Waterfall Updates

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.

Saguer Waterfall is a nice short hike in Hualien City and Caihong Waterfall (a second Caihong Waterfall) is part of a beautiful and rarely visited valley near Liyutan (Carp Pond).

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.

Hehuanshan

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.

2016 was an absolutely incredible year for me. I visited over 100 waterfalls in four different countries and am part of a new and growing hiking group in southern Taiwan (Southern Taiwan Hiking Group – FB). My waterfall guide has grown to 150 waterfalls (end of January) and over 50 more in 4 other countries. 2017 will see a focus on getting to the last really important waterfalls in Taiwan such that I will be able to publish a Taiwan’s Waterfalls guidebook someday. This is a daunting task but step 1 is collecting the information and writing it down. I hope to have information on 200 waterfalls by the time I self-publish. For the latest updates you can follow me at Taiwan’s Waterfalls FB and Taiwan’s Waterfalls IG.

My next goal is to start doing more international trips. Indonesia is one of my favorite countries and I have found so many interesting and incredible waterfalls there. Japan has always interested me but I am usually busy during the summer and fall and haven’t been able to schedule a trip yet. I also want to cover the major waterfalls in all of the East Asian countries and visit Europe sometime. I have a future expansion of my waterfall guide planned. Right now I hide my international trips on my Taiwan’s Waterfalls website but soon they will have their own website (bought the domain) with their own IG and FB accounts. You can start following them now Planet Waterfall IG and Planet Waterfall FB.

One other big first for me this year was publishing a Taiwan’s Waterfalls calendar. I didn’t do much promoting it but I did sell 80 copies of it. This is something I definitely plan on doing again next year and hopefully come up with an even better plan for selling it. The calendar is print on demand so all you need is a credit card and lulu.com will ship anywhere in the world. Click to view the calendar on lulu.com

I hope that everyone’s 2016 was great and I hope that some of you were able to use my waterfall guide to visit some great places. Did anyone do something particularly memorable in 2016? Does anyone have any big 2017 plans?

My top waterfalls from 2015

My 2016 waterfall to do list (did 8/10)

My 2014 year in review (link)

  1. I started last year by going to Baiyang Waterfall in Taroko Gorge on January 1st. My sister and brother-in-law braved the horrible holiday traffic on the way to one of Taroko Gorge’s best places. The hike to the waterfall passes through (at least) 8 tunnels along an old road before arriving at the waterfall. The traffic leaving Taroko Gorge was awful unfortunately. I cannot believe they don’t have some sort of traffic control on peak traffic days to avoid buses getting stuck in the narrow roads. Multiple times we (and many cars behind us) had to back up due to a buses coming uphill.

Find out more about Baiyang Waterfall

2. Longgong (Dragon Palace) Waterfall in Chiayi had been on my to do list for a long time. At Longgong Waterfall hikers are able to go behind the waterfall via a cleft in the rock.

Find out more about Longgong Waterfall

3. At Chinese New Year I planned my entire trip to North Sumatra around visiting Sipisopiso Waterfall. It didn’t disappoint at all. The waterfall is over 100 meters tall and all you need to do is turn around for a great view of Lake Toba. The hike is nothing special (600+ stairs) but it is a magnificent waterfall.

Find out more about Sipisopiso Waterfall

4. I had high expectations for Sipisopiso Waterfall but I knew very little about Dua Warna Waterfall prior to visiting. Dua Warna is less visited and it follows a trail for 4 km through a beautiful forest. Dua Warna falls 25-30 meters into a stunning turquoise blue pool surrounded by green walls. It is one of the most beautiful waterfalls. Sadly, a flash flood occurred this year and about 20 university students were killed. The waterfall remains closed the last that I heard.

Find out more about Dua Warna Waterfall

5. During the 2/28 holiday Asher (followxiaofei.com) and I hiked the Shimenggu Trail in Chiayi and this is the trail that I repeatedly tell people is my favorite hike. The waterfall is nice but this trail has it all. You start by hiking up a nearly straight, 500 meter tall valley. There is a suspension bridge to 1000 person cave and Shuiyang Lake. There is an old farmhouse with a beautiful garden with cherry blossoms, rhododendrons and maple trees. Sadly most of the giant cypress trees were illegally logged recently but one still stands next to the trail. I returned this year and explored the valley above Qingrengu Waterfall and I can see why this place is called Shimenggu (Stone Dream Valley).

