Taiwan has been on my bucket list ever since I read about it on a friend’s travel blog. Seoul is about two hours away from Taipei and it seemed perfect for a trip. October has hot days and cool nights with occasional rainfall. Typhoon season is mostly over and that increases the likelihood of exploring — without having to worry about the weather.ย 

Taipei’s metro is efficient and not too difficult to decipher. We bought our travel cards at the airport and used the airport line to transfer to Taipei Main Station. Our hotel was about 15 minutes from there. We reached around noon, dropped off our baggage at the reception, and went out to explore the city. Most hotels have a check-in time of 3 p.m. and it’s wise to plan your arrival accordingly. It was a gloomy day with a heavy downpour in the morning.ย We had lunch at a local eatery and took the metro from Taipei Main Station to explore Longshan Temple. We finished early and decided to end the day at Elephant Mountain.

Getting There

We had to transfer at Taipei Main Station to get to Xiangshan Station. The station was practically deserted in the evening. The exit opens directly into Xiangshan Park.

Xiangshan Park

Elephant Mountain is one of the top tourist spots in Taipei and the tourism board ensures a foreign visitor won’t find it hard to explore its trails. There are description boards and direction signages all along the route. I was surprised to see instructions in English and it would be difficult to get lost here.

Xiangshan Park looked serene and inviting with its green foliage. It was tempting to desert our intended hike and spend a relaxing evening in the park instead. The park overlooks some fancy buildings and is frequented by local residents.

Markers to Follow

The path turned steeper as we approached the base of the trail. We could seeย Taipei 101 from here.

Temple

There’s an interesting temple at the base of the trail. We didn’t have the time to explore it because we were nearing sunset and we kept walking.

I’d completed all the hikes we attempted this year and I was pretty confident that I could easily climb the stairs leading to the observation point above. It seemed like climbing the easiest mountain in Seoul. Clearly, I hadn’t taken into account the tiredness of travel and lack of sleep. I was out of breath pretty soon and wanted to give up after climbing few stairs. I felt terrible because I had worked so hard on my fitness and this should have been easy. Basil was supportive and I’m so glad he never judges me when I’m having a weak moment.

Trail Maps & Markers

I was amazed by the number of description boards and markers all along the way. I have never seen a trail in Asia that’s so well documented in English. Warning signs regarding snakes, bees, and insects are plastered all over. Boards actually give the distance and approximate time — to the next marker — at regular intervals. And you’re encouraged to take rest if you’re out of breath. Although, it seemed a bit much, I was happily taking it all in. I was sure we would never get lost here.

This guy literally ran (I’m not joking) up the stairs and was on his way down whilst I struggled with each stair and breath of air.

View from the First Observation Point

The first observation point appears early on the trail. I was happy with the view (not the best) and thought of going back. And again, Basil coaxed me to keep going.

More stairs ahead…

Honestly, I thought the stairs would never end. The trail kept getting steeper and the steps were getting closer. Moss made it slippery at sections and I was happy to have the railing on either side.

View from the Six Giant Rocks

Six Giant Rocks is the point where many visitors decide to stop. You can climb on the boulders (formed from an ancient geological process) and enjoy the views of Taipei 101 and the city. We decided to continue climbing.

View from the Second Observation Point

The second observation point is pretty close to the Six Giant Rocks and offers a panoramic view of Taipei. Once again, just keep following the markers. The view diverted my mind from how tired and sleepy I was feeling.

The last stretch…

The trail arrow pointed towards a temple above (we never found it) and another observation point (there were two). Few tourists chose to continue and the trail was deserted here. We asked some tourists how much further up and they were too shy to speak in English. The stairs didn’t seem to end and we asked another tourist about the time to get to the last point. He smiled and said that we were almost there.

Sunset View

The last two observation points are at two different sides of the mountain. We chose the one that had a wider view of the city below as well as the dipping sun. We had made it in time for sunset. Some tourists had come prepared with their beer and snacks. I regretted not carrying a snack to eat as it got pretty windy. It took nearly 15 minutes for the sun to appear and then escape the thick cloud cover — behind the mountains. I hadn’t seen a sunset in ages and it was the perfect way to end the first day of our trip.

Taipei at Night

Daylight slowly faded and artificial lights lit up the city. Taipei 101 (the tallest building in the frame) stood out and looked stunning. The view of a glittering Taipei was equally spectacular. I was happy to have chosen to come this far. Another trail continues towards a higher mountain from here, but we knew we had to head back to the hotel. We had started the day at 2 a.m. (in Seoul) and we ended the day with this view in Taipei.

Posted by:twobrownfeet

Walkers. Wanderers. Travellers. Now in Seoul.

37 replies on “Sunset Hike on Taipei’s Elephant Mountain

  1. Oh God I know that feeling. Stairs will be in hell, for sure. I’m so proud of you, making it, though. Having climbed it and seen the views, would you recommend the climb?

