Jiaoshi is best known for its hot springs but just outside of town there are several waterfalls and some great hiking. Three waterfalls just happen to be close enough to each that they can be hiked in one day. Due to poor planning it took me three days to visit the three waterfalls and the first day was three years ago. Each morning I thought I could quickly do a morning hike in Yilan before going to the Wufengqi area. And each morning my short hike turned into a half day adventure. In the end however I was able to hike to each of the waterfalls if you generously count my first trip 3 years ago. With better planning (no ‘short’ morning excursions) you can start at either Linmei Shipan or Wufengqi trailhead and do all 3 in one day. Yuemeikang is in between the two hikes and will take the longest.
There is creek access to some outstanding river tracing downstream of Yuemeikang Waterfall. You won’t be able go all the way to Yuemeikang due to a small waterfall in the stream. Actually I have heard of people climbing up the waterfall or going around on a makeshift trail but it’s quite dangerous and it’s best to go back and take the trail to Yuemeikang Waterfall.
The river trace to Yuemeikang is quite short and really only involves a couple of creek crossings. There is enough water to justify bringing river tracing shoes but it really isn’t a river trace. This photo is just downstream of Yuemeikang Waterfall but there is a trail on the left bank to bypass this section.
Yuemeikang Waterfall has become very popular in the expat community due to being featured in one of his Taipei Escapes guidebooks. The nearby Linmei Shipan and Wufengqi Waterfalls are incredibly crowded and busy every weekend but there were almost no other hikers on this trail despite it being one of the last nice weekends in northeast Taiwan. Recent heavy rains created a cloud of mist at the bottom of the waterfall that was nearly inescapable. Perhaps you think that I strategically chose this location after considering every possible angle to take a photo from but the reality was that this was the only place that I could take a photo.
Linmei Shipan was a short trail along an amazing creek that will have photographers getting their tripod out every 10 meters.
This is a shot from the bridge shown in the above photo.
Linmei Shipan Waterfall is right at the top of the stairs in the previous picture.
It’s also possible to take pictures of other things on the trail.
At the top of the waterfall you can take a picture upstream of creek. Overall the trail is really easy to hike but it will be crowded since it is so close to Yilan and is an easy daytrip from Taipei.
Wufengqi Waterfall is one of my favorites to photograph in Taiwan. This photo is unfortunately from 3 years ago.
I basically randomly picked a campsite from the Camping in Taiwan map for my trip to Yilan. It was located outside of town and would make a good base for a trip to Taipingshan. As a bonus there was a waterfall nearby. I thought it would be easy to find but I didn’t get there until it was already dark. Rather inconveniently I rented the worst scooter ever. Whenever I was coasting the light lost power and basically turned off. I was able to trade my scooter for a much better one the next day. After a little searching I found the campsite and was knocked out by the view. The facilities were not impressive but it has a million dollar view of Yilan and the valley. Directions to Yulan Campground.
My view of Yilan at arrival.
The sunrise view from my tent.
The view across the valley.
The view up the valley with my tent all by itself.
Nearby Yulan Waterfall now restricts vehicles from reaching the trailhead and instead hikers can choose between a roadwalk and some well done trails.
Most choose to walk the road but the trail is by far the better route.
My perception of Yilan is that is is nearly always raining and the trees showed it with various vines and moss.
In the last few years they have replaced many rickety bamboo bridges with some impressive bridges. Hopefully a typhoon doesn’t wipe out all of the hard work in the future.
I could have spent hours on macro photography.
Nearly every tree on the 4km trail was interesting.
Not surprisingly it was originally a logging trail. It was called Camphor Station #9.
Yulan Waterfall is at the end of the trail and it was spectacular after Yilan’s recent rainfall. Locally it is known as Gaba Waterfall. It will require some imagination but the local tribe many centuries ago named it after the thunderous sound of the waterfall.
Xinliao and Jiuliao Waterfalls are located in neighboring valleys about 1km apart. Xin means new while Jiu means old. Both waterfalls are a similar height and both trails are about 1km long. Despite these similarities hiking to both waterfalls is a much different experience. Xinliao Waterfall Trail was completely rebuilt with a large pathway in 2006 and rebuilt again after a 2009 typhoon. Unlike many trails in Taiwan they used materials that won’t grow a slick moss on trail. In some parts they used wood chips and in others small rock. Too many trails in Taiwan have been built out of stone or concrete and after a few years the trail becomes as slippery as glare ice. Xinliao is a really easy hike and it has become very popular with hikers. On the other hand Jiuliao Waterfall Trail is built more like most trails in Taiwan. There are really slippery wooden sections included a section that is basically a ramp. There is also a beautiful stone trail section that is terrifyingly slippery. It also felt like Jiuliao was a beautiful forgotten place with significantly fewer other hikers and a feeling that the forest was retaking the trail. Despite the trail conditions and actually partly due to the trail conditions I strongly preferred hiking to Jiuliao Waterfall. At Xinliao they had worked too hard to tame nature and the crowds are also a negative.
