Above the clouds: Hiking Xiaoyoukeng

It was the weekend, and we wanted once more escape the busy city life. The sun was out and we just thought, yup, Yangmingshan it is! After a quick browse through potential trails and paths in Yangmingshan we discovered Xiaoyoukeng.

Xiaoyoukeng it is a post volcanic landscape, that now offers relaxation and a glimpse of Taiwan’s beauty. On our way to catch the R5 bus to Yangmingshan, we quickly stopped by a convenience store and packed some water, food and nuts for the hike ahead of us. The line for the bus was fairly long, we could not even get on it and had to wait for another one to come. Remember I said it was a sunny weekend? Guess, we could have known, but then luckily, it only took about 5-10min for the next bus to arrive.  Once on it, we were slowly passing through the busy Taipei traffic northbound to Yangmingshan. The roads started curving more and more and after a good half hour+ we eventually made it to the Visitor Center. From there we changed to bus 108, a small bus that offered about 10 people to sit down, everyone else could use the bars provided to hold on while being shaken around standing as we made our way up towards Xiaoyoukeng. According to our information, that bus ride should have been fairly short, after a good while climbing the mountains and still not getting anywhere and the bus steadily getting emptier and emptier, we decided to check in with the driver. It was the next stop from then on, and so we patiently waited a bit longer, and enjoyed the ride with stunning views. Even if for whatever reason you do not feel like hiking, just hop on this bus, grab a seat by the window and enjoy the scenery! The fare is $15 only, so you might as well..

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We eventually made it to Xiaoyoukeng parking lot. From here you will get to enjoy fumaroles, bamboo forests as well as a few trail heads for some hiking and wandering about. A big information board gets you a better idea of where you are and points you into the right direction.

As we went, the calculated 300m incline we wanted to go for, made us aware, that the last hike had been a while and we were facing some workout. Nevertheless, we went ahead, and looking back now, it was not that bad at all. You will walk through some beautiful bamboo fields on a big man made stone path. The track is well maintained and offers you a million (slight exaggeration) stairs to conquer before reaching the top of Mt. Qixing (1120m), the highest peak near Taipei. Along the way, you will have a few resting areas with beautiful view points. On clear days you supposedly can enjoy a nice view over Taipei.

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By the time we had reached those viewpoints, the visibility had  changed and we only got to make out a glimpse from what we probably otherwise would have seen. Moving on to the summit, it got a bit colder and a second layer, even if just thin, was coming in handy. The view from Mt. Qixing makes all the stairs worthwhile and will reward you! Looking around you it is more like watching a sea of clouds. The play of colors of the bamboo and mountainous green, blue sky and  white cloud will let you experience a spectacle for the eye. We ended up having a longer break up there taking in the view, that is hard to forget. While along the trail you will see people only occasionally, there were a lot more hikers on the top.

 

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On your way down you have two options, either turn around and head back, or simply move on and explore a bit more. We ended up going towards Mt. Qixing East Peak, which feels in the end like you climbed a double peak after passing through a small saddle. From there you will slowly make your way down on again, more stairs. But then, by the time, you will probably have gotten used to them anyways. Make sure to wear steady soles, as during rain or heavy clouds the stone path will probably become slippery. There are signs that will let you know where you are and where you want to go to make it back to another bus stop. We headed towards Lengshuikeng, where you can refresh yourself, pick up some snacks and head back to MRT Jiantian via bus R15. A great way to explore and spend the day you. Enjoy your trip and the heartbeats you will feel as you are hiking up and down!

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