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June 24, 2017

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A short walk to a stunning viewpoint: Mt. Nanzilin

Perched high above the union of the East China Sea and the Pacific Ocean, the area around Jinguashi and Jiufen on the northeast coast of Taiwan is a relatively new discovery for me, but is turning into one of the most exhilarating and tempting hiking areas anywhere within easy reach of Taipei City.

This area has long been popular with local and foreign day trippers as first Jiufen (九份), and more recently the Gold Ecological Museum at Jinguashi (金瓜石) became wildly popular with visitors, but (luckily for those of us city dwellers who like to escape the crowds come Saturday morning) it's the same story here as anywhere else around Taiwan. Venture just a bit off the deeply worn tourist path, and you'll be well rewarded.

In the Jiufen and Jinguashi area, there's no shortage of peace and unspoilt beauty. For instance the forty-minute climb to the summit of Keelung Mountain (基隆山. 587 meters), the great pyramid of rock that looms above the ocean on the seaward side of Jiufen, is rewarded by a fabulous panorama, while climbing the rocky tower atop Teapot Mountain (無耳茶壺山, 599 meters) just across the valley above Jinguashi is a great way to set the adrenaline running (fixed ropes make the scramble relatively safe).

At first, Mt. Nanziling (南子吝山), rising above the ocean a little further east, looks quite inconspicuous amidst this landscape of tall and shapely peaks. At just 196 meters high, it's only a third the height of either of the other two summits, and lacking a sharp profile or impressive rocky summit, it's hardly surprising that most visitors to the area ignore it. The reward for making the short, easy walk to the top, however is a view every bit as fine as that from one of the much loftier peaks nearby, with the great advantage of being both an easier, more relaxing climb, and a far, far quieter one at weekends.

The trailhead for Mt. Nanziling leaves highway 2 (the main road around the scenic Northeast Coast Scenic Area) in the little fishing village of Nanya (南雅), a place that's firmly on the beaten track, thanks to the extraordinary, wave-cut rock formations in the cliffs a few minutes walk east of the village. It's well worth following the footpath along the seashore from the village to the main area of formations, which include two impressive towers of rock that look strikingly like gigantic bamboo shoots.

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