Jiuliao Trail with a fallen tree that presented an obstacle.
The slippery stone steps with another fallen tree.
A casualty of Taiwan’s warm and wet climate. Now imagine walking on stone steps covered with this.
On maps it is usually marked as Zhongshan Waterfall but Yilan seems to be embracing a return to local names and all signs say Jiuliao Pubu. Jiuliao and Xinliao are the waterfalls that I have ever seen with the word waterfall transliterated into English as pubu instead of saying waterfall.
Wood chips and small rock were used at different parts of the Xinliao trail. It was pleasant to walk on but it was made a little too much into a hiking road instead of a scenic hiking trail.
Apparently there are 10 total waterfalls in this stream but only the first appears to be accessible.
Nantou’s national bird aviary is one of those places that has its moments but overall is a little disappointing. It’s located in a stunningly beautiful area in the Nantou mountains but many of the buildings are an eyesore. They have assembled a beautiful collection of birds but some of the habitats are small and inadequate. They have built a nice trail to a waterfall but it’s only viewable from a distance. Overall the aviary has huge potential but it needs to feel less like a subpar zoo and more like a natural habitat for the birds. They are located in an outstanding area for natural habitats.
Cassowaries greet visitors at the main parking lot. They are one of the largest birds in the world similar in size to the ostrich and emu. They have a reputation for being dangerous but there is only one recorded death. Never the less they look unfriendly.
There are dozens of friendlier macaws in one of the first exhibits.
A blue crowned pigeon in one of the nicer habitats. The pigeon habitat is larger and visitors are able to walk through the habitat.
A Golden Pheasant in the second walk through habitat.
A small bee that was more interesting than most of the bird habitats.
Another flower on the walk
The Stork Center at Fenghuang is quite different than the rest of the aviary. It’s a spectacular and new building with some well done displays. There didn’t seem to be any storks but they have an impressive habitat at the back of the building. This building gives an idea of the type of potential that Fenghuang Aviary has.
Two years ago I visited the aviary but the waterfall was still inaccessible. Considerable effort has been expended to reopen a trail back to the waterfall and it is now finished. It’s a short easy hike but you are not allowed to travel to the base of the waterfall.
It’s been three years since I tried to find this waterfall. At the time the area was still recovering from the devastating Typhoon Morakot 2 years earlier (2009). Many aboriginal villages throughout Taiwan had been devastated by the storm that killed over 600 people. The river in one Laiyi aboriginal village rose so much that approximately half of the houses were destroyed by the flowing water. In addition nearly all of the major bridges were washed away cutting villages off for weeks and months. It would take years to rebuild all of the bridges. Some places are still rebuilding five years later.
But this trip was different. The bridges and roads have been rebuilt and once again we can access the area. Laiyi is similar to the Wutai area with waterfalls cascading out of the cliffs at nearly every turn. Our goal however was to hike back to Yuanyang Waterfall and see the two waterfalls converge within a couple of meters from each other.
A photo from 2011 showing the village with half washed away houses that are now buried in a protective dike. We didn’t have time to visit this time but it would be interesting to see if the houses remain. I cannot imagine how difficult it would be to have a daily reminder of the damage. For more photos here is a link to my old trip.
Asher leads the way since he visited here this summer.
One of the water crossings and a side valley on the way to the waterfall. It was shortly after this that we saw 3-4 Formosan Serow but I wasn’t able to get a photo fast enough.
Yuanyang Waterfall. The waterfall on the right cascades down the cliff several hundred meters while the waterfall on the left is a small drop in the main river valley.
Yilin Waterfall is next to the road and you can quickly stop there on the way to Yuanyang Waterfall. This is the 4th tier which is a little tricky to reach but gives you access to a private swimming pool. That’s one of the benefits of the extra work required to reach it.
The second tier shows how the waterfall has shifted over time with a variety of ladders and stairs that are now in the waterfall.
The first tier of Yilin Waterfall
If there’s water then Asher will playing in it. The locals enjoyed his show.