Qixingshan, otherwise known as Seven Star mountain, is the highest peak in the Yangmingshan national park. This area is very different to most mountains around Taipei because there are very few trees and the trail is almost entirely exposed to the elements. This means it can be a painful hike to do in the heat of the summer but it also means that you get fantastic 360° views from the peak.
There are many trails that lead up to Qixingshan and for this trip we decided to start at Xiaoyoukeng 小油坑, a huge volcanic fumarole that spews out hot steam and sulphurous gases. Before you can even see it, the smell of sulphur lets you know you’re close! On occasions piping hot water boils out from the ground nearby and people use it to cook eggs as the minerals that the water contains are thought to enhance the flavour of the eggs.
I climbed Qixingshan sometime ago and got ruined by the midday sun. However I remember thinking, as I was slowly melting, that the views from here at night must be spectacular. Since then I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to go back after dark and hike it again. However, the trouble is that in Taipei the mornings are usually fine but in the afternoon the sky will become hazy or clouds will envelope the top of Yangmingshan blocking any views. Luckily last week the weather held out nicely and I finally had a chance to go back.
Straight after work, I drove up to Xiaoyoukeng and arrived just in time to catch a beautiful sunset. There’s a small shop next to the visitors centre and I popped inside to warm up with a hot cup of coffee. It can be surprisingly cold on the top of Yangmingshan, even in summer and Xiaoyoukeng at an elevation of 800m, has the potential to be 8°C cooler than Taipei City.
The trail leading up to Qixingshan starts right next to the car park, on the left of the path that leads to Xiaoyoukeng. There are signs all the way up and the trail is very easy to follow.
We passed over the top of Xaioyoukeng where there are even more small fumeroles that you get close to. Walking past them at night and feeling a waft of hot, smelly air come over you can be quite unnerving!
There were some clouds around but the moon, despite it not being full, was very bright and we barely even needed our torches to see the way. As we climbed up the scenery just got better and better. We could spot Taipei 101, the Miramar Mall, parts of Danshui and eventually the coastal town of Jinshan when we got to the peak.
At the top, the wind was blowing a gale making it feel vey cold indeed but the view more than made up for it. We sheltered on the southern side of the peak and had a bite to eat. After spendinga while taking some photos, the cold and wind started to get to us and so we headed back down to the car park. Altogether it took about 3 hours but we stopped to take a lot of pictures on the way and needn’t have taken that long.
Although we didn’t need torches I wouldn’t go without one! You can get some snacks and drinks at the shop but I’m not sure what the opening hours are, best to bring your own.
The weather is very changeable on Yangmingshan so a jacket or rain coat is a good idea, even in the summer.
More photos here
The official Yangmingshan website