One of the things that first attracted us to Taiwan was the amazing number of independent hiking trails, especially as many were accessible from Taipei itself. Being the closest national park to Taipei visiting Yangmingshan was a given. As soon as we found out it was a dormant volcano with active sulphur vents, we knew it would be high on our list.
We weren’t disappointed. It’s hard to believe such a gorgeous natural area is so close to the bustling city centre. It reminded us of hiking in Hong Kong.
There are many hiking trails in Yangmingshan but we’d heard the most beautiful was Mount Qixing, which just so happens to be the highest in the city at 1,120m - done.
What makes this area even more special is after your hike you can take a bus to the nearby area of Beitou, famous for its hot springs. If there is a better combination than hiking and hot springs we haven’t found it yet!
The Mount Qixing hike, Yangmingshan National Park
Route: Xiaoyoukeng Visitor Centre to Miapou (can be walked in either direction)
The Ascent - 1.6km
There are a couple of different routes you can take up to the main peak of Mount Qixing, we chose to start from Xiaoyoukeng Visitor Centre. This was actually by accident, we meant to start at Yangmingshan Visitor Centre but hadn’t realised there were two visitors centres so close together and jumped on the bus to the wrong one!
More on that later when we explain the easiest way to get here from Taipei.
As you wind your way up the mountain road to Xiaoyoukeng you will already start to see plumes of steam billowing up from the rolling hills. Even though most of the people we were sharing the bus ride with were locals it still elicited lots of ooows and aaahs.
We think the bus driver was even giving a running commentary although our almost non-existent Mandarin meant we couldn’t be sure.
The sulphur vents themselves are only 60m from the Xiaoyoukeng visitor centre and are well worth a quick look around before you start the hike. You can actually get pretty close.
Once you get on the track which begins right by the visitor car park it is pretty much a stairmaster from the off. These Taiwan trails don’t seem to ease you in gently. The track is really well made though, stone steps the whole way.
They do narrow at points but this is fine ascending. If you choose to walk this trail in the opposite direction you’ll see a lot of people struggling to descend certain sections. You’ll either love or hate the extremely frequent markers letting you know how far you have to reach the peak!
There are a few short sections of flat relief walking on a bamboo lined path, but for the most part the 1.6km to the peak is an uphill slog. The views are terrific though, and you pass many more sulphur vents with far less crowds than down at Xiaoyoukeng Visitor Centre.
You will pass two gorgeous viewpoints which look out on to rolling hills and also back to Taipei city. You may even get lucky and see some of the local wildlife like these Chinese Bamboo Partridges.
Overall it’s not to difficult a climb and took us around 45 minutes to reach the top.
Once you get there the view is even more magnificent than on the way up and the summit is pretty big so even on a busy weekend day there is still a bit of room to take some shots.
The descent - 3.7km (all the way back to the bus stop)
From the summit you again have a couple of different options, we chose to walk to Miapou because that is where we originally planned to start from. It’s basically one giant staircase all the way to the bottom.
It starts quite steeply, although the stairs are much larger than those from Xiaoyoukeng which - for me personally - makes for an easier descent as I struggle descending on narrow steps.
This time rather than walking up the hillside you are descending through forest which was alive with bird song, none of which we could identify but was lovely to hear nonetheless!
After you are around halfway down, the stairs get much shallower and it is easy to begin descending quite quickly as it’s not at all precarious or slippery (though this might be different on a wet day).
The descent took less than 40 minutes. Once you reach the bottom you walk a further 300m on a flat path to the Yangmingshan Visitor Centre where there is a bus stop which will take you back to Taipei or on to Beitou.
Qixing Mountain Difficulty
We’d heard this was a pretty difficult trail but overall I wouldn’t agree based on the route we took. Whichever path you take it will be a steep period of constant uphill but the terrain is good and you can easily stop for many breaks along the way.
Note that by starting at Xiaoyoukeng Visitor Centre rather than Miapou you are starting the trail 200m higher up so this is definitely the easier route. Although we didn’t mean to walk it in this direction it actually worked out well as I tend to have more problems descending and it was easier down to Miapou.
