Carp Hill Trail is a lovely walk whatever time of day you go, but I hope this post emboldens you to pay it an after-dark visit. Not only is it home to a wonderfully diverse range of nocturnal critters, but it also has a prettily sparkling night view to enjoy all by yourself. Much like the nearby Scissors Rock trail, this is a path that I’ve done countless times due to it being close to where I live, but the nighttime experience is markedly different to how it feels in the daytime. Although the trail is mostly covered by trees, it somehow doesn’t have the dark, closed-in feeling that some places do at night, and the stream which cuts through the valley here makes it an ideal place for a bit of nocturnal nature-watching. Over repeat visits to this spot, I’ve seen snakes, many kinds of frogs, countless toads and minibeasts, flying squirrels and a civet. It’s also a good firefly spotting location if you head here in April or May. All in all, a great place to spend your evening.
Distance: About 4-4.5km.
Time: We took around 2.5 hours to complete this loop. In daylight hours I have walked it in as little as an hour and a quarter, but our night pace is much slower to account for all of the nature-spotting.
Difficulty (regular Taiwan hiker): 2/10 – some steep steps, but that’s about it, even at night it’s an easy enough route.
Difficulty (new Taiwan hiker): 4-5/10 – the route is a little steep, but the paths are all paved and it’s quite easy to know where you’re going. At night there’s the added difficulty of this route having no artificial lighting. If you want to do the easy version, just walk up as far as the waterfall then walk back.
Total ascent: About 230m, almost all of which is done between turning off the stream trail and reaching the top of Carp Hill.
Water: On a night hike we didn’t drink much at all, but even on warm days you can get away with just a 0.5L refillable bottle. There’s a drinking water tap at the road junction beyond the peak, and another close to the entrance of Bihu Trail.
Shade: At night there’s nothing us pasty skin folk need to worry about, but on sunny days I take an umbrella with me.
Mobile network: The majority of the trail between Yuanjue Temple, the waterfall and the wooden-roofed bridge is a network black spot, but signal is ok on Carp Hill.
Enjoyment: This is a great little trail whatever time of day you do it, it’s one I keep coming back to.
Other: At night you’ll definitely want to take your own torch (handheld would be adequate for this route).
Trail type: Lollipop loop.
Permit: None needed.
Jump to the bottom of this post for a trail map and GPX file.
We parked the scooter close to the entrance of Dagouxi Waterfront Park and got our head-torches ready – beyond the lights lining these steps, there really isn’t any lighting in the park.
The steps lead up to a pavilion and from there track down towards the stream. In the daylight hours, the water here is always full of fish, but it seems that they retire to the rocky nooks and crannies of the banks after nightfall because we only saw a few swimming close to the surface.
In the past year, there has been quite a bit of development going on here, with several features added – one of which is this ugly little bridge. Previously you had to skip across the water, but not anymore.
The path follows close to the water until it takes a sharp bend to the right. Steps lead right into the steam and on warm weekend afternoons this area is filled with families splashing around and trying to catch the fish.
It was just after climbing the steps here that we spotted our first of oh so many toads for the evening. I absolutely adore toads. They do not give a hoot about you or what you’re doing, and often just sit there passively even if you get in their space. They also do all of this with the funniest blend of expressions on their little faces.
For a while the water is on your left, then you cross a gently arched bridge and it’s on your right, then you cross another and it’s on the left again. Just after the second bridge there’s a farm/dwelling of some kind and I’ve occasionally heard dogs barking here, but they seem to be locked in at night (in the daytime they often sleep in the sun on the bridge).
As well as toads you’re likely to see a fair few frogs. This cutie is a brown tree frog, they’re a relatively common sight here and on other trails at night, and although they’re quite chilled, they can really jump. Other frequently spotted frogs include Swinhoe’s frogs and LaTouche’s frog. In fact, there are frequently so many frogs and toads on the trail here that you need to pay constant attention to where you’re walking – not all of them will get out of the way.
There’s one more bridge before the climb, an elegant, roofed structure close to a small waterfall. A flight of steps climb up at the far side of the bridge and then at the top you need to take the path heading right.
It starts to feel truly dark from here on out, the trees block out any light pollution reflected down from the clouds. It’s just you, the trees, the water and the wildlife. If you just want a short and easy walk you can just continue heading up along the waterside trail until you reach Yuanjue waterfall, but since this was our only exercise all weekend we decided to take the trail on the left here up towards Carp Hill (Mt. Liyu) and turn it into a slightly longer loop.
We’d taken maybe less than a hundred steps onto the Carp Hill side trail when I noticed something unusually green caught in the beam of my torch just a metre or so from Teresa’s head.
Closer inspection revealed it to be a delightful and dozy greater green snake. I say dozy because the poor creature had just bedded down (or up) for the night and then along we came to disturb its rest. Greater green snakes are active during the day and roost in trees at night. From underneath you can see how they coil themselves up to balance on slender branches – this way they can avoid becoming dinner for nocturnal hunters.
We’d walked less than another five metres when Teresa spotted this second one perched on another tree. It’s not too surprising really–if I visit this trail at dusk it’s unusual not to spot one of these going about their business.
