Laodifang (literally ‘old place’) is a cool lookout point on the ridge to the north of the Keelung River and Songshan Airport, with this view out over Taipei:
It’s famous as a place to watch the planes landing & taking off, but whether you’re a plane geek or not it’s really just a great place to hike up to above the city.
Laodifang’s located along the ridge that starts with Mt Jiantan at its western end, and runs all the way east right along the back of the Neihu district. Here’s a handy map from the info board at the trail entrance (click for large version):
You can see Laodifang, 老地方, near the Jiantan end of the marked trail. Basically the route options are to just go up & down Mt Jiantan from Jiantan Station (Red Line), or go up Mt Jiantan and along to Laodifang before going back down the same way; or for a longer hike, you can push on beyond Laodifang to Mt Wenjian (aka Mt Jiannan) and descend to Neihu from there (finishing at Jiannan Road Station on the Brown Line) or carry on to the Koxinga Temple and descend to the National Palace Museum on the north side of the ridge. Or you can keep going even further to Jinmian Rocks and descend to Neihu from there (finishing at Xihu Station on the Brown Line), or you can keep going all the way to Bishan Temple and descend to the Dahu Park area at the other end of Neihu (also on the Brown Line).
This page describes Jiantan > Laodifang > Mt Wenjian > Koxinga Temple or Jinmian Rocks. For more detail on the eastern part of the ridge beyond that, see my post here; and for the route down from Jinmian Rocks see here.
Starting from Jiantan Station, come out of exit 3, cross the main road to the east side (towards the mountain, away from Shilin Night Market), and turn south (right). It’s about a 7 or 8-minute walk to the trailhead, passing this giant bowling pin on the way:
This arch marks the start of the hiking trail:
The first bit’s really steep, with most of the day’s elevation gain coming right at the start up steep stone and wooden steps like this:
Mt Jiantan is the part of the ridge right behind the massive Taipei Grand Hotel, and it’s criss-crossed with walking trails and home to all sorts of random karaoke pavilions and exercise areas. It’s well-lit at night up as far as the top of Mt Jiantan, and locals come up here to stretch their legs every evening (at one point I stayed not so far away and sometimes used to go running around these Jiantan trails). You could spend quite a while exploring the area, but to get up to the top just follow the signs for 老地方 ‘plane-spotting platform’:
Don’t worry about the 95 mins given there; more like 45 mins for the average hiker.
Nice little rest area on the way up:
When you get to this sign:
…you can either keep going straight to head directly for Laodifang, or you can detour up the steep wooden steps to the left to reach the viewpoint at the top of Mt Jiantan. If you’re hiking at night then the top of Jiantan is your goal anyway, but I’d say it’s worth the slight detour at any time.
The top of Jiantan is home to this comms mast:
…which isn’t so nice, but the viewing platform up there is just as good as Laodifang to be honest, so if you’re only looking for a quick hike just up to here and back is a good call (you can get up & down in 30 mins if you’re quick, though it’ll probably be sweaty work):
The large traditional building to the right is the Grand Hotel:
Once you’re done taking pics keep on walking along the trail this way (and make use of the toilets there if needed, they’re the last you’ll see for quite a while, possibly until you get down off the ridge depending which route you take):
For now just follow the ‘hiking trail’ signs:
It becomes a bit of a dirt trail and then drops down to the main Laodifang trail again, rejoining at this point:
Turn left for Laodifang (if you skip the detour to the top of Jiantan, you’ll just walk straight to this point):
For a while the trail runs right along the top of the ridge, giving you views to the right of Taipei 101 & central Taipei and to the left of northern Taipei & Yangmingshan:
And then you reach Laodifang with some rest shelters and this viewing platform complete with metal paper planes:
From Jiantan Station to Laodifang should take you in the region of 40 to 60 minutes, so if you’re heading back the same way you should allow 90 minutes plus for the round trip.
