If you are sluggish from the sticky rice dumplings and scallion pancakes sold at the Taipei marketplaces and food stalls, it might be time for some exercise. Your best bet is to tackle one of the Four Beasts of Taipei, a network of mountain trails named for the animals that live in the nearby jungles. The four trails are called Tiger, Lion, Leopard, and Elephant. Together they take about four hours to explore.
Elephant Mountain is much shorter, and the most accessible from Taipei. The 600-step, 20-minute trek to the top of Elephant Mountain is famous for its view of Taipei 101, the 101-floor skyscraper that used to be known as the Taipei World Financial Center. With the southwest-facing orientation of the Elephant Mountain peak, top photographers in the world have set up camp to catch the rays of sunset.
Word has spread about the epic sunset view. Since it’s a free trail and an easy hike, the peak might resemble an overcrowded bus stop by the time the sun dips below the skyline. Claim your spot early in the afternoon to capture the most powerful and impactful image. Plan ahead and arrive at the top before 3pm. Bring a sarong to sit on, get cozy, and maybe use the extra time while you wait for the sun to journal and reflect on your Taiwan travels, or to organize the next watering hole on your walkabout.
Aside from the sunset and the price tag with a big $0 on it, the other best thing about Elephant Mountain is how easy is it to find on public transit. Ride the Red Line on the MRT to where it ends at Xiangshan. Don’t get confused, the station before the last one is called Taipei 101. Pass that one and ride the line to its final destination. Take Exit 2 out the door, and signs for the trail are on the left.