15 January 2020.

From between Taipei’s frenetic city streets, it can feel almost unfathomable that just a short bus ride away lies wide tracts of jungle that conceal a world of mossy forest trails fit for a storybook.

And yet, that is precisely what makes Yangmingshan National Park one of Taipei’s best day trips.

On a clear day, its highest peaks reward you with staggering views across the entire northern tip of Taiwan, but as is more often the case, you’ll be greeted by a thick blanket of cloud, misty forests, undulating pastures, gushing waterfalls and silvery grasslands that are perhaps even more enchanting.

Here’s everything you need to know about visiting Yangmingshan National Park, including how to get there, what to do and the best way to plan your day.

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How To Get From Taipei To Yangmingshan National Park

BUS  |  Central Taipei To Yangmingshan

 

The easiest way to get from Taipei to Yangmingshan is with Shuttle Bus #260 which departs from behind Taipei Main Station on Shimin Boulevard. You’ll find a series of bus stops here labelled with which routes they serve along with an electronic screen listing the upcoming departures. If all else fails, look for any other folks dressed in hiking gear.

The bus will drop you at Yangminshan Bus Terminal which is the final stop. If you’re looking up the route on Google Maps, be sure to use this name as searching for directions to Yangmingshan National Park will take you to a completely different place.

Bus #206 runs daily between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. every 10 to 20 minutes depending on the time of day. The trip takes about an hour and costs $30 (€0.90) which can be paid for using your EasyCard

 

METRO + BUS  |  Eastern + Northern Taipei to Yangmingshan

 

If you’re based in eastern or northern Taipei, it may be easier to reach Yangmingshan by a combination of metro and bus. Take the Red Line MRT to either Jiantan or Shilin and change to Bus #R5 or #260. Either are also perfectly located if you choose to visit Shilin’s famous Night Market in the evening.

For more information about each route, see here.

Mt Qixing. Yangmingshan National Park Taiwan. Taipei Day Trip.

Getting Around Yangmingshan National Park

 

When you arrive at the Yangmingshan Bus Terminal, it’s a 1km walk to the National Park Headquarters and Visitor Centre which I’d suggest making your first port of call after arriving in the park.

From the bus terminal, walk back onto the main road and continue uphill. A short way along, you’ll see signs on the right directing you to the pedestrian path to the Visitor Centre. It’s only labelled on Google Maps in Chinese, but it does appear in English on Maps.Me if you get confused with where you’re heading.

Otherwise, Shuttle Bus #108 runs regularly in a loop around the park and can drop you at all the main attractions.

Keep in mind however that while they are frequent they do fill up, especially in the afternoon when the park is full of visitors and on weekends. As the day wears on, you may have to wait for a few to pass by before you’re able to get on.

If you ever can’t be bothered waiting for the shuttle, there are also pedestrian trails around the entire park that run parallel to the main road.

 

Join A Day Tour To Yangmingshan

 

Though I much prefer enjoying day trips at my own pace, if you’re short on time it’s also possible to visit Yangmingshan on a tour. Most full-day tours include stops at a number of key attractions within Yangmingshan and a visit to nearby Beitou before finishing at Shilin Night Market. Or you can create your own custom day-trip itinerary.

See tour options for Yangmingshan here and here.

Mt Qixing. Yangmingshan National Park Taiwan. Taipei Day Trip.
Mt Qixing. Yangmingshan National Park Taiwan. Taipei Day Trip. taipei hiking trails. hiking in taipei.
What To Do In Yangmingshan National Park

Yangmingshan is roughly divided into two separate areas that encircle its main peaks – Mt Qixing and Mt Datun – and while you can certainly cover a lot of ground on a well-planned day trip, you won’t be able to fit in everything.

Before venturing off into the park, I’d highly recommend stopping by the Visitor Centre. The very enthusiastic older chap I spoke to here was a wealth of information about the park and, at the very least, it’s worthwhile stopping in to pick up one of the detailed national park maps which show all the main attractions, shuttle bus stops, service centres and hiking trails.

