What To Do In Taiwan: The Kaohsiung Gushan Water Hike

January 4, 2020

So, you explored the big city of Taipei, drank some bubble milk tea in Taichung, visited the largest body of water in Tainan, and have made it down the island to Kaohsiung. Besides the must sees in Kaohsiung like the Dome of Light, Pier 2 Art Center and Gushan Day Market another very special activity that you can do is to take the water hike up Shou Shan National Park 壽山 (what foreigners call Monkey Mountain). If you want to do something outside of the normal tourist attractions in Kaohsiung, like the challenge of a good hike and experience some Kaohsiung culture, you should absolutely make a day to do the Kaohsiung Gushan Water Hike.

Some Background on Kaohsiung Gushan Water Hike

One of the perks of living in Kaohsiung is being so close to Shoushan National Nature Park. Located in Kaohsiung’s southwest region, the park has four mountains. Shoushan, Banpingshan, Large and Small Gueishan and Cihoushan. These beautiful green areas give us  plenty of opportunity to get out of the city and into nature. This area is often called “The Backyard of Kaohsiung.”

When on your hike up the mountain side, if you look close enough, you will notice fossils and sea shells scattered along the ground and imbedded into the rocks. This is because this area used to be under water. What you’re actually walking on is left over coral reefs. Take a moment when your hiking, to look around and imagine what used to be here. Another reason why the Gushan Water Hike is so spectacular. 

In Taiwan, hiking is a sport that is thoroughly enjoyed by locals. Years back, there was a hiking group that would gather every week to endure the climb up Shou Shan. They began to lug jugs of water to the top to make tea and enjoy the evening. Today, water is carried to the tea stations by hikers who bring it from a reverse osmosis station at the bottom. Hikers can enjoy tea at various tea stations sprinkled throughout the trails. From the pavilions at the top of the mountain, hikers can also see views of the Taiwan Strait. 

Some Things to Know Before You Go

  1. Do not bring snacks or food! Johan and I made this mistake the first time we came here. Within seconds a monkey jumped on us and grabbed it…

  2. Bring a tin mug for the tea at the top. It’s hot and you don’t want to melt your water bottle.

  3. Besides the water on your back, bring some to drink along the way.
  4. Spray some bug spray on because, well, you’re in the jungle and there are bugs.
  5. Get ready to sweat! Before we moved to Kaohsiung we were warned by our Taiwanese friends that it is very hot down here compared to Taichung. Even in the winter, the sun still shines bright.


So, How Exactly does This Water Hike Work?

Johan and I have heard of the water hike before from some of our friends in the community but didn’t exactly know where to go or exactly what to do (No Map Nomads in our truest form).  We rode our bikes through the side streets and alleys looking for a sign, or some water jugs, or any sort of direction really. We saw people with the water containers strapped on their backs and knew we had to be close. Down a side street, near the mouth of the hike, there was a large water container and a rack of empty jugs.

What to Do

  1. Say hello to the people at the station 
  2. Grab a jug off of the shelf located on the side on the building
  3. Fill it up 
  4. Strap it on.

And off you go!

Here is the location of the water fill site.

We parked our bikes and walked to the base of the mountain. There, along the stream, you will see an entrance with a small pagoda to the left. Keep walking toward the mountain and you will see some small shops selling shoes, hiking gear, and well…water. Keep walking up the stairs. Ready? Ascend!

Shou Shan Water Hike might not be for everyone, but if you’re visiting Kaohsiung, we highly reccommend you at least give it a try.  It is also close to the zoo, so making A full day trip to Gushan is a great was to spend the day.