The Best Day Hikes in Taiwan + Tips
There are so many amazing hikes and trails in Taiwan – all offering breath-taking views and a fun day outdoors. With nearly two-thirds of the island consisting of lush mountains and 286 peaks towering 3000 meters above sea level, it’s not hard to see why Taiwan is a mecca for hiking enthusiasts.
Whether you’re looking for a short day trip from Taipei or something a bit more challenging – there’s something for every kind of hiker in Taiwan. This guide sets out the best day hikes in Taiwan. Plus handy tips to help you trek Taiwan hassle-free.
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Top Tips Before Hiking in Taiwan
Check if you need a permit
Taiwan is home to hundreds of beautiful trails, both low-altitude, and high-mountain trails. For some hikes in Taiwan, you will need a permit. Especially the more difficult ones such as the Zhuili Old Road Trail in Taroko Gorge or Jade Mountain. If you’re keen on hiking one of these trails, applying well in advance for permits are a huge must. More details on this later.
Keep an eye on the weather forecast
Taiwan’s weather can be quite unpredictable. Northern Taiwan has a sub-tropical climate, while the southern region is more tropical. During summer, typhoons and heavy rains aren’t uncommon. These heavy rains often lead to rockfalls and in worse cases, landslides. Earthquakes also occur regularly here. Therefore I strongly advise checking the local weather forecast before attempting any of these day hikes in Taiwan.
Book accommodation well in advance
Although some hikes in this guide are a short trip from Taipei, you will need to book accommodation further afield. If you are traveling to more touristy spots such as Alishan or Taroko Gorge, it’s a good idea to book accommodation a few weeks ahead of time. You might also want to consider visiting during the week instead of weekends to miss the crowds.
Buy a local SIM card
One of the best things about traveling Taiwan is the super fast and reliable internet. Wifi hotspots are easy to find in most hotels, restaurants and even on public transport like the subway, bus, and train. However, if you are attempting any of these hikes, it’s best to have a connection in case of an emergency. On most trails, you won’t need a guide, so you could easily hike an entire trail without others. Therefore, opt for picking up a local 4G SIM card at the airport on arrival to travel better onwards.
Download Google Maps
You’re going to need Google Maps to travel Taiwan with ease. With Google Maps installed on your mobile, you’ll be able to quickly and effectively check routes and transport modes to reach the trailheads.
Download Google Translate
Although there is English signage in most tourist spots, public spaces and on the local transport, you should know that English is not widely spoken in Taiwan. Most young people can speak some basic English, and with Taiwanese people being amiable, you shouldn’t have too much trouble getting by in Taiwan.
Learning a few basic Chinese phrases before your Taiwan trip will come in handy, but for peace of mind, I strongly suggest also downloading Google Translate should you need to ask for directions, check trail boards or even order food. Be sure to download Traditional Chinese and not Simplified Chinese as it is not used here in Taiwan. Also, allow the app permission to access your camera so that you can toggle over Chinese characters for instant translations.
Get an Easy Card
If it’s your first visit to Taiwan, you’re probably relying on public transport to reach the best hikes in Taiwan. So, the best travel tip I can give you is to buy an Easy Card. With an Easy Card, you won’t have to worry about small change as it will allow you the freedom to tap and go on most transport modes such as the subway, buses and some trains. You can also use it to buy things at convenience stores or even to rent a U-bike.
Pick up an Easy Card at the airport upon arrival, or grab one at any convenience store across Taiwan. The card costs NT$ 100 (none-refundable), and you can top it up at any 7-11 or at the top-up machines at the stations. Also, remember to cash out your card at the MRT service counters before you leave Taiwan.
Get travel insurance
I never travel without travel insurance, and neither should you. You never know what can happen on your trip, especially when hiking in Taiwan. Remember, it’s always better to be over-prepared in case of medical emergencies, damages to your gear, or loss. World Nomads has loads of different packages for all kinds of travel styles and budgets.
What to Pack for Hiking in Taiwan
Before you hit any hike in Taiwan, it’s essential to be ready for hiking in a sub-tropical environment. First, you’ll want to make sure you’ve got the basics, so be sure to pack the above essentials when hiking in Taiwan. If you’re visiting during Nov – Feb, this Taiwan winter packing list will also come in handy.
