hike (2.5-3 hours) by continuing past the Six Rocks lookout and following the trail all the way to the top of Nangangshan (Jiuwufeng is the name of the peak). The trail is paved all the way up. There are also many other trails to explore on this mountain that don’t require as much time, and it’s relatively easy to descend back to the city at any point.
Hushan (Tiger Mountain) - Xinyi
I actually prefer this hike to Xiangshan. It’s only slightly more out of the way (15 min walk from Yongchun MRT station - blue line), but also offers great views of Taipei 101 and is far less busy than its more touristy sister. To go up to the lookout deck and back down takes less than an hour, but I usually like to start here and take the long route that connects to Xiangshan (via Nangangshan/Jiuwufeng) for a longer hike (around 3 hours).
Jinmianshan - Neihu
This hike is my favourite for varied terrain! While most urban trails in Taipei are paved and have a lot of steps, this one is more dynamic with a mix of stairs and natural trail, and some rocky parts that require scrambling using your hands, making it more fun and interesting. The trailhead is a 12 minute walk from Xihu MRT Station (brown line). You’ll clearly know when you’ve gotten to the peak; there’s a field of rocks including a distinct turtlehead-shaped rock that makes for some fun photos. You can end this hike back at the starting place, or you can follow the trail through and finish near Lishan High School (if you do, you can reward yourself with a delicious Aussie brunch at The Antipodean!). Either route will be 1.5-2.5 hours, depending on how often you take breaks to admire the views.
If it has recently rained, the rocks can be slippery. You’ll want to be more mindful of your steps, wear footwear with good traction, or if you’re not feeling confident, try again on a drier day.
Also, this trail has more sun exposure than other trails in Taipei, particularly at the scrambling part and the peak, so if you’re prone to sunburn, I highly recommend some sun protection!
Laodifang Lookout - Jiantanshan, Shilin
This has been my favourite trail recently. Starting from Jiantan MRT station (red line), it’s about an hour to one and a half hours to Laodifang Lookout. It’s a platform deck that looks out over Songshan Airport where you can see the planes coming in. This hike feels like a lot of stairs in the beginning, because it’s a rapid ascent, but becomes more leisurely the higher up you get. On this mountain, there are some great lookout points both to the north (towards Yangmingshan) and the south (towards Taipei 101).
One option for extending this hike is continuing east across the mountain and ending behind Miramar (Jiannan Road Station - brown line). The last part of the trail joins with a paved mountain road and you can walk down from there. This takes around 3 hours.
Alternatively, if you do this hike around sunset and finish back at Jiantan station, you can hit up Shilin Night Market for some yummy Taiwanese snacks to reward yourself!
Xianjiyan - Jingmei
A hidden gem in Taipei! I only discovered this trail recently, and it’s a good one! It’s very easy and leisurely, mostly visited by locals from the nearby neighbourhoods, but the trails are nicely maintained and the views in all directions are great! This is perfect for beginners or casual hikers.
It’s a 10 minute walk from Jingmei MRT station (green line), and you can start and end here (about one hour), or continue towards Wanfang Hospital MRT Station (brown line), although I did get a bit lost trying to go this way and had to consult GPS frequently; like most urban trails in Taipei, it’s a network running all over the mountain with many entry and exit points.
Fuzhoushan - Daan
This is another easy hike that doesn’t take very long - about an hour and a half. Much of it is well-lit with lamps, so it’s suitable for a night hike, complete with view of Taipei 101. You can access the trailhead from Lingguang MRT Station (brown line).
Qixingshan - Yangmingshan, Beitou
This is the highest peak in the Taipei area and is also the farthest to get to, but it is a great, longer day hike that is a bit more challenging than those closer to the city. The trails are clear, well-signed, and easy to follow.
There are a number of ways to do this hike, but I usually start at Yangmingshan Visitor Centre and end either at Xiaoyoukeng or Leungshuikeng. The route from Yangmingshan Visitor Centre to Leungshuikeng is scenic and varied, and you can go in either direction. It’s about two hours (or less) up, and the same down (estimate 4 total hours of hiking).
If you take the route down to Xiaoyoukeng, you’ll smell the sulphur on the way down, and you can see the volcanic vents at the bottom. If you get car sick, I do not recommend going this way as the only way back is by shuttle bus; it’s a small bus that whips around the very windy road, and is often packed with people because of its infrequency. I didn’t take this into consideration the first time taking my friends here, and one of them had a rough time with that ride back!
Yangmingshan Visitor Center to Qixing Peak is mostly forested and shady, whereas from Qixing Peak to Leungshuikeng is mostly exposed, as is Qixing Peak to Xiaoyoukeng. This is worth considering, depending on the weather conditions.
It’s important to note that Yangmingshan is often foggy or rainy, even when the weather is clear and sunny in the rest of Taipei, so check the weather ahead of time. I’ve done this hike many times in the rain or fog with no view whatsoever, but on a clear day, you can see all of Taipei, as well as north to the ocean.
Also, because this hike is a bit longer, it wouldn't hurt to bring some trail snacks to stay fuelled up!
Yangmingshan Visitor Center: take bus 1717 to/from Taipei Main or Shilin MRT station.
Leungshuikeng: take bus S15 to/from Shilin MRT Station
Ending at Xiaoyoukeng: take the shuttle bus back to Yangmingshan Bus Terminal and change to 260 Shuttle to Taipei Main MRT Station or R5 to Shilin MRT Station
Tips for Beginners
What to wear
Comfortable clothes and shoes are essential. For all of the hikes listed here, any comfortable athletic shoes will be fine. Sun protection is also important. Most trails in Taipei are mostly shaded by tree coverage, but for more exposed trails on sunny days, I always bring a hat, sunglasses, and wear sunscreen; even in winter, this subtropical sun is not to be underestimated! I’ve definitely gotten sunburned in December. For hiking in the evenings, insect repellent or long protective clothing is also a good idea.
What to bring
Because these are short hikes, they don’t require you to bring much with you. Bring a water bottle (less water for hiking in the winter, a lot more for summer). If you sweat a lot, you won’t mind having a small towel or extra T-shirt with you; it doesn’t take much to break a sweat here, especially with Taipei humidity.
On the trail
I should note that many trails in Taipei sometimes seem more like a network of intersecting trails, rather than one clear continuous trail. You’ll sometimes come to different forks and intersections and be unsure of which path to choose. Don’t worry too much about which route to take; the trails often rejoin or cross back again, and if you end up taking a different route than originally planned, you’re never far from getting back to the city.
I often use GPS on Google maps to check which direction I’m heading, relative to where I want to get to, and just choose trails that go in that general direction. Even though I’ve visited a trail many times, the exact route may vary each time I go, and sometimes I discover new views or sites along the way.
I hope you’ve found this helpful and are inspired to get out there and explore! Remember to always prepare and plan ahead, and stay safe on the trails.
Lian is a high school teacher from Calgary, Canada and has lived in Taiwan for over three years. She has taught English in Hong Korea, Korea, and Taiwan, and currently works as part of Foresight’s HR team. When she’s not hiking, biking, or otherwise enjoying Taiwan’s beautiful outdoors, she enjoys playing board games with friends.