Getting Away From It All in Taipei

The capital of Taiwan, Taipei, is densely packed with over two and a half million souls and hundreds of thousands of motorscooters roaring past everywhere you go. Taipei provides a wealth of shopping, eating and cultural attractions for visitors and residents. It’s also surrounded by many hills and mountains that are easily accessible and provide a great way to escape the hectic hustle and bustle of urban life and enjoy nature. The most well-known and highest is YangMingShan, a mountain national park just to the north of the city that has several summits over 1,000 meters and features open hot fumaroles springs.

Closer to the city, there are several areas for decent hiking. Framed by a mountain range running along the length of the area, Neihu is one of the city’s more prosperous and less older areas, featuring a technology industrial park and the Miramar shopping center that boasts a giant ferris wheel. It is near Miramar that good hikes can be had on several mountains.

The shortest one of these nearby mountains at 252 meters, Jinmiansan, arguably has the best vantage point as it provides a great sweeping view across most of the city, including the Songshan airport and Taipei 101, formerly the world’s tallest building and the nation’s most famous landmark.

Taipei 101, seen from Jinmiansan.

Taipei 101, seen from Jinmiansan.

Jinmiansan is easy to get to from several places including from Waishuangxi, an area just to the west of Neihu and where the famous National Palace Museum is located, or from the Xihu MRT Station, but a more challenging way is to climb it from the rock-strewn hillside that faces Taipei. Here the trail is basically composed of large boulders that clutter the slope, the remnants of an old quarry site, making for a very interesting and tricky ascent or descent. At a particularly steep part of this rocky path, there is actually a rope line strung along the side to hold on to.

A 45-minute climb over several ascending paths then takes you to the trails leading to the more imposing Daluntoushan, at 476 meters, and 451-meter Dalunweishan. Daluntoushan offers a view looking onto Taipei, while from Dalunweishan, the peaks of YangMingShan, Keelung river and the port settlement of Bali can be seen. The trails are clearly marked, with some of them paved while others are dirt paths, but they’re all easy to navigate over.

Surrounding you on both sides wherever you are is dense foliage, only breaking when reaching a vehicular road or small clearings. It is not hard to get the impression of being in a lush tropical rainforest, though the paved paths and occasional small shrine remind you of humanity’s ubiquitous presence. You may encounter a few families or groups along the way, as a lot of locals seem to enjoy hiking too. There are smaller side trails along the way, leading you to other routes and mountains.

Top of Jinmiansan, strewn with heavy boulders.

Top of Jinmiansan, strewn with heavy boulders.

You can even encounter some wildlife too, though nothing too wild, with squirrels being quite common. There are also many large spiders that can be seen in webs spun on overhead tree branches. The Formosan Blue Magpie, with its distinctive blue plumage and long tail can also be observed in nearby trees or flying about. Sometimes hawks can be seen soaring over the hillsides, whilst sounding their piercing, repeated shrill cries.

Far less common are snakes, which I’ve only ever come across on a couple of occasions. The first time was when I startled a brown snake, as thick as a broom handle, that was moving alongside the stone steps of the trail who on my approach, quickly dived into the neighboring shrubbery. The other instance, I saw a small green snake that was lying on a stone step, seemingly unfazed at my presence even when I came closer to peer, but at a safe distance of course.

Taking a route from a back road in a Neihu neighborhood, it takes about two and a half hours to get to the top of either of these two. Long enough to get worked up, yet not too strenuous or hazardous to manage, these mountains provide an ideal way to get away for a few hours from the city without actually getting away too far.

>> Things to do in Taipei from IGoUgo.
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All photographs provided by Hilton Yip and may not be used without permission.

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