On top of the items mentioned above, you might also want to consider bringing the following along:
- Extra Sun Protection. Taiwan’s summers are usually relentless. If you are hiking in sweltering weather, chances are the UV level will be quite high too. So besides bringing along a hat, your fav shades, and sunscreen, it’s a good idea to also pack in a UV-protected shirt for extra protection.
- Proper Footwear. Wear comfortable, slip-proof hiking shoes, especially if you are going to do more intensive hikes. You’ll also want to wear shoes that are breathable so that your feet don’t feel too hot or sweaty.
- A First Aid Kit. Consider bringing a small First Aid Kit along just in case of an emergency. You never know what can happen on a hike in Taiwan. Remember, to pack an anti-itch cream as well – Taiwan’s jungles have some pretty weird bugs!
- Water. Always bring extra water when hiking in Taiwan so that you can stay hydrated. It’s also a good idea to invest in a reusable water bottle.
- Snacks. For longer distance treks, you’ll want to pack snacks to ensure you stay energized. Salty snacks and nuts work great to keep you going on your walk.
The Best Day Hikes in Taiwan
Since there are so many amazing treks to do in Taiwan, ticking them all off my list would take forever. That’s why I teamed up with fellow travelers and outdoor enthusiasts to bring you this great list! Here are the best day hikes in Taiwan.
Day Hikes in Northern Taiwan
One of the most accessible day hikes in Taiwan is actually in Taipei – Taiwan’s bustling capital city. Hiking Elephant Mountain, or Xiangshan (象山), is one of the best things to do in Taipei especially if you’re looking for an easy way to immerse yourself in nature.
It’s a short hike that won’t take more than 30 minutes to reach the top — depending on your fitness level and the crowds, of course! Although you’ll only be hiking a short distance, you should know that the entire trail follows a very steep staircase up the mountain. So, you will break a sweat!
Once you reach the first viewing platform, you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of Taipei’s skyline. For even more impressive views, hike another 10 minutes or so to the boulders where you’ll get the best view of Taipei 101 and the cityscape. If you have time, you could hike the entire trail, which is less than 1.5 km long and shouldn’t take more than an hour to complete.
To get to Elephant Mountain, hop on the MRT red line towards Xiangshan Station. It’s the very last stop on the line, after Taipei 101. From here, it’s a 20-minute walk through suburbia to reach the trailhead. Don’t worry, there are plenty of signs pointing the route along the way, but it’s also a good idea to have Google Maps ready on your phone.
Oh, and travel tip – Try to avoid hiking Elephant Mountain on weekends as it gets very crowded with tourists and wannabe Instagrammers trying to snap a selfie on top of the boulders.
Contributed by Cat from Walk my World.
If you’re looking for an adventurous hike with epic views that is an easy day trip from Taipei, then Teapot Mountain is the one for you. Characterized by the teapot-shaped rock at the top, this mountain hike doesn’t take too long to complete but will give you a bit of a workout.
The trail starts by the Gold Museum, which is a 5-10 minute bus ride from Jiufen’s famous old street. The 5 km return trail is almost entirely uphill (you’ll climb 360 meters in elevation) but you are presented with beautiful coastal views all the way along. The walk isn’t difficult being on a mixture of staircases and pavement, that is until you get to just below the teapot itself when you hit the roped section.
That’s where you’ll have a choice: take in the beautiful views and return or attempt the scramble to the very top of the teapot! The first bit is clambering up rocks with the aid of a rope which is not too difficult in good weather but slippery in the rain.
The final scramble isn’t for the faint-hearted as it gets steeper and trickier and space is narrow, but your prize will be standing on the summit. From the top, it is a relatively quick hike down to Jiufen where you can treat yourself to some delicious street food.
Contributed by Val from Wandering Wheatleys.
The Pingxi Crags hike (Xiaozishan Trail) is located right near the small village of Pingxi, about 40 minutes outside of Taipei. It’s a relatively short taxi ride, or you can make it part of a day riding on the Pingxi branch line, a historic single-track railway that stops at several exciting mountain towns.