Find out more about Qingrengu Waterfall

6. Hudie (Butterfly) Waterfall is part of one of the 7 Guguan Heroes hikes in Taichung. I didn’t think the Tangmadanshan Hike was that great but Hudie Waterfall is a really nice one.

Find out more about Hudie Waterfall

7. Wutai in Pingtung County is one of the best regions for checking out waterfalls in Taiwan. Feilong (Flying Dragon) Waterfall was another great find by Asher (followxiaofei.com). This was also the start of our Tuesday morning hikes with the Southern Taiwan Hiking Group (FB). Most English teachers don’t start work until 5pm on Tuesdays and we took advantage of that by going out for morning hikes to some great places.

Find out more about Feilong Waterfall

8. I grew up in Minnesota and took many trips to the peaceful Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) but I didn’t spend much time exploring the rest of the north shore in Minnesota. I went home in June last year and dragged my family to a total of 13 waterfalls on my trip home. Minnesota has an amazing system of state parks and the north shore is wildly underrated nationally in my opinion. The High Falls of the Baptism River at Tettegouche State Park is just one of the great waterfalls along the north shore of Lake Superior.

Find out more about High Falls on the Baptism River

9. The High Falls on Pigeon River is located on Minnesota/Canada border and is legitimately one of the top 25 or 50 waterfalls in the US. My trip home occurred weeks after heavy rains hit the state and all of the waterfalls looked amazing.

Find out more about High Falls on the Pigeon River

10. Fenghuang Waterfall isn’t particularly large and the hike isn’t that great down 1500 stairs but it is a great swimming hole. This was one of trips where the Southern Taiwan Hiking Group really came together as a group. 14 of us hung out for one afternoon and kicked off a great fall and winter of exploring Taiwan.

Find out more about Fenghuang Waterfall

11. Shiwang (Lion King) Waterfall had been on Asher’s (followxiaofei.com) to do list for a long time but I never had any really good information or photos of the place. The area is really, really steep and I had thought it might be inaccessible by normal hikers. Asher’s persistance paid off on a tip from some elderly Taiwanese hikers and we found the trail down to the waterfall. I plan on going back this spring using the river from Sandimen because I didn’t like this hike at all. It descends about 300 meters in only 1 km on broken slate. The other route might be longer but likely more enjoyable.

Find out more about Shiwang Waterfall

12. Rainy weekends and later on typhoons affected Taiwan all summer and we took very few trips. I had looked forward to the 4 day Moon Festival holiday weekend for weeks and was devastated when a typhoon was going to ruin our plans. In less than 24 hours I booked a plane ticket and landed in East Java to explore waterfalls. My favorite waterfall was obvious (the next one) but many of them could have been on this list. I had done a lot of research on this area but I missed Watu Ondo Waterfall and only found this one because I was looking for others.

Find out more about Watu Ondo Waterfall

13. I really enjoyed my East Java trip in September but Madakaripura Waterfall absolutely blew me away. It falls 200 meters into a hollow green tube. This is without question my favorite waterfall that I have ever been to.

Find out more about Madakaripura Waterfall

14. Almost immediately after returning from Indonesia I flew to the Philippines for the TBEX (Travel Blogger Exchange). That event was outstanding and it was the perfect excuse to explore southern Cebu and Kawasan Falls.  Kawasan Falls is famous internationally for its amazing blue waters but the atmosphere suffers a little bit due it being built up with restaurants. My recommendation is to do the full day canyoneering trip down to Kawasan Falls.

Find out more about Kawasan Falls

15. Kawasan Falls might be the most famous waterfall in Cebu but Inambakan Falls was easily my favorite. The biggest reason is that there were very few people and it was nearly as beautiful as Kawasan. Southern Cebu unlike much of the Philippines is terrible for farming but it contains a lot of limestone and every one of its waterfalls had beautiful blue pools.

Find out more about Inambakan Falls

16. Yunsen Waterfall is a great waterfall on one of the nicest waterfall hikes in northern Taiwan. The trail is easy and passes through a beautiful forest. Stronger hikers can see up to 8 waterfalls if they do the longer version of the hike to Manyueyuan.

Find out more about Yunsen Waterfall

17. Aohua Waterfall is really, really far from Kaohsiung but I loved this less known waterfall on the east coast. I look forward to taking a trip back here sometime.

