chaiyi

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It isn't easy to reach Shimenggu (Taiwan) but you will be rewarded with a waterfall, giant cypress trees, a 500+ meter deep valley, a mossy forest, little pools in the creek and a great trail.

Shimenggu (Stone Dream Valley) is located in one of the most remote parts of Chaiyi County in Taiwan.  Shimenggu itself is a series of strange pools but the hiking trail is absolutely amazing with several different amazing sights.  At the beginning of the trail there is a suspension bridge that links to an alternate entrance to Shuiyang Lake (blog) (and another Shuiyang blog) and some stands of enormous bamboo while walking up a valley of 500+ meter walls.  After a hard ascent (300 meters in 1+km) you reach the perfect mountain garden.  This garden used to be the home to a nice elderly couple that we met in 2013 and they operated a part time B&B.  Since then they have moved away but their garden is still perfect.

The trail is nice before the garden but the best places are the furthest away.  I had hiked part of the trail 3 years earlier with Richard Saunders (Richard’s blog from that trip) but I stopped at the garden to rest because I had a 5 hour motorcycle ride home that day.  Richard and several other hikers came back gushing with how great it was.  It took me 3 years to return but I finally found out how great the rest of the trail is.

Directions to Shimenggu and Qingrengu can be found on my waterfall guide

Near the end of the trail is a loop that we hiked the loop clockwise.  The waterfall was much larger than expected and is one of my favorites in Taiwan.  Just above the waterfall are some great pools for summer swimming.  The hike becomes very steep after this going past a grove of ancient trees that remind me of Jianxibao.  Sadly most of the trees have been illegally logged.  Immediately afterward it changes to a damp forest with green moss hanging from the trees like it was part of the Lord of the Ring set.  Finally we arrived at Shimenggu.  Shimenggu is a series of bizarre pools in a stream that runs down a large piece of rock.  The hike is difficult but not impossible and it will take most of the day.

It isn't easy to reach Shimenggu but you will be rewarded with a waterfall, giant cypress trees, a 500+ meter valley, a mossy forest, little pools in the creek and a great trail.

Looking up the main valley from the suspension bridge.  The suspension bridge leads to an alternate route to Shuiyang Lake.  We have looked a couple of times and the route to Dadianyu Waterfall seems to be blocked by a giant boulder.  According to some hikers it takes 4 hours to reach 1000 person cave and an additional 2 hours to reach Shuiyang Lake.  The trail was in much better shape on my 2016 trip though.  In 2013 we couldn’t find anything that looked like a trail but now it seems to be in decent shape although it is a very steep climb out of the valley.

The cables across the valley are for a small cable car that was used by the family to transport their personal items up the mountain.  The path shown leads to the small waterfall.  Instead the trail climbs 500 meters in 2 kms to the top of the cables.

It isn't easy to reach Shimenggu (Taiwan) but you will be rewarded with a waterfall, giant cypress trees, a 500+ meter deep valley, a mossy forest, little pools in the creek, a bamboo forest and a great trail.

Huge bamboo flanks parts of the first half of the trail.

It isn't easy to reach Shimenggu (Taiwan) but you will be rewarded with a waterfall, giant cypress trees, a 500+ meter deep valley, a mossy forest, little pools in the creek, a bamboo forest and a great trail.

There is a fair amount of stinging nettles at the beginning of the trail and much more of it on the other side of the suspension bridge (a side trip and not the way to Shimenggu).  It isn’t serious if you touch it but it is VERY annoying.

It isn't easy to reach Shimenggu (Taiwan) but you will be rewarded with a waterfall, giant cypress trees, a 500+ meter deep valley, a mossy forest, little pools in the creek, a bamboo forest and a great trail.

The flower garden that was part of a beautiful home and part time B&B.  We met the owners 3 years ago but they have since moved away (likely into the village).  The garden is stunningly beautiful and you walk through a tunnel of rhododendrons, cherry blossoms and other flowers.

