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DISCOVER TAIPEI -- Exploring the city's hilly surroundings

2015/03/27 10:33:00

(Discover Taipei)

The city of Taipei is surrounded by mountains, and nature sits right on its doorstep, easily accessible via public transport. This has made the hilly environs one of the city's key attractions.

North from Yangmingshan National Park and south to the area of Zhinan Temple and Maokong on Erge Mountain, there are five mountain ranges around the city -- the Datun Mountain Range, Qixing Mountain Range, Wuzhi Mountain Range, Nangang Mountain Range, and Erge Mountain Range.

To enable hikers to experience the full range of Taipei's mountain beauty, the city government has established a network of 20 hiking trails.

Yangmingshan. (CNA file photo)

●Taipei's Backyard Garden -- Yangmingshan National Park

Yangmingshan, or Yangming Mountain, was originally called Caoshan, or Grass Mountain.

Back when the Japanese controlled Taiwan, they planted black pine, Taiwan acacia, and Taiwan sweetgum trees throughout the area and developed the local hot springs, opening up Yangmingshan for tourism.

Its original name was changed in 1950 to honor the Ming dynasty scholar Wang Yangming, and in 1985 Yangmingshan National Park was established. Its beauty and easy accessibility has made the park a much-loved leisure and recreation destination, affectionately dubbed "Taipei's backyard garden."

Yangmingshan is rich in flora and fauna. The annual Yangmingshan Flower Festival is a great visual feast, the exuberantly colorful azaleas, Taiwan cherry blossoms, and Zhuzihu calla lilies delighting visitors.

Calla lilies at Zhuzihu. (CNA file photo)

Come October, huge swathes of white-flowered silver grass sway with the breezes, and the branches of the late-fall maple trees ripple with red leaves. Winter is a time of cold and drizzle, the Yangmingshan world becoming one of cloud and mist.

The differing characters of the seasons make it a unique place to enjoy both flowers and hot springs.

Guizikeng. (Photo courtesy of the Council of Agriculture)

●The First Hiking Route -- Guizikeng Hiking Trail

Guizikeng Hiking Trail in the Datun Mountain Range was the first hiking trail developed by the Taipei City Government, and features a first-rate rest and leisure area with camping facilities, the Water and Soil Conservation Education Park, and a loop trail up the mountain above. The two camping areas, the "100 Terrace" and the "110 Terrace," offer a distinctive leisure experience.

According to Shia Shian-tung, section chief of the Industrial and Trail Section at the Geotechnical Engineering Office in the city's Public Works Department, by visiting the Guizikeng Water and Soil Conservation Education Park, you can see the oldest geological stratum in the Taipei area, the "Wuzhi Mountain Stratum," as well as an attractive pond in which the lush greenery of the surrounding trees is reflected.

As you stroll in this peaceful mountain setting you may well encounter bamboo partridge, Chinese bulbul, and other birds, including the occasional eagle hovering high in the blue sky.

Guizikeng. (Photo courtesy of the Council of Agriculture)

●Fun in Tianmu -- Old Tianmu Hiking Trail

Tianmu is an international enclave that draws many travelers. Many come especially to try the Old Tianmu Hiking Trail on the foothills of the Qixing Mountain Range.

Many are also surprised that Tianmu still has such a radiant and unspoilt natural landscape. Also called the Shuiguan Road Trail, it was developed during the Japanese era (1895-1945) as a conduit to bring spring water from the 3rd Water Source Zone down to Tianmu and Shilin.

Shuiguan Road Trail. (Discover Taipei)

Declared an official city heritage site in 2004, this is Tianmu's premier heritage attraction and also Taiwan’s first "water supply system heritage site."

Built over 80 years ago, it was completed in 1932, and although the flow from the water source has lessened over the years and there is no way to increase the supply, the facility continues to provide a portion of Tianmu's water.

The trail is bordered on both sides by dense foliage and shade, and the large, black water pipe beside it, made of high-pressure cast iron, is 647 meters long.

Walkers often lean up close to the pipe to listen to the gurgling spring water inside. The distinctive pipe, pleasant forest cover, and attractive trailside plant life such as ferns and giant elephant’s ear make for a soothing walk, but also an introduction to Taipei's water-resources.

The Grand Hotel. (CNA file photo)

●Mountains and Scenic Beauty --Jiantanshan Hiking Trail

The Grand Hotel, with its resplendent Chinese palace-style exterior, has been in operation for over 60 years.

Among its many celebrity guests over the years have been international film stars Elizabeth Taylor and Alain Delon and US President Dwight Eisenhower.

The hotel's own star continues to shine bright on the international stage. Splendid views of the beautiful hotel can be had from on high by walking the Jiantanshan Hiking Trail, which starts at the bottom of the hillside behind.

Jiantanshan Hiking Trail. (Discover Taipei)

This is one of the most popular trails in the Wuzhi Mountain Range, with a well-preserved natural ecology. Traversing what was once a military control zone, another major feature is a number of abandoned military facilities.