 

Hike Mt Qixing, The Highest Peak In Yangmingshan

 

Sitting at 1,120m, Mt Qixing is the highest in Yangmingshan National Park and the highest volcano in Taiwan.

An enchanting trail of rocky moss-covered stairs leads you the entire way to the summit, weaving a narrow passage through dense cloud forest and fields of bamboo grass. Most of the way up is very steep making for a great thigh-burning hike and, on a clear day, you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views across Taipei and northern Taiwan.

On the day I visited however, I spent most of the time hiking through thick fog and rain-soaked foliage which unfortunately meant no views but made the forest feel wonderfully atmospheric.

Mt Qixing. Yangmingshan National Park Taiwan. Taipei Day Trip.

A short way before the summit, you’ll reach a fork with signs to Qixing East Peak. It’s just 140m away and relatively flat so I’d recommend visiting here first before backtracking to the main peak.

The descent follows a more gentle slope and about halfway down you’ll begin to see deep cuts and pockmarks crusted in sulphur and spewing fumes alongside the path – evidence of the geothermal activity that brews just below the surface.

As you approach Xiaoyoukeng, you’ll find an enormous fumarole carved out of the mountain billowing clouds of gas. There are a few observation decks here so spend some time wandering around to get the best views. From the parking lot, follow the signs for the Bamboo Trail which takes you to a small hilltop viewing platform which is worth a visit.

The entire trail is 4km and can be completed in 2 to 3 hours.

Xiaoyoukeng also has a small cafe – a perfect place to nurse a well-deserved mug of hot milky tea or coffee.

Xiaoyoukeng. Yangmingshan National Park Taiwan. Taipei Day Trip.

See The Water Buffalo At Qingtiangang

 

Qingtiangang (please don’t ask me to pronounce that one!) offers up a remarkably different setting with rolling green hills and a backdrop of verdant forested mountains. The most popular attraction, however, are the herds of water buffalo that traverse the plains, often stopping along the trail for a curious stare, before wandering off in search of greener pastures.

In the past, this area provided access to a pair of longer trails, but at the time of visiting these were unfortunately closed for maintenance. For now, you can walk just a few hundred metres across the meadows along a wide well-maintained path that is contained within a wooden barrier to help keep both buffaloes and people separate.

Do note that as one of the most accessible areas in the park, Qingtiangang is also by far the busiest. Either aim to be there early or late in the day or accept that you’ll be sharing it with plenty of others.

One trail that is still accessible from here weaves through the forest to Lenshuikeng with an optional detour to Juansi Falls. 

They’re by no means huge but they do lie in a beautifully lush part of forest and are worth a visit if you’ve got some extra time. From the waterfall, the trail continues to the main road where you can catch a shuttle, but better is or turn around and take the trail back to Lenshuikeng where you’ll cross the rather photogenic Jingshan Suspension Bridge and pass a milky blue pond before arriving at the large service centre.

The entire route from Qingtiangang to Lenshuikeng via Juansi Falls is around 4km and can be completed in an hour.

Jingshan Suspension Bridge at Lenshuikeng. Yangmingshan National Park Taiwan. Taipei Day Trip.
Juansi Waterfall at Lenshuikeng. Yangmingshan National Park Taiwan.
Qingtiangang. Yangmingshan National Park Taiwan. Taipei Day Trip.

Soak In A Luke Warm Hot Spring At Lenshuikeng (Or Just Dip Your Feet In)

 

Few things sound better than soaking in a natural hot spring after a long day of hiking, but after poking my head in the door to find a sea of naked bodies wedged elbow to elbow around the small steaming pool, I quickly decided to give it a miss. Even on a weekday this place was buzzing and given the necessary lack of clothing, it was all just a little too close for comfort.

Instead, I took my boots off and joined a group of other hikers soaking their feet in the warm river in front.