    1. I hate stairs. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ I’m glad I did it too. Those views were stunning. I would definitely recommend this hike. Although, if it’s raining, it will be more difficult to climb. There are sections that require more attention and always better to go slow. A small slip and you’re rolling down. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

    1. I know it’s so close and tickets aren’t too expensive from Seoul. Taiwan has lots to see and do. The natural beauty is stunning and we were amazed by what we saw. Typhoon season can be bad though and avoid public holidays. October is still quite hot. We were there for 10 days and we wished we could have stayed longer. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Stunning sunset pictures. I always have a respect for the cities which offer scenic places and great viewing spots. This city has earned one! The night capture is awesome, too!

    1. I had a feeling you would enjoy this short hike with those sunset views. ๐Ÿ™‚ Basil bought a new camera before this trip. We were hoping for some Milky Way shots in Taiwan’s high mountains. Sadly, the moon played spoilsport. ๐Ÿ™‚

      1. Thanks for being so thoughtful, Cherly! A sunrise or sunset views are always a part of my travel plans unless there is something to hold me back. Congrats! for a new camera. So which one?

  3. I too have longed to visit Taipei and am delighted to do so here as it will be sometime before I will be able to do so in person.

    The entire place looks so peaceful and clean. And the multilingual signs are certainly welcoming.

    I laughed at the guy running up the stairs and returning back down as you struggled for air on your own ascent. Not laughing at your struggle, but by my reminiscence of similar struggles while hiking the mountains of Vietnam and being bypassed by elderly women running past me while carrying log filled baskets on their head.

    I am glad that supportive Basil encouraged you onward for those magnificent sunset and twilight views of Taipei. Well worth it!

    1. Taiwan is a natural gem! Do make the trip if you can. The park was serene and very well maintained. I know, it was funny when I think about it now. That guy was full of energy and pushed his body to the limit. lol.
      Basil’s my rock! I wouldn’t have seen so many wonderful sights (around the world) had I not listened to him. I’m glad we got to see Taipei from above. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. This is my kind of outing! A hike in the city, with views to finish it off. I assume the path was lighted for the descent? I am very eager to get to Taiwan some day, for both the urban experiences and, I hope, a road trip around the island to see more of its natural beauty.

    1. You would love it! And the trail doesn’t end at the second observation point. If you’re early, you can continue to the next mountain. The path was lit with white light for descent. Although, I was really careful because the moss was slippery in sections. Taiwan is perfect for a road trip and it’s natural beauty is absolutely stunning. Typhoon season could be scary though. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

  5. This sounded like quite a first day in Taipei, going through Xiangshan Park and climbing up the elephant mountain. ‘Weak moment’ – so bold of you to admit and not shy away from that. And it’s also a better way of saying ‘feeling terrible’ XD Looking at those stairs, it looks like quite a climb! For someone like the man just writing up the stairs, they would probably be very fit or climb this route many times. Steps aren’t easy because one misstep going up or down, you can fall. Good to hear you made it up to the Second Observation Point to see a lovely sunset. Spectacular views. Hope going down wasn’t too bad ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. I know! We barely had 2 days in Taipei and we knew it would be a little rushed. I’ve always wanted to be the one who didn’t have any weak moments. Clearly, I’ll never be that person. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ve learned to accept that and try my best in every situation. Those steps were pretty steep and that’s what made it tricky. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ That guy was definitely training for some sporting event. I was worried about going down; it’s risky when the steps get bunched together. As you said a mistake and you’re tumbling down. Strangely, it wasn’t that hard or I was high on the views we’d seen. ๐Ÿ™‚

      1. Two days is only two days, and it sounded like you packed a lot in to make the most of your time ๐Ÿ˜› Haha, probably high on the views alright. Pretty sure we chatted about this before, but going down is usually harder especially on the knees ๐Ÿ™‚ If you can go up, always make sure you can go down lol.

      2. You bet! I try hard to keep up with Basil’s pace. ๐Ÿ™‚ I had slight discomfort with my right knee (steps make it worse), but nothing too bad. You’re right! I always worry about coming down. Thankfully, the lighting wasn’t bad and I didn’t struggle much. ๐Ÿ™‚

      3. Basil sounds like the kind who will let you walk ahead and set the pace ๐Ÿ™‚ It’s lovely to see that if he wants to go on his own, both of you can agree on that. Here’s to many more adventures for the two of you ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. I love Taiwan.. I happened to travel there, pretty randomly, once on a business trip, and I really fell in love with the place when I began exploring it in my downtime. The food was probably some of the best I’ve ever had. I hope to go back and take this hike! Steps are so much more difficult than regular hiking, but those views are spectacular and seem very worth the effort.

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