Find out more about Aohua Waterfall

Last year I chose to go a slightly different route with my blog. Previously I would write a waterfall guide entry and then combine everything that happened on a weekend into one post. The result was blogs that largely duplicated the guide entries that I had written and jumbled mess of what we did. Instead of doing that I wanted to do more comprehensive regional blogs like the one that I did for Maolin (Explore Taiwan – Maolin and Duona) in April. I also wanted to do some best of lists like the 10 Best Easy Waterfall Hikes and North Sumatra’s Waterfalls. There were also some places or events like Shimenggu or The Wang Ye Boat Burning that needed much larger blogs to do them justice. Along with a few other recurring blog themes (Local Spotlight and Great Bloggers) this was the plan for the year.

Something happened though. I traveled so much and so often that it was impossible to work and to keep up with the waterfall guide entries. I visited 40 NEW waterfalls in Taiwan and 35 waterfalls in Minnesota, the Philippines, East Java and North Sumatra in addition to dozens that I have gone back to because I wanted better photos, better information, better maps or simply because they are great waterfalls. If you do that math I went to almost 100 waterfalls in 2016. Blogging became an afterthought since it was nearly impossible to keep up with all of the basic information in the waterfall guide entries.

The logical solution would be to scale back the number of trips that I go on but I have actually increased the number of trips so far in 2017. Taiwan received a nearly devastating amount of rain from two typhoons and a couple of heavy storms this fall. That combined with the unusually warm temperatures this winter has resulted in perfect waterfall chasing conditions. Not only is the weather perfect for hiking but I have swam at almost a dozen waterfalls in December and January. Maybe it will slow down in February (unlikely with so many holidays). Perhaps March…

So this year I am going to try to make an effort to do a brief rundown of all the waterfalls and places that I have visited each month. We will see how long I can accomplish that.

December’s first trip was a 3 day weekend to Taipei/New Taipei. I stayed at this spaceship themed hostel which was very interesting and was also able to meet many Taipei Hikers (FB group) that I hadn’t seen for awhile for a potluck dinner one night. More importantly though I was able to add 5 new waterfalls to my guide that weekend.

Yunsen Waterfall has been on my to do list for a long time but I chose not to do the whole loop to Manyueyuan so I will be back sometime to do it again.

Xiufeng Waterfall was my favorite of the three waterfalls on Dajianshan.

Silong Waterfall was a nice short hike that was pretty easy to get to.

I have also been leading hikes with the Southern Taiwan Hiking Group. One of benefits of teaching English in Asia is that most classes don’t start until the afternoon or even the evening. I lead 2-3 Tuesday hikes every month to places in Kaohsiung or Pingtung and have made really good progress on my local area to do list.

The Liangshan Waterfall trip was actually at the end of November but close enough. This was my 3rd trip to Liangshan and I finally got the perfect photo. No, I don’t know who that woman is. She showed up and posed for 3 minutes and then left.

Swan Lake is a rarely visited but once very popular recreation area. It isn’t easy to get to either Swan Lake Waterfall or Lover’s Lake Waterfall but it is awesome to be there with only your friends.

One of the bigger trips that I led in December was a Miaoli Research Trip. I had only been to one of the waterfalls before and I wanted a smaller group that could handle poor trail conditions. We visited the Luchang and the Taian Hot Springs areas and made it to 4 out of 5 of the waterfalls that I wanted to visit.

Kuhuatan Waterfall was a difficult to find but perfect swimming hole that our group didn’t fully enjoy in December. It would be great to return here with warmer temperatures.

Shenxian Waterfall is a nice waterfall made very famous by the Seediq Bale movie. It lacks the fun aspect since they ‘discourage’ people from going down to the waterfall. My favorite part was the hike from Shimen Bridge to Shenxian Waterfall. Of course, they strongly discourage this with ‘DANGER’ signs. This waterfall can officially be known as the No Fun Waterfall.

Shuiyun Waterfall was the highlight for the weekend. The waterfall drops into a beautiful side canyon full of interesting rock strata. Josh has always been in the right place at the right time for my photos. I only wish that his wardrobe didn’t consist of shades of gray. I also wish that he hadn’t moved back to the states. He has been an excellent waterfall adventuring companion for the last year.

The final trip of the year was a Christmas Day hike to Maolin and Duona. Guifu Canyon is one of my favorite places but this trip is one that I will think about for a long time. Three people in our group got caught in an eddy and couldn’t swim out. Everything happened so quickly but luckily we were able to get them out.

At least Lesley knows how to wear bright colors for photos.