Hiking in Taipei: Guanyinshan
Guanyinshan is a mountain in the northwestern corner of the Taipei area (technically part of New Taipei City), rising above Bali town on the left bank of the Tamsui River with good views of the city, mountains, and ocean. It’s also home to a couple of attractive temples, and it’s a nice hike from the temples up to the peak.
Guanyinshan may well be the most photographed mountain in Taiwan, despite not being all that famous or high. The reason for this is its prominent position behind Taipei 101 in the classic shot from Elephant Mountain:
That’s it in the distance to the right of 101. If you’ve been up Elephant Mountain and you’re anything like me, you looked at your pics later and thought ‘hmm that mountain looks cool, wonder what it is, must be a decent hike’ and then scoped it out on Google Maps. And turns out it is indeed a decent hike! Read on for details.
Another view of Guanyinshan, as seen from the platform at Tamsui Station:
…and here’s an info board explaining the mountain’s name and a bit of historical background:
Anyway, starting from the temples the hike itself is quite short, just a couple of km actually, but with roughly 300m of elevation gain it’s pretty steep (the highest point is 609m, and the bus stop you start from is around 240m). So this is a good hike if you’re looking for something you can do quickly, but still getting nice & high above the city while involving a decent workout.
To get there, first take the subway to Luzhou Station at the northern end of the Orange Line. Be careful if you’re not familiar with the Orange Line, as it splits into two branches on the west side of the river; make sure your train is bound for Luzhou (and not Huilong).
When you reach Luzhou, come out of exit 3 to find the bus stop. You get some views of Guanyinshan from here:
When you come out of exit 3, cross over the side street through the trees to the bus stop on the main road:
You’ll probably take the 785, here’s the schedule at time of my hike (this could well have changed by the time you do it though):
You can also take the O20, though it runs less frequently. Also note that these two buses originate from Beimen in central Taipei, so if you’re staying somewhere near there you could try and find the bus stop in Beimen and ride it all the way from there.
The last stop is Lingyun Temple (凌雲寺, lingyunsi), which is where you want to get off, so kick back and enjoy the ride. The bus stops in the car park right in front of the temple:
Trail map in the bus stop shelter:
And return bus times (again, likely to change at some point so double check):
There are actually two Linyun temples. The smaller one right next to the car park is Taoist, and simply called Lingyun Temple. The larger one behind it up the hill is Buddhist, called Lingyun Zen Temple (凌雲禪寺, lingyunchansi) and home to an impressive 1000-armed Buddha statue (the character 禪 is what we know as Zen in English, from the Japanese reading; the Mandarin reading is chan).
As usual in Taiwan, the Taoist temple has wonderfully intricate details, especially the roof (which you get an up close view of from the trail):
From there take the trail up the side of the temple, following the signs for Lingyun Buddhist Temple and Yinghanling:
This brings you up to a road, where there’s another bus stop. This higher bus stop is the last stop for the O20 bus, so if you’re on that bus you can ride it up to here if you want (shame to skip the first temple though):
Just past the bus stop the road forks, the left fork takes you to the trail head but take the right fork first to check out the Buddhist temple:
The statue was getting a scrub down when I visited, which gives a nice illustration of the scale. To find it you need to go upstairs in the main temple building, it’d be quite easy to miss.
Once you’re done there, keep following the signs for Yinghanling (as explained on the info board pictured above, Yinghanling means ‘Tough Guy Ridge’ as it used to be a military training area):
These steps are where the hiking trail proper starts and you leave the road:
From there it’s a fairly steep trail (mostly steps) up through the forest, with some nice bamboo sections along the way:
Just follow it up to the top (the climb is mostly done in the first section, after which the gradient mellows out towards the top), and you’ll be rewarded with some fine views of Taipei city off to the right, and Tamsui to the left with Yangmingshan behind it:
Looking across at Yangmingshan:
Distant view of Taipei 101:
The small town on the near bank at left of pic is Bali, with Tamsui on the far side:
The two towns are connected by ferry, and are another good option for a day out – see here for that. You can actually walk down to Bali from Guanyinshan, I haven’t done so but you could start by hiking up from the temples, then descend to Bali and ride the ferry over to Tamsui from there. Tamsui is at the northern end of the Red Line, so you could ride the subway back to central Taipei from there.
Looking to the north you see the ocean, with the Port of Taipei to the left:
If you want to descend to Bali, it’s signposted from just below the peak (note the distance to Bali is significantly further than to the temple):
Heading back down in the evening light:
Any comments or questions about Guanyinshan? Give me a shout below and I’ll get back to you.
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