Conquer the Clouds: Scaling the Top of Mt. Qixing, the Highest Mountain in Taipei City


Hilly Capital in Mountainous Taiwan

As a crowded capital of Taiwan, Taipei City is also surrounded by dozens, if not hundreds, of mountains and hills. When it comes to Taipei, visitors might easily think of the iconic landmark skyscraper Taipei 101 or the world-famous soup dumpling restaurant Din Tai Fung. If you, however, only go shopping or eat around in this metropolis, that would probably be a waste of your holiday. Why not combine a bit of hiking to make your vacation healthier? Mt. Qixing is not just the highest point under the jurisdiction of Taipei City but also the highest volcano on the island of Taiwan – at an elevation of 1,120 meters above sea level! It’s perhaps not as easy as the Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh but definitely won’t be as strenuous as the hike to Mt. Fuji near Tokyo.

Mt. Qixing Main Peak and East Peak Trail
Mt. Qixing Main Peak and East Peak Trail (Photo credit: Edison Tours)


Mt. Qixing or “Seven Star Mountain”

Mt. Qixing, or “seven star mountain” in Chinese translation, is the highest peak in the area of Taipei City and located in the third national park established in 1985 – Yangmingshan National Park, which is not only the nearest national park to a big city in Taiwan but is the only one renowned for the volcanic activities as well throughout the nation. The name was given by the ancestors of Taipei residents because the eroded crater edge has formed seven lumps with different height when they observed from downtown Taipei. Those peaks are to the north of the city and, in Chinese constellation system, the “Big Dipper” is also known as “seven stars in the north”, hence the name. The mountain trails in the national park are all well-signed and well-threaded, and the most popular track, needless to say, must be the Mt. Qixing Main Peak and East Peak Trail, which is 3.7 km one way.

Mt. Qixing Main Peak and East Peak Trail
Mt. Qixing Main Peak and East Peak Trail (Photo credit: Edison Tours)


One of the Must-Dos in Taipei

Years ago, the American media CNN recommended a short holiday in Taipei that includes a hike to the highest mountain of Taipei, Mt. Qixing (or spelled “Cising” in universal romanization method). It’s rated as indispensable as the Taipei 101 and Din Tai Fung dumpling house. The report doesn’t specify any trails to go to the top but right here I’ll highly recommend the Mt. Qixing Main Peak and East Peak Trail, which starts at Xiaoyoukeng “little oil pit” and ends at Lengshuikeng “cold water pit”. It’s a hike from the west through the main peak and east peak of the volcano that roughly lasts 2.5 hours with reasonable rest time on the mountaintops and photo time along the trail.

Mt. Qixing Main Peak and East Peak Trail
Mt. Qixing Main Peak and East Peak Trail (Photo credit: Edison Tours)


No Shade but with Excellent View

There are totally three trails to hike up Mt. Qixing. If you start from Xiaoyoukeng, which in Chinese means “smaller sulfur pit”, you can begin at a higher elevation (812 meters above sea level), which means that it’ll be easier or “vertically” shorter to reach that elevation of the highest mountain of Taipei City. It’s only 1.6 km to the main peak and in the first few minutes you’ll walk along the edge of the collapsed pit formed by constant hot vapor and sulfurous gases coming out from fumaroles, which are amazing features often attracting tourists to come see the evidence of the remaining volcanic activities. This is certainly a one-stone-for-two-birds hiking trip to be both astonished by the power of Mother Earth and rewarded by the extensive view from the trail thanks to the comparatively lower Usawa Cane dwarf bamboos on both sides of the path. Hikers can still witness some of the most active solfataras even after passing the top edge of the cliff right above the volcanic pit. Before summiting the Mt. Qixing, you’ll be highly rewarded with the view overlooking lush green volcanic domes around you on a clear day or mysteriously immersed in the mist of the clouds when the weather is not that good.

Mt. Qixing Main Peak and East Peak Trail
Mt. Qixing Main Peak and East Peak Trail (Photo credit: Edison Tours)


Top of Taipei City

After approximately one hour, you’ll find yourself on the main peak of the Mt. Qixing, which offers spectacular panorama thanks to zero visionary obstacle on the top. There’s a wood column inscribed with the name of the mountain in both Chinese and English, as well as the elevation. The space on the summit is quite reasonably large and it shouldn’t be a problem to accommodate a bus load of hikers busy taking photos to instantly share on social media apps or replenishing fluids while being enthralled by the majestic landscape in all directions. Downtown Taipei is just about 15 km to the south of these peaks here and you’ll absolutely see skyscrapers like Taipei 101 in the east of the capital or Shin Kong Life Tower right opposite the Taipei Main Station if the rain or cloud don’t accompany you during the hike.

