Banpingshan is a lesser known part of Shoushan National Park (Monkey Mountain). Banpingshan is an uplifted coral reef just like Shoushan and both where used extensively as a cement quarry. It has two main hiking trails and dozens of smaller trails connecting the two. Strangler figs are commonly wrapped around rocks in absolutely mesmerizing fashion. One major difference is that there are no monkeys on Banpingshan.
The cement operations ceased in 1997 when the leases ran out. In almost 100 years the mountain’s height was reduced from 223 meters to 170 meters (source). Regrowth has occurred but the top of the mountain will remain flat topped forever regardless of how many trees are grown. The most impacted areas are the eastern side near Trailhead #3 and the southern half of the Spine Trail. In addition to this Banpingshan is the southern boundary for the Nanzih factory area and the northern views overlook a grim landscape.
The western views are spectacular however overlooking World Games Stadium and the Straits of Taiwan. The western and northern parts of the mountain were largely untouched by cement operations and have a couple of incredible trails. There is also a completely intact army bunker at the northern end of the mountain.
Rating and length – moderately easy – 5-6 kms – 2-3 hours (round trip for the full length of the mountain) – 160 meters of elevation gain
How to get there
Banpingshan is located immediately north of Lotus Pond or west of the HSR station. It is probably easiest to take the MRT to World Games Stadium and walk south (500 meters) along the main road to Trailhead 1 or 2. I am unsure of the walking route from the HSR station to Trailhead 3.
Scooters can be parked on the sidewalk at any of the 3 trailheads although Trailhead 1 is the best option. Car parking is best at Trailhead 3 or possibly parallel parked on the main road next to Trailhead 1. Trailhead 2 is a temple with bathrooms.
The hike – Just like Monkey Mountain there are many different hikes and an uncountable number of small connecting trails. I will describe a couple of the hikes and places of interest. This is also not a complete explanation of all of the trails and there could be something that I missed. The names of the hikes are entirely made up by me and are meant for descriptive purposes. It would be meaningless for you to translate them into Chinese and ask for directions.
#1 – Spine Trail. The spine of the Banpingshan is marked by #1 on the map below and shows up in blue. This follows the old mining road and is by far the easiest and least scenic hike It leads to the main viewpoint and provides the quickest access to the bunker on the other end of the mountain. You can enter at any of the 3 trailheads and walk along the old quarry road to the main viewpoint. After the viewpoint it gradually becomes less of a road until it becomes a natural trail. The bunker is inside of the last prominent point on Banpingshan. After arriving at Tree Rock (it will be obvious) it will be 5 more minutes to the bunker. The trail is on the other side of Tree Rock and is in good shape although it is quite overgrown since it is one of the few grassy (tall grasses) areas of Banpingshan. I actually prefer descending down the hill a little and taking a right on the lower hiking trail when going to the bunker.
#2 – The Lower Main Hiking Trail can be accessed from all 3 trailheads. It is shown mostly in red on the map connecting points 2, 3 and 4. Trailhead 3 is the best access. Start at the temple and take the left set of stairs up mountain and stay left until reaching the hiking trail. This trail is in fairly good shape and can be hiked by most people. You can hike this trail to a set of stairs and take this up to the main viewpoint or you can hike all the way to the bunker. After the stairs (marked as #3) the trail follows along a chain link fence and is not especially interesting until leaving the chain link fence. There are many intersections but choose the trail that traverses the mountain instead of any going uphill. The trails going uphill will eventually connect to the Spine Trail.
#3 – Strangler Fig Trail is the blue hike near Lower Main Hiking Trail near #2. This (and the bunker) is the highlight of Banpingshan in my opinion. Banyan trees are located all over Taiwan and take on many amazing forms but on Banpingshan they choke off huge rocks with an amazing pattern of roots. The trail is really hard to follow and it is difficult to walk due to all of the tree roots and rocks. It is located 20-30 meters above the Lower Main Hiking Trail and there are probably a dozen small connecting trails between the two. When you are on the Strangler Fig Trail you will come to many intersections. Trails that go up usually go all the way up to the Spine Trail while those going down reconnect to the Lower Main Hiking Trail. It would be impossible to describe every intersection.
#4 – The bunker is a very cool old army bunker that was almost for sure built by the KMT forces when they fortified the island after the Chinese civil war although it could date back to the Japanese controlled Taiwan during WWII. The bunker is located in the last prominent peak on Banpingshan at the northern end. There 2 tunnels, 5 rooms, 4 exits and one connecting tunnel. It is about 1.6 meters high and the longest tunnel is about 50 meters long. It is made of concrete and is safe from cave ins. You will definitely need a headlamp (smartphone app will also work) to fully explore the bunker.
#5 – The Quarry near Trailhead 3 is advertised as a bird watching area but I have no idea if it is any good.
GPS – N22.698366 E120.310103