Yangmingshan National Park conjures up images of steaming volcanic fumaroles, mist shrouded grassy plateaus, wild buffalos, and mountainsides blanketed in silvergrass.
Welcome to the most accessible national park in Taiwan! Locals and visitors alike flock to Yangmingshan to go hiking, see cherry blossoms, and bathe in thermal hot springs.
But planning a trip to Yangmingshan is not super easy. The park is quite large, attractions are numerous and spread out, and bus routes are complicated.
In this article, I’m going to introduce the park in great detail, including where to stay, when to go for flower viewing, and the top hikes and other things to do. There is so much transportation information, so I’ve written this separate guide on how to get to Yangmingshan.
Yangmingshan National Park Introduction
During the Japanese colonial occupation of Taiwan (1895-1945), Yangmingshan became the country’s first national park, called Daitong National Park at the time.
Under the Republic of China, Chiang Kai-shek built several retreats there. The park was re-stablished in 1985 as Yangmingshan National Park, becoming the third national park in modern Taiwan, after Kenting and Yushan.
The park encompasses 113 km2 of the Datun Volcanic Range, including Qixingshan (七星山 or “Seven Star Mountain”, the park’s highest peak, at 1120 m), volcanic fumaroles at Xiaoyoukeng and Dayoukeng, and several hot springs.
“Yangmingshan” (Yangming Mountain) refers to the whole area and not to a single mountain, just like Alishan, Taipingshan, and a few others across Taiwan.
Beitou Hot Springs, Taipei’s main hot spring resort, is at the base of Yangmingshan but not inside the national park. Because of the proximity, many visitors combine Beitou and Yangmingshan into one day trip.
I’m going to cover many smaller attractions below, but these are the top places to visit in Yangmingshan National Park:
- Volcanic Fumaroles at Xiaoyoukeng
- Pretty grassland at Qingtiangang
- Hiking to the peak of Qixingshan
- Cherry blossoms at Flower Clock
- Calla lilies at Zhuzihu
- Traditional hot springs at Lengshuikeng
Getting to Yangmingshan
Yangmingshan is quite large and there are multiple ways to get there, depending on exactly where in the park you want to go. I cover this in much greater detail here.
Coming from Taipei (Taipei Main Station, Jiantan MRT, or Shilin MRT), most buses drive up Highway 2甲. Buses from Shipai MRT or Beitou take different roads.
Where to Stay in Yangmingshan
Most people visit Yangmingshan National Park as a half or full day trip from Taipei. The number of hotels inside Yangmingshan is quite limited, so few people actually spend the night there.
The resort is on the main road from Taipei to Yangmingshan, and just a few bus stops (or 15 min walk) before Yangmingshan Bus Terminal. There’s an outdoor pool and indoor hot spring on site, plus deluxe rooms have private hot spring tubs.
You’ll find far more hot spring hotel options in Beitou, which is accessible by Taipei MRT (Xinbeitou station).
There is a cluster of hot spring hotels on the back (ocean) side of Yangmingshan. Although some have “Yangmingshan” in the name, they are technically outside the national park in Jinshan district of New Taipei City. The scenery around them is still very beautiful, though.
Keep in mind that these hot spring resorts are a full hour’s drive or bus ride from Taipei and they are not close to any of the main attractions in Yangmingshan National Park.
Flower Viewing and When to Visit
Yangmingshan’s peak visiting times are during flower and other special plant viewing seasons, especially:
|Flower/Plant||Season||Where to See|
|Cherry blossoms||Mid-February to early-March||Flower Clock Park, 曹家頂坪櫻田, Qianshan Park, Pingjing St. Lane 42|
|Azaleas (Taipei’s official flower)||March||Azalea Camellia Garden, Flower Clock Park|
|Calla lilies||Mid-March to mid-April||Zhuzihu|
|Hydrangeas||Mid-May to mid-June||Zhuzihu|
|Silvergrass||October to December (peak: November)||Xiaoyoukeng, Qixingshan, Qingtiangang, Lengshuikeng|
|Autumn Foliage||November to December||Not much, but you can see a little at Qianshan Park, Yangmingshan Main Visitor’s Center, Taipei Aowanda restaurant, and around here.|
Cherry blossoms and calla lilies attract the biggest crowds, especially on weekends. Expect buses to be packed and parking lots to be full.
