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The Elephant Mountain (Xiangshan) hike in Taipei, Taiwan, is one of the city’s most popular trails.
Its highest point stands at 184 m high so it’s relatively small compared to its neighbouring peaks. But don’t assume that a small hike isn’t worth the effort.. because that is certainly not the case with this one.
With multiple viewpoints to admire the stunning city views, you’ll be sure to understand why it’s so popular. It’s rated as an easy to moderate trail due to being relatively short, but it does require a lot of stamina to get up the many flights of stairs.
Whether you make the journey for the clear daytime view or night view that displays the lights of the city, you’ll be in awe of it all. And honestly, this hike has a really high return on investment when it comes to the view for only a little bit of effort – this is the best type of hike!
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Do you need some inspiration for your trip to Taiwan? Check out:
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Taipei Elephant mountain Hike stats
Length of trail:
1.1 km / 0.7 miles
Time to complete:
This is known as an “out-and-back” hiking track because you reach the top and then come back down the same way.
Primarily this post will help you to hike this trail alone, but if you would prefer to go as part of a group you can join one here. It’s a tour that completes the Elephant Mountain hike in Taipei as well as takes you out to the Pinglin District. There you can experience Whenshan Baozhong tea and Thousand Island Lake on the same day.
The entire trail is well maintained however it is almost completely uphill. 95% of the hiking route is completed by climbing up steep staircases so nothing about the incline is gradual. Think of it as a session on a stairmaster at the gym!
(Speaking of gyms, there’s a small gym at the top of the trail with pull-up bars and weights)
With regards to accessibility, I wouldn’t say you need to be extremely fit to successfully reach the top, however, you will need to be able to walk yourself as there are unfortunately no ramps for wheelchairs or pushchairs.
There’s a total of 600 steps to reach the top of the trail from the bottom so it’s actually one of the shortest hikes in the scenic area. Plus, if you decide to combine this hike with one or more in the region, it is very easy to continue along the adjoining paths.
The rock viewpoints (one of Taipei’s most Instagrammable locations) are found at roughly 500 steps!
Elephant mountain viewpoints
As you progress along the Elephant Mountain hike, you’ll notice a few different viewpoints you can stop at.
Each viewpoint will offer a slightly different view of the Taipei cityscape as you gradually walk to another side of the small mountain. Of course, the closer to the top you get, the further afield you can see and the more rewarding the view.
Although the view encompasses a large portion of the entire city, you’ll quickly see that the main feature is the Taipei 101 building. You might notice that the final lookout spot is in a familiar shape (an Elephant!) which strategically frames the 101 building to emphasise its unique structure.
This is located just behind the tall rock that shows the peak’s elevation!
How to prepare for Elephant mountain Taipei hiking?
You might have a few questions about the hike itself such as:
- Is it difficult?
- Do I need to bring anything?
As I’ve mentioned already, the difficulty level definitely depends on your fitness level. If you’re regularly active then this shouldn’t be too hard at all for you. If you’re a bit of a couch potato (like me) you’ll definitely notice the pain as you progress up the stairs.
With regards to bringing things, this probably depends on the time of year you plan on visiting. If you plan to hike up during the summer months then you will need to take water to rehydrate as well as a shirt so you have something to change into after sweating.
Taipei gets very hot and humid in the summer so you will likely sweat a lot during this trail.
In the winter, the weather is dry and mild so you won’t need to take as much, however, I would suggest taking a bottle of water at the bare minimum since you can’t buy any at the top. You also don’t need to book anything in advance for the Elephant Mountain hike in Taipei since it’s completely free and open 24-7!
What to expect on the elephant mountain hike
The start of the trail is found off of a small, narrow street. You’ll see a large stone sign showing the entrance stairway so you can’t miss it.
Straight away you’ll start climbing up the wooden staircase. Before you know it, you’ll see a fork in the path which goes around a rock.
It is advisable to go along the right side here as the left side is typically used by people coming back down.
In Taiwan, it is common practice to stay on the right side on pathways and escalators, the same side they drive on.
As you make your way up, you’ll notice there are various elephant-shaped benches to take small breaks on, as well as some motivational phrases on the ground, to encourage you to continue.
If you’re unsure how to read in the Chinese language that is found along the trail, it’s easy to use Google translate to do so by using their photo feature.
Eventually, you will reach the popular rock “lookout” which many visitors scramble over to get the best shot. This is the part of the trail you’ll find showcased all across social media.
The whole time you are walking to the top you will see different signs showing you where to turn off the access to the other trails in the park. Don’t worry though, if you don’t wish to end up on another trail, it is very easy to stay on Elephant Mountain only.
Things to be aware of on the Elephant Mountain hike
Please note: This is a very crowded trail since it is so popular.
Make sure to reach the top of the trail as the majority of tourists seem to crowd the midway viewpoint. Not only will you feel more accomplished having completed the track, but you’ll also be able to avoid large crowds of people up here and get tourist-free shots.
Since Taipei is known for raining a lot, it is always worth checking the weather forecast before you go. In many instances, although the trail is well-cared for and paved, some sections of the Elephant Mountain hiking trail and wooden viewpoints can become slippery.
Best time to go
The time of year:
What’s great about this trail is that it is open all year round. This means that on any day of the year, you can easily access the trail without any concerns. There are no gates to access the track and there is no fee to enter the scenic area.
The time of day:
Since this hike is open all day every day, you can see the city in many different ways.
If you visit in the morning, there will be fewer people and you’ll be able to enjoy the views without having to fight for space.
The afternoon tends to be busier which means getting that perfect tourist-free shot might take you a little longer. The nighttime is much less popular, however, you will find lamps on the entire way which keep the trail safely lit up.
Sunset tends to be the most popular time for people to visit as you get the best of both worlds. If you give yourself enough time before the sun goes down, you’ll get to enjoy the bright day view, and the sunset itself and see the gradual change into the nighttime view.
This is the way I think most people should try as you get 2 views for the price of one!
To check the local sunset times you can follow this link.
How to get there
The Elephant Mountain hike in the Taiwan capital of Taipei is part of a larger scenic area in the city. In this area, you will find more trails including the Thumb Trail and the Tiger Trail among others. Many of these trails have their own entrance or starting point that is separate from the Elephant Mountain hike.
Click here to find the way to the trailhead on Google Maps.
The closest subway to the trailhead is Xiangshan station which is found on the Tamsui-Xinyi (red) line. From the station to the start of the hike, it will take you an average of 10-15 minutes on foot.
Want some help in preparing for your day out? Below you can download my pre-made packing list specific for day hikes.
Final thoughts on the Taipei Elephant Mountain hike
This is a hike that is a definite must-do during your visit to Taipei. Luckily, the trail itself only takes around 2 hours on average to complete when travelling to and from Xiangshan station.
This means you can easily fit this into your Taipei itinerary without too much stress and best of all – it can be completed for free.
With arguably the best views of the city just a staircase away, you’d be silly to turn down such an opportunity to see the stunning landscape of one of Asia’s favourite cities!