It isn't easy to reach Shimenggu (Taiwan) but you will be rewarded with a waterfall, giant cypress trees, a 500+ meter deep valley, a mossy forest, little pools in the creek, a bamboo forest and a great trail.

This rather bizarre rock is right next to the trail.  I have no idea what caused this.

It isn't easy to reach Shimenggu (Taiwan) but you will be rewarded with a waterfall, giant cypress trees, a 500+ meter deep valley, a mossy forest, little pools in the creek, a bamboo forest and a great trail.

Qingrengu was just the first spectacular sight of many near the end of the hike.  The cave behind it is accessible and actually had an old stone wall built in it.  This one will definitely be on my favorite waterfall list whenever I publish it.

Directions to Shimenggu and Qingrengu can be found on my waterfall guide

It isn't easy to reach Shimenggu (Taiwan) but you will be rewarded with a waterfall, giant cypress trees, a 500+ meter deep valley, a mossy forest, little pools in the creek, a bamboo forest and a great trail.

Directly above Qingrengu Waterfall are some perfect pools that would be awesome to swim in during the summer.  It is at 1500 meters of elevation so it might not be warm enough to swim even in early spring or late fall.

It isn't easy to reach Shimenggu (Taiwan) but you will be rewarded with a waterfall, giant cypress trees, a 500+ meter deep valley, a mossy forest, little pools in the creek, a bamboo forest and a great trail.

Asher (followxiaofei.com) stands directly on top of Qingrengu Waterfall.

It isn't easy to reach Shimenggu (Taiwan) but you will be rewarded with a waterfall, giant cypress trees, a 500+ meter deep valley, a mossy forest, little pools in the creek, a bamboo forest and a great trail.

The trail goes vertical again climbing 200 meters in the next kilometer.  This giant cypress tree is right next to the trail and is sadly one of the last ones in this area.  There is access to an impressive valley here that I will explore next time.  It looked like there was a nice waterfall and some vertical cliff walls.

It isn't easy to reach Shimenggu (Taiwan) but you will be rewarded with a waterfall, giant cypress trees, a 500+ meter deep valley, a mossy forest, little pools in the creek, a bamboo forest and a great trail.

Illegal logging has taken its toll on the giant cypress trees.  There were several recently logged trees and we only saw one giant cypress and several other much smaller ones.  I cannot imagine how difficult it would be to carry the entire tree (chopped up) out by hand.  And they would probably have to work at night.  This is a fairly difficult hike with a daypack.

It isn't easy to reach Shimenggu (Taiwan) but you will be rewarded with a waterfall, giant cypress trees, a 500+ meter deep valley, a mossy forest, little pools in the creek, a bamboo forest and a great trail.

At the highest elevations the trail becomes a lush green paradise.

It isn't easy to reach Shimenggu (Taiwan) but you will be rewarded with a waterfall, giant cypress trees, a 500+ meter deep valley, a mossy forest, little pools in the creek, a bamboo forest and a great trail.

One of the more creative parts of the trail.  I am guessing that this type of construction is no longer allowed to preserve the larger trees in this forest.

It isn't easy to reach Shimenggu (Taiwan) but you will be rewarded with a waterfall, giant cypress trees, a 500+ meter deep valley, a mossy forest, little pools in the creek, a bamboo forest and a great trail.

This part of the hike was probably my favorite.  It occurs at the highest elevation on the trail (about 1700 meters) and almost the absolute farthest point of the trail.  It is definitely worth it to hike the entire trail even though is over 800 meters of elevation gain to reach this spot.

Shimenggu is a series of bizarre pools where the rock has worn away in deep pools that go straight down.  This hole was well over 1 meter across and 2-3 meters deep.  I think these would be good places to swim during the summer.  We didn’t have time to walk upstream from the trail but there is potentially something really cool up there.

It isn't easy to reach Shimenggu (Taiwan) but you will be rewarded with a waterfall, giant cypress trees, a 500+ meter deep valley, a mossy forest, little pools in the creek, a bamboo forest and a great trail.