To continue on along the ridge, follow the signs for Jiannan Road Station:
It becomes a dirt path again, which eventually brings you up to this paved trail with some sort of military installation off to the left. Couple of guard dogs there were very vocal as I emerged from the trees, and you obviously aren’t going that way! Turn right instead, and follow the signs for Zheng Chenggong Temple i.e. Koxinga Temple (Zheng Chenggong is the Mandarin name for Koxinga (which is his Hokkien name), an important figure of Taiwan’s early Chinese era in the late 1600s):
You soon pass the back of another military installation and come out on the road it’s located on. Turn left here following the signs for Neihu and 文間山:
When you get to a bend in the road with a clearing through the trees on the right with this view:
…you’re at the 文間山 point marked on the map at the top of the page. On Google Maps it’s marked as Mt Jiannan night view, 劍南山夜景. If you want to finish your hike on the Neihu side of the ridge but don’t fancy walking all the way to Jinmian Rocks, then this is your exit point; the path going down from here brings you out a few hundred metres west of Jiannan Road Station and the Miramar Entertainment Complex (the food court in the basement is a good place for a post-hike feed). From Jiantan Station to Miramar you’ll probably want to allow in the region of 3 hours.
If you do want to go all the way to Jinmian Rocks, or if you want to descend on the north side of the ridge, follow the road away from the viewpoint and almost immediately you’ll see this dirt path leaving the road on the right. Follow the sign for Neihu again:
You get down below the ridgeline from here, with some views to the north opening up through the trees of the National Palace Museum below and the Koxinga Temple up ahead:
And then you emerge on another road:
Turn left past the pavilion; this is the road to Koxinga Temple, and if you want to go down to the National Palace Museum you can just follow the road down to Koxinga Temple and find the steps down to the museum area (see the last few pics below).
To keep on towards Jinmian Rocks, look for this little trail leaving the road on the right:
…and follow it for a short distance until you reach this paved trail:
This is the final decision point for descending on the north or south side of the ridge. If you turn left here, you’ll come back out on the same road just below the Koxinga Temple. If you turn right here, the stone path runs for a couple of km through the forest until you reach this pavilion:
Turning right at the pavilion (signposted for Neihu & Mt Jinmian) takes you to Jinmian Rocks (see here) another km or so further on, from where you can descend to Xihu Station. If you go straight you can start following signs for Zhongyongshan via Jinlong Agricultural Road, eventually reaching Bishan Temple and descending to Dahu Park; for details of all that, see here.
To get from Jiantan to Jinmian Rocks and down to Xihu this way, you’ll probably want to allow around 4 hours. To clear the whole ridge from Jiantan to Dahu Park (skipping Jinmian Rocks) is probably a 6-hour job (I’ve never done the whole thing in one go).
If you turn left when you reach the stone path and the last decision point for descending to the north, you come down this path which is lit from a small shrine down to the road. So if you’re there and running out of light, left is the way to go:
This brings you out on the road, where you can turn left to visit the Koxinga Temple or turn right to find the trail down off the ridge. A short distance along the road you’ll see these steps on the left:
But ignore those, it’s the next steps you want. They leave the road on the left in the vicinity of this entrance gate to Yuanming Temple (before which you also pass the entrance for Yongquan Temple):
These temples are all huge and probably well worth checking out if you’re passing while they’re open. Anyway, these are the steps down:
Follow them down into a quiet suburb and find your way through to the main road. The National Palace Museum is on the far side of the road, and you can catch a bus from there back to Shilin Station or Jiantan Station. Doing this route should take 3 or 4 hours from Jiantan Station to the Palace Museum.
Any questions? Give me a shout below and I’ll get back to you.
Accommodation: search & book rooms in Taipei. Airbnb’s also a great option in Taiwan, if you’ve never used it before you can get a 30 dollar discount if you sign up with this link
For some more hikes in and around Taipei see here, and see my Taiwan overland travel guide here. Also check out my guides to hiking in Seoul, Tokyo, and Kyoto
Make sure you have a good insurance policy; World Nomads offer flexible travel insurance you can buy even if already overseas – most travel insurance companies won’t cover you if you’ve already left your country, and this can be a crucial point as I once found out the hard way in Thailand.
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