The Elephant Mountain/Four Beasts Mountain trail (aka Xiangshan/Sishoushan Trail) is perhaps the most easily accessible trail in Taipei with perhaps also the best views of the city. This popular and easy hike covers areas of Xinyi and Nangang District, and offers excellent views of the 101 and the rest of downtown Taipei. It should be on the top of your list of places to visit in Taipei.
Elephant Mountain get's its name from the shape of the mountain, which from a distance looks like an elephant. The same is true of the hills next to it: Tiger Mountain, Lion Mountain, and Leopard Mountain. Other peaks on the trail include Mt. Nangang, Thumb Mountain, and 95 Peak.
Elephant Mountain lies at 181 meters above sea level, and 95 Peak, the highest peak on the trail, is 375 meters above sea level.
These mountains lie on the Nangang Mountain Chain (南岡山系統), which starts in Nangang District, and goes through Xinyi District, Da'an District, and Wenshan District of Taipei.
The rock formations that form the Nangang Mountain Chain formed as sediment under the ocean millions of years ago and were then uplifted thanks to the collision of the Eurasian and Phillipine plates. The rocks are mainly sedimentary and are part of the same formation that forms the special rock formations on the northern coast and in Pingxi.
The area also has some coal deposits, and there are a few abandoned coal mines on the mountain.
Currently Elephant Mountain and the Four Beasts trail is one of the most popular trails in Taipei or all of Taiwan. With quick access to the MRT, hundreds of people hike these trails daily.
24/7 (there are even lights on the trail at night)
Elephant Mountain: 1-2 hours 1.5 KM one way
Total of about 160 meters in elevation gain
Full Four Beasts Trail: 4-6 hours 11KM one way (to China University of Science and Technology)
Total of about 350 meters in elevation gain
Easy, although there are many steep steps at the beginning.
How to get there:
By MRT: Take the Red Line MRT to the Elephant Mountain stop. The trailhead is about 500 meters from the MRT station. Just walk along the park to the trailhead.
By Scooter/Car: Drive east on Xinyi Raod in Taipei, and turn right at Xiangshan MRT station. There should be scooter and car parking on the street, but car parking may be hard to find.
Please see below:
I have been hiking to the Nangang Mountain Chain about a dozen times. There are a spider web of trails and paths that connect these mountains, I myself have not traveled them all. The most popular section with the best views is the Elephant Mountain Trail. Here you will find tons of people on weekends.
Starting from Xiangshan (Elephant Mountain) MRT station, you can walk 500 meters to the trail head. This part is totally flat.
You may also choose to ride a Youbike to the south side of Xiangshan Park, but its only like 300 meters.
Once you reach the end of Xiangshan Park, turn left and head up the hill toward the trailhead.
If you come via scooter, you can also park right next to the trail head. I usually come by scooter.
Elephant Mountain Trail 象山步道
The start of the trail is full of steep stone steps up the mountain. According to this sign, it should have taken you 20 minutes to walk here from Xiangshan Station 20 minutes away.
A map of the trails nearby. It would take you several days to explore all the trails on this mountian.
Steps with a create Xiang "象" Shaped bench.
First full view of the Taipei 101 from the trail.
More steep steps to the top. The guy in orange was jogging up. Trail runner.
Photographer Platform 攝手平台
About halfway up the trail you will come to the photographer platform, which doesn't have the best view because of all the high rises in the foreground.
From here, the trail goes straight up again.
There are usually lots of people resting and taking photos here. Good luck waiting in line for a selfie.
An unmarked grave on the side of the trail.
The last few steps before the six giant rocks.
Six Giant Rocks 六巨石
Another popular photo taking spot is on the Six Giant Rocks. Instagrammers especially love this place.
A little girl climbs on to one of the rocks.
I could not help but snap a photo of this cute pose.
"Six Giant Rocks"
"Passing along the rail, going up the stairways, you will see the famous 6 giant rocks that people can climb onto to get a great view of the Taipei 101.
The rock strata of Elephant Mountain link to Taliao layer and shiti layer, formed by the sediments scouted out from the ancient Hwa Nan land mass 22-18 million years ago. Shihti layer lined between the Taliao and Nangang layers, and has rich coal deposits. The giant boulders are of sedimentary sand stones from the ancient sea."
