Introducing Yangmingshan National Park
How fortunate Taipei is to have this diverse park at its doorstep, complete with forested mountains, hot springs, rolling grass hills, and some handsome lodgings and restaurants. The park covers 114.55 sq km, with a top elevation of 1120m, and is easily accessible from the downtown area by frequent buses.
The park was formed by the volcanic action that produced the Datun Mountains (which may still be dormant and not extinct as long thought). This explains the high concentration of hot springs (13 in all), and also the smoking fumaroles one sees at Xiaoyoukeng. During the Qing dynasty, the area was a source of sulphur for the empire, and it is said that the park's iconic grasslands were created by Qing soldiers burning forest cover. In fact, Yangmingshan was originally called Grass Mountain until changed by Chiang Kai-shek in honour of the Ming scholar Wang Yang-ming. Though it has been a protected area since Japanese times, the national park was officially established in 1985.
You can visit any time of year but in early spring (mid-February to mid-April) note that the annual flower festivals really bring in the crowds. Avoid weekends during this time and any time expect long bus rides down to Taipei at the end of the day. If you are interested in flowers, the first month is dedicated to cherry blossoms and azaleas, while the second is dedicated to the white calla lily.