Elephant Mountain (象山) in Xiangsian is the famous viewpoint which probably springs straight to mind when thinking of Taipei. Located within the city of Taipei, this jungle-covered mountain gives panoramic views over the metropolis and an unparalleled look at Taipei 101. Facing the West, it is the ultimate sunset-seeking spot and hundreds flock to Elephant Mountain every night to watch it. During my trip to Taipei, I was one of those people.
Elephant Mountain is one of those places that I suspect was quite different pre-Instagram. There are definitely a lot of people doing this hike, particularly during golden hour. Although the viewpoints can get crowded and the infamous Taipei humidity will make you sweat like crazy, the view from the top is completely worthwhile. And the best part? It’s accessible and doesn’t take long at all.
GETTING TO ELEPHANT MOUNTAIN
Taipei’s slick metro (MRT) system means that getting to Elephant Mountain is a breeze. You could get a taxi or ride share to the start of the walk, but it is affordable (and probably faster) just to get the MRT. The station closest to the start of the walk is Xiangshan Metro Station on the red line. It’s the last stop on the line so you won’t miss it!
Once you are off the train, follow the signs out of the metro station and you will reach Xiangshan Park. Walk through the park until the end and turn left up the hill. Follow the curve of the road and you will reach the start of the trail up up Elephant Mountain. You are in the right place if you see a sign with elephants on it and stairs with a green railing.
In total, this journey took around 30 minutes from Taipei Main Station to the start of the walk.
WHEN TO HIKE ELEPHANT MOUNTAIN
The sun setting in the west puts it right behind Taipei 101 which makes this a spectacular time of day to walk up Elephant Mountain. However this is no secret, so it’s also the busiest time of day to hike. I have no regrets about doing the walk at this time; the light was spectacular and it was cool to watch the city transform from golden day to glittering night.
My recommendation is to avoid the hike in the rain because the steps could get slippery, and to avoid in the sunniest parts of the day because it is already hot work. Any other conditions and you’re set to go!
THE HIKE ITSELF
This hike is great in the effort versus reward department. For only about 15-20mins of uphill walking, you are treated with the best views over Taipei. The walk to the top viewing platform is not boring in any part with views of the skyline almost continuously along the track.
It’s almost all steps with railing up Elephant Mountain with some sections involving quite steep stairs. Although the stairs can be intense, you don’t need to worry about what you’re wearing. I was wearing runners already, but saw people do it just fine in flip flops and sandals (I saw someone in heels but that was not so good).
Although this walk is quick, the humidity of Taipei can get to you. Walking straight uphill in intense heat/humidity makes it a lot more difficult than it should be. Make sure you prepare for this and pack some water and sun protection.
Elephant Mountain is a popular place for locals and tourists alike, so don’t expect to have this place to yourself. It can get pretty busy on the track so make sure you adjust your expectations for this. Although I’m not the biggest fan of crowds, I still found this to be an amazing viewpoint and one of my favourite things to do in Taipei.
First viewing platform
The first viewing platform is reached after around 300 steps and gives great views over Taipei 101. Although it’s not as elevated as the final platforms, the view is still pretty good. If the walk is becoming too much, you can soak up the view here. Do be aware though that because this is the first platform, it is the most popular as a lot of people only walk to this platform and not beyond.
The Insta-famous rocks
This set of rocks on the trail at around 350/400 steps is where all those famous Instagram photos are taken. The boulders have nooks which allow for easy climbing so you can get shots with no crowds and only the skyline. As cool as these photos can be, there was a line of about 20 people for each boulder when I was there and when people finally got on the rocks, they had full on, very time-consuming photo sessions. Definitely wasn’t going to wait for that. But look up Elephant Mountain on Instagram locations and you’ll see the view!
Just to the side of these boulders, there is some space to stand and take in the view of Taipei 101 and the surrounding skyline. The view from this area is fairly uninterrupted compared to some of the other clearings on the walk.
Clearings to the side of the trail
There are several clearings and tracks to the side of the trail which have cool views. The benefit of these tracks are that there are less people on them. Obviously only walk on parts that are well-trodden tracks and don’t do anything dangerous.
After around 500 steps and a walk across the flat at the top of Elephant Mountain, you reach the final stop: a covered viewing platform. This is the ideal spot to watch the sunset and have a panoramic view over Taipei’s famous skyline. The height difference and different angle of this platform is noticeable and the view here is definitely the best.
TOP TIPS FOR HIKING ELEPHANT MOUNTAIN
- Pack plenty of drinking water because the humidity of Taiwan can definitely get to you — especially after 600 stairs
- If you attract mosquitoes like I unfortunately do, make sure to bring repellant. I looked like I had chickenpox for several days after doing this walk at dusk.
- Catch the metro to the walk – it’s really easy!
- Don’t allocate too much time for this hike because it will only take an hour max including substantial photo stops
PIN FOR LATER AND FOR OTHERS!