Note: there are two Lion’s Head Mountains, so be careful not to confuse this hike with the larger, more impressive & more famous Lion’s Head Mountain further south in Miaoli. See here for the one in Miaoli, or read on for the Xindian one…
Xindian District is on the southern edge of Taipei (officially, it’s in neighbouring New Taipei City), where the Xindian River wends its way down from the Central Mountains; in the vicinity of Xindian Station there’s a dammed section of the river known as Bitan (碧潭, Emerald Lake) due to the green hue of its waters.
A pedestrian footbridge crosses the river, cafes and restaurants line it, and paddle boats are available to rent; it’s a popular spot for locals looking to chill, and while it’s hardly one of the must-sees for those on short visits to Taipei, it’s a good option if you’re in town for a week or more and looking for something to do in addition to all the obvious stuff.
I have to say though, for me personally I don’t think Bitan alone is worth the trip out to Xindian; but combine it with a quick hike in the nearby mountains, and you’ve got the makings of a nice little day trip. There are multiple hiking trails in the area, but Lion’s Head Mountain (獅頭山, Shitoushan) is the closest to Xindian Station (read: no bus or taxi required); it’s a short hike but unless it’s winter you’ll definitely work up a sweat to earn the views.
Shitoushan is around 200m high, steep, and it takes about 40 minutes to reach the top. There are various trailheads by which you can access the mountain; the one nearest the station is just a few minutes away, but it’s hidden away on the east side of Zhongxing Road (中興路, Zhongxing Lu) between these houses:
If you miss that, or aren’t sure, it’s easier to walk 10 minutes north from the station to the trailhead up the steps next to this bus stop:
It’s also on the east side of Zhongxing Road (the righthand side as you walk north away from the station), around a hundred metres beyond the Buddhist temple.
When you come out of the station ticket barriers Bitan is out of the station to your left, while the easiest route to the mountain is out of the furthest exit to your right:
If you cross over there and turn left under the highway:
…you’re then on Zhongxing Lu, and just need to get over to the right side. You can also check the maps in the station:
Whichever trail you access the mountain by, they’re part of a series of crisscrossing routes you can take which eventually lead up to the top. There are plenty of maps along the way, with the mountain’s various pavilions marked as navigation points. Whichever of the above two trailheads you start from, the first place to aim for is Zhongshan Pavilion:
Zhongshan Pavilion looks like this:
From where you take the path heading straight up the mountain, signposted for Meihuashizi Pavilion:
The next navigation points to aim for are Shizilu Pavilion and then the final goal of Qingnian Pavilion:
View up towards Qingnian Pavilion:
The trail’s pretty steep, with wooden steps up the steeper sections and wooden boardwalks or dirt paths for the rest.
Once you reach the top you can chill out and enjoy the views of Taipei, Xindian below, and Taipei 101 in the distance, before heading back down to Xindian to check out Bitan and cool down with a nice cold bubble tea.
On your way back down, when you reach Zhongshan Pavilion turn left and descend via Tianlai Pavilion to come out closest to the station. This route takes you down past this incredible tree near the bottom of the trail:
Map of the Xindian area showing Lion’s Head Mountain to the right:
The Shitoushan hike probably isn’t worth travelling across the city to do, but taken together with Bitan it makes for a nice outing. For a more involved hike near Xindian, you could try the awesome hike up to Yinhe Cave Temple, which you can do from the Xindian side by taking a bus from Xindian Station.
Any comments or questions about hiking in Xindian? Leave me a comment 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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