YangMingShan: The Highlights (18.28km)

the highlights
We started out in the early afternoon to explore YangMingShan, with a hydration bag, a little food and an idea of what we wanted to see. The most common place to catch a bus is close to Jiantan station, where there are  a number of buses going up to YangMingShan. We caught the first bus we saw going to YangMingShan, (bus 109) and rode it until the last stop, (appropriately named YangMingShan) and got off ready to head up the hill.

Here there is a visitor center with some information about the park and a small restaurant/store, to buy some supplies.

IMG_20141207_143100Off we went in the direction of our first stop XiaoYouKeng. To get there from the tourist center, there is a winding busy section of road, luckily there is also a stone path which follows the winding road to the beginning of this popular hiking spot. You will run approximately 4km along this path, up and down small rolling hills,before heading up to XiaoYouKeng where you can see ancient fumaroles steaming up from the dormant volcano.

From the XiaoYouKeng parking lot, the trail gets busier. Prepare for many stairs on the way, with long grass on either side. The air here is not wonderful as it has a strong sulfur smell, don’t breathe too deep as it is not the healthiest. IMG_20141207_141224Past the fumaroles you are on your way up to the highest peak in the YangMingShan range, Seven Star Mountain, a 2.6km hike/run from the parking lot. Although it is always a few degrees cooler in this mountainous park, that is especially true of Seven Star peak. Although it plateaus ever so slightly, due to the previous existence of the active volcano, the plateau and the ridge surrounding it are not enough to hold off the chilly winds that plague this small picnic area.

On a nice day, during the weekend, you can see several people here, taking pictures on the highest peak but the hike up never seems to be too crowded as there are a few different hiking trails that lead to this peak with XiaoYouKeng being the most popular.

IMG_20141207_144433Either because of the sulfur vents, the high elevation or the clouds surrounding Taipei, on Seven Star mountain it is very rarely a clear day, so don’t expect the visibility to be great and don’t forget to bring a jacket if you are planning to picnic here. Today was no exception, it was cold and windy at the top and yet there were many people huddling in thicker jackets, eating lunch.

Over the ridge and in the direction of the sun, we were off. From here we headed east, across a ridge, in the direction of CingTianGang. There are no steep climbs, just rolling hills, for the next 3.6km to Cing Tian Gang. Unsure of it’s formal name in English, I like to refer to it as water buffalo field. Being a very sunny day in early December, there were many more people here enjoying the sunshine and fresh air.

Most days CingTianGang is surrounded by swathes of moving clouds, but today it was IMG_20141207_155118beautifully clear. We ran along the trail, towards the visitor’s center to buy some more water to fill the bag and then we were off again.

There are 2 ways to get from CingTianGang to ZhiShan road (near Neihu). One is through an old Japanese plantation Shi Ti Ling (石梯嶺) which is well marked and will lead you through the forest and down the hills on a stone path. Or, you could choose the more risque approach, cutting through the water buffalo fields until you find a way down the hill. The path that leads down the hill is as you are heading south, descending from the mountain. There is a sign in some tall grass  on the left explaining that the trail is closed and you are not IMG_20141207_162405permitted. We wouldn’t have dared to veer off the stone path had we not gone down here for a competitive trail run only a week or earlier, so we dove into the long grass, dodging patties until we met the forest.

Although I had the GPX map on my phone, it was really difficult to follow as this area surprisingly does not have any cell phone service and because of the dense grass/forest, my phone had difficulty with the GPS signals. It was, never the less, a fun trail, much slippier than I remember and much more difficult to navigate. All the ribbons from the previous trail run had been removed so we just continued down the hill, knowing we would eventually make it to civilization.

IMG_20141207_164205Finally, despite being lost for most of the time in the woods, we finally came out behind a small farming community next to ZhiShan road. Although we wanted to run all the way back to Taipei, it was getting dark, so we took some pictures of the sparkling city below, found the nearest bus stop and headed back to Taipei.

This was a fantastic run, and a great way to see YangMingShan! Remember a navigation device of some sort or you might just lose your way!.

IMG_20141207_172642You can get to the start of the course from Taipei main here. To get back to the city from the other side of the mountain, you can take a bus to the metro station, outlined here. Since this course does not go in a circle, it is recommended to take public transit both up the mountain and back down. A MRT station that connects to both the bus going up the mountain and the one coming own is Jiantan MRT station.

Find the GPX map here.

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