If you’re heading to Taipei, chances are you already know about Elephant Mountain (Xiangshan), the popular (and crowded) hiking trail with great views of Taipei 101 which is the first hike that most visitors to the city do. If you just want to hike up to the Elephant Mountain viewpoints, get your pics and head back down, see my page here.
For longer hike options, Elephant Mountain is actually just one of a group of peaks known as The Four Beasts – namely Tiger (Hushan), Leopard (Baoshan), Lion (Shishan), and Elephant (Xiangshan) – which are in turn just subsidiary peaks of the much taller Mount Nangang. If you don’t want to go all the way to the top, or maybe if you’re just curious about the other three beasts, you can extend your Elephant Mountain hike into a Four Beasts hike, as described on my page here.
If you want to go to the summit proper then it’s Mount Nangang that you want to climb, a much longer hike which can include Elephant Mountain on the way up or down; read on for details.
The route described here starts with the Tiger Mountain trail to the Tiger & Leopard viewpoints, then steeply up the Nangang ridge and along to the highest point at 95 Peak, then descends via Thumb Peak and Elephant Mountain. You can go the other way of course, but by finishing with Elephant you end your hike very close to Xiangshan Station so it’s nice & easy to jump on the MRT.
The Leopard and Tiger viewpoints are just 5 minutes’ walk from each other, accessed via the Tiger Mountain trail(s), and offer similar views to Elephant Mountain but without the ridiculous crowds. There are multiple hiking trails up Tiger Mountain, but the easiest trailhead to find is the one at the back of Fengtian Temple. It’s also an absolute stunner of a temple and well worth visiting in its own right, so it’s the best place to start from. You can find the temple on Google Maps and walk to it in 10 to 15 minutes from Yongchun Station or Houshanpi Station on the Blue Line.
Like most Taiwanese temples, the stonework and roof detail are seriously impressive:
But this particular temple has an extra pretty interior, with intricate wood carvings covering the walls and pillars, and a spectacular main altar:
Once you’re done at the temple (it’s also a good place to use the bathroom if needed), head to the arch to the right of the main building where you’ll find the steps heading up Tiger Mountain:
Found the tiger:
Then just follow the trail up past a parking area (seems to be a popular rest area for taxi drivers) and a weird little karaoke cave – quite literally a cave with a karaoke booth installed, which was in use every time I’ve walked past.
Take the stairs up behind the cave entrance, and there’s a cool viewpoint at the top of the cliff above the cave:
From there take the stairs further up until they end at a T-junction with a trail that comes up from a different starting point. Turn left here and keep heading up; there are multiple junctions with other trails, but it’s always pretty obvious which way is up and you can follow the signs for Hushan.
There’s a steep final set of steps to get up to the Tiger Mountain viewing platform:
From the temple up to here is a climb of about 80 metres and should take around 20 or 30 minutes. Take a seat, eat a snack, shoot some pics, and when you’re ready keep following the trail which now takes you along the ridge past another trail junction and a pavilion rest area until it ends at Songshan Road:
Turn right along the road and after a few minutes you arrive at Yaochi Temple, another pretty temple with views and public bathrooms.
This temple is where you turn left for the climb up to the top of the ridge, but first you can take a quick detour to the Leopard Mountain viewing deck. To find it just walk past the temple and almost immediately there’s a footpath on the right which takes you to the viewpoint just around the corner, it’s literally a few minutes’ walk from the temple.
If you continue along the road you can go to Lion & Elephant peaks for a Four Beasts hike as described here, but to go up Mt Nangang head back to the temple and turn up these steep steps:
At the top turn left along the path:
This path meanders along the mountainside for a while, passing a few homes and some tended gardens, then this rest area:
Continue on along the path to another rest area further on with great views. It might not be totally obvious which way to go, it’s effectively a right turn but you need to almost double back and take these steps:
And walk on to the next area a short distance on again:
Again there a bunch of paths you could take, and again it’s basically a right turn. Go this way:
All along this section of the hike you catch nice views over the city from the rest areas and wherever there are gaps in the trees:
A short distance after that last rest area the path cuts right across the front of this small temple (toilets available, the last until you get back down to Elephant Mountain):
Soon after the temple you need to take these steps up to the right:
This is the toughest bit of the hike, with these steps taking you directly – i.e. steeply! – up to the top of the ridge. It doesn’t take long but it’s definitely exercise. On the way up there’s an interesting jumble of small buildings, which I think are some sort of temple or shrine:
When you reach the top, follow the sign for Jiu Wu Peak:
Note, if you’re following this hike in the reverse would be the easiest place to take a wrong turn (or rather, miss the turn you’re supposed to take). At the sign pictured above, you’re looking for the steep steps going down to the left:
Would be quite easy to miss.
Anyway, you’re now on the hiking trail along the top of ridge which undulates up & down a series of peaks. Although the mountain is called Mt Nangang, the point called Nangang Peak isn’t actually the highest point (and is closed off anyway as it’s host to some government equipment).
The highest point on Nangang, and thus the main goal for the hike, is called 9-5 Peak (Jiu Wu Feng, 九五峰). It has a boulder with 九五峰 carved into it, though the views are partially obstructed by trees.
You get the best views at the next named peak, which is a bit lower along the descent but has totally unobstructed views from the top of a cliff. This one’s called Muzhi (姆指, Thumb) Mountain, and it’s about 15 minutes on from 9-5 Peak.
The path passes the base of the cliff, and then you turn left up the steps after the cliff to take the trail round the back and up to the top:
After that just keep on heading down, following the signs for Elephant Mountain.
It’s downhill most of the way, but there is one last climb as you approach Elephant Mountain. When you get to this junction:
…you’re at the top of Elephant. If you’ve been there before and want a change from the main route, turn right (signed for ‘stamp punch station’) and descend via the quieter alternative route.
To go down the main trail, go left (signed for ‘six boulders photography platform’). It’s basically a steep flight of steps down to Xiangshan Park, at the far end of which is Xiangshan Station. A lot of people do this hike up as far as the boulders, so expect it to be many times more crowded than the rest of the hike.
You’ll soon reach the main Elephant Mountain viewing deck, followed by the main Instagram spot at the 6 Boulders. It’s usually a bit of a shitshow, though at least a fairly orderly one by shitshow standards…
Any comments or questions about Mt Nangang or the Four Beasts? Give me a shout below and I’ll get back to you.
Elephant Mountain & the Four Beasts
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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