Continuing on up you’ll know that you’re getting there when you reach the pylon and fish markers that indicate the start of the Carp Hill Miniature Country Trail (鯉魚山小人國步道) – from this point until you see the miniature Great Wall there are small models scattered in the grasses beside the path. Most of them are a little tattered and crumbling now, but plenty are still recognisable landmarks.
After the steepest portion of the climb is over, but before you have reached the pavilion that marks the highest point of the path, look out for a dirt track to your left. This takes you to the triangulation stone for Carp Hill and…
…the best lookout point on the whole walk. From here you can look southwest over Neihu District towards the bright lights of Taipei 101 and Xizhi District. Whilst here we could see a lightning storm in its death throes over in the direction of Shulin.
Looking slightly eastwards you can see the profile of Egret Hill (the central mound with a lighted trail on it) blocking out the lights of Nangang District, and the arc of the Wenhu line as it curves around Dahu Park – lights reflected by the lake.
After stopping for a while to enjoy our private night view we got back on the trail – somehow these faded miniatures (which look shabby but cute in the day), look positively menacing in the torchlight.
By the pavilion, at the trail’s zenith we peered into the small lotus pool (just left of where Teresa is here), and were (foolishly) startled when a pair of frogs jumped out. One jumped straight into Teresa’s leg, leaving her with soggy trousers.
From the pavilion, it’s another 5-10 minutes down to the road. Keep an eye out for an opening on the right which affords a clear view of Yuanjue Temple (圓覺寺).
The trail ends at a rest area with a few benches and drinking-water tap (not the one you can see in the photo, it’s just out of shot on the right). We disturbed a napping black and white dog as we made our way to the road.
Head uphill a little then take the road on the right which is signposted (in Chinese) as leading to Yuanjue Temple.
If you’re curious to know what your alternatives are at this point, you could head downhill and walk down the road until it arrives back in Neihu. You could take the steps on the left up to Bishanyan Temple (a great place for observing the city if you get there before they shut the temple gates). Or you could follow the road in the centre and arrive at Bishanyan Temple/Baishihu Suspension Bridge via the road – but at least for these latter two routes, you’d still need to come back down eventually.
Part way along the road to Yuanjue Temple there is a smaller land god temple next to a stream.
On a previous night hike in the area, I was super, super excited to see this hammerhead worm (exact ID not yet known). I’d seen photos of them on posts written by other hikers, but this was my first in-person, in-the-flesh sighting. It was maybe 15cm long, and seemed to be attracted to something in the scent of Teresa’s hand (much like a leech) because it appeared to veer towards her rather than away.
That very same night also just about here we spotted this tiny little Atayal slug-eating snake. It took a bit of coaxing to get off the road.
The road ends at an open area in front of Yuanjue Temple – the oldest Buddhist Temple in Neihu District. Since I moved to this part of Taipei two years ago it had been covered in scaffolding as it undergoes reconstruction work, but it’s recently been completed and you can see the whole frontage again.
Passing straight across the temple forecourt we headed down the steps, delving back into darkness once more.
Around here we heard a pair of mountain scops owls calling to each other (thanks @TaiwanBirding). In fact, it must be a good spot for nature because on previous visits I’ve seen a flying squirrel and two or three snakes all within 100 metres of this spot.
We continued to make our way down, pausing only briefly to look at the water in the waterfall before following the stream on its journey. There was a guy on the trail with a MASSIVE light and a big camera, he seemed very preoccupied with whatever he was searching for. We on the other hand were preoccupied with this beast of a toad. The photo doesn’t really help, Teresa’s hand is higher up than the toad, so it’s even bigger than it appears.
The bright light in the background of this one intrigued me. I didn’t notice it at the time so I was unable to check out who the eye belonged to. Judging by its position it looks like it might be something high up in the tree on the far side of the water, but it could also be something smaller and closer that was flying.
Shortly we were back at the junction where we’d turned off to climb Carp Hill, and from here we retraced our steps back over the wooden bridge, then the two arched bridges and through the park back to the scooter.
A parting picture of a moth – I saw several of these. I think they should be called ‘prince of darkness moths’ their midnight blue and black colour scheme coupled with the fact that their eyes glow red in torchlight make them both regal and demonic looking.
How to get there
Google maps address: The proper walk starts from the pretty Dagouxi Waterfront Park – there’s quite a lot of scooter parking here, but not so many car spaces.
GPS location: N25 05.320 E121 35.915
Public transport: It’s a short walk from Dahu Park MRT Station to the start of the walk. Alternatively, you could hop on a YouBike 2.0 outside of Dahu Station and return it at the Dahu Elementary School stand.
Further reading: I’ve got a post covering the same trail but in daylight hours here.
Nearby trails: there are a whole host of trails nearby
- Bihu Trail
- Egret Hill
- Dragon Boat Rock
- Kangle Shan
- Mount Kaiyan Loop Trail
- Taipei Grand Hike – Bishanyan to Jiantan
- Taipei Grand Hike – Feng Gui Zui to Dagouxi Waterfront Park
Carp Hill Trail Map
GPX file available here on Outdoor Active. (Account needed, but a free one works just fine.)
Come and say hi on social media:
This is the bit where I come to you cap in hand. If you’ve got all the way down this page, then I can only assume that you’re actually interested in the stuff I write about. If this is the case and you feel inclined to chip in a few dollars for transport and time then I would appreciate it immensely. You can find me on either Ko-fi or Buy Me a Coffee.