The Pingxi Crags are a set of hiking trails that traverse steep mountain peaks and rock cliffs in the mountains south of Pingxi Village. The sedimentary rocks here stick out of the forest at the tops of the mountains, making for great views but also dangerous climbs.
The rock formations that form the Pingxi crags hike 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 around Keelung.
The area also has some coal deposits, and there is an abandoned mine on the trail.
There are basically six main peaks along the Pingxi Crags trail: Xiaozishan (孝子山), Cimu Peak (慈母峰), Cien Peak (慈恩嶺), Putuoshan (普陀山), Choutoutshan (臭頭山) and the Zhongyangjian Peak (中央尖) which is the highest peak in that chain of mountains.
Xiaozishan is 140 (459 feet) above sea level.
Much of the climbing is medium to difficult, and includes rock scrambling and rope climbs up steep cliffs with carved steps and footholds, as well as ladder crossings and chain ladder climbs in some places.
The area is popular with hikers and can get busy on the weekends.
The trail is technically 1.6 KM to Zhongyanjian, but it could take you most of the day because the hike is steep and there is lots of rope climbing. The difficulty here is medium because you are not gaining tons of elevation but there are some really scary rope climbs, rock scrambling, and near vertical rock climbs in some places.
When to go:
On a sunny dry day. The rocks can get slippery and a fall on some of the trails could kill you.
When not to go:
Don't go when it is raining. You could slip right off a cliff to your death, plus it will be cloudy with no good views. Don't bring children under 12 years old.
How to get there:
By Train: Take the TRA to Ruifang Station, and then switch to the Pingxi Railway line. Get off at Pingxi Station, and then walk south past the river toward the mountains. The trailhead starts right to the right of the public bathroom.
By Car/Scooter: Take provincial highway 2 east toward Pinglin, then get off the main highway once you reach Shifen. Then turn right and go west on county road 106 until you reach the Pingxi Old street and turn left up the mountain after you reach the Taiwan Power Company. There is a parking lot and trail head at the end of the road.
You can check out the full trail map here or here.
For the location of the start of the trail, please see below:
Notice how this mountain chain is a very pronounced horizontal pattern of sediments being lifted out of the ground as seen from space.
Check out our drone footage of below of Xiaozishan and some of the other peaks in the background in the video below:
I have been to Pingxi many times and have admired the pointy mountain peaks that stick out of the tops of the mountains like tortilla chips. I have also long since admired blog posts and photos on Google maps of these places. These kinds of hikes can be found throughout greater Taipei and Keelung where there is similar geography (mountains made from sedimentary rocks).
The start of the trail begins near Pingxi station. You can start from the main road or drive up another small road to the trail parking lot.
The main peaks on the trail don't seem that far away, but there are tons of steps and rope climbs along the way.
Complete maps of the trails in near Pingxi can be seen above.
Xiaozishan Trail 孝子山
The first part of the trail will take you to Xiaozishan. Above you can see an outline of the peaks as seen from the parking lot, Xiaozishan looking tallest from this angle.
The trail coming from the north parking lot is stone, and there is a place to do some exercise here too.
Afterward the trail turns into sandstone steps.
Resting area in the forest.
Buddhist shrine in the forest. Three of the peaks here are named after Buddhist gods.
After about ten minutes, the trail comes to a fork. To the left you can go up to Xiaozishan, which is a giant pointy rock.
You can see some people climbing to the top of the peak from this angle.
Steps up to Xiaozishan, which are quite steep.
The trail gets steeper and steeper as you get to the top, and turns into carved steps into the rocks with ropes on either side. One part of it requires you to climb a ladder bridge to get the the main rock.
On top of the mountain sit two Gods overlooking the Pingixi valley.
Another view of the mountain mass.
Xiaozishan sits on a line of sedimentary rock that stretches east and west, but this section and stubbornly not eroded away with the rest of the mountain.