View of the six giant stone area from under the trees.
Did you already drink all your water? Don't worry, there is a drinking fountain on top of the mountian!
Six Giant Rocks Photography Platform 六巨石攝景平臺
Just past the six rocks to the left you will find the photography platform with the best views on Elephant Mountain. On a busy weekend, it may hard to find a good shooting position.
I have never not seen instagrammers taking selfies here.
View looking toward southern Taipei.
Looking toward northern Taiepi.
Looking at eastern Taiepei.
Looking toward Nangang and Xizhi in east Taipei.
Closeup on the top of the 101.
Looking down at the old neighborhoods in Xinyi District.
View of the high-rises on the hills of Tamsui District.
Closeup of office space on the 101 Tower.
View of the new Nanshan Plaza tower.
Closeup of Xinzhuang and Linkou on the hill in New Taipei.
Looking at the Shinkong Life Tower and Wugu District of New Taipei in the background.
Wahsed out view of Nangang Station and the CTBC bank tower in Nangang.
View of the Sun Yat-sen memorial.
Elephant Mountain is also a great place for watching the sunset.
Chaoran Pavilion 超然亭
Another popular photo stop is at Chaoran Pavilion. Here you can see excellent views of the sunset.
View of the main trails on the Nangang Mountain Chain. But there are many more that are unmarked.
Four Beasts Trail 四獸山步道
If you keep going up the mountain trail you will come to the four beasts trail.
The four beasts trail goes higher up the mountain which means you can see more, but you are further away from the 101. This is a small rest area on the way to 95 peak.
A wider view fromt the same rest area.
Right before you hit 95 peak, there is a rest area with probably the best views of the whole mountain.
View of Taipei at dusk, with mount Guanyin and the Tamsui River in the background.
Another view from the same place on a different day.
Another view from the same place.
View of north Taipei.
View looking toward Yangmingshan National Park, with the Keelung River in the foreground.
Another view looking south.
Sunbeams over Sanxia.
Another view later in the evening.
Another view from the same place.
Don't be afraid if you see lots of huge spiders on the trail, but make sure you don't get your head caught in their webs.
95 Peak 九五峰
The tallest point on the mountain Chain is 95 peak. Most of the trail is covered in trees around it so there isn't much of a view.
On top of the mountain is a giant rock with the words "九五峰" meaning 95 peak. This peak was named after an exercise group that had a 95 year old man climb to the top.
View from the top of 95 Peak.
Another giant banana spider.
View of eastern Taipei from near 95 peak.
Mt. Nangang 南港山
View of Nangang and Xizhi from the other side of the mountian.
Mt. Nangang Sits just east of 95 peak, only a few meters shorter than it.
On top of Mt Nangang are some radio towers and equipment.
In 2014 a woman died while climbing Mt. Nangang, losing her footing while climbing a rope, falling 100 meters to her death (the only death I know of on the mountian). This may be why the top of the mountain is closed off.
As you move further east on the trail, there are still great views to be had of Taipei.
Panorama of east Taipei.
View of Nangang from near the end of the trail.
Last view of the Sunset before I headed down the backside of the mountain toward China University of Science and Technology in Nangang. I like hiking up this route because it is much closer to where I live than the Elephant Mountain entrance.
On the backside of the mountain is an endless maze of trails and private agricultural land, as well as some abandoned farming huts.
There are not really any goof views on the backside of the mountain, just lots of agricultural land and elderly people planting vegetables.
You can also go check out the old mines on this mountain.
Obviously I missed Tiger Mountain, Leopard Mountain, and Lion Mountain. But the views are similar to what you've seen above. As I continue to explore the trails on the Nangang Mountain Chain, I will be sure to continuously update this blog.
For other blogs on this trail, see here and here.
Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more blogs on Taiwan to come!
We are US Expats that have extensive experience living, working, and travelling in Taiwan. In our day, we had to learn many things about Taiwan the hard way. But we have come to learn that Taiwan is one of the best places in the world for Foreigners to live. Our blog does not represent the opinions of every foreigner in Taiwan. We are just trying to help others learn more about this beautiful country.