2019 highlights: discovering the pleasure of hiking in Taiwan

hiking in Taiwan
View of Taipei 101 from the Four Beasts Scenic Area

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.

hiking in Taiwan
Four Beasts Scenic Area

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:

All the Views with None of the Crowds at Tiger Mountain
Off the Beaten Track: On the Trail of the Four Beasts
Four Beasts Hiking Trail (四獸山步道)

Elephant Mountain - hiking in Taiwan
Elephant Mountain

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.

Caoling Trail - hiking in Taiwan
View from the Caoling Historical Trail

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.

Caoling Historical Trail - hiking in Taiwan
Caoling Historical Trail

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:

Caoling Historical Trail (草嶺古道)

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