a.k.a. Xiangshan, is probably the most popular hike in Taipei if not
Taiwan. But when people say it’s the easiest, I’d like to raise
my hand, say “Excuse me, can you please categorically describe
Which sounds annoying and arrogant, I know, but you would probably hate me more for not speaking the truth when you’re barely ten minutes into the climb and would want to abort all plans and enjoy Taipei at ground level.
That’s not to say the trail isn’t enjoyable. It is. It is the most basic and perhaps shortest trail you can experience in Taipei with a surprisingly great view. Like I would definitely suggest this hike, if you’re fit enough, instead of going up the Taipei 101 observatory. It is that good. Plus it’s free. 24/7 open.
But to be able to fully enjoy the view, try the trail less traveled. I’m talking about the left trail in this first fork you’ll find, as you go up.
However, this trail is best suited during day time. When night falls, or towards dusk, I don’t recommend it. It’s not well lit as the right one is.
But I still personally love this more because it transforms the rest of the city as one big forest. It’s like walking into a jungle within a concrete jungle. Trees provide a cool shade from the stark sun and also make it more comfy and enjoyable to do the entire hike. I love how its path snakes around Elephant Mountain and, for a moment, you forget you’re in the city unless you decide to look back and see towering buildings in nearby Xinyi, peeking through the green. It becomes even more magical when you find yourself suddenly alone on the trail, with nothing but the green lush earth surrounding you. It’s surreal.
Taking this route also brings you to a rest stop that you wouldn’t encounter if you take the other one. This rest stop also provides a great view of Taipei 101 against the backdrop of the city.
After taking a break, and all the photos you want to your heart’s content, go right. I made the mistake of taking the left trail from here and ended up noticing I’m already going down. You should be continuing up because the popular rock boulders/viewing spot of Elephant Mountain is still way up from this rest stop.
As you reach the top of the stone steps, go left and continue straight ahead. A warning though, you will go through some steep steps so go through this carefully especially if you’re with kids. Oldies can probably do this trail, just take it slow. It’s definitely worth it once you finally reach the boulders and see this view as you look back:
By the way it might not be a good idea to take photos on the boulders if there’s a lot of tourists. Well, okay, you could, but hustle quickly. When I was there, a tourist was taking her sweet time on the boulders that when she finally came down, there was collective applause from other tourists trying to take photos of the view. Said tourist is a kababayan -___-.
When you finally decide to go back down, this is the perfect time to choose the popular trail. But, beware, as the series of steps can sometimes be steep. You can make your descent easier by walking down diagonally, as this also causes less impact to your knees. When you go down this route, you’ll see a magnificent view of Taipei 101 and the surroundings in various landscapes.
You will also see the other more popular rest stop. Most people, when taking this popular trail up, sometimes stick around here and choose not to go up the boulders. I can’t blame them. This stop already has that fantastic Taipei 101 view and city panorama, and since you’re probably exhausted from the climb you’d think this is enough. If you’re climbing up at night time, that’s a good idea. I think the nighttime view here is exquisite and more than enough to take as a photographic souvenir.
So if you’re in Taipei and thinking of hiking up the Elephant Mountain, just remember: daytime = left, nighttime = right. Either way is a good idea, but you just have to manage your energy (and breath!) much more when you go right. 😉
To go to Xiangshan mountain, ride the red line of the Taipei MRT going to Xiangshan station. This is the last stop, and there are several signs that’ll point you to the hiking trail right from the station.