January was one of the busiest and best months I have ever had chasing waterfalls in Taiwan. The combination of great weather and seemingly endless holidays meant that I went camping 13 days on 4 different trips. Overall I visited 20 waterfalls and added 13 more to my waterfall guide.
February is also going to be a great month with the second half of Chinese New Year and the 4 day 2/28 holiday weekend. After that I will be slowing down and concentrating on blog/guide/website/social media updates. I currently have 9 waterfalls (+3 from the Philippines still), 8 hikes, 4 cool campgrounds and many blog posts to write or update. The goal will be to write 1 or 2 a day and try to get all caught up sometime this spring so I can direct my attention to website improvements and building my social media referrals. Instagram and Facebook are going quite well but I have only dabbled in Pinterest a little and haven’t even tried other forms. I find Flipboard particularly interesting and I should establish a Twitter channel but I hate the platform.
January started out with a fantastic 3 day holiday weekend. I first visited Caihong Waterfall 4 years ago but it was getting late and I only saw the 200 meter waterfall from the parking lot. I finally completed the hike and the trail ends at a smaller tier with a stunning swimming hole.
The main focus of the weekend was river tracing up to Sanzhan’s Golden Grotto. I spent all week checking the weather and luckily the temps remained unseasonably warm and the forecast was dry. I had really high expectations for this hike and it exceeded them. This is without a doubt one of my five favorite waterfalls in Taiwan. And I still need to write the waterfall guide and a separate blog for it.
We also visited three other smaller waterfalls that weekend. None of these will be on my favorites list although that is a pretty elite list.
My favorite was Zimu Waterfall near Mugumuyu in Hualien County. Mugumuyu is famous for its blue waters and swimming holes. It is so famous that they restrict entry to 600 people/day but it was unfortunately closed (and will be closed for awhile) due to a landslide. Outside of the police station I found a map with a mysterious waterfall on it. We checked it out and although the waterfall was small we found a perfect bluegreen swimming hole that Mugumuyu is famous for but without the hassle of a permit.
The following weekend I had planned to stay home but the weather was so nice and I really wanted to see maple trees so I planned a trip to Shimenggu and Shipangu in Chiayi County. Shipangu is a very nice hiking trail with several maple trees alongside the trail. The best spot was at one end of the suspension bridge but it doesn’t compare to back home or in Japan. So far in Taiwan I have seen scattered maples and other trees turn red, orange or yellow but not an entire hillside.
Shimenggu remains one of my favorite day hikes in all of Taiwan. This trail has it all. There is a giant suspension bridge, a deep and long valley, giant bamboo, a beautiful garden at an old farmhouse, maple trees, a waterfall, giant cypress trees, mossy forests and amazing pools. This time we hiked up a hidden canyon and believe that this is the reason that the place is called Shimenggu (Stone Dream Valley). This is a side hike that everyone should do when they visit. I plan on going back this summer when the waterfall in the hidden valley is flowing.
My only Tuesday hike this month with the Southern Taiwan Hiking Group was to Wanan Waterfall. The waterfall is impressively tall falling in 4 tiers but we found a secret butterfly valley (blog coming soon or perhaps someday…). We found at least a dozen different kinds of butterflies and the largest swarm of Maolin’s famous purple butterflies that I have ever seen. There were 100’s of them in the trees.
Every couple of months my junior high school students (4 classes) have a big test at their school and they study for that instead of coming to English class. I barely have any classes to teach that week and I go hiking and camping instead. This time I went to Hsinchu. I had been to Hsinchu twice before but I had a huge list of places I wanted to see and many I wanted to go back to. Yuanyang Valley Waterfall was my first stop. I had been there once before but I was rushed and didn’t go back to the final waterfall.
Next up on the list was one of northern Taiwan’s best waterfalls. Maliguang Waterfall is a long drive from pretty much anywhere but the hike is short and the waterfall is spectacular. They lie about the height though. It isn’t anywhere close to 80 meters tall.
After Maliguang I decided to check out the Guanwu Forest Recreation Area. It is a long drive but a couple of waterfalls have been on my list for years. I stopped at Baxian Waterfall and observed it from really far away since there isn’t a known trail that accesses the bottom. Followxiaofei and I are looking (more him than I…) for info on how to safely get to the bottom since the waterfall looks amazing.
My main goal was to find Guanwu Waterfall though. I had mistakenly thought that this waterfall was part of the Dabajianshan hike (the famous mountain on the 500 TWD bill) but there are other interesting waterfalls on that hike (which I must do sometime). Guanwu Waterfall is around 100 meters tall and has its own hiking trail in the park.
But the Zhenshan Trail stole the show at Guanwu Recreation Area. Dabajianshan deservedly is the main reason that people go to Guanwu but the Zhenshan Trail was spectacular even though you can barely see Zhenshan Waterfall through the trees. It isn’t an easy trail but I loved the forest and the views could be amazing if you get there before the afternoon fog. I also want to return and hike the Kuaishan Giant Tree Trail at Guanwu.
My final trip of the month was to Nantou for the first half of our Chinese New Year vacation. It was a little disappointing that the bridge to Momonaer Waterfall was being replaced but the Chunyang Hot Spring Campground was amazing. They have 19 private hot spring baths and a large community pool to relax after a long day hiking.
Our first hike didn’t involve a waterfall but Hehuanshan instead. Hehuanshan has 5 different peaks but 3 of them are fairly easy. They should be hiked but they are short walks on paved roads or stairs. North Peak however is a great hike and it is on the way to West Peak. Full details of Hehuanshan are included in this blog post but North Peak and West Peak are really difficult. We averaged a pathetic 1.25 km/hour due to the elevation gains and losses (and being slow). At the halfway mark we chose to turn around because we would have been hiking until 8 or 9pm or later (6pm sunset) to finish the hike. I will have to return another time to finish this hike.
We took it easy the next day and went to Jingying Hot Spring. Luckily Jingying Hot Spring has a really cool waterfall upstream.
On the final day of the trip we went to Aowanda Recreation Area which was predictably busy. The bridge and forests are still cool but they have built a new trail and viewing platform for the waterfall. They also built a new Maple Tree Trail which we didn’t have time to do this weekend.
The last waterfall for the weekend was a bit of a surprise. I had known about Shuishang Waterfall for a few years due to Richard Saunders but had never been in the area to check it out. I finally had a few hours on the drive home and took the opportunity to check it out. We started hiking down the trail and it was really, really dry. We expected the waterfall to be completely dry also but we found a little oasis. It was perfect.
So this was just January. I don’t expect to keep up this kind of pace any longer but it was a pretty great month. All (almost all) of the places above have been updated in the waterfall guide and I am busy writing up everything else. I hope you had a great January also.