Hiking in Taiwan really needs no introduction. With an endless network of trails crossing the island’s thousands of mountains, you could hit the trails every day from tomorrow until your knees gave out and still leave numerous footpaths, pathways, and scrabbly ascents untouched. Unfortunately, reaching many of these wildly beautiful escapes from Taipei takes time, planning, and the hope that the notoriously fickle weather will deliver on the day.
This guide is for those who do not have the multiple free days, camping gear, or own set of wheels it takes to tackle hiking destinations like Yushan National Park — though if you can set aside the time, it’s more accessible than you think.
In this article, we’ll take you through six last-minute day hikes that you can reach hassle-free from Taipei. To compile this list, we looked for rewarding scenic climbs that can be reached in less than two hours from Taipei Main Station. All of them take less than nine hours to complete with a decent level of physical fitness, meaning they’re all entirely doable in a day. Needless to say, we’ve steered clear of Elephant, Tiger, and hikes with views of Taipei 101 as we covered those previously. This list takes things a (little) bit further out of town, giving you the chance to get wild and still be home for dinner.
1. Mt. Yuan (鳶山): Sanxia to Daxi
A rewarding half-day hike, the Mt. Yuan trial is a 12.6-kilometer route between two historic old streets. Most hikers from Taipei start the trail from the Sanxia side, which can be reached with several buses from the capital (908 from Jingan, 910 from Xinpu, or 916 from Yongning MRT stations). Following the hills southwest of the capital, the trail takes you past several sweeping lookout points, including Mt. Wushifen, which is a popular spot for Instagrammers. Also keep an eye open for Sanxia Colorful Cliff wall (三峽彩壁), an exposed rock face covered in colorful lichens.
End to end, the entire trail should take you about five to seven hours to complete. Reward yourself afterward by piling back on the calories at Daxi Old Street — the peanut mochi at Tsai Peanut Candy (蔡記花生糖) is particularly good.
2. Wushan-Datong Trail (烏山大桶縱走)
Wushan-Datong is yet another reason to visit Wulai, a New Taipei village popular for its hot springs and indigenous heritage. Starting from Miaoxin Temple, the hike is strenuous at first, climbing sharply up the face of Mt. Wu before heading on to Mt. Datong. The peaks of both mountains are nothing special as they’re both thickly forested. But where the trees break you’ll be treated to fabulous views of the Jialishan Mountain Range.
Tiring as it may be, Wushan-Datong gives you a sense of the incredible diversity of Taiwan’s wilder side. The seven-to-nine-hour hike takes you through dense jungle, towering Japanese cedar forests, and clumps of colorful wild orchids. An interesting little detour can be made toward the end of the trail to the Kueishan hydroelectric plant, which since the 1940s has been making a bit of money on the side selling popsicles to weary hikers.
3. Stegosaurus Ridge (劍龍稜)
Most of the time when hikers head to Jiufen, it’s for the wildly popular trail up Teapot Mountain (Side note: Its Chinese name actually translates to “Earless Tea Kettle” 無耳茶壺). Stegosaurus actually links up to the Kettle from behind, but it’s better to start at the tail of the beast, in Nanya (Get there with the 791 bus from Ruifang to Nanxin Temple).
Easily one of the most visually astonishing climbs in this list, the spine of the Stegosaurus commands uninterrupted views of Taiwan’s spectacular Northeast Coast. That being said, you should know what you are getting into before you attempt the climb. The trail is completely exposed to the sun and uses ropes for support — so you’ll need to wear gloves. Also, be aware that the hike could take you up to eight hours to complete. So you should set off making sure that you have enough time to avoid getting stuck on the ridge after dark. No one wants that.
4. Bitoujiao Trail (鼻頭角)
Bitoujiao Trail is a great alternative for anyone who wants views of the Northeast Coast without having to put themselves through anything like Stegosaurus. An easy 3.5 kilometers, the trail loops its way out from a small fishing village and over the headland of the same name. Bitoujiao is quite exposed, so there are lots of photo opportunities along the way. And the trail is very gentle, fully paved, and has lots of resting stops — so great for parents. If you find yourself with good weather and a few extra hours left of the day, head slightly further down the coast to reach Longdong, great for cliff jumping, snorkeling, and scuba diving.
5. Wuliaojian (五寮尖)
Wuliaojian is less like a hike, more like an obstacle course. Ridges, ladders, abseils down exposed rock faces — this one to go on if you’re the kind of person that complains when “trails” are too paved, have too many stairs or are packed with other hikers. Starting out from this grocery store in the hills just south of Sanxia (take a taxi from Old Street or Dingpu MRT station to get there), the trail climbs quickly up into the forest passing some nice lookouts over New Taipei and the surrounding hills.
There’s a lot of holding onto ropes for support, so unless you want rope burn, pick up a pair of NT$10 gloves at the convenience store before you set up. The views along the top are incredible, particularly once you reach the main ridge. Wuliaojian finishes up back at the trailhead where it is possible to get a bus back into Sanxia, though you might have to wait a long time. A quicker alternative is to get your taxi driver’s number on the way up so you can arrange for them to collect you later.
6. Huangdidian (皇帝殿)
Huangdidian, so named for the temple at the foot of the mountain, is a rise of three peaks that lies about an hour south of Taipei (take the 666 bus from Jingmei MRT to Shiding). Similar to Wuliaojian, the trail rises steeply out of the valley eventually offering some fantastic views. The first hour or so is admittedly a bit of a punisher, consisting of nothing but what seems like endless steps. Still, resist the urge to turn around. The rest of the climb is much more interesting, consisting of ladders, exposed ridges, and short rock climbs. Assuming you’re comfortable with heights, Huangdidian is not too challenging — though you can expect to be sore the next day.
Cover photo: e_ella