The Xiaoyoukeng to Main Peak section is much more scenic than the Miapou to Main Peak route so if you are ascending on the prettier route you can constantly look around and admire the scenery, rather than focusing on your footing.
Beitou Hot Springs
Rather than going straight back to Taipei we decided to head over to Beitou, 30 minutes away by bus. It’s actually quite a large town so you can grab some lunch here before heading to the springs. There are many options for hot springs in the area, in fact every man and his dog seemed to be offering a dip in a hot mineral pool.
There are public baths which are TND $40 (about $1.30 US) and will be by far your cheapest bet. Unfortunately we arrived in town at 3.30pm and the springs were closing at 4pm so this wasn’t an option for us. All other options will cost you quite a lot more and vary between the large open air springs at Spring City Resort to more dingy rooms in one of the less expensive hotels.
We went to check out Spring City and to be honest what was on offer really didn’t look worth the TWD $800 ($26 US) per person charge. We also looked at Golden Spring Hotel which had gorgeous pictures of a private room with a lovely bath with a nice view but they charged the same as Spring City per person which was a bit above our budget.
If we had been on holiday rather than on a long trip we would have gone for Golden Spring as it looked lovely. In the end we went for a rather dingier option in a hotel a couple of doors up from Golden Spring which had a private bath for TWD $350 per person.
It was nice to soak in the hot mineral water but the surroundings left a lot to be desired! Moral of the story here is come with a decent budget and treat yourself or come earlier in the day and soak for next to nothing in the public pools.
Overall we absolutely loved our day of hiking and bathing around Yangmingshan National Park and would highly recommend it as a great day trip from Taipei.
Read next: Taroko Gorge - A natural wonder of Taiwan
Getting to Yangmingshan National Park
The easiest way to get to Yangmingshan without question is with your own vehicle or by taxi/uber. It’s only 17km from Taipei main station but took us over two and a half hours by public transport.
If it’s your only option here is what to do:
Take the MRT to Jiantan station, this took us 17 minutes from our hotel in Dongmen and would be slightly quicker if your hotel is around main station. Just outside the station head to the first bus stop and wait for the R5 bus. The 260 also goes to Yangmingshan but the R5 is quicker. You can actually take the 260 directly from Taipei main station bypassing the MRT but it will take longer due to stops and traffic.
If you take a look at google maps it will freak you out by saying that the R5 will take you almost an hour and a half, don’t worry it only takes 30 minutes! If you go on a weekend like us (not recommended) then you might not get a seat so it will still feel like 30 long minutes.
If you decide to walk the Qixing Mountain trail from the Miapou entrance then you can walk there in less than ten minutes from the Yangmingshan bus station. If you want to walk the way we did from Xiaoyoukeng Visitor Centre then you need to hop in the queue for the 108 shuttle bus that will drop you there.
The shuttle is said to come every 5-7 minutes but in reality it seemed quite sporadic. Nothing for 15 minutes and then two in quick succession! The fare is TWD $15 (just under 50c US) per person. It’s a quick journey, we weren’t timing it but somewhere around 10 minutes.
Due to long wait times on a Sunday the whole journey took us over two and a half hours despite no one portion being very long! We’d strongly suggest avoiding the weekends if possible or going very early so you don’t have to wait so long to get on a bus.
Getting from Yangmingshan National Park to Beitou Hot Springs
You can take a direct bus from the Yangmingshan Visitor Centre to Beitou. You need the number 9 and the cost is TWD $15 per person. It’s a small shuttle bus and depending on how many stops it makes the journey will be around 30 minutes.
We jumped off in the town to grab lunch before walking on to the springs area. A couple of resorts are up on the hill (still walking distance), such as Spring City, but most are clustered around the town and river.
Getting from Beitou Hot Springs back to Taipei
Happily, it is a much easier journey back to Taipei than it was out to Yangmingshan National Park. You can walk from the town to Xinbeitou MTR in around 10 minutes.
This train only goes to Beitou station so you then have to change to go into the city, the journey is only around five minutes. It is then direct from Beitou to Taipei main station and takes around 30 minutes.
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Are you planning a trip to Taipei and fancy exploring the nearby national park? If you’ve been what was your favourite trail? Let us know in the comments below!