The spring is only around 40 degrees, so not actually that hot, which is why it’s referred to as a ‘cold, hot spring’. Entry is free though which is perhaps why it’s so popular. There are separate pools for males and females and they’re open between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. with four bathing sessions that run for 2.5 to 3 hours each. Between each session, the pools are closed for 1.5 hours for cleaning.

If you really want to enjoy a post-hike hot spring experience, I’d recommend heading straight to Beitou instead which makes for a far more relaxing soak and can be reached directly from the Yangmingshan Bus Terminal on Bus #230. See the timetable here.

Otherwise, Lenshuikeng is one of Yangmingshan’s main hubs with several parking areas and a large service station. You’ll also find the alternate trailhead for climbing Mt Qixing here.

Lenshuikeng. Yangmingshan National Park Taiwan. Taipei Day Trip.

Stroll And Picnic at Erziping Or Hike Mighty Mt Miantian

 

Set in a wide verdant valley and reached via an accessible paved pathway, Erziping boasts several ponds, a nature boardwalk, gazebos and ample picnic space making it another of Yangmingshan’s most popular spots, especially for flora enthusiasts and families who can happily while away an entire day here.

It does get very crowded, especially on weekends, but if you’re travelling with kids or looking for an easy trail that will still get you away from the city, this remains a decent option. From the main road, it’s 1.8km or a flat 30-minute stroll.

Beyond Erziping, you’ll find the trail to Mt Miantan which, much like Mt Qixing, follows a mossy cobblestone path that climbs steeply to the peak. Onwards, the walk brings you through the forest to Mt Xiangtian and Xiangtian Pond before looping around the base of the mountain and returning to Erziping.

The circuit is 4km and can be completed in 3 hours.

Climb Mt Datun And Tackle The Arduous Multi-Peak Trail

 

For sweeping views across the Taipei Basin, Mt Datun is an excellent choice.

Though the viewpoint is stunning at any time of day, it’s particularly popular around sunset when you can catch the landscapes bathed in golden light, the city lights of Taipei twinkling in the distance and, occasionally, an impressive cloud inversion.

From Anbu, the hiking trail climbs steeply for 1.6km to the summit. If you’re beginning from Erziping, it’s 1.8km though most of this is relatively flat before a steep final ascent. Vehicles can use the narrow mountain road, though this is closed on holidays and weekends.

For Avid hikers, consider tackling the challenging Mt Datun Multi-Peak Trail which continues on to the South and West Peaks via a series of rocky scrambles and steep climbs with the aid of ropes. The trail is only open between October and February and is very exposed and slippery in the wet so should not be attempted in bad weather. This guide has a good overview of the hike.

Alternatively, return from the main peak via Erziping and join the Mt Miantian and Mt Xiangtian circuit outlined above.

The full Mt Datun Multi-Peak Trail, beginning in Anbu and returning via Erziping, takes 4 to 5 hours. Add on the Mt Miantian loop and expect to be hiking for around 7.

Mt Qixing. Yangmingshan National Park Taiwan. Taipei Day Trip.
Mt Qixing. Yangmingshan National Park Taiwan. Taipei Day Trip.
Mt Qixing. Yangmingshan National Park Taiwan. Taipei Day Trip.

Embrace Cherry Blossom Fever

 

As warm spring temperatures waft across the northern hemisphere, dreamy, pastel pink blossoms begin to unfurl along avenues everywhere from Germany to Japan ushering in the short-lived period of cherry blossom fever.

Taiwan has a number of places where it’s possible to view the delicate florals, but Yangmingshan is by far the easiest to access from Taipei.

The annual Yangmingshan Flower Festival celebrates the arrival of the cherry blossoms in late February and early March and is one of the most popular times of year to visit with over 1 million flower enthusiasts flocking to see the area in bloom. If you plan to arrive during this period, be sure to book your accommodation well in advance.

The best area for petal peeping is around the Flower Clock which lies 1.5km from the bus terminal along Hushan Road.

