7 Reasons Why You Should Hike in Taiwan
What things can you do if you have a short stay or layover in Taiwan? Visit the National Palace of Museum? Or eat as many strange foods as you can at Shilin Night Market with the crowd? Now you have a better option if you want to enjoy the nature, because there are so many hiking trails and you can experience the unique nature that only Taiwan can offer.
1. A Wide Variety of Landscapes: from Post-volcanic Landscape to Possible Glacier Traces
70% of the area in Taiwan is covered by mountains, and there is a wide range of terrains. If you want to experience post-volcanic activities and see the craters still spewing smoke, it’s in Taipei City. If you prefer to explore the lush jungles with waterfalls, you have several places to see and you can get there by train or bus. If you are an adrenaline junkie and want to spice up your stay, there are too many trails with steep slopes and amazing mountain and sea views for you to choose.
Although Taiwan is a tropical island, you still can find glacier traces on some mountain summits above 3,000-meter/9,842-foot sea level on Mt. Xue (3,886 m) or Mt. Nanhu (3,740 m). Or, if you just want to have a short getaway to have a relaxing roaming, it’s even closer than you could imagine.
If you are lucky enough, you can wittiness the most magnificent sea of clouds in Taiwan. To enjoy those stunning views, you don’t have to go far away or take a very challenging hike. You can see the views on Mt. Qixing (1,120 m), the highest mountain in Taipei City, or go further south to Mt. Ali, if the timing and weather are right. It's really difficult to describe how you feel when you see the sea of clouds flowing underneath your feet. When you get to see this, most people’s first reaction is “Wow” and are in awe of Mother Nature. And you will totally forget how difficult it is to get up there.
2. Enjoy Free-guided Hikes with Super Inviting and Friendly Local Hiking Communities
Because of the special landscape, hiking activities are thriving and there are many registered hiking associations that offer free guided trips almost everyday, and you have more options on the weekends. For most of the hikes, you can just show up on time at the meeting points, meet new people, and enjoy the hike.
If you opt to multi-day adventures, for a reasonable amount of money, you can just sign up and those hiking associations will take care of the application process of mountain cabins or campsites and transportation, which is totally hassle free. (Read more: 4 ways to enjoy hiking in Taiwan)
The average age of hikers in Taiwan is relatively older than other countries, and the female hikers take the majority. Many of them are experienced hikers and even have finished hiking the 100 Peaks in Taiwan and sometimes it's difficult for younger people to keep up with their pace.
They are also very welcoming and friendly, and will take care of you. Some of them even prepare extra trail foods, like fresh fruit, iced drinks, etc., which is a big delight on the trail. Some of the hikers speak English, so you don’t have to worry that it’s difficult to communicate with local hikers.
3. Hiking Trails Can Be Reached within 1 Hour If You Are in Taipei
Taipei probably has the cleanest and safest transportation systems in the world, which makes it much easier to go hiking. Some trails are close to Taipei Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) stations, or Taipei Metro. After Taoyuan International Airport MRT > began its commercial service in March, 2017, getting around in Taipei is easier than ever.
One of the most famous trails in Taipei is Xiangshan Hiking Trail, which allows you to see the whole Taipei City surrounded by hills, can be reached within 20 minutes on foot after you get off Xiangshan MRT station. For trails outside of Taipei City, it is also easy to access them via trains or buses.
For trails outside of Taipei City, it is also easy to access them via trains or buses. Buses here are equipped with GPS, and passengers can check when the buses will come through their smartphones.
4. All Kinds of Trails to Meet Your Hiking Buds: from Easy Roaming to Challenging Ones
There are all kinds of trails with different difficulty ratings for you to choose. Some trails can even allow you to decide you want to take the easy part, the difficult part or all of them, for example, the Mt. Teapot Trail (article link). If you have young children, many trails are family friendly and small children can easily enjoy the hike.
Since Taiwan is a small island, many trails allow you to enjoy the magnificent mountain and ocean views at the same time. Some trails are very steep and require hikers to have a strong biceps because you have to grab the rope or tree roots to get yourself up or down. Some parts of the trails are on the narrow ridges and it can be very scary to walk on them. Some are covered with barren rocks and you can see the deep valley down below. If you are not afraid of height, those trails will be great to explore. (Read more: 15 Things you need to know before you hit the trails in Taiwan)
Other than the nature, some trails have stories behind them. Since the history of Taiwan can be traced back to several hundreds of years ago, some old trails were made for porters to transport goods during that time. Although many are replaced by modern highways, you still can find the relics in the woods. Local governments maintain many historical trials.
The most famous one probably is Tamsui-Kavalan Trails. For people who love history, those historical trails are also great options to enjoy nature and give you a glimpse of how life was like a few hundred years ago in Taiwan.
5. You Can Almost Hike All Year Round
As long as there are no typhoons or heavy rains and follow the regulations and apply for your stay in advance, you can go hiking whenever you are available.
In summer, we like to hike at higher attitudes to avoid the heat. Summer is also a good time to hike the 100 Peaks, because you can bring less gear. It might rain often, and it still rains due to orographic precipitation even the weather forecast says the chance of rain is low. Therefore, it’s important to prepare a raincoat with you when hiking. For local hikers who hike on a regular basis, it's normal to hike in the rain.
For people who like water activities, it is very easy to find creeks, rivers, waterfalls, or lakes along the trails. You can also find several high elevation lakes above in Taiwan. For example, hike to Jiaming Lake or Chiaming Lake, 嘉明湖 is very popular and it is nicknamed “Angel’s Tears” (3,310 m) in Taiwan.
6. Taiwan is a Heaven for Outdoor Adventure Lovers
Other than hiking, you can also go camping, scuba diving, surfing, rafting, fishing, river trekking, bouldering, kayaking, para-gliding, hot air ballooning, whale/dolphin watching, birding etc. There are more and more people embracing outdoor activities in Taiwan.
You can find all kinds of registered associations or companies to enjoy those adventures with qualified guides. Since Taiwan is small, it’s even better and more convenient for adventure junkies to experience as many activities as possible within a short stay.
7. Wonderful Foods for Breakfast, Lunch and Post-hiking Meals
Last but not least, the food. Many breakfast restaurants (it's literally translated from Chinese, 早餐店) open as early as 5 am or run business 24 hours, so you can stop by to buy foods for your breakfast and lunch.
I usually buy Fan Tuan, which is made of sticky rice with some fillings like fried bread sticks and pork floss, or vegetarian ingredients. Fan Tuan is very fulfilling and easy to carry during the hike. Or you can bring Ramen and ask whether the guides can help you boil water.
In Taiwan, Ramen is not just for broke college students. Some expensive ones are with a small meat package inside. You can find all kinds of Ramen products at the supermarkets, for example, luxury or cheap ones, Taiwanese brands, or brands from South Asia, South Korea, or Japan.
If you are still not sure, there are convenience stores everywhere and you can get bread, Ramen, hot foods, snacks, drinks etc. for your trail food. As to the post hiking meals, as long as you can reach any MRT station in Taipei, it's very easy to get to the famous restaurants.
Furthermore, you don't have to go to Shilin Night Market to enjoy the food, there are usually many restaurants near big MRT stations. Most noodle restaurants serve beef noodle soups if you want to try. There are also many vegetarian restaurants. As to my favorite post hiking meals, they are fried chicken and bubble tea (boba). Those things are almost everywhere in Taiwan.
Whether you have a layover in Taiwan or Taiwan is already on your destination list, don't miss the magnificent nature that can only be found on this tiny island. Check out the free-guided hiking trips for more details.