Yangmingshan National Park is Taipei's mountainous backyard. in fact, I can see several of the park's peaks from my bedroom window. [on a clear day. if I lean out far enough.] there are tons of trails to explore, and this is one place in Taipei I really wish I took more advantage of.
Qingtiangang Grasslands [ 擎天崗 ] is one of the more popular spots in Yangmingshan. the trail that runs around the area is maybe the easiest hike in the park, and provides you with some pretty amazing views of the surrounding peaks. some people come to see the water buffalo that graze here [Qingtiangang is also called "buffalo meadow" sometimes] and if you look closely below you can spot them napping in the sun. this area is also really popular for photo shoots. I saw at least 6 brides, one full-on "picnic" styled magazine shoot with a bicycle and balloons, a dozen kids with caps and gowns, and of course others like me just shooting the scenery.
a few weeks ago, some friends drove Luke and I up to Qingtiangang to romp around in the grass with their dogs. there is a small mountain road that runs up towards Yangmingshan from near our apartment in Tianmu, and it took us about 25 minutes to reach the grasslands parking lot.
however. when I decided to venture back on my own, I had to take public transit. given that I live in an awkward spot for routes, and I had to take not one nor two but three buses... my journey there took me just over two hours. considering I could make it all the way to Juifen in the same amount of time [or less] I think explains why I don't spend more time in Yangmingshan. it's frustrating to have it so close and yet so complicated to get to.
that being said - getting out of the city and enjoying the mountains is never a bad idea. [even that time we tried to hike with my parents and the mountain was inside of a cloud.] by the time I made it up to Qingtiangang I was ready to eat my picnic and explore the trails. and maybe contemplate buying a car.
most visitors stick to the flat grassy areas, but a few will venture around the circular trail. the views are worth it if you have the time. the trail is "paved" with stones and involves some moderate elevation change. I would rate it a difficulty of 2 out of 10. a full circuit on the trail took me about an hour, including time for photos and frequent water breaks.
not far from the main meadow area is the Jinbaoli Gate. there is another, more challenging trail here that goes all the way to the town of Jinshan. the trail was blazed by fisherman, and used to haul their catches up and over the mountains to sell in Taipei. near the gate is another trail which goes... I'm not quite sure, actually. Yangmingshan is covered in trails. while the main routes are well marked and well maintained, there are a lot of branches and less developed paths that you could spend days and weeks exploring.
when I reached the highest point in the trail, I took a few minutes to stare at the multi-pointed peak of Mt Qixing [the highest in Yangmingshan, which I climbed back in 2015.] from this point there is another trail branch that leads to the peak of Mt. Zhugao - an old volcano with views towards Taipei. unfortunately I knew I didn't have time to take a detour if I was going to make it all the way home for dinner. next time, I will head up the mountain earlier and bring some snacks to extend my stay.
even spending 4 hours transit time for 1.5 hours in the park, I love visiting Yangmingshan. [but. I'm serious about considering a vehicle.]
how to get there
take a bus [R5 from Jiantan or 260 from Taipei Main Station] to the main Yangmingshan terminal and hop on the 108 minibus to the Qingtiangang stop. or you can squeeze on the S15 [ 小15 ] which runs from Jiantan all the way to Qingtiangang. there are restrooms, a visitor center and small shop near the parking lot. if you drive your own car or scooter, know that the parking lot is small and you may have to wait to get in if you come in the afternoon.