Yangmingshan is fine to visit year-round. It’s usually a little cooler than Taipei. However, it can still be very hot in summer and many popular trails (like Qingtiangang Loop and Qixingshan Peak) have no shade.
The weather at Yangmingshan is often totally different than in Taipei city center. It might be totally clear in Taipei but raining at Yangmingshan. It’s very common to be cloudy or foggy up there.
Fun fact: The world’s longest rainbow (just under 9 hours) was recorded in Yangmingshan. Rainbows are common there due to the misty conditions. See more Taiwan facts here.
How to Plan Your Itinerary
There are so many possible hikes, attractions, and ways to tackle Yangmingshan that it can be tough to plan.
You might just choose one hike and ride a bus to/from Taipei for it. But if you want to add more stops, it can become complicated.
I won’t cover this here because this article will become too long. But in my guide to getting to the national park, I’ve created several sample Yangmingshan itineraries, for both driving and going by bus.
Top Hikes and Things to Do
Now I’m going to introduce Yangmingshan’s main attractions. There are quite a few, so I’ve organized them into sections by area.
Here’s a map of Yangmingshan National Park showing all the places I will mention in the article:
Going Up from Taipei City
For those driving or taking the bus from Taipei (Taipei Main Station, Jiantan, or Shilin MRT stations), there are a few small attractions before you even reach the national park.
Cama Coffee Roasters Bamboo Garden
Cama Coffee Roasters Yangmingshan (豆留森林) is a café-restaurant housed in a beautiful Japanese-era (1937) wooden building. It’s an upscale branch of a popular local coffee chain. There’s a small bamboo forest on the café grounds, which you can visit for free.
To find the coffee shop, get off the bus at Wenhua University (文化大學) stop.
American Military Housing complex
From the same bus stop, you can also walk to handful of attractions in the Yangmingshan American Military Housing complex (陽明山美軍宿舍群). This is a cluster of bungalow style houses built by the US military in the 1950s.
One of those cool old bungalows now houses the Starbucks Caoshan Shop. Right next to it, another one houses David & Alpaca (大衛小小羊), an alpaca-themed restaurant that usually has a few live alpacas hanging out inside or in the yard.
Nearby, you can see a good view of Taipei (on clear days) from Lover’s Scenic Vista (文化大學後山情人坡) and The Top (屋頂上) restaurant beside Chinese Culture University. On a clear day, this is one of the furthest places to view Taipei 101.
Yangmingshan Village Area
As I mentioned above, many buses from the city stop or terminate at Yangmingshan Bus Terminal, in what I like to call “Yangmingshan Village.”
The attractions in Yangmingshan Village are limited, so you may want to skip this section and just move on to your next destination in the national park. I’ll still list them here in case you want to visit.
Note that you can walk from here to Flower Clock (see next section) in about 20 minutes (uphill), if there are no buses going anytime soon.
Qianshan Park (陽明山前山公園) is small park with a pond (陽明湖) in Yangmingshan Village. While I don’t consider this a must-see, the pond is lovely and has some cherry blossoms and a bit of autumn foliage in the right seasons.
A small hot spring creek flows into the pond and there is a very traditional, men’s only hot spring bathhouse here.
“Qianshan” (前山) means “front mountain” and refers to the front or Taipei side of the mountain, while “Houshan” (後山) is the back side of the mountain, facing the sea.
Yangmingshan Zhongshan Hall
One of the most famous landmarks in Taiwan is just outside Yangmingshan Village.
There are 2 daily tours of Zhongshan Hall on weekdays (10 AM and 2 PM) and 4 on weekends 9:00, 10:30, 1:30, and 3:00.
You can only visit the hall at these times, and it’s not possible to see the building outside of these times, even from the main road. The tour is in Mandarin only, takes one hour, and costs TWD 100 per person.
Because of the limited opening times and trouble getting there (15 minute-uphill walk from Yangminshan Bus Terminal), I only recommend visiting it if you are interested in Republic of China history.
