I’m not sure why it took me nearly three decades, but this was the year I discovered the pleasures of hiking in Taiwan. Isn’t it amazing how easy it can be to ignore things that are right on your doorstep? That’s my excuse, anyway, and I’m sticking to it.
On your doorstep isn’t exaggerating too much either if you live in Taipei. In less than half-an-hour by bus and MRT I can go from home to my favorite stomping ground of Tiger Mountain in the Four Beasts Scenic Area (四獸山). This offers a huge variety of routes to choose from depending on your fitness and lots of great views to enjoy – not to mention lots of interesting temples to stop by at.
There are plenty of excellent articles about the many different trails you can take there. Here are links to ones that I have found particularly useful for my planning my own excursions:
The hike that I’ve least enjoyed is the one up Elephant Mountain, which is so popular that it even has an MRT station named after it. While the climb probably provides an excellent cardio-vascular workout, I got little joy out of the gruesome grind up the steep and crowded staircase that takes you to the summit.
The climb I made up the Caoling Historical Trail (草嶺古道) this summer was far more grueling than the one up Elephant Mountain, but then again the scenery was a lot more beautiful and the fresh sea breezes were a lot more refreshing. Walking along this old route that was first established in 1807 to transport goods between Yilan and Danshui (Tamsui) also gives you a glimpse of how challenging it was to get around this island before the arrival of the railways and modern roads. Carrying backbreaking loads up and down the steep mountains must have been torture.
The best way to get to the head of the Caoling Historical Trail is to take a train to Dali Station (大里車站). This is about 75 minutes from Taipei. It took me about four hours to complete the trail. As I learned to my own cost, however, the path from the end of the trail to Fulong Station (福隆車站)can be quite confusing. Check out this article for the directions: