How to Hike Elephant Mountain (Xiangshan) to see the best Taipei views!

June 4, 2024

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Taipei City’s eastern region is home to Elephant Mountain, also known as Xiangshan or 象山. It’s the most popular hike and one of the top tourist destinations in Taipei thanks to the comparatively short hike that ascends the 184-meter mountain, which offers unparalleled Taipei city views.

Taipei 101 and the Elephant Mountain trailhead are only 0.85 km (0.5 mi) apart, which means you can visit both on the same day. You can travel straight from the nation’s most well-known landmark and posh area to hike elephant mountain, a natural jungle trail!

We personally hiked Elephant Mountain trail over 7 times and its surrounding routes. If you’re visiting Taipei, hiking Elephant Mountain Taipei (Xiang Shan) and pairing it with a visit to Taipei 101’s roof should be on your top 10 things to do.

Here are some expert pointers for navigating the nearby Four Beasts Scenic Area, including how to get there to elephant mountain, difficulty, how many steps, when to go, and the best viewpoint platforms to get that stunning photo, a trail map, and some hidden temples.

Hiking in Taiwan? Check out my guide comparing Keelung Mountain vs Teapot Mountain in Taiwan, two of the most famous hikes. You also might be interested my review of Kenting National Park in Pingtung County and if it’s worth visiting.

Elephant Mountain Taipei Quick Intro

Elephant Mountain (184 m) is one of several peaks or connecting hills of Nangang Mountain (南港山, 375m), and many consider it to be the best hike in Taipei. Elephant Mountain is the peak that’s closest to Xinyi district and Taipei 101, so it is by far the most popular trail.

Xiangshan is one of the “Four Beasts” (四獸山 or Sishoushan), along with Lion Mountain (獅山 or Shishan), Leopard Mountain (豹山 or Baoshan), and Tiger Mountain (虎山 or Hushan). These are protected as the Four Beasts Scenic Area.

There are no flat areas, so take your time and bring a bottle of water. Along the route, there are places to stop and enjoy the scenery while catching your breath.

With pauses, the 1.9 kilometer journey should take 20 to 30 minutes to reach the summit. Since the trail is perfectly maintained and paved, most people should have no trouble walking it.

Elephant Mountain (Xiang Shan) can be reached by hiking up to the well-known Xiangshan Six Boulders Observation Deck and its several overlooks, beginning near Daitiandian Lingyun Temple.

Our favorite lookouts at Elephant Mountain Taipei trail

Elephant Mountain is just one of the four “beasts,” a group of linked peaks that together comprise Nangang Mountain (南港山) and the Four Beasts Scenic Area (四獸山梨景區). Tiger Mountain (鱅䱁), Leopard Mountain (鱅䱱), and Lion Mountain (捅䱱) are the others.

The four summits are connected by a network of routes, and getting to the Four Beasts trails just requires a short hike from Elephant Mountain hike.

We’ve had some of the best conversations with elders while hiking in Taiwan, and sometimes they even invite us to drink tea with them. We cherish these memories!

Taking the Elephant Mountain trail to Guanyin Pavilion (觀音涼亭 or Guanyinting) is a nice alternative. From there, continue north via Lion Mountain and join the Leopard Mountain Trail (豹山步恓), walking down to the city and terminating at Yongchun MRT eventually. MRT. This trail passes several stone carvings, beautiful small temples, and more Taipei 101 views.

The views are similar but they are higher and less crowded. The gems are really the incredible Buddhist and Taoist temples that have been left untouched for decades that serve as a time capsule.

How to get to Elephant Mountain in Taipei

Elephant Mountain Taipei Address: Elephant Mountain trailhead, No. 157, Alley 342, Lane 150, Section 5, Xinyi Rd, Xinyi District, Taipei City, Taiwan 110

The easiest way to get to Elephant Mountain is to take the red line to Xiangshan MRT Station Exit 2.

From Xiangshan MRT Station to the trailhead, it’s only a 10 minute walk. You’ll be walking south along Xiangshan Park for most of the way, where there are restrooms.

How to get to Elephant Mountain from Taipei Main Station? From Taipei Main Station, take the red line to Xiang Shan MRT Station and take exit 2. It only took us 15 minutes from Taipei Main Station, and there’s no need to transfer lines.

If you don’t live near a MRT Station, just Uber or take the taxi to Elephant Mountain trailhead or Daitiandian Lingyun Temple (代天殿靈雲宮), where the trail starts, which is here. The trailhead is just past the temple, on the right side of the temple. Daitiandian Lingyun temple is definitely worth a quick stop before you start your hike.

