If you’ve spent any time in Taiwan, chances are you know that Elephant Mountain is one of the best hiking trails in Taipei for views of 101.
Rising 183 meters above the city, the “mountain” is covered by a well-developed, fully paved, and highly walkable trail network, making it a choice hike for photographers, family visits, and anyone that doesn’t want to drop NT$ on a ride up to the 101 observation deck.
In short, it’s fully deserving of its great reputation. But let’s say hypothetically that you don’t feel like walking up the Elephant’s trunk this time around. Taipei is encircled by a network of highly varied trails that have their own 101 views. This article rounds up a few of our favorites, all of which are well sign-posted, doable in a day, and don’t require much hiking experience.
1. Thumb Mountain 拇指山
Though it’s just behind Elephant Mountain, hiking The Thumb is a completely different game entirely. Rising 320 meters above the city, the peak is one of the highest in Xinyi District. As a result, its exposed craggy summit commands excellent views over not only 101 but also the surrounding mountains and the Taipei Basin. What’s more, this is one of the few lookouts in the areas that you’re likely to get all to yourself, as the summit is almost always deserted.
Most people actually hike Thumb Mountain as an add-on to Elephant. Just keep walking toward Guanyin Pavilion after you pass the Six Rocks scenic spot. Alternatively, a much quieter route tackles the mountain from the south and peeks out at 101 at various points along the way. The trailhead is roughly here on a residential street.
2. Jinmian Shan 金面山
One of Taipei’s most rewarding hikes, the Jinmian Shan trail starts in Neihu about 10 minutes walk from Xihu MRT station. The first leg or so is a strenuous partially-paved walk up through the forest. Follow the signs for Jiandao Shi Shan (剪刀石山), and the path will eventually lead up up to an exposed rock face with uninterrupted views south over the city. You’ll have these at your back for most of your ascent, which ends with the peak at Jiandao Shi Shan being one of the best photo-ops with 101 in the background. From there, the trail takes you along the spine of the mountain, finishing near Neihu MRT station.
3. Jiantan Shan 劍潭山步道
Great for sunsets, the trail up narrow Jiantan Shan looks out north and south from the hillside and is very lightly trafficked when you consider how easy it is to reach from Jiantan MRT and Shilin Night Market.
Bear right on your way up from the Grand Hotel trailhead, and you’ll pass a couple of observation decks that gaze down over Songshan Airport, where you can see planes coming into land. Though steep in the beginning, the path levels out at this point. Interesting features include a couple of small temple gardens from which you can see out as far as the Tamsui River estuary if the weather is clear. Continue up the hill to reach the Laodifang Lookout, which offers a breathtaking panorama of the capital.
4. Zhongyong Shan Trail 忠勇山步道
Another great trail if you want to skip the crowds, Zhongyong Shan is an easy paved walk in the Neihu hills with plenty of pleasant rest stops, some of which have views of Taipei 101. One peculiarity about this trail is at the summit you’ll find a seemingly forgotten memorial to the late dictator Chiang Kai-shek, one of a small number in Taiwan left standing in its original location.
Zhongyong Shan is a fairly short hike, but don’t head back into the city immediately. Near the trailhead is the Bishanyan, a lavishly decorated Taoist temple with an observation deck that looks out across Taipei and down toward Keelung. Go after dark for dazzling views of the city lights.
5. Tiaomi Historic Trail 糶米古道
In the 19th century, Tiaomi was a trade route farmers used to carry their rice to market. A short and lesser-known trail, this easy 30-minute walk traces the foot of Nangang Shan, passing some pretty lookout points and interesting historic sites. That includes an early 20th-century mine, the opening of which you can still go into and look around. At one end, Tiaomi connects to the Guang Gong Cemetery, a beautiful terraced site with open views of the city. From there, it joins Tudi Gong Ling Historic Trail (土地公嶺古道), another former rice-carrying track with several views, of Taipei 101, the Taipei Basin, and Liuzhangli neighborhood — all of which you’ll likely get completely to yourself.
6. Tiger Mountain 虎山
A very easy yet rewarding walk, Tiger Mountain starts behind opulent Songshan Cihui Temple and gradually climbs up into the forest. The route is almost completely paved and involves a lot of stairs, so not ideal for those seeking a wilder hiking experience. Regardless though, its location north of 101 gives you a different perspective of the tower (read: more interesting photos for Instagram than 90% of what you’ll see on your feed).
Tiger Mountain is actually the first peak on the interconnected Four Beasts Hiking Trail, the others being Leopard, Lion, and of course… Elephant. So start early enough in the day and you will be able to hit all four, finishing on Elephant. The path is surprisingly quiet for much of the walk, and if you time it right you’ll also be able to catch the sunset from the Six Rocks Scenic Spot.
7. Fuzhou Shan 福州山
Essentially, Fuzhou Shan is a mini Elephant Mountain, offering equally nice views of 101 while being just as close to an MRT station (Liuzhangli). Like most of the more accessible hikes around Taipei, it’s fully paved with some moderate to fairly steep inclines. A benefit of hiking here is that the Fuzhou Shan is illuminated after dark, making it a great choice if you plan on sticking around to enjoy the dusk colors. Begin on Wolong Street, and on the way up you’ll pass several points with photogenic city views. The consensus is that the best ones of 101 are from pavilion four. After you reach the summit, descend on the southwest side of the hill to reach Zhongpu Shan (中埔山) , which is quieter still yet equally lovely.
8. Tianmu Historic Trail 天母古道親山步
Known locally by its other Chinese name, shuiguan lu budao (the Pipeline Trail 水管路步道), this walking route in Shilin is the site of one of Taiwan’s first running water systems. The pipes were laid during the Japanese colonial period and still follow the trial, though they are underground for the first section of the hike. Taipei 101 is quite a way off in the distance as just one feature of this trail’s sweeping views over the city. To add to the interest of this route, monkey sightings are fairly common here. Along the way, you can make a short detour to Emerald Peak Waterfall (翠峰瀑布), which is a short detour from the main path.
9. Xianjiyan 仙跡岩親山步道
A short walk over from Jingmei MRT, Xianjiyan is a fairly small hill that nonetheless benefits from uninterrupted city views. The walk is a short but steep paved climb, leveling out at the top. There the trail has panoramic views of downtown and Taipei 101, as well as Maokong to the south. One of Xianjiyan’s main draws for Instragrammers is a rope-swing-shaped tree that leans out over one of the trails best views. Not that we would climb up it though. The tree is very close to a steep drop off.