This blog is designed to provide information for people living in Taiwan, especially those living in Taipei or northern Taiwan who are interested in going hiking/cycling but are unsure of where to go.
All cycling and hiking trips listed here can be easily done as a day-trip from Taipei using public transportation.
This blog is a work in progress as I continue to add information on more places and to explore more places myself.
Hiking Top Picks:
Neihu: the best hike that can be done without leaving the city. Several peaks with great views, ponds, a waterfall, suspension bridge, and a nice café to relax in.
Qingtiangang: an easy hike through the main highlights of the park.
Sandiaoling: hike up a stream past three high waterfalls, then through the thick jungle for a couple of hours and finish at the Cat Village.
Yunei Ancient Trees: the most accessible place to see ancient trees near Taipei and about the only ancient tree grove reachable by public transportation.
Huangdidian: popular ridge hike with exposed ridges
Teapot Mt.: there are lots of great hikes in the north-east corner of the island, but none as great as the stunning views hiking above Jinguashi.
Jaoxi Waterfalls: swimming at the base of the falls, great relief on a hot summer day.
Information on Hiking in Taiwan (mainly for foreigners new to hiking in Taiwan):
1. Stone Trails and Steps: hiking trails made of stones with lots of steps tend to surprise newcomers to Taiwan. Some trails like Elephant Mountain or the main trail up Dajianshan in Xizhi are nothing but steep steps going straight up the mountain. Most people hate them (especially the steps) and they can be hard on the feet and knees. In shady areas these stone steps also get covered by algae making them very slippery.
2. Signs: on the main trails there are signs in English as well as maps showing the trails. Off the main trails there tends to be no signs at all, or signs that hikers have made and attached to trees in Chinese only. It is best to hike with someone who can read Chinese on these trails.
3. Hiking Flags: on the trails you’ll see lots of flags attached to trees left behind by hiking groups. These are valuable when hiking on narrow trails to help find the way. When you are on the trails keep looking for the flags and following them. If you have stopped seeing flags it likely means you have gone off the trail and would be wise to backtrack to where you last saw them.
4. Hiking Groups: hiking is very popular in Taiwan amongst the older generation. You’ll often see them in large groups on the trails. They have good knowledge of the trails and will help you if you want to know which trails to take. Unfortunately some of these groups also have the bad habit of leaving their garbage behind. Hiking is not popular amongst Taiwanese 20-somethings and you’ll rarely see them on the trails.
There are several good hiking groups in Taiwan that locals and foreigners both join with several hikes going on every weekend. Go to http://www.meetup.com/ and signup if you want to join a group and go hiking.
5. Bus Service and Hitch hiking: there are still some buses that go into mountain areas, but the service on these routes can be very infrequent, with maybe only a few buses a day. Hitch hiking is common in mountain areas and the locals who drive on these roads are used to picking up hikers and the end of a trail and driving them back to civilization. For real-time bus info, download the app Bus Tracker Taiwan onto your phone to know when the next bus will come to your stop.
6. Isolated Farm Houses: Taiwan has surprisingly many old isolated farmhouses (farmhouses with no road access) made out of stone or mud. I’ve seen houses several kilometers or more from the nearest road. Don’t be surprised if a hiking trail has you walking past someone’s front door. You may be invited to have tea by the people who live there. Take advantage of the chance to see one of these old houses.
7. Spiders: If you are afraid of spiders you may have some trouble with hiking in Taiwan as the island is home to some of the largest spiders in the world. The golden orb spider is ubiquitous on the trails. They can grow to be the size of an adult male’s hand. Have a look at the web when you see one of these spiders. The large black and yellow spider in the middle of the web is the female. Around the edge of the web you’ll see a few millimeter sized red spiders, those are the males!!
8. Poisonous Snakes: there are poisonous snakes in Taiwan and often there are signs warning of them. The most common is the bright green bamboo viper. Though I’ve never heard of anyone being bitten by one of these, if it does happen medical attention is required immediately as the are extremely poisonous.
9. Hornets: large red hornets that have poisonous stings, 10 stings can kill and adult. A hiker was killed in the fall of 2016 by hornets. Retreat immediately if you encounter them.
10. Dogs: there are lots of stray dogs in Taiwan and you’ll likely see them on trails around the city, or along the highway in the countryside near bus stops. Sometimes they like to join and will follow people who are starting a hike. You may wind-up having an unexpected guest on your hike.
Of slightly more concern are dogs on rural roads that may come running out of yards to bark aggressively at you. Usually if you just ignore them and keep walking and they’ll quickly go back home, however a friend of mine was attacked by farmer’s dog while walking along a country road to the bus stop after a hike, so they do pose a potential danger.