Two Volcanic Trails Worth Hiking in Taipei’s Yangmingshan National Park
One of my favorite places in Northern Taiwan is Yangmingshan National Park (陽明山國家公園), a stunning mountainous landscape that has many fascinating stories to tell and a variety of activities to do.
Yangmingshan was formerly known as Grass Mountain (草山 cǎoshān). It was given this name during the Qing Dynasty and the name referred to Mt. Datun (大屯山 dàtún shān). On this hill you can only see grass growing, and no trees. This is because back in the day, officials were worried about thieves stealing the sulfur from this area, so they would regularly set the mountain on fire.
The name was changed to Yangmingshan in 1950, when Chiang Kai-Shek renamed it to commemorate scholar Wang Yangming (王陽明).
Tips for hiking in Yangmingshan National Park
Bring your EasyCard to pay for parking or for snacks/drinks at a visitor center.
Go hiking in the morning. Usually the sky is more clear in the morning and is less likely to be covered in clouds than in the afternoon.
Always bring something warm. It can cool down pretty quickly when you’re high up in the mountains, so wear layers and bring an extra jacket.
How to get to Yangmingshan
There are several ways to get to Yangmingshan. The three most mainstream are by car, by bus or by scooter. You can also take an Uber or taxi there, but that will be a little more pricey.
Getting there by car/scooter
Depending on where in Yangmingshan you’re going, the drive from Shilin station to any place in the National Park will be between 20-75 minutes. There is one major road that goes up to Yangmingshan from Taipei, called Yangde Boulevard or 仰德大道. You can access this road freely during the week, but on weekends and holidays between 7.00 and 16.00, passenger cars without a pass are restricted from going up, which means you will have to take a different route. Fortunately scooters are allowed to pass.
All over Yangmingshan you can find parking lots, most of them are accessible with EasyCard, so be sure to take one and have enough money on it! Parking lots are 30 NTD (+/-1 euro/USD) an hour. For scooter parking you have to pay 20 NTD per hour.
Getting there by bus
From Jiantan or Shilin station you can find multiple buses that go up to Yangmingshan. Some of them are purely to transport people to residential areas, while other buses go all the way to the other side of the National Park.
Mt Datun - 大屯山
Though not the tallest, Mt. Datun is one of the most impressive and special mountains in Yangmingshan. With the main peak at 1092 meters, it is the third tallest mountain in the park. But you might not expect what makes this mountain special. Mt. Datun is one of the only two still active volcanoes in all of Taiwan.
On February 18, 2023 groundwater entered the magma chamber of the volcano, resulting in two short seismic shocks that were felt in different places in Yangmingshan and Beitou. Researchers say that we need not worry about an eruption, but that we should all be aware of the situation.
Another thing that makes this mountain special is that the temperatures on this mountain in winter can go down to below 0. And if you’re lucky you can even expect some snow.
The hike up this mountain is moderate. It is a 250 meter climb up that will take you about 45 minutes and a 45 minute walk down. The vegetation consists mainly of bamboo and grass. At the halfway point you have stunning views over Yangmingshan and Taipei and when you get to the top you can see even more. A little bit further than the top you can find a viewpoint, on which you can see almost all of Taipei and all the way to Linkou, even on a somewhat cloudy day.
You can choose to start your hike at Erziping (二子坪) for a flatter trail, or from Anbu Weather Station if you want something steeper and more challenging.
To get to Erziping Visitor Center take the 1717 from Shilin Station and get off at Bailaka Highway Entrance Station (百拉卡公路入口). Walk 1km from here to the start of the trail.
Or if you want to start at Anbu Weather station, take any bus to Yangmingshan Bus Terminal and change buses to get on the 108, get off at Saddle Station (鞍部站) and start the trail right away.
Mt Qixing - 七星山
As Yangmingshan’s tallest mountain, Mt. Qixing has quite the reputation. With its 1,120 meter high peak, it is considered the highest dormant volcano in Taiwan. Don’t worry about any eruptions while you’re hiking, it has been dormant for hundreds of years.
For a long time I have been curious why this mountain is called ‘七星', which translates to ‘seven stars’. Rumor has it that locals have given this mountain the name Qixing, because you can see seven peaks on top of the mountain that formed after an eruption many years ago.
Mt. Qixing is famous for its fumaroles, beautiful “collapsed landscape” and the sulfur crystals, which all has to do with it being a volcano.
I would recommend starting your hike at Xiaoyoukeng Visitor Center (小油坑遊客服務站), so you get a good view of the stunning fumaroles. You even get to walk through some of the small hot water streams, heated up by the hot springs.
If you start at Xiaoyoukeng and climb up to both the main peak and the East peak you will end up at Lengshuikeng Visitor Center (冷水坑遊客服務站). This hike is roughly 5km and will take you a little over an hour. If you’re not yet tired after this you can decide to take a look at the so-called Milk Lake (牛奶湖 niúnǎi hú). A beautiful white lake right off the path near Lengshuikeng Visitor Center.
To get to Xiaoyoukeng by public transportation take the 1717 and get off at Xiaoyoukeng Station (小油坑). From here you can start the trail right away.
Hopefully you get to experience Yangmingshan's stunning nature sooner than later!
What is your favorite place in Yangmingshan?