Daitiandian Lingyun Temple, a temple right at the start of the Elephant Mountain trailhead.

If you’re wondering is Uber in Taiwan? The answer is yes! Read our guide on Uber in Taipei, is it legal, Uber vs taxis, and how much Uber fares cost in Taipei.

Elephant Mountain Steps and Difficulty

Hike Distance / Length: 0.7 mi (1.9km) from the start of the hike to the top of the mountain
Elevation gain: 462 feet (166m)
Route type: Out & back
Approximate elephant mountain hike time: 30 minutes to go up, however we’d recommend 1-2 hours to explore the viewpoints and the temples at the beginning of the hike, and past the top.
Steps: In total there are 500 steps to the rock viewpoints and 600 to the top.
Open Hours: This is a public trail and open 24 hours.
Helpful Apps to download: Taiwan Weather and AllTrails are two apps that can be helpful. Also, check out my guide on the best apps for Taiwan from taxi, weather, dating, to translation.

In total there are 500 steps to the rock viewpoints (the Instagram favorite) and 600 to the top. The stairs are well maintained. It is a pretty easy hike, but can get tough in the summer when its humid!

Make sure you bring a bottle of water and take your time as there are no flat sections. Wear appropriate shoes for protection. There are mininal bugs but I would advise to wear breathable longer sleeves to avoid pesky mosquitoes. The trail is mostly shaded and there are stops along the way to take in the view and get your breath back.

Hiking the Elephant Mountain Trail is rated as moderate. How difficult that is for you will mainly depend on things like the weather, your hiking experience, and fitness level.

The road climbs for a short while toward the conclusion of the walk from the MRT station to the trailhead and base of the mountain, but this is only a little warm-up for the terrain that awaits.

The hardest portion is the 25-minute hike up to the Six Boulders from the trailhead. The entire trail is made up of stairs that are upward.

Elephant Mountain trail is safe to walk even at night – there are lights along the whole trail.

Read next: Fenrui – a stunning hike through bamboo forests

How Long Does It Take to Hike Elephant Mountain?

Elephant Mountain Taipei trail stairs

It is 1.9km long and should take about 30 minutes to get to the top with stops. The path is paved and in perfect condition, meaning most people should be able to do the walk with no problems.

It will take around 1.5 hours (back) to finish the Elephant Mountain trek starting at the Xiangshan MRT station. This is walking at a moderate pace, with pauses and photo ops included in.

Elephant Mountain Taipei at Night

Getting night time photos of Taipei is also highly recommended from Elephant Mountain hiking trail. Staying after sunset, when most people head home, will allow you to capture both the glittering lights of Taipei 101 and the metropolitan skyline.

You’ll need a tripod for this to get a nice clear shot and some patience.

You won’t have to worry about the dark because the trail is well-lit and quite simple to hike. You won’t be strolling through a forest in the dead of night, but we still advise carrying a light or using your phone!

Elephant Mountain Viewpoints

Trailhead to Xiangshan Photographer’s Platform (15 min)

After the trailhead and visiting Daitiandian Lingyun Temple, keep walking up. After 5 minutes, the trail splits, with a sign pointing to multiple destinations to the left and right.

The destinations indicated to the right are “Mt. Xiangshan 480 m 16 min” (peak of Elephant Mountain) and Liu Ju Shi 330 m 11 min” (this refers to the Six Boulders area). This is where we are headed, so follow the sign to the right.

The stairs become steeper shortly after the turn. Looking left, you may begin to see sneak peeks of Taipei City through the trees.

About 15 minutes from the time you started the trail, you’ll reach the first viewing platform, which is called Xiangshan Photographer’s Platform (象山攝影平台, here on GoogleMaps). In our personal opinion, this is the best viewpoint platform on Elephant Mountain.

The view of the city from Xiangshan Photographer’s Platform is breathtaking. This is probably going to be your first significant break stop. From this vantage point, Taipei 101 is so close that it seems within reach.

Xiangshan Photographer’s Platform to Six Boulders (10 min)

Proceed in that direction and ascend the stairs that are directly across from the platform that goes up the mountain. Put differently, avoid the left-hand trail as it will lead you back there if you choose to complete the extra circle at the finish.

Five minutes in, just before the last stretch to Six Boulders, the stairs turn really steep. When you see the enormous white-painted stone at the top with the red characters 象山 (Xiang Shan) carved onto it, you will know you are almost there.

The Six Boulders (六巨石) lie just above that stone.

One of Elephant Mountain’s most famous sights is the Six Boulders. These enormous sedimentary stones used to be a well-known location for city views.

