You might think that after two months I'd slowly begin to run out of interesting hikes in Taipei. You'd be wrong. I haven't even covered some of the most famous city trails yet. Next up is 象山 Elephant Mountain, another walk conveniently reachable by MRT. It even has its own station, the Eastern terminal of the red line: Xiangshan. From here it's about 5-10 minutes to the trailhead and another 15-20 minutes to the top.
Along the trail, you'll find numerous gorgeous photo spots in front of Taipei's skyline. If you do an online image search for Taipei, I'd guess that half of the photos on the first page, especially those with the Taipei 101 in the back, have been taken from somewhere on Elephant mountain. For some tips on photography on this trail, I recommend Josh's blog.
So in short, Xiangshan is a quick hike with amazing views and selfie opportunities, easily reachable by public transport, and popular amongst locals and tourists alike. Have a guess where it'll fall on the crowded vs peaceful hiking scale? I visit on a gloomy December day shortly before Christmas, during the COVID-19 pandemic with no tourists around. I think this is about as quiet as it'll ever get on a weekend and there are still plenty of other hikers on the mountain.
I get my photo taken at the famous 六巨石 Six Giant Rocks and soon reach the viewing platform on the top. The trail is short, but it's only a small part of the larger 南港山系 Nangang Hiking Trail network. Also known as the 四獸山步道 Four Beasts Trail, it includes 拇指山 Thumb Mountain, 南港山 Nangang Mountain, 九五峰 9-5 Peak as well as the “four beasts” 虎山 Tiger Mountain, 豹山 Leopard Mountain, 獅山 Lion Mountain and, of course, 象山 Elephant Mountain.
My goal is 九五峰 from where I want to see whether this spot could be a suitable location to see the New Year's Eve fireworks ten days later. It might be, but there's not much space up on the peak so I guess I'd have to bring some blankets and come very early.
After climbing down from 九五峰, I find my way to Houshanpi and take the blue line back home. You can also extend the trail a bit further and descend to one of the MRT stations further east.
This trail is a quick and fun nature escape close to the city. I'm sure it'll be very crowded when the weather is friendlier, but I might still come back more often if only to visit all of the “four beasts” and increase my collection of photos to convince more people to come and visit me in Taipei.