Cherry Blossoms. Yangmingshan National Park Taiwan. Taipei Day Trip.
Planning Your Yangmingshan Day Trip Itinerary

At a glance, it can be rather overwhelming trying to plan a trip to Yangmingshan and there’s simply no way to squeeze it all in to one day trip.

I chose to focus my time on the Mt Qixing area with plans to return another day to visit Erziping and hike Mt Datun. Unfortunately, the weather had other plans and a week of torrential rain and mountain storms meant I never managed to make it back to explore this side of the park.

Still, if you have only one day in Yangmingshan National Park, the Mt Qixing area offers a lot of variety with its fairytale mossy trails, hidden waterfalls, rolling meadows, smoking vents and, on a good day, some pretty stunning views. With an early start, it’s possible to comfortably fit in a hike up Mt Qixing, a few up-close encounters with the water buffalo at Qingtiangang, a much-needed coffee break and a leisurely walk to Juansi Falls and Lenshuikeng on a day trip.

If you’re looking for something more adventurous, I’d suggest heading to Mt Datun instead. Start with the peak hike and if you’re feeling energetic and the weather is good, attempt the entire Multi-Peak Trail and/or the Mt Miantian circuit.

Xiaoyoukeng. Yangmingshan National Park Taiwan. Taipei Day Trip.
Xiaoyoukeng. Yangmingshan National Park Taiwan. Taipei Day Trip.
Top Tips For Visiting Yangmingshan National Park

Start early and visit during the week  |  Yangmingshan’s proximity to Taipei makes it an exceedingly popular day trip destination for city-dwellers in need of a mountain escape. To make the most of your day and avoid the afternoon crowds, be sure to head into the park early. Weekends are also by far the busiest time so try to visit during the week if you can.

Bring plenty of water  |  There aren’t many places to fill up your water bottle so be sure to arrive with enough for the day. Ask to fill up at the service centres when you can.

Check the weather, but prepare for rain  |  It might seem warm and sunny when you’re in Taipei, but more often than not, Yangmingshan will be wrapped in cloud. These mountains receive an awful lot of rain during the year and the peaks can be exceptionally cold and windy so it’s best to come prepared with wet weather gear at all times.

Be patient with the shuttle buses  |  The shuttle buses are a fantastic way to limit the number of people driving around the park, but despite being quick and frequent, they’re often completely packed, even on weekdays. You’ll either need to cram your way on or wait for a couple to go past before comfortably climbing aboard.

Bring snacks or a packed lunch  |  There are just a few cafes scattered between the park’s service centres and a 7-11 near the bus terminal but most supply a rather limited selection of food. Better is to bring your own snacks or a packed lunch for the day. Remember to bring a reusable mug for a well-deserved hot milky tea.

Don’t forget your EasyCard  |  You’ll need to tap on and off for all shuttle buses within the park, as well as the MRT or bus to and from Taipei. Order yours for airport pick-up here.

Extend your day trip  |  Not ready to head back to the city just yet? Extend your outing with a visit to Beitou Hot Springs or Shilin Night Market. Beitou on its own is an easy half-day trip but also makes a perfect bookend to a full day of hiking. To get there jump on bus #230 at the Yangmingshan Bus Terminal. Shilin is arguably Taipei’s most famous market and while it can feel like a bit of a trek to go there just for dinner, since you’re already here it makes an excellent (and delicious) pit stop on your way home to refuel after a long day of adventuring. For Shilin, take bus #R5 or #260 and jump out at either the Shilin or Jiantan MRT stops. Head back to Taipei on the Red Line MRT.

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Yangmingshan National Park: Everything You Need To Know To Plan The Perfect Outdoorsy Day Trip From Taipei
Yangmingshan National Park: Everything You Need To Know To Plan The Perfect Outdoorsy Day Trip From Taipei
Yangmingshan National Park: Everything You Need To Know To Plan The Perfect Outdoorsy Day Trip From Taipei

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