Cimu Peak 慈母峰, Putuoshan 普陀山, and Ci'en Peak 慈恩嶺
Above you can see our drone footage of Cien Peak 慈恩嶺, Putuoshan 普陀山 to the right in the foreground, and Cimu Peak 慈母峰.
Or check out the 360 degree spherical panorama above.
In the picture above you can see Cien Peak 慈恩嶺 to the right in the background, Putuoshan 普陀山 to the right in the foreground, and Cimu Peak 慈母峰 on the left in the foreground. All of these peaks require further climbing up steep carved steps with ropes (check out the giant staircase going up the Cien Peak on the left). Climbing Xiaozishan took 20 minutes.
View to the west from Xiaozishan.
View of Pingxi Old Street to the north from Xiaozishan.
View to the south of Lingjiao and the rest of Pingxi from Xiaozishan.
View to the north looking at the mountains surrounding.
Another view of Xiaozishan.
Cimu Peak 慈母峰
The road to Cimu peak is steep and jungly. There are two paths up: one straight up the ridge, and one to the side. I chose the side trail, and I do not recommend it.
Basically this is a dangerous trail, so safety first.
Rope climb through the forest to Cimu peak.
View of Putuoshan from Cimu Peak.
View of Putuoshan from the air.
This is the path I should have came up. Much easier and there are cables on either side.
Wider view of the same shot.
This is the side of the mountain that I did come up, with only one short rope coming up nearly 90 degree slope.
Through these leaves is a vertical fall. You can see a sky lantern out of focus. Do not light off sky lanterns, they get littered everywhere.
Triangulation stone on Cimu Peak.
Looking back at Xiaozishan.
After Cimu Peak, I climbed down back into the jungle toward Zhongyangjian, but it was not easy to find. If you want to climb Zhongyangjian, I recommend starting from the southern parking lot.
Eventually I found a path along the rock wall of Cimu Peak.
It was really slippery in some places, even when not wet.
Finally the trail came to the forest.
And more rope climbs.
This deceiving sign says it is taking me to Choutoushan, but actually you have to go through Zhongyangjian first to get there!
This was the longest part of the trail, it took about an hour to get from Cimu Peak to Zhongyangjian.
Finally made it to the edge of Zhongyangjian, with a break in the trees.
The climb then becomes 90 degrees vertical up a cliff.
Another view of the vertical climb.
If you have rock climbed before, this should be no problem. There are plenty of handholds, footholds, and ropes to hold onto. I felt sage climbing this.
View from the top of Zhongyangjian.
Check out our drone video above for an overview of the area.
Or check out the 360 degree spherical panorama above.
This photo is taken via drone, but at the top of Zhongyangjian you can see the lines of sedimentary rock that make up the landscape. These layers of sediment stretch for miles and look like perfect folds from Google Earth.
View of the Pingxi Crags mountain range from Google Maps, which ranges from Ergeshan in Shiding to the Pingxi Crags. There are lots of great hikes in these mountains.
View looking at Pingxi Village.
Another view looking north.
This is the top of the mountain, the only place you can really see a good view.
Another view of Jingtong below.
So because of that little sign, I though I had already passed Choutoushan (臭頭山), but now. It is actually down the other side of Zhongyangjian. I went back the way I came, but I should have gone down the other side of the mountain. Apparently there is also an abandoned mine there.
Another rope climb on the trail down.
Soon I got back down to the stone path and saw some fallen sky lanterns. Don't set off sky lanterns, unless you hate mother earth.
The path back from Zhongyangjian goes to the second parking lot, so I still had to hike back up the hill to the first parking lot.
I will definitely go back to see the views from the rest of the peaks and also to get some more drone footage (Ci'en Peak, Putuoshan, and Choutoushan).
Also for another view of the Pingxi Crags trail, check out this blog by Josh Ellis or this blog by Richard Saunders.
For our full guide to the Pingxi Railway, click here.
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