The trail begins at the base of a set of cement steps where an information board gives you an overview of the scenic viewpoints in the area. There are three famous mountain peaks to summit along the trail – Xiaozi, Cimu, and Putuo. We would recommend starting with Xiaozi Mountain as it is a short trek with breathtaking views.
After climbing the steep stairs, you’ll reach a split in the trail with another map. Follow the staircase off to the right, the one of the left seems to dead end after about a half-mile. More concrete steps will lead you to a landing where you’ll see several staircases that have been carved into the rock face and have ropes on each side to act as handrails. Take the stairs on the left. At the next landing, both sets of stairs lead to the same destination.
As you near the peak of Xiaozi Mountain you’ll find that the trail gets quite a bit more precarious. Use caution and don’t attempt the climb if it’s been raining. A ladder with steep drop-offs on either side is the only route to the top, where you’ll be rewarded with 360 views of the surrounding forest.
In the distance, you’ll see the peaks of Cimu Mountain and Putuo Mountain with steep staircases leading to the top. If you’re feeling spry, you can continue to
Lion’s Head Mountain
Contributed by Nick from Spiritual Travels.
Shitoushan, or “Lion’s Head Mountain” is a low-altitude (492-meter) mountain straddling two counties in northern Taiwan. Shitoushan is known for its network of hiking trails connecting numerous temples on the sides of a mountain that supposedly looks like a lion (though you may struggle to see that).
Shitoushan’s hiking trails are easy and can be done by anyone with a basic level of fitness, even children. The trails are especially popular among local elderly. There are four main hiking trails there, with the main one connecting a collection of temples on the Miaoli side to the Lion’s Head Mountain Visitor’s Center on the Hsinchu side. This trail can be completed in about 1.5/3 hours one-way/return.
The story goes that in 1892, a Buddhist monk explored the area and found some bones in a cave, so he had a temple built to house them. Many more Buddhist temples followed, and many of them were also built into the mountain’s caves or cliff walls.
Visiting these cave temples is the most fascinating aspect of hiking the Shitoushan trails today. The temples are active places of worship, and many monks and nuns reside there. Visitors can even have a vegetarian meal or spend the night at Quanhua Temple, the largest temple on the Miaoli side.
For more information, see this detailed article on Lion’s Head Mountain.
Hiking in Central Ta
Contributed by Jackie & Justin from Life Of Doing.
If you love challenging hikes, add Jade Mountain (also known as Yushan) to the list. Located in central Taiwan, you’ll experience the highest peak in Taiwan at 3,952 meters (12,966 feet). To complete the 31 kilometers (19.2 miles) trek, you’ll need to schedule at least one full day to hike Jade Mountain. Two days is even better to help acclimate due to the altitude and distance.
The trail itself is not the easiest, especially as a new hiker. You’ll encounter various challenges such as scrambling over huge rocks, using chains to hoist yourself up the mountain and even walking steadily along a narrow path that is enough for one person at a time. Your body may be aching after the hours of the uphill climbing, yet the views at the summit are worth it. On a clear day, you’ll see the stunning mountain cascades with the wispy cirrus clouds.
To get to Jade Mountain, you’ll need to drive to the base of the mountain to get to the trail. All hikers need to apply for a permit in advance before hiking the trail. If staying for two days, you’ll also need to reserve lodging on the mountain.
Alishan National Forest Recreational Area
With elevations rising from 300m – 2600m, and 25 peaks rising above 2000m, Alishan is undoubtedly one of the most scenic hiking areas in Taiwan. Seeing that Alishan is enormous (415 km²) most travelers set off to hike the serene trails at the Alishan National Forest Recreation Area. Here, you can enjoy gentle strolls along wooden walkways, or wander down paths leading to hidden temples.
Although there aren’t many challenging hikes within the park, you could attempt to reach the summit by foot (1 hr). You’ll want to head out pretty early if you’re going to catch the sunrise. And don’t forget a flashlight or headlamp! Alternatively, take the 4 am train ride up to Zhushan (祝山), where you’ll be able to witness Taiwan’s most beautiful sunrise and stand above the sea of clouds
Getting to Alishan is not the easiest. You’ll need to use several transport modes to reach the park which could easily take up at least half a day depending on your departure point. First get yourself to Chiayi HSR station, from where you can either grab a taxi or hop on a bus. There is also a shared shuttle service which is a much less scary drive than the bus! Get an in-depth look at the best things to do in Alishan here, as well as handy tips to navigate the area.
