Monday, March 31, 2014

Secret Entrance to Elephant Mountain

Elephant Mountain, also known as XiangShan or 象山, is one of the "Four Beasts" mountains that overlook Taipei, and depending on the route, is arguably the easiest and fastest hike available in Taiwan, considering the view. Just Southeast of Taipei 101, Elephant Mountain offers one of the most picturesque views of the city.

This post will cover a hitherto unknown entrance to the Four Beasts trail that starts at what appears to be an extremely old collection of shrines and vertical stairs that are reminiscent of the Pueblo Indian cave dwellings in the United States.

This place is a beast to find, and one wrong turn will send you inextricably in the wrong direction. I recommend checking out the custom google map and following using street view, as well as consulting my pictures for the actual hike directions. In all honesty, once you get up on the mountain, you'll probably get turned around. Not necessarily a bad thing, the Four Beast mountains are relatively tame, and all paths are beautiful (and eventually lead to an MRT).

By the way, I don't go into too much detail what you will see on this hike, because I don't want to spoil the surprise. Don't rush things. This is an extremely short hike, so feel no guilt at pauses to examine some particularly interesting shrines or enjoy the view.

Flickr Album

Cost and Time
Total: 0 TWD, ~1-3 Hours
- Walk from Yongchun Station to Trailhead - 20 mins
- Trailhead to Main Four Beasts Trail - 45 mins
- Shrine at Trail Intersection to Elephant Mountain Viewpoint - 30 minutes
- Miscellaneous hiking - 1 or more hours

What to Bring
- Winds can get mildly high up on the mountain - temperatures may be slightly cooler than the ground
- Shoes with good grip. Expect overgrown, mossy stone and wet mud / stone.
- Water Bottle

What to Expect
- Stairs hiking
- Extreme vertical stairways, similar to Pueblo Indian sites
- Wilderness hiking, including dirt and stone scrambling
- Ancient shrines and temple sites
- Fantastic views of Taipei

Trailhead Location
-25°01'52.5"N 121°34'48.0"E

Directions To Trailhead (Detailed)
1. Go to MRT Yongchun Station Exit 4. (Coordinates)
2. Walk straight to "Hulin" or "H lin" street, take a right. (Coordinates)
3. Stay on Hlin street, past Songde Rd, to Xinyi Rd Section 6 / Fu De Street. Take a left. (Coordinates)
4. Take a right on Linkou street (林口). Walk alongside the ubikes. (Coordinates)
5. Take a left onto Songshan Rd. (Coordinates)
6. At the split, stay right. (Coordinates)

7. At alley 15, take a left (downhill). (Coordinates)

8. Take the left immediately following the wooden bridge, toward the hiking map sign. (Coordinates)
Don't go this way!

9. Walk until you see some stairs on your right side. Climb up them. This is the trailhead.  (Coordinates)

This is the trailhead.

Hike Details
10. At the next intersection, take the stairs on the left, following the sign for "muzhi shan hiking trail."

11. At the shrine, take the supervertical stairs featured in pics below.

12. At the dirt trail intersection, take the rightmost trail. Follow white/red trailmarker ribbons.

13. You will arrive at a giant power tower.

13. From here on, all paths should lead to a road. Cross the road towards the red/black railing path/stairs leading up.

13. Take the first dirt intersection to the left to the Really Big Shrine

14. Go back to the stairs and continue going up, take a right at the intersection, and end up at Elephant Mountain Viewpoint. (a bit of a hike)
15. Keep going straight past to end up back down the stairs and at Xiangshan Station.

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