The Main Peak of the Mt. Qixing
The Main Peak of the Mt. Qixing (Photo credit: Edison Tours)


Down the East Peak

After taking abundant amount of pictures, you’ll continue to go eastward to conquer the second highest point of Taipei City, the East Peak, which is 1,107 meters above sea level. It’s only 300 hundred meters away and the perspective is as good as from the Main Peak. Down the trail, hikers can see as many as volcanic domes as the western side the mountain. Along the path, besides, you’ll see more Chinese silver grasses, of which the flowers blanket the eastern slopes of Mt. Qixing during blooming season in autumn. The famous attraction Qingtiangang Grassland, aka Sun Valley, is obviously observed all the way down before you get to the end of the trail, Lengshuikeng.

The East Peak of the Mt. Qixing
The East Peak of the Mt. Qixing (Photo credit: Edison Tours)


Lengshuikeng, or Cold Water Pit

End of the trail lies a shallow valley of Lengshuikeng, which translates into “colder water pit” because the temperature of the hot spring here is only 40° Celsius, which is still hot but comparatively lower with all the hot springs nearby. There’s a well-known scenic spot “milk pond” to the east of the parking lot due to the white sulfur deposit in the pit. The visitor center right by the parking area has a cafe downstairs, which can be an ideal place to chill out after the trip. I’ll, however, recommend the foot bath area further up the road in a few minutes’ walk. The national park authorities even build a bathhouse here for visitors to soak themselves in the hot spring for free to reduce fatigue. That would be a shame if you don’t make the most out of the rich resources in this beautiful national park.

The Bathhouse in Lengshuikeng
The Bathhouse in Lengshuikeng (Photo credit: Edison Tours)


Menghuan Lake, or “Dream Lake”

On the way down the East Peak, you’ll pass a famous pond known as Menghuan Lake, or “dreamy lake” in Chinese translation. This lake houses an endemic species of aquatic plant Taiwan Quillwort, which can only be found here in the lake. It’s an endangered species and has been well protected. The environment surrounding the pond is often misty, giving a sense of fairy tale-like setting. We want a sunny day for the hike but you’ll need a bit worse weather to see the dreamy back ground of the lake in the forest.

Menghuan Lake
Menghuan Lake (Photo credit: Edison Tours)


Visitor Information

Opening hours

Like any other trails here, there’s no gate and closing time to the top of Mt. Qixing.

Public toilet

If you choose to start at Xiaoyoukeng, there’s a nice public toilet right by the parking lot. This is a good location to prepare yourself for the hike. When you finish at the other end of the trail, Lengshuikeng, you can also find a public toilet downstair the visitor center. There’re two vending machines outside the entrance of the  washroom if you need to replenish liquids on a hot summer day.

Xiaoyoukeng Visitor Center
Xiaoyoukeng Visitor Center (Photo credit: Edison Tours)

How to get there?

It’s better to sign up for a half-day tour Private Taipei Yangmingshan Half-Day Hiking Tour offered by the prestigious travel agent in Taipei, Edison Tours. This will save you a lot of hassle for further exploration somewhere in Taipei! If you want to organize your own hiking trip, Yangmingshan National Park is easily accessible from downtown Taipei. Most hikers take public bus service No. 260 from Taipei Main Station or bus service Red 5 from MRT Jiantan Station to the national park. Then, you change to bus service No. 108, which operates through major attractions in the national park in a loop at a reasonable interval.

Trailhead to Mt. Qixing Main Peak and East Peak in Lengshuikeng
Trailhead to Mt. Qixing Main Peak and East Peak in Lengshuikeng (Photo credit: Edison Tours)


Useful Tips While Visiting

Too hot in summer?

The heat in the summer of Taipei can be a threat. It’s true the mountains are high but, on a hot summer day, the temperature can still frequently stay over 27° Celsius. Better to bring wide brim hat and plenty of water with you if you plan to visit in summer. On the other hand, it can also be life-threatening if you go on a hike in winter. Mt. Qixing and nearby mountains easily get snow if the winter is freezing cold.

Mt. Qixing Main Peak and East Peak Trail
Mt. Qixing Main Peak and East Peak Trail (Photo credit: Edison Tours)

Feeling hungry?

Avid hikers should understand the significance of adequate water supply during a mountain trip. If you, like teenagers, have to eat something every one or two hours, be sure to bring some snacks to boost your energy at all times. There’s no shop or vendors or food stalls along the Mt. Qixing Main Peak and East Peak Trail.

Mt. Qixing Main Peak and East Peak Trail
Mt. Qixing Main Peak and East Peak Trail

Extra information

The above-mentioned travel agent Edison Tours also offers a day tour to the Yangmingshan National Park and around. Travelers who want to save time and see
more in a day, consider the Beitou and Yangmingshan Day Tour from Taipei if you want to have a more in-depth trip in this area.

Beitou Geothermal Valley
Beitou Geothermal Valley (Photo credit: Edison Tours)
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