If you only do one hike in Taiwan, make it this one:
Teapot Mountain and Mt. Banping
There are literally hundreds of hiking and climbing paths crossing through Taiwan’s rugged landscape. We’ve attempted a few, weather permitting, and have ultimately found varying degrees of quality and difficulty. Often ‘hiking’ equates more to climbing paved stairs, Chinese music blanketing the air via adjacent artificial rocks. Other times multiple days and a car are required to transport necessary gear and provide adequate time to complete the route. But out of all the hikes we’ve completed, both in and out of Taiwan, Teapot Mountain ranks at the top of the list.
A straightforward day hike easily reached from Taipei, or even Hsinchu, the views and scenery at and around Teapot Mountain are unparalleled.
The trailhead is easily reached from Jinguashi Gold Ecological Park, a free museum illustrating the old mining industry under the Japanese Colonial Era. Cut through the grounds (heading towards the rear). Just after you cross the mine cart tracks, the climb awaits. You’ll initially be met with about 2 kilometers of stairs—but don’t worry, there’s no accompanying music this time. Soon the stairs will open up to a brief stroll down a semi-flat maintenance road that will in turn lead to the signpost for Teapot Mountain (and subsequently Mt. Banping). From here on out expect rocky hiking with occasional exposed cliffs. Numerous dangling ropes are in place to assist with the steep climbs and rock scrambles.
The only aspect of the hike that you might not find enjoyable is trekking through the dense silver grass. During summer months expect it to tower above your head and completely take over the skinny path. It’s advisable to wear long pants and sleeves; though both times we embarked on the hike we didn’t heed our own warnings. Luckily there were no snakes slithering out of that grass!
Who can find Casey?
You’ll likely have a bit of company on Teapot Mountain, especially during a rare clear day. Taiwanese love to cheer on foreigners participating in outdoor activities—expect to receive advice, “jia you”s, fruit and lots of photographs!
Once you’ve clamored through the Teapot itself, an easy descent awaits. Follow the trailhead back down, paying attention to the signs. Some routes will take you to Jiufen while others arrive at Jinguashi; both are quaint towns begging to be wandered, although Jiufen is the much more touristy version of the two.
Allow 5-6 hours to complete the 11 km hike as outlined above. To extend the hike, include adjacent Caiguangliao Mountain. *Note: We seem to have done the hike in the reverse direction of most other hikers. Twice. From the same starting point, it is also possible to hike the Teapot first before continuing on to Mt. Banping. Not entirely sure how, but I suppose it’s all the same, right?
To access Jinguashi Gold Ecological Park: Take the train to Ruifeng; From Ruifeng, exit the train station and walk left towards the police office. Here you’ll find a bus station. Ask for the frequent Jinguashi buses—the stop will let you out at the entrance to the park.
This hike is best on a clear day when the stunning views can be fully enjoyed. In the summer, allow for an early start to beat the intense heat.
Purchase supplies in Ruifeng; there are few options in Jinguashi.