Taipei with kids is about more than just seeing a big city. Just ask Stu Dawson of Taiwan Adventures who runs tours of the many hiking trails surround Taiwan’s capital city. He tells suitcases&strollers about the best places to go around Taipei with kids to hike and experience the great outdoors for those looking for active holidays for famillies. (Don’t forget your camera! There are some pretty awesome views to be had too.)
How long have you been hiking around Taipei?
I started hiking around about 8 years ago. I really stumbled into it by accident. I was out on my motorcycle one day and spotted a sign for a waterfall. Curiosity got the better of me and I turned off the main road and hiked 20 minute along a dirt track to find the falls. Until this point I really hadn't realised just how easy it is to get away from city and see some amazing places of natural beauty just outside of Taipei.
What is good about the hiking around Taipei?
I think one the best things is the accessibility of hiking trails. Taipei is a very compact city and heading in almost any direction for 30 minutes in a car will get you out into the mountain.
[For more travel tips on things to do in Taipei with kids, see the suitcases&strollers story here.]
I also really enjoy the variety of trails that Taipei has to offer. There are gentle rolling hills on Yangmingshan to the north and then there are hikes that run along knife-edge ridges and everything in between.
Which are the easiest hikes to do outside Taipei with kids?
It really depends on how adventurous your kids are. Two good places to start are the Four Beasts Mountains and Yangmingshan.
You can take the MRT to Elephant Mountain (the first of the Four Beasts). The paths are well laid out and lit at night. There are also periodic map boards so it's easy to find you way and the views of the city and Taipei 101 are fantastic.
Yangmingshan is the national park to the north of Taipei. There's a headquarters which is a good place stop and pick up a map. The rangers can also give you some ideas for hikes.
My favourite is Seven Star Mountain (Qixingshan). It's the highest peak in the national park, but there's nothing technical about the walk. The views are great and you can end at the Lengshuikeng Hot Springs.
If you’ve had some experience hiking with kids, which are the more challenging hikes outside Taipei with kids?
Teapot Mountain on the northeast coast is a good place to start. The views of the Pacific Ocean are amazing. The hike only takes around 4 hours, but there are couple of spot with fixed ropes and some small scrambles which present a nice challenge.
Also afterwards you can visit the some of the old teahouses in Jiufen or the Gold Musuem in Jinguashi.
What if you have never been hiking with kids? What are the good walks to do around Taipei with kids that don’t require serious gear and experience?
Yangmingshan or the Four Beasts would be the best places to head to if you didn't have a lot of gear with you.
Can you do any of the hikes around Taipei with a stroller?
There's the Erziping trail and Qingtiangang at Yangmingshan. Both are OK for any kind of stroller.
What is the most unique or interesting hike around Taipei with kids?
This is a tough one to answer! There are so many different hikes around Taipei. I'd say Wuliaojian (though it's not suitable for beginners) is the most exciting hike you can do with all the fixed ropes and knife like ridges.
If visitors only have time to do one day hike while in Taipei with kids, which one would you suggest?
I'd say the Four Beasts would be best. It's easily accessed by public transport, has great views and lots of temples along the way. During the warmer months, you can see lots of different bugs up there too.
Are there any hikes or trails that parents need to avoid if they are hiking with kids in Taipei?
It would really depend on how adventurous and able the kids are. Wuliaojian and Huangdidian are two very exciting hikes, but if you or your kids have a fear of heights, then it's best to give them a miss.
Are the wilderness areas around Taipei good places to plan a family holiday camping with kids?
On Yangmingshan you can camp at Guizikeng. There's bathroom facilities and showers. No licence is needed, but it's a good idea to book in advance on weekends. There's nothing much to worry about as far as wild animals are concerned.
[For more family travel tips on camping with kids, see the suitcases&strollers story here.]
Are there any good spots to do rock climbing with kids around Taipei?
Near Taipei there are two good spots for rock climbing, one at Beitou and one on the coast at Longdong. The latter is becoming very well known across Asia as one of the best rock climbing spots in the region. There are some 300 routes to try.
What sort of facilities can parents expect to find along most of the hiking trails around Taipei for kids?
On Yangmingshan you'll find visitor centres and toilets, but for the most part there isn't much in the way of facilities on most trails. Hikers will need to bring their own food and water. Most trails will have other people on them, even on weekdays, so you're usually not completely alone.
[Interested to know more about the cultural side of Taiwan with kids? Meet the suitcases&strollers family who traveled around Taiwan with kids relying solely on their 6-year-old’s school taught Mandarin here.]
When is the best time of year to plan a family holiday hiking around Taipei with kids?
Hiking during the summer months can be quite tough with the heat and humidity; also there's a chance of a typhoon coming and spoiling your plans. I'd say the best time would be from October through to December. It's usually drier in those months and a little cooler too.
What are your top 3 tips for planning a hiking trip to Taipei with kids?
1. Bring extra water, sunscreen and mosquito spray!
2. Try to find a balance between challenging your kids and keeping it fun.
3. The mountains in Taiwan are generally very steep so even a short walk can be quite tiring – be prepared to change plans if it's proving too difficult.
Images: Stu Dawson of Taiwan Adventures