The whole trail is nice but the best part is the loop at the end of the trail.  The bridge near the trailhead provides access to 1000 person cave (marked in Chinese in the top right of the map). It must be an exhausting hike since there are A LOT OF contour lines that it crosses. Shuiyang Lake is 2 hours past the cave.

It isn't easy to reach Shimenggu (Taiwan) but you will be rewarded with a waterfall, giant cypress trees, a 500+ meter deep valley, a mossy forest, little pools in the creek, a bamboo forest and a great trail.

The isn’t quite as long as shown due to the off trail exploring across the bridge and the long breaks at the break area and the waterfall.  Overall the trail is about 10 km long.

It isn't easy to reach Shimenggu (Taiwan) but you will be rewarded with a waterfall, giant cypress trees, a 500+ meter deep valley, a mossy forest, little pools in the creek, a bamboo forest and a great trail.

I visited Tsengwen Reservoir for the third time last weekend.  The first trip was 3 years ago and the second trip was last year.  Despite most of the development (and all of the people) being on the south side of the reservoir (Tsengwen Recreation Area) all of the best sites except one are on the Caoshan River flowing into the reservoir from the north.  These places are incredible but the trails are gone and the only access is by walking in the river.  We have now visited Caoshan Stream, Chinglong Waterfall, Fushan Waterfall and Lianyun Waterfall.  There are still a few other places to visit and it is possible that I will be able to do one more trip before the end of the year.

My first stop was finally hiking back to Feiyun Waterfall.  Last year a friend and I looked for Feiyun Waterfall but we got turned around and had no idea where we actually were.  We picked one river valley and walked up it for 10-15 minutes and gave up.  I came back this year with better maps and walked up the same river valley for 45 minutes and found what we were looking for.  Part of the reason that it was so difficult to find was that the locals we asked both times had no idea that a waterfall even existed.  There used to be a road and/or trail that went to it but it has been destroyed for more than a decade.  Now it is a forgotten and rarely visited place.  And it is awesome.

Directions to Feiyun Waterfall

This map is from my waterfall guide.

Tsengwen Reservoir is Taiwan’s largest reservoir when I say the opposite ends of the reservoir I mean it.  To make things more difficult there are no roads that I know of that run the complete distance along the western edge of the reservoir.  It would make a lot more sense to visit these places on two different trips or at least two different days like I did.

I don’t actually have many photos from the weekend because the trip involved swimming and I stashed my camera in a drybag.  This is one of the best fossil rocks that tumble down the river during every big storm.  It is a fair amount larger than a microwave.

The following are the steps required to get to this idyllic swimming hole.

a)  walk down a slippery, rarely used trail to the river.

b)  walk upstream on some rocks (easy)

c)  swim across a small river

d) climb up an angled wall of a dam that was originally setup as a fish ladder

e) crawl through a tunnel of the fish ladder to access the other side of the dam

It really wasn’t that hard but there were a bizarre series of obstacles that are rarely encountered.  Not surprisingly nobody comes here anymore and we had the place to ourselves.

Directions to here on my waterfall guide

A photo of myself (from Richard Saunders)

Jin slid down the slide.

Lianyun Waterfall was my final destination for the afternoon.  The rest of the group crawled around on the rocks and was able to continue upstream to more waterfalls and a tight gorge.  I spent the afternoon napping, stretching and finding the perfect location for a photo.  It feels really good to relax for a couple of hours at a place like this.

Directions to Lianyun Waterfall

We have been incredibly fortunate this year to have multiple 3 day holiday weekends.  This doesn’t happen every year since some holidays are based on lunar cycles and others are date specific.   The challenge every 3 day weekend is finding awesome places to go that aren’t completely overrun by others also taking advantage of the 3 day holiday weekends.  This weekend we chose Tsengwen Reservoir in Tainan/Chaiyi county and were able to avoid most of the weekend crowd.  Tsengwen Reservoir is Taiwan’s largest reservoir but we were focused on the 15-20 waterfalls that show up on maps surrounding the reservoir.  We haven’t found all of them yet but we found 5 last weekend.

