When Yangmingshan Springs to Life

Red maple leaves!

I got curious to explore Yangmingshan because of posters peppering the MRTs. There’s a flower festival running from late March to April featuring no Iggy azaleas, and I was kinda missing my hanami experience last year so I was like, okay this I gotta see. So I Googled and found out that I’ve been missing out on pretty spring scenes in Yangmingshan for the past 4 years. I’ve been there several times before, but it was mostly for hiking and we’d always drive straight to the jump off point.

Yangminshan is actually a mountain range and, more than just a local attraction, it protects Taipei from the brunt of typhoons and is home to indigenous flora and fauna. Much of my love for nature-tripping and photography began here. It’s where I realized landscape photography is my detox diet. There’s just something about its trails and forests that totally relaxes me. I guess it’s also because the trails of Yangmingshan were carefully constructed with footpaths and sidewalks, giving you as much safety and comfort as possible,letting you focus on the beauty surrounding you and not so much on finding your way through.

Hiking is a year-round activity you can do in Yangmingshan, sans typhoon. But in spring, you better take time to check out these places too where everything blooms and surrounds you with lush life.

Yangming Park

Yangmingshan National Park spans the entire park, which is pretty much northern Taipei. That includes the mountains and other scenic spots you can find here. Meanwhile,Yangming park is a “park within a park” which features the locally-famous Flower Clock as its popular landmark.

The trip from Jiantan MRT to Yangmingshan’s own bus station takes about 50 minutes, and as soon as I stepped off the packed bus I consulted Google Maps to locate the Flower Clock. I had no idea where to go exactly to see the flowers so I thought about finding the Visitor Center first. I walked on, turned right upon seeing a sign that points to where Visitor Center could be. Then I encountered a pedestrian crossing and was like, uh-oh, typical Taiwanese direction that would actually take forever!

But then you know what, I gots me some time that day and decided to push through, just let loose, no care for the world, so long as Mr. Sun’s up Imma be alright, and crossed Husan road. And boy was I so in for a surprise!

I was welcomed by a breathtaking (as in mouth-gaping moment) view of sakuras, azaleas, daisies, and violet flowers (not sure if they are GMO’d lavenders LOL) so amazing they almost kept me from going further. The whole scene kinda reminded me of Sumida park and its surrounding area. It was such an amazing sight really, flowers were vivid in their colors, seemingly just-bloomed, and the greens were in different shades of freshness. Suffice it to say, aylavet!

As I continued straight ahead, I also got fascinated with locals and fellow tourists, most of them elderly, who seem to enjoy everything as much as I do. We were all kids then, with Yangmingshan as our playground. I eventually ventured on a shaded path where curious butterflies who don’t have problems with humans came up to me. They hovered above me and would even, at times, fly straight to my face. It’s like the only thing left for them to do was buzz into my ear, then say, “tagal ka na dito ‘teh?” 😀 But seriously though, I think they were kinda territorial although they didn’t harm me in any way. Just goes to show that they are protected here, because they don’t back out.

Ni hao, Blue Admiral!

Taiwanese sakura!

It’s easy to lose track of time here and spend 2-3 hours just being in total awe and enjoyment of all the fresh flora surrounding you, especially if you’re fond of photography (probably more so if you love selfies hehehe). Taking this scenic easy walk from the bus stop to the Flower Clock should take you around 15-20 minutes if you don’t stop along the way. Speaking of the way…

Riding the bus to and from Yangming park

There are several ways to get to Yangmingshan from anywhere in Taipei. Here’s a list of possible options, depending on where you’re coming from. But the most convenient for me though was to reach Jiantan MRT, take exit 1, turn left, then look for the bus stop that says R5 or 260. Yangming park buses are colored green, decorated on the sides with flowers, and you can see on their front LED sign that their final stop would be Yangmingshan. There are other buses that you can also take going up, but these two would be the best for the sceneries I mentioned.

Going home, you can simply walk back all the way to the bus station, and look for Bus #260 which would take you to Jiantan MRT. You can also choose to wait for the bus by the arch way you’ve previously passed, and wait for Bus #S8 which should take you to Shipai MRT station.

Under this archway are bus stops. You’ll be able to pass by this landmark going back, even before you reach the Yangmingshan bus station.

Zhuzihu Lake

As I checked online how to go to Yangming park’s Flower Clock, I saw this place called Bamboo Lake a.k.a. Zhuzihu. By the way, pronounce it as “Joo-Si-Hu” especially if you need to ask locals about it. It’s a very popular local destination, and since the idea of a previous lake-turned-garden couldn’t be more spring season to me, I decided to explore it too.

