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 which are in turn just subsidiary peaks of the much taller Mount Nangang. If you’re intending to check out Elephant Mountain but 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). See my page here for 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 thus:
The other three beasts are Tiger Mountain, Leopard Mountain, and Lion Mountain. Note that although the four are all called ‘something mountain’, they’re not individual mountains but rather a set of peaks along a ridge halfway up Mt Nangang. They’re all at a similar height (around 100m), with Elephant slightly higher than the others.
The Leopard and Tiger viewpoints are just a 5-minute walk apart, accessed via the Tiger Mountain trail(s), and offer similar views to Elephant Mountain but without the ridiculous crowds. There’s a road running from Tiger/Leopard to Beixingbao Temple near Elephant, and Lion is a short detour off the road. There’s nothing to actually see on Lion Mountain though as the summit is completely covered in forest, and the trail up to it from the road isn’t a prepared hiking trail like the rest of Mt Nangang but just a little dirt track. Still, if you want to bag all 4 beasts it’s easily done.
The route described here starts with the Tiger Mountain trail to Tiger & Leopard, follows the road via Lion to Beixingbao Temple, and then joins the main Mt Nangang trail from there to descend via 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.
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 (the Red Line extension to a new terminus at Fengtian Temple Station is scheduled to open in December 2023)
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:
You also get views from the trail of Songshan Cihui Temple off to your left:
Keep going up the steps 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 80m 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:
This is the road you’ll follow to Lion Mountain and Beixingbao Temple, where it ends. Turn right and after a few minutes you arrive at Yaochi Temple, another pretty temple with views and public bathrooms. If you’re heading all the way up Mt Nangang, this temple is where you turn left for the climb up to the top – see here for that route.
Anyway, to continue on to the rest of the beasts, walk past Yaochi Temple and almost immediately there’s a footpath on the right which takes you to the Leopard Mountain viewpoint just around the corner:
Once you’re done there, head back to the road and continue following it past a string of temples (none of which I’ve been into but look quite interesting) until it ends 15 minutes later at Beixingbao Temple. About 10 minutes after Leopard, keep a lookout for a little dirt track leaving the road on the right:
Follow it up for a short distance and there’s another little track on the left to reach the Lion Mountain summit marker. It really is just trees and a sign on the ground, hardly worth the effort but then it isn’t much extra effort anyway.
From there head back to the road and follow it to the end – the dirt track continues on down the ridge, but I really don’t recommend exploring further along it. I once did so and it’s a pretty rough trail with a little cliff you have to climb down (with fixed ropes), which comes out on a wider track by an electricity pylon; you can probably follow that track back up to the road, but I kept going down until it fizzled out and I ended up bushwhacking through the jungle along the top of a cliff trying to find a way down, eventually coming out in someone’s little plot of vegetables where their dogs threatened me but thankfully didn’t attack. I got eaten alive by mozzies, covered in spiderwebs, and my ankles were cut up by thorns and sticks in the undergrowth. Totally not worth it!
So yeah don’t bother with that, just follow the road to Beixingbao Temple at the end, another beauty of a temple with an amazingly detailed roof.
You can descend from Beixingbao Temple via the trail to Tianbaosheng Temple (yet another temple famed for its good looks), but just to the left of the temple you’ll find the short trail connecting through to the main Mt Nangang trail:
Once you’re on that main trail, turn right to climb a little higher and reach Elephant Mountain.
It takes about 10 minutes to reach the trail junction at the top of Elephant:
Turning left at the trail junction following the sign for Xiangshan (象山) and the 6 Boulders (六巨石, liu ju shi), it’s a short walk down to the main Elephant Mountain viewing platform and the 6 Boulders; these two points are the goal for most people climbing Elephant Mountain, so expect things to get much busier from here. At busy times the 6 Boulders have a long line of people waiting their turn to climb up and get their Instagram shots. It’s ridiculous but at least it tends to be fairly orderly. From there the trail is just a steep flight of steps down to Xiangshan Park, which I’ve covered in more detail here
Reverse direction: if you want to do this hike starting from Elephant Mountain instead, use this page first and then it should be easy enough to use the above information in reverse. When you get to the signboard at the top of Elephant (the one in the last photo above), take the path signed for Muzhi Mountain. After descending for a short distance you need to turn left to get through to Beixingbao Temple; there are a couple of paths you could take, I only have a pic of the second one (and only taken in the dark, sorry!):
But as you can see it’s clearly signed for Beixingbao Temple. There is a slightly earlier turning but (as of my most recent hike anyway) there’s no signpost, just a marker stone on the ground. Anyway once you’re through to Beixingbao it’s easy enough to just follow the road to Yaochi Temple, looking out for the Lion Mountain path on the left at the top of a small rise in the road around 5 minutes beyond Beixingbao. The Leopard Mountain path will be on your left just before Yaochi Temple, and the Tiger Mountain path is up the steps on the left a short distance beyond Yaochi Temple (again I’ve only got night pics of it):
Once you’re on Tiger Mountain it’s easy enough to descend and then use Google Maps to walk to Houshanpi or Yongchun Station. If you’re up there at night, the Leopard Mountain path is lit from Yaochi Temple, and the Tiger Mountain path is lit from the temple as far as the viewing platform but not down to the road. There’s another path you can use instead which is lit all the way down and descends directly from the temple to the road.
So that’s how you visit all Four Beasts in one hike. Again, if you just want to do Elephant Mountain see here, and if you want to climb up to the actual summit of the whole mountain you need to hike up to 95 Peak at the top of Mt Nangang, see here
Any comments or questions about the Four Beasts or Mt Nangang? Give me a shout below and I’ll get back to you.
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