Yangmingshan Visitor’s Center and More Trails
The main Yangmingshan National Park Visitors’ Center is a 10-minute walk up the road from the Yangmingshan Bus Terminal (there are several other visitors’ centers in the park). Some buses also go past it.
From the Visitors Center, you can hike the Qixing Mountain Nursery Line Trail (3 hours return) all the way to peak of Qixingshan, the highest mountain the park.
However, it is more scenic, easier, and more common for hikers to tackle Qixingshan peak from Xiaoyoukeng or Lengshuikeng (we’ll get to that below). I’ve done the first part of the Nursery Line Trail, and I found it a little boring, with lots of stairs.
Another hike starting from Yangmingshan Village is trail to the peak of Shamaoshan (紗帽山). This is a round volcanic cone at the southern end of the park. While I don’t consider it one of the best hikes in the park, it has a great view from the summit on a clear day. The trailhead is here.
Flower Clock Area
From Yangmingshan Village, Hushan Road (湖山路) splits off from Highway 2甲 and goes uphill to Flower Clock area.
Flower Clock is a very popular (and in my opinion overrated) tourist attraction – EXCEPT during cherry blossom season, when it is the best place to see cherry blossoms in Yangmingshan National Park.
This area is a 3-minute drive or 20-minute uphill walk from Yangmingshan Village.
Grass Mountain Chateau
Before you get to Flower Clock, a small detour to the left goes to Grass Mountain Chateau (草山行館). This is a small Japanese-era mountain chateau which was later used by Chiang Kai-shek. Now it houses a restaurant with set lunch meals.
While the chateau and view from it is nice, you can’t park here and it’s a bit of a steep walk down to it from the highway. So I only recommend going out of your way if you’d like to have lunch there.
Xiaoyin Pond Waterfall
Just before Flower Clock Parking Lot, there’s a small pond and waterfall (小隱潭瀑布) on the right side of the road. Although it’s nothing too spectacular, it’s pretty nonetheless.
You can’t park on the highway here, so the only way to visit it is to park at Flower Clock and then walk back down to it.
Flower Clock Park
Yangmingshan Flower Clock (陽明山花鐘) is what it sounds like – a clock made out of flowers. In my personal opinion, it’s really nothing special, but it attracts droves of tourists.
However, the large park around the clock is lovely for those looking to take an easy stroll. More flowers can be seen in the park throughout the year.
In cherry blossom season (mid-February to early-March for this location), hundreds of cherry blossom trees in this park come to life. This is the best place to see cherry blossoms in Yangmingshan, and one of the best in Taipei, so expect masses of people at that time, especially on weekends.
The park has a statue of Wang Yangming, the Ming dynasty scholar that Yangmingshan is named after. There’s also a path up to Xinhai Guangfu Hall (辛亥光復樓), a historical building commemorating the founding of the Republic of China.
Besides a limited number of 260 buses which go right to the parking lot, for most buses, like S8 and S9, you’ll need to get off at Dakeng Temple or Hushan Rd. Section 2 bus stop for getting to Flower Clock.
A 5-minute winding drive up from Flower Clock leads to Yangmingshan Shuwu (陽明書屋), one of the many summer retreats of Chiang Kai-shek.
Just like Zhongshan Hall, it’s not particularly easy to visit (guided tour required) or even see the building, so I recommend skipping it.
Zhuzihu (竹子湖, sometimes directly translated as Bamboo Lake) is an area of Yangmingshan that is famous for calla lilies and hydrangeas.
White calla lilies start blooming as early as January, but the peak season is mid-March to mid-April. They are followed in the same by area by pinkish-purple hydrangeas in mid-May to mid-June.
There are also several local restaurants in Zhuzihu area, so many visitors on Yangmingshan day tours will stop at one of these for lunch. But if you don’t need food and it’s not flower season, you don’t need to stop at Zhuzihu.
On the short drive from Flower Clock to Zhuzihu, the road will meet up with Highway 2甲, then you’ll reach a small lookout point called Zhuzihu Lookout (竹子湖觀景台).
From here you’ll get a view of Taipei city, not the flowers.