To go to the Xiangshan Six Boulders Observation Deck (象山六巨石觀景台), follow the trail up a short ways. Note: This is confusingly named “Photographer’s Lookout” (攝影平台) on some local signage, which also happen to be the name of the last platform we visited.

For most people, they’ll stop here. However, we recommend to keep going to see some unique small temples.

At the peak (here), you’ll found a small peak marker, but no view. If you follow a small path through the trees, there’s a tiny lookout point with an elephant-shaped bench framing the view. (see below)

Best viewpoint at Elephant Mountain(Xiangshan) hike

The peak area has public restrooms, benches, and small platforms, one of which is dubbed the “Marriage Proposal Platform” (鱡䱱求婚平台). Chaoranting (超然亭 aka Transcendent Platform) here, and Yongchungang Platform (永春崗平台) here. There is also some exercise equipment and outdoor gym for the elderly.

Outdoor gyms are quite common in Taiwan, and we always serendipitously meet friendly elders hiking in Taiwan who are fit, healthy, strong and wise!

And that’s the end of the hike… But wait! If you keep going past elephant mountain, it connects to the Four Beast Scenic Area and a series of unique temples in Taipei! Here’s one of the temples you can see if you keep going.

Hidden gem temple in the Four Beast Scenic Area

Elephant Mountain Taipei Trail Map

Elephant Mountain Opening Times

Elephant Mountain is a public hiking trail, therefore you can go hiking there whenever you want at any time. Hiking the trail at sunrise and sunset is popular, especially for photographers. If you plan to go after dark, don’t forget to carry a flashlight or phone so you can find your way down. The trail is not lit after dark.

Best Time to Do the Trail

Elephant Mountain is best experienced early in the morning, in our opinion.

At 6:05 AM, the first Red Line MRT of the day will take you to Xiangshan MRT. In winter, this will be early enough to reach the Elephant Mountain viewpoint in time for sunrise; but, in summer, when sunrise occurs as early as 5 AM, this will not be possible.

The last time we hiked at 8:00AM, and there were already many people and locals hiking (but not too crowded). Since this is one of the most popular and accessible hikes in Taipei, you usually won’t find it empty at any time of the day.

You’ll get to see the city light up with the warm sunlight.

Elephant Mountain is also a terrific place to climb at sunset and at night because you can see Taipei City’s sun setting. However, it will be the most crowded time of the day.

If you want to catch the changing hues of the sky before the sun sets, I advise you to schedule your arrival at the top for at least 30 minutes before the official sunset time.

Elephant Mountain FAQs

Do I need book a tour to Elephant Mountain?
The beginner’s hike is something you can accomplish on your own. we hope this blog post assists you in doing that.

Does the Elephant Mountain Trail need reservations?
No, Elephant Mountain trail in Taipei is open and free to the public. You can do it anytime of the day. Despite the entrance being near a temple, there isn’t any strict rules around visiting or what to wear.

What to do around Elephant Mountain? 
Continue hiking to the Four Beasts scenic area, surrounding temples, or go eat authentic Taiwanese breakfast at one of our favorite spots Si Hai Soy Milk. If you’re hiking in the afternoon or evening, head to Shilin Night Market (our favorite night market in Taiwan!) or Raohe Night Market.

If you’re looking for a Taiwan itinerary, check out our Taiwan itinerary for 7 days including top sights, hiking, old streets, and the best food.

Are there restrooms at Elephant Mountain Trail?
Yes, there are restrooms at Xiangshan Park before the trailhead and also a restroom along the way in Elephant Mountain hike.

Are there any souvenirs shops near elephant mountain?
The best place to get souvenirs near elephant mountain is at Taipei 101. Read our guide on things to buy in Taiwan as a gift to find the best Taiwan souvenirs.

Is it safe to hike Elephant Mountain Trail?
Yes, Elephant Mountain Trail is very safe to hike. It’s well lit and . In general, all the hikes we’ve hiked in Taiwan have been very safe and well maintained by responsibly kind locals or the government.

If you’re wondering is it safe to travel to Taiwan as a female or foreigner? The answer is Yes! Read our guide on safety tips to be aware of while traveling in Taiwan.

What are other good hikes in Taipei after hiking Elephant Mountain trail?
We love hiking in Taiwan and have hiked over 20+ trails. Check out our guide comparing Keelung Mountain vs Teapot Mountain in Taiwan, two of the most famous hikes.

You also might be interested in exploring a cat village in Taiwan, or tasting the best food in Jiufen. There’s so much to do in Taipei, that some even consider Taipei the best city in Asia, and we can see why.

Are you planning to visit Taipei? Do you know any other epic views of Taipei like Elephant Mountain? Let us know in the comments below!

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