Spend at least two days in Alishan to get a feel for the area and enjoy the beautiful scenery. For a hassle-free trip, it’s best to book accommodation within the park, well in advance.
Shizhao Tea Trails
Shizhao is a small tea farming community roughly 40 minutes by bus from Alishan National Forest Recreation Area. The town itself is not nearly as lovely as neighboring Fengqihu, and only has a handful of shops and restaurants. However, what sets Shizhao apart from other hikes on this list is that the trails run through beautiful tea plantations.
There are a few tea trails in Shizhao, but I highly recommend the Mist Trail. The staircase is well maintained, and although it isn’t nearly as steep as Elephant Mountain’s, you’ll feel the workout afterward! There are two trailheads, one at the bottom of the mountain and one at the top. So either way, you will have to go uphill at some point.
The Mist Trail is 5 km long, so work on at least 2-3 hours to complete it. As you wander through Alishan’s famous high mountain tea plantations, you’ll be rewarded with beautiful blue skies and mountain silhouettes as a backdrop.
Hiking in Southern Taiwan
Contributed by Chloe from Chloe’s Travelogue.
If enjoying a city view from an observatory or meeting with wild monkeys is in your bucket list, Shoushan (壽山) in Kaohsiung is the perfect place to check both off.
Shoushan is a sizable mountain in the Sizihwan neighborhood with multiple entry points and hiking routes. The hiking course starting from the Shoushan Zoo is famous for many reasons.
This trailhead is the easiest one to find with the convenience of a parking lot near the Zoo. Following along the hiking trail laid with stones and wooden stairs is appropriate for hikers of any level and age. This course will also feature many vista points overlooking Kaohsiung City and harbor. If you do not want to climb up to the mountain top, the Qiman station is an incredible stopping point and only one-hour hike away from the entrance.
However, one reason making Shoushan famous for visitors is wild monkeys native to Taiwan. Even before you step into the woods, you will receive a welcome from these monkeys. You will get many opportunities to be up close and personal with them. But be aware that they can be aggressive with food.
Read more tips for hiking the mountain with monkeys and Kaohsiung travel here.
Hiking in Eastern Taiwan
No visit to Taiwan would be complete without visiting Taroko Gorge. As one of the Eight Wonders of Taiwan and the top tourist attraction on the island, Taroko Gorge is a must-do on any Taiwan itinerary.
Taroko is home to some of the best hikes in Taiwan and covers 19 km of stunning landscape through towering canyons and lush jungle, along the Liwu River.
Easy hikes in Taroko Gorge
There are many excellent trails in Taroko catering to all hiking levels. But, if you only have one day to spend in Taroko, I highly recommend sticking to the more accessible trails which follow along the main road. These include Swallow Grotto and Eternal Spring Shrine – each quickly walked within less than an hour. Wear comfortable, non-slip shoes as some of the trails, especially Eternal Spring Shrine, can get quite slippery from water drizzling down through the cracks in the canyon.
The Shakadang Trail is yet another fantastic trail in the park. The trailhead starts at a steep staircase near the Shakadang bridge. You’ll need at least 2-3 hours to complete the hike, but the beautiful views are more than enough reward. It’s a pretty easy hike, although there is a bit of an incline. Along the way, you’ll encounter azure-colored pools, and diverse fauna and flora.
Zhuili Old Road Trail
Serious hikers, on the other hand, shouldn’t miss the Zhuili Old Road trail, which is probably the most famous hike in Taroko. You do however need a permit to do this hike, so be sure to apply for one at least a few weeks in advance. Only 97 permits are issued per day, and you’ll need to be fit enough to complete the 3.1 km hike.
Have you ever completed any of these day hikes in Taiwan? What tips do you have for fellow travelers wanting to trek Taiwan? Drop your comments below.
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