Up on the crest, the scenery is splendid, with expansive views over the Grand Hotel, nearby riverside parks, and the Miramar Ferris Wheel. The best-known facility along the trail is the Old Place Plane-Spotting Platform, presenting a thrilling panorama of aircraft taking off and landing at Taipei Songshan Airport.

Old Place Plane-Spotting Platform. (Discover Taipei)

●A Restful City Idyll -- Nature Walks by Hushan Stream

If you've ever enjoyed the views over Taipei from Xiangshan, be sure to try the Hushan Hiking Trail, also in the Nangang Mountain Range.

In April and May each year fireflies put on a show around the area's Hushan Stream. Beside Songshan Zhenshan Temple is a special butterfly viewing area with a boardwalk and two observation platforms, from which there are great views of Taipei 101 and the Miramar Ferris Wheel as well.

On clear evenings during firefly season the scenery here is breathtaking.

The entrance of the Zhinangong trail. (CNA file photo)

●The Popular Erge Mountain System Route -- Zhinan Temple Maokong Hiking Trail

Between Taipei Zoo Station and Zhinan Temple Station on the Maokong Gondola system is the Zhinangong Maokong Hiking Trail, which is divided into three routes.

The Zhinangong trail was constructed during the Japanese era. The stone lanterns set up along the way give it a strong Japanese feel. The stairway trail brings you up from valley floor to the mountainside temple, where the magnificent architecture is a major attraction.

Also well worth seeing is the lovely "May Snow" seen along the Dacheng Hall Trail when the tung trees bloom each year.

Along the Tea Promotion Center Trail are stream views, tea plantations, terraced fields, and other scenic beauties. A special attraction are the pot holes; the name "Maokong" literally means "cat's hollows," because the pot holes in the stream-bed rocks reminded people long ago of imprints left by cats with their paws.

Maokong Gondola. (CNA file photo)

●Pink Cherry Blossom Greets the Returning Spring in Taipei’s Mountain Regions

As flowers start to open in the returning warmth of spring, in addition to the above-described trails, says the city government's Shia, there are numerous other trails very popular with locals for viewing cherry blossoms, notably Beitou District's Fengwei Trail and newly opened Baigong Shanzhuang Trail, which has three routes, Zhulin Trail in Shilin District, and Bishanyan Trail in Neihu District.

While visiting Taipei, head to the hills, and one or more of these favorite mountain spots. Whether for sightseeing or exercise, natural pleasures are guaranteed. (From the March/April edition of Discover Taipei)

Beitou District’s Fengwei Trail. (CNA file photo)

●Transportation and information:

◎Guizikeng Hiking Trail 貴子坑親山步道

Take Metro Tamsui-Xinyi Line (Line 2, red) to Fuxinggang Station. On exiting, turn right and follow the signs to enter the MRT green corridor, then walk to the trailhead. Alternatively, take bus 216 or 218 and get off at MRT Fuxinggang Station or the Xiushan Road intersection stop (秀山路口站).

◎Old Tianmu Hiking Trail 天母古道親山步道

Take Metro Tamsui-Xinyi Line (Line 2, red) to Jiantan Station, transfer to bus Red 5 or 260, get off at Shanzaihou stop (山仔后站), and walk to upper trailhead on Aifu 3rd Street (愛富三街). Alternatively, take bus 220 or 224 to Tianmu stop (天母站), then walk in direction of Tianmu Police Station to end of Sec. 7, Zhongshan N. Rd.

◎Jiantanshan Hiking Trail 劍潭山親山步道

Take Metro Tamsui-Xinyi Line (Line 2, red) to Jiantan Station and walk to trailhead, or take public bus 203 or 218 and get off at Jiantan stop.

◎Hushan Hiking Trail 虎山生態步道

Take Metro Bannan Line (Line 5, blue) and get off at Houshanpi Station, then walk along Zhongpo S. Rd. (中坡南路) to Fude St. (福德街), reaching the trailhead by Cihui Temple (慈惠堂) on Ln. 251, Fude St. (福德街251巷) in about 20 minutes.

◎Zhinangong Maokong Hiking Trail 指南宮貓空親山步道

Take Metro Wenhu Line (Line 1, brown) to Taipei Zoo Station, transfer to bus 236 or 237, get off at National Chengchi University stop (政治大學站), walk in direction of Zhinan Rd. (指南路). After passing NCCU campus entrance, the trailhead is found at Ln. 33, Sec. 3, Zhinan Rd.

To return, an option is to walk from the Taipei Tea Promotion Center for Tieguanyin and Baozhong to the cable-car station beside Sanxuan Temple (三玄宮), riding the Maokong Gondola down to MRT Taipei Zoo Station (動物園站).

◎Yangmingshan National Park Administration Headquarters

Tel: (02)2861-3601 Website: