So, I messed up and did this one backwards. Most people would recommend you leave from Huotong and arrive in Jiufen. These were meant to be my reward:
Ah well. Nice way to start the morning anyway. And you’ll get a nice warm-up navigating the hilly roads in Jiufen after you get off the bus (#1062 from Zhongxiao Fuxing MRT, exit 1). Seating was still available in Taipei late Sunday morning, but by the time we were in Jiufen, everyone was ass-to-ankles.
Couldn’t really find any solid information online on where this trail starts (or ends, I suppose) beyond “behind the elementary school”. Luckily Gaia GPS on my phone was on the ball and had the trail up Xiaotzukeng clearly marked. No English signage for this trailhead.
Your task: head up. There are no flat sections on this side of the mountain, but it’s all stairs. Get dem glutes ready.
And keep heading up. You’ll be at the top in about 30 minutes. The stairs end and you’ll hope it hasn’t rained in a while or you’ve brought the right shoes because the grass is matted and slippery as hell. The peak is just around the bend from here. A side trail takes you to the underwhelming shoebox-sized stone marker. The taller mountain to your right is Mt. Keelung (not pictured). Take in the scenery; move on.
The jungle closes in a bit as you descend. The trail and rocks are overgrown with moss. If I had gone the right way, this section would have been much easier. The grade is gentle and I find it much easier going up slippery, loose bits than down. Going downhill had a few ankle busters while wearing tennis shoes and a Osprey daypack so pick your footing carefully.
About halfway down, you’ll see the ruins of a WWII-era Japanese mining town. This picture is part of a shrine to an Earth god.
At the bottom of the trail (maybe an hour from the peak), you’ll come to a freeway. Head left towards Huotong. There’s a frontage road of sorts that was much safer to walk on, but you’ll miss out on views of Keelung river.
Cross the river when you come to the Coal Ecological Park. What the fuck kind of name is that, by the way? “Donut Weightloss Institute”. “Inner City Wildlife Refuge.” Head left again, up-river, and through the tunnel to the train station.
There’s a short diversion down to the river bank where you can see some emerald-green water and a few rapids. Buy your train ticket, grab a snack from the street stalls outside the station, and relax. The train back to Taipei is even more packed than the bus.
Photos taken on my iPhone 5S and edited with Adobe Photoshop Express on my Surface 3. Sorry about how shit they are. I’m working on it.