Tsengwen Reservoir on a hazy day from the spaceship looking observation deck

Two years ago this observation deck had been built but looked abandoned.  Since then they have built up the tacky touristy attractions in the recreation area and there is now a cafe in the observation deck.

Our target the 1st day was Feiyun Waterfall on the west side of the reservoir.  We explored several roads but we only had a general idea of where it was and where we were and we couldn’t find it.  Obviously I didn’t take this photo of myself.  Asher Leiss took it as I rode up a mountain in a fruitless search.

We did find Shuiliandong Waterfall just off of the road near Tsengwen Dam.  I was quite surprised to find this perfect grotto for swimming and it is still a little hot here so we went swimming.

Directions to Shuiliandong Waterfall (click here).

One great thing they have done with Tsengwen Reservoir Recreation Area is setup a large and free (with paid entry 100/50NT) camping area near the south entrance.

Landslides are a constant issues on mountain roads and the workers are reinforcing the hillside with concrete to prevent road closures.

We observed a target from across the valley and concocted a plan on how to get there.  We weren’t able to go here this time but we found this stream with several waterfalls above it.

Asher is scouting a potential trail to our waterfall target.

After a 2km roadwalk uphill through a betelnut farm the road became an overgrown trail.  We weren’t going to turn around at point.

First we heard the water and then we were rewarded with an amazing swimming hole and waterfall.

Directions to Caoshan Stream Waterfalls (click here).

There are numerous waterfalls upstream and downstream but climbing equipment is needed.

Rolling hills on the walk back to our motorcycles.

We quickly stopped at Chingyun Waterfall on our way to our campsite.  Chingyun is a very popular swimming hole near Dapu.

Directions to Chingyun Waterfall click here.

Our campsite is the island in the foreground right on Tsengwen Reservoir.

A morning guest at our campsite.

There were also 10-20 powered paragliders flying over the reservoir.

Just by chance Ken Nelson (Asher’s friend) was flying that day and took a photo of our campsite.  We are on the little island in middle right of the photo.  We are still there but we look pretty small from way up there.

We talked to Ken Nelson for awhile and I took this video of another paraglider taking off.

This was the start to our hike on our third day.  On the other side of these seven sturdy pieces of bamboo is a water lover’s playground.  It’s not for those scared of heights though.

There is no way to access the area without going over the bridge.

There are many interesting pockmarks caused by water erosion.

And there is of course Chinglong Waterfall (Green Dragon).  Twice this weekend we had an idea of where to go looking for waterfalls but we were very surprised to actually find such amazing places.  We aren’t so lucky other weekends.

Directions to Chinglong Waterfall (click here).

We visited one last roadside waterfall on our way back to Kaohsiung.

Directions to this waterfall are available in my waterfall guide (click here).

Xiaobantian is located near the popular tourist areas of Shanlinshi and Xitou but it’s not overrun by tourists luckily.  Of course the only reason that I went there was for a couple of waterfalls that I found on a map.  Usually mountain roads like this are pretty rough but these were in excellent shape and I could have spent an entire day or two driving around these roads as wound through small hillside teafields and bamboo forests while occasionally offering a scenic view of the valley below.  Unfortunately one waterfall was inaccessible due to yet another landslide but it didn’t really matter.

 

Xiaobantian waterfall is located upstream around the corner.  The trail down to the creek is still hikeable although it’s not used very much anymore.

 

This is the best view of Xiaobantian waterfall due to a landslide wiping out the trail.  It looked pretty impressive but you aren’t quite able to get a good view of it.

 

I could have spent hours driving around this area.  This particular tea field was my favorite with the cedars in front of the bamboo forest.

 

I wasn’t quite able to get what I wanted so here’s a B&W version but I think I’ll have to go back sometime and spend more time here.

One waterfall might have been inaccessible but Desing waterfall was popular with local fisherman.

 

One of the fisherman with an impressive fishing pole.

 

Located near Xiaobantian was Shuixiao Waterfall.  This trail was only built 5 years ago but it is also damaged by a typhoon although it’s easy to hike around the damage.

 

A rare photo of me at Shuixiao waterfall.