Calla lily is the star of Zhuzihu lake

Zhuzihu is a small village located within the Yangmingshan area, and its famous Zhuzihu lake was a lava-dammed lake naturally formed out of volcanic eruptions. Yes folks, Yangmingshan has dormant volcanoes. These days though, Yangmingshan is pretty safe to hike and its Zhuzihu lake looks more of a garden valley decorate with rice paddies and calla lilies. Bamboos were planted along the sides of the lake which led to its English name Bamboo lake, though I have to be honest, I didn’t see that much bamboo during my visit. But maybe, I just didn’t get to explore that area while walking towards the valley.

To get here, you need to ride another bus from Yangmingshan bus stop–the same place where you’d start walking towards the Flower Clock. The bus ride to Zhuzihu takes about 50 minutes (for only 15 NTD), so you may want to either squeeze it in the early afternoon or early morning. Because the place is not really too big to explore, I was able to finish enjoying it in just a couple of hours so it could be a quick half-day trip.

The sweeping vista of mountains and green fields are stunning, and the cool weather is uplifting in spring.

And there’s Mt. Xiaoyukeng (a.k.a. Fire Mountain) in the distance! It’s actually rich in sulfur.

As the road you’re on widens and eventually opens up to a stunning view of green mountains, close your gaping mouth, enjoy what you’ll see and, make sure you turn left and go over the wooden bridge you’ll see so that you can walk on the circular trail. It’s where you’d find wild calla lilies and the best immersive panorama of the entire Zhuzihu lake.

The entrance to the Circular Path

If you decide to forego this bridge, and end up walking straight on the path, you might see another side of Zhuzihu that is more catered to locals. When I arrived at the lake, I initially just walked straight past the circular trail, and stopped until I noticed fenced calla lily farms beside restaurants and cafes. In these private garden cafes and restaurants, you’d usually pay 100 NTD to handpick your own calla lily bouquet and of course, take photos. These private gardens are quite popular among locals who spend time with their families there for a weekend get-together.

How to get to Zhuzihu

From the Yangmingshan Bus Station, where you’d also start walking to the Flower Clock, ride Bus #108 or #124. To be sure, you can ask the good ol’ vested guys there if they can show you which buses go to Zhuzihu (again, remember to say it like“Joo-Si-Hu”). The trip will take around 50 minutes, and make sure you stop at the Zhuzihu Lake Police Station. It will appear on the LED screen so it’s pretty easy to know when to get down. The Zhuzihu Lake Police Station is also a flesh-colored building that you’ll see on the right side.

Once you get off the bus, just walk straight until you see the Zhuzihu sign.

There’s another fork in the road here, so turn right to go straight to Dinghu. It’ll be 10 minutes more, but just walk ahead.

I went to the direction of Dinghu, and just walked on until I saw a pedestrian crossing with the orange “Welcome to Hutianli” sign. I then crossed the street and continued straight ahead.

It would take about 10-15 minutes more until you see another fork in the road. This time, you’re pretty close. Don’t worry as the area where you’d be walking the entire time is safe and has some shaded trees. Once you see the fork in the road with another Zhuzihu road sign, go right, keep walking, you’re almost there, and before you know it this scene will greet you on your left.

Some locals drive all the way here, but no buses ply along this road.

Congratulations! You made it!

Later on, you can try to go back the same way but I would suggest you take this route back to Taipei instead: Take the circular path all the way to the end, until you reach a sloping road. Go up that sloping road, as that’ll take you to this wonderful place for capturing one last panorama of Zhuzihu, just before you leave.

After enjoying the view, keep walking straight until you reach a fork in the road and see these signs on your right.

Turn left and walk ahead until you see a bus stop. There you can wait for Bus #128 which will take you all the way down to Shipai MRT station–its last stop. You can also check Google Maps for other bus options, if you want to hop on another bus to Taipei or back to Yangmingshan park.

When is the best time to visit?

If you come to Yangmingshan in autumn, perhaps there’ll be other natural sights to see. Summer might be too hot to come to Yangmingshan for a trek or a hike, but hey, if you’re feeling adventurous or the weather that day seems nice, you’re welcome to visit too. Just make sure you bring sunscreen and drinking water with you.

For the ultimate spring experience, visit Yangmingshan right on the first week of spring. It’s usually the last weekend of March. There’s just no way I could describe how vibrant and vivid the mountains and its forests were when I saw it then. No words for it, just pure awesome beauty. 🙂

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