Zhuzihu Flower Farms
Besides seeing and photographing the flowers, you can also buy flowers to take away. Some farms also have viewing platforms or even swings among the flowers.
There are several bus stops you can get off at depending on which of the above farms you decide to visit.
Bus S8 goes right down into the flower farm area, with several possible stops you could get off at. Bus S9 only passes by the highway above, so you’ll have to get off and walk down to the farms (5-15 minutes).
Xiaoyoukeng (小油坑) is, in my personal opinion, the most impressive sight in Yangmingshan National Park. It is here that you can truly see (and smell!) that you are standing on a volcano.
This is also my recommended starting point for hiking to the peak of Qixingshan. You can hike back to the same spot, but an even better idea is to hike down the other side of the mountain to Lengshuikeng.
Xiaoyoukeng is described as a “post-volcanic landscape”. I’m no geologist, but to me it looks like the aftermath of a volcanic eruption, with sulphuric steam rising from vents and boiling water bubbling out of the ground right beside the trail.
From the bus stop and large parking lot, you only have to walk a few minutes to reach the main viewing platform.
On weekends, the parking lot is sometimes full, so you’ll have to wait or park at the second parking lot at the bottom and hike up the road.
Qixingshan Peak Trail
If you want to hike to the peak of Qixingshan (七星山 or Seven Star Mountain), the highest mountain in Yangmingshan National Park, I highly recommend starting your hike here at Xiaoyoukeng.
The trail starts from beside the Xiaoyoukeng bus stop and takes just over one hour to reach the summit. It is mostly stairs and they are often quite steep. Be careful, especially coming back down!
At the peak, you get an amazing view in all directions, unless you’re surrounded by clouds/fog, which happens more often than not at Yangmingshan.
Don’t be surprised if you can’t see a thing like when I went!
You can backtrack to Xiaoyoukeng if you’ve got a car waiting for you. If you’re going by bus, then you might as well descend the other side of the mountain to finish your hike at Lengshuikeng.
Lengshuikeng (冷水坑) is one of the main areas of Yangmingshan National Park, with a large parking lot and Visitor’s Center. It is also the starting point for several great hikes.
Lengshuikeng is a hot spring, even though leng shui means “cold water”. The water comes out of the ground at 40°C, which is cooler than many other hot springs.
Get off the bus at Lengshuikeng Service Center for hiking to Qingtiangang or Juansi Waterfall. Get off at Lengshuikeng for the hot spring. You can hike to Qixingshan peak from either stop.
Lengshuikeng Hot Spring
Lengshuikeng Hot Spring (冷水坑溫泉) is a free thermal hot spring. Outside the small complex, there is a foot dipping pool.
If you want to go inside, these are traditional (nude and sex separated) bathhouses favored by local elderly. They are sometimes crowded, especially on weekends.
The bathhouses open from 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM. There are time slots posted on the wall, so if it’s very busy, you should leave at the end of the time slot. There’s a cleaning break from noon to 1:20 PM. Make sure to wash yourself thoroughly before entering the water.
Milk Pond and Jingshan Suspension Bridge
A very short walk from Lengshuikeng Visitor’s Center, you can find the unusually colored Milk Pond (牛奶湖 or Niunaihu) and pretty Jingshan Suspension Bridge (菁山吊橋).
If you’re doing either of the below hikes, you’ll start by crossing this bridge.
Hiking to Qingtiangang or Juansi Waterfall
Cross Jingshan Suspension bridge to hike from Lengshuikeng to Qingtiangang in about 30 minutes. The walk is easy, with only about 60 meters of altitude gain. The trail options are marked on GoogleMaps or you can follow the first half of the Juansi waterfall trail map (see link below).
Another option, if you don’t plan to visit Qingtiangang, is to hike the Juansi Waterfall Trail from Lengshuikeng down to the highway. Then you’ll be able to catch bus S15 from this bus stop to return to Shilin or Jiantan MRT stations in Taipei.
This is a mostly downhill (stairs) trail through the forest, passing small but lovely Juansi Falls (絹絲瀑布).
