The most popular hike in Taipei is popular a reason. The views from Xiangshan (象山), literally Elephant Mountain, are beautiful, even when the weather isn’t. It’s also one of the most accessible trails in Taipei. The hike up Elephant Mountain isn’t too difficult, but the stairs can be intimidating for some. Fortunately, there are plenty of places for visitors to rest along the way.
Take MRT Line 2 (Red) to the end of the line at Xiangshan Station and take exit 2. Walk south through Zhongqiang Park (中強公園) and turn left at the end of the street. There is a YouBike station at the corner of the park if you want to begin the hike with a bike ride. The street will start up the hill toward a temple, Dài tiān diàn líng yún gōng (代天殿靈雲宮). Just after the temple is a set of stairs, which is the beginning of the Xiangshan trail. If you begin heading downhill, you’ve walked past the entrance to the trail.
The trail will split–the right side heads straight for the Rock Garden, where everyone stops to rest and take pictures. The left route is a longer roundabout trail with fewer hikers. If you head straight up, the hike should only take 10 minutes, but can take up to 20 minutes depending on the crowd. The summit of Xiangshan is just past the Rock Garden.
Most people don’t hike much more than the trails just around the peak of Xiangshan, but there are more trails beyond the peak. Trails lead to Muzhi Shan (拇指山), Nangang Shan (南港山) and Jiuwu Peak (九五峰), and Tiger Mountain (虎山), as well as others. The hiking area is expansive, and some trailheads aren’t easily accessible by MRT. If you follow the signs to Yongchungang Park (永春崗公園) from the peak of Elephant Mountain, you can easily walk back into the city to Yongchungang MRT Station on Line 5 (Blue) in less than an hour.
If you hike up Xiangshan later in the day, you can catch the sunset over Taipei, but carry a flashlight to ensure an easier hike back down after dark. In the early morning, the air is less hazy, providing clearer views of the city, as well as fewer people.
While there isn’t much in the way of wildlife in Taipei, you can find some interesting birds and insects around Xiangshan, like the stick insect (Phasmatodea).