I’ve just come back from an amazing vacation to Taiwan, while I was there, I took some time off to suss out some of the best activities that can be done in this mountainous country. If you’ve been to Taiwan, I’m pretty sure you already know that the island of Taiwan is basically split into 4 main regions by the central mountains – which presents so many opportunities for mountain trekking that there’s a “thousand-hikes” group in Taiwan.
This post isn’t about that though, because while we were there, we also also tried out some easy to moderate day hikes in Taipei that just about anyone would be able to squeeze in between snacking at the night markets. Trust us, it’s easy enough for you to do on you own, and definitely worth the hike (not just because you get to burn off those extra calories from Taiwan’s delicious snacks)!
Here’re some short but spectacular treks that you can try out on your own:
Sandiaoling Waterfall Trail
This is one hike that’s starting to gain popularity due to its accessibility and proximity to the popular tourist attractions, Shifen (the place to go and light those sky lanterns) and Jiufen, which is often dubbed the Santorini of Taiwan, and popularly accredited for inspiring the Japanese animation, Spirited Away.
We certainly thought this hike was the highlight of our day because it brings you pass not just one, but a total of 4 waterfalls – Hegu, Motian, Pipadong, and further away if you choose to head towards Shifen, Shifen waterfall!
The Sandiaoling waterfall hike is quite popular with the locals, but there aren’t many people especially on a weekday. We bumped into some elderly locals who told us that they do this hike every week, but don’t underestimate the hike! You’ll be better off with a good pair of hiking shoes.
There’s a steep (almost vertical) ladder to climb up from the second (Motian) waterfall to the third (Pipadong) waterfall, and a number of the locals will turn back from here. If you choose to head back like the locals, just head back to the Sandiaoling station and hop onto the Pingxi line towards Shifen or Ruifang (if headed straight to Jiufen). You’ll be able to scale the ladders if you just go slow and… well, try not to look down. We saw a number of locals doing the reverse trail, and I wouldn’t recommend that. It’ll be a lot harder to go down the steep ladder especially if it rains.
Alas, it did rained while we were doing this hike, so we couldn’t take many photographs to document the beauty. But trust us when we say that pictures wouldn’t do these waterfalls justice anyway, and we loved these waterfalls the most out of those we visited in Taiwan.
Take the Taiwan Railway Association (TRA) train towards the Pingxi line and get off at the Sandiaoling stop.
From the station, head south and you’ll find the start point and the trail map just after the elementary school. If you’re getting a local SIM card with data usage, you can use this as a rough guide, although there may not be reception at certain points (just follow the trail, then head towards Dahua and then right to Shifen on an extended road walk – the directions are quite easy to follow if you keep your eyes peeled for them): http://www.mapmyhike.com/routes/view/933673947
In general, follow the yellow ribbons. You’ll find ribbons in many colors along the trail.
Duration: About 4 hours (Sandiaoling to Shifen) at a leisurely pace
Caoling Historical Trail
This is a trail that has often been quoted in guidebooks as the hike to do if you could only spare time for one. With beautiful views of Taiwan’s northeastern coast, coupled with a strong historical value (this brings us pass the remaining section of the Qing Dynasty Road that once connected Yilan and Danshui), you’re in for a real treat. But go prepared; it can get hot and sunny without much shelter from the sun, so wear a cap and bring plenty of water for this trail.
We preferred starting off at Fulong, as you’ll end off with the coastal views towards the end of the trail – we find it nice to end off with a reward – but you could also do the trail the reverse way, or continue onto Daxi.
From Taipei Main Station, take the Taiwan Railway Association (TRA) train towards Fulong. You’ll end the trail at Dali station.
The trail is well marked, so it’s not difficult to find your way. Just in case though, we’ve plotted the trail here: http://www.mapmyhike.com/routes/view/934264759
Duration: About 5 hours (Fulong to Dali) at a leisurely pace
This is a really nice hike with a view to beat that from nearby Taipei 101. Watch the sunset atop one of the huge boulders, then linger to take in the night view as Taipei 101 and the city lights up. And because it’s a really short hike with nicely paved stairs, which will only take regular hikers all of 15 minutes to get to the main viewing platform, there’s really no way you can say, “Nah, I don’t think I could fit that into the itinerary”.
Due to the proximity to the city, this is one hike that gets reaaaaally crowded on the weekends, so if you’re on holiday, pencil it in for a weekday so that you can enjoy the hike without having the beat the crowd for a prime viewing spot.
As this route is nicely lit up at night, you don’t have to worry about hiking in the dark after sunset. But we would suggest bringing a handy torchlight nevertheless, just in case.
From anywhere in the city, take the nearest MRT line and connect to Tamsui/Xinyi (Red) line and exit at the Xiangshan station. Head south along Lane 150, Section 5 Xinyi Road, and just pass the temple (代天殿靈雲宮), you’ll find the trail entrance to Elephant Mountain.
For your convenience, we’ve plotted the trail here: http://www.mapmyhike.com/routes/view/937175123
Duration: About 15 minutes to the lookout