Hiking to Qixingshan
As I mentioned in the previous section, I recommend starting your Qinxingshan hike at Xiaoyoukeng and finishing in Lengshuikeng. One reason for this is so you can soak your feet in Lengshuikeng hot spring at the end of the hike.
The latter option will include a lookout over a pond called Menghuanhu (夢幻湖). The two trails will then meet up and then climb steeply to the top.
Qingtiangang Grassland Area
Qingtiangang (擎天崗) is one of the most popular and best places to experience quintessential Yangmingshan scenery. There is also a parking lot and Visitor’s Center here.
The Qingtiangang Loop Trail is an excellent and easy trail, while there are options for longer and more difficult ones.
Qingtiangang Loop Trail
One of the classic scenes of Yangmingshan National Park is rolling plateaus with roaming wild buffaloes. The perfect place to experience this is on the Qingtiangang Loop Trail (擎天崗環形步道).
This trail is easy and only takes about 45 minutes. You’re almost guaranteed to see buffaloes on this mountainous grassland. You can also see silvergrass there in fall. Like most of Yangmingshan, it’s common to be cloudy or foggy there.
Jinbaoli and Dayoukeng Trails
For a longer hike, you can walk the circular trail to Jinbaoli Gate (金包里大路城門), then hike north on Jinbaoli Trail (金包里大路, also called Jinbaoli Historic Trail, Jinbaoli Old Road, or Yulu Trail / 魚路古道, meaning “Fish Road”).
This was a historical route for transporting goods like tea, sulfur, and fish. There are several historical remains along the route, including some old bridges, stoves, storehouses, and a small Tudi Gong (Earth God) shrine.
If you walk this trail all the way to the end, it will drop downhill to the highway, where you can catch bus 1717 back to Xiaoyoukeng, Yangminghan Bus Terminal, or Taipei from this bus stop.
Dayoukeng (大油坑) is another volcanic landscape similar Xiaoyoukeng (Da = big and Xiao = small). This one is less visited, though, because you have to travel and hike further to reach it.
You can hike directly from Qingtiangang to Dayoukeng or do this as an add-on to the Jinbaoli trail (you can see all the trails and Dayoukeng location marked on the Jinbaoli trail map I linked to above). The Daoyoukeng trail will also descent all the way to the highway, or you can just return to Qingtiangang.
Hiking to Lengshuikeng or Juansi Waterfall
From Qingtiangang, you can also hike to Lengshuikeng (30 minutes) or access the Juansi Waterfall Trail (1 hour) that I described in the Lengshuikeng section.
Yangmingshan from Beitou
Some visitors choose to start or end their Yangmingshan tour in Beitou. Besides the many hot spring facilities, there are other things to do in Beitou, so budget at least a few hours there.
A useful bus here is S9, which will get you from Beitou Hot Spring Area up to Flower Clock or Yangmingshan Bus Terminal, via the below attraction.
Sulphur Valley Recreation Area
One stop that many people make when taking the bus or driving from Beitou up to Yangmingshan is Sulphur Valley (硫磺谷遊憩區).
Here you can see multiple geysers with steam and hot water shooting out of the ground and hot spring pools. There’s a small viewpoint looking down on the area.
Although this is the source of Beitou Hot Springs, I don’t find it as impressive as Beitou Thermal Valley in Beitou Hot Spring area (which is more colorful and you can get closer to the water) or Xiaoyoukeng (which is more dramatic and volcano-like).
Yangmingshan from the North Coast
Around Zhuzihu, the main Highway 2甲 turns east, passing Xiaoyoukeng, Dayounkeng, then dropping down the mountain range to Jinshan district on the northeast coast of Taiwan.
Some of the region’s most famous hot spring resorts, like the well-known Yangmingshan Tien-Lai Resort (see on Booking / Agoda), are on this highway, but closer to the coast. The best wild hot spring in the region, Bayan Hot Spring, can also be accessed from here.
Also around Zhuzihu, Highway 101甲 turns west. With a car, you could travel on to Wuji Tianyuan Temple (famous for cherry blossoms in February and March) and finish in Tamsui.
Alternatively, you could also take smaller roads to the unusual Fufudingshan Shell and Coral Temple before dropping down to the beaches on the north coast.