Ruifang District, New Taipei City
This trail follows a stream upriver from Sandiaoling past three increasingly rugged waterfalls. After the waterfalls trail you have the option of either hiking to Shifen or Houtong.
Map of the Hike
UPDATE on the trail
For anyone who hasn’t been here lately, there have been some changes made to the trail. What was once a hikers-only trail has now become a family-friendly trail. Rougher sections have been smoothed out, some steps have been added in a few places, and the long wooden ladder has been replaced with a metal staircase. As a result entire families with little kids and the dog now make the hike all the way up to the third waterfall. What was once a peaceful spot has now become crowded on weekends. Expect there to be a lot of traffic on the trail going in both directions. As the trail becomes more popular, expect this situation to become even worse.
Most the people who make hike only go to the waterfalls then return back to Sandiaoling Station the same way. A few people venture further, but these trails mostly remain hikers-only.
New signs have been added on the trail to Houtong making the route easier to follow, but other than that no changes have been made.
There are still no signs pointing the way to Yeren and Shifen.
The increased popularity of the trail means that are now a couple of places to eat in the town across the bridge from the trailhead, though don’t expect any English menus. You can also buy water and snacks before starting the hike.
Access: take the train to Sandiaoling Station (two stations after Ruifeng). Only local trains stop here.
Length: to Shifen: 12km 4hours; to Houtong 10.5km, 4 hours
Difficulty Level: 2/5
The Hike: the trail is split into three sections: Sandiaoling Waterfalls Trail, Shifen Trail, Houtong Trail
Sandiaoling Waterfalls Trail
Trail Conditions: mostly flat dirt trail
The hike starts from Sandiaoling station, which is a very strange train station stuck on the side of the gorge with nothing else around it and no road access.
Once you get off the train walk along the tracks to Sandiaoling village, another old mining town.
When the tracks split, follow the walkway under the tracks and walk along the right fork of the tracks.
Sandiaoling village is nice and worth a quick look around, but there is nothing to buy or eat there either. There is a mine entrance at the end of the village, and a few shops were starting to open up here on my last visit in May of 2015 as more people begin to explore the area.
The trail starts in front if the elementary school just before the tracks cross the river and is clearly marked.
From the start of the trail stone steps will climb up the valley along the river. These will soon give way to a dirt trail. From here it is an easy level hike to the first waterfall (Hegu Waterfall). Ignore a trail junction along the way and keep going straight. You can only see Hegu Waterfall from a distance on a viewing platform.
From here the hike continues on to the second waterfall crossing the streams on a couple of rope bridges along the way.
The trail follows a small stream up the valley and makes for a wonderful hike. It gets increasingly rugged as you head up the valley, but still fairly level and easy to hike.
The second waterfall (Motian Waterfall) is in a fantastic setting plunging over a bowl shaped cliff. There is a viewing platform here as well, but it is located right in front of the falls. The third waterfall is directly above here. To reach it follow the trail climbing away from Motain Waterfall and up a metal staircase (the wooden ladder which used to be here has been removed).
At the top you’ll come to the spectacular Pipadong Waterfall. Also plunging over a bowl shaped cliff, these falls are in a completely natural setting. No viewing platforms here! There is a knee-deep pool at the base of the falls that is full of small fish. You can also get right to the edge of Motain Waterfall. The flow of water over these falls highly depends on the amount of rainfall that the area has been getting. In full flow, the falls are truly amazing.
Pipadong Waterfall used to be a peaceful spot on weekends as the long wooden ladder kept many people away. As a result of the trail modifications, however, there are now a lot of people hanging around here on weekends.
It is a steep but short climb to get out of the valley from here. The rope climb up away from the falls has been replaced with stone steps, but the small wooden ladder for the final climb to the top is still there (for now). At the top of the ladder you’ll come to a paved trail.
From here you have two options as the where to finish your hike, you can either hike to Shifen or Houtong. Unless you’re really keen on getting to Shifen, the hike to Houtong is the much better option.
Trail Conditions: mostly narrow dirt trail with some wooden steps (the trail is often muddy in places even when it hasn’t rained in a while, also whenever I’ve done this trail someone always gets a leech, so check yourself after finishing the hike)
From the trail junction it is about a 2-hour hike to Houtong. The trail goes through thick forest cover following several streams and climbing over some small hills. It is a fantastic and beautiful hike.
At the trail junction turn right signposted for Fuxing Temple. The trail will cross the river above Pipadong Waterfall then follow another stream to the temple a few hundred meters ahead.
Turn right at the temple signposted to Houtong. From here the trail is well signposted all the way with signs pointing the way to Houtong wherever there are trail junctions or where the route may not be clear. So just keep following the signs.
From the temple the trail follows a small stream into the thick and lush forest.
The trail then leaves the stream, passes another small Land God shrine, then descends to cross another stream. There is no bridge here but you should be able to cross without getting your feet wet, unless your feet slip off the stepping stones.
After the crossing the trail follows this stream for a while before leaving it and cutting across to another stream. Turn left here and the trail traces up this stream for a short distance.
Stone steps on the right side of the stream then climb away from it leading up to a small peak with benches on the top.
From the peak the trail climbs down then back up over another small peak, also with benches on it. From the peak, wooden steps lead downward to another stream.
The trail follows this stream for a while crossing it multiple times over bridges.
After the following the stream the trail climbs away from it passing another rest area with more benches. From the rest area wooden steps climb up to a trail junction at the top. From the junction the trail passes through its roughest sections making its way down towards the Keelung River. The trail crosses over a small valley on a long wooden bridge after the rough descent.
After the bridge your getting close to civilization again. The trail passes an abandoned garden and then reaches a rough, now very overgrown road. Turn left here, signposted for Houtong.
After the turn the trail/road passes an abandoned house (there are several abandoned houses around here). For some strange reason there are a lot of smashed and broken tiles on the road. The road swtichbacks its way down the the Keelung River. The trail mostly uses the road but cuts between the switchbacks in a couple of places.
After reaching the Keelung River there are a few sights to see along the road to Houting. The old miners’ quarters are located where the trail ends next to the tracks. Further on the road passes the Coal Mine Museum. Across the tracks from the museum is the main entrance to the coal mine. After the museum the road cuts through a tiny village before reaching Houtong.
Trail Conditions: paved trails and slippery stone steps, roads, walking along the tracks
Turn left at the top of ladder, signposted for Yeren Valley. The trail to Shifen is not shown on the hiking map at the trail junction. From here there are no more signs marking the rest of the way. After a short distance this trail will bring you to a road. Walk along the road and look out on left for where the trail branches off again.
This mostly paved trail will cross the road again, then slowly descend and eventually end at a village. When the trail ends a road follow it into the village up ahead.
When you get to the village turn left, cross the stream over the bridge, and turn left again. There is a rest pavilion and public washrooms next to the bridge.
After leaving the village the road leads you to the entrance gate for Yeren Valley (Savage or Barbarian Valley). The park is named after the headhunter tribes that used to live in the valley until surprisingly receantly. Next to the gate are some steps leading down. Follow these to a small temple at the end where you can view another waterfall (Xinliao Waterfall). This is the only one of Yeren’s watefalls which can still be seen. However, the falls are still rather far away and the view is partially blocked by vegetation.
Pass under Yeren’s entrance get and walk across the large empty parking lot to the ticket booth ahead. Yeren used to be a large park with trails and gardens leading to multiple waterfalls, but it was wiped out in a typhoon years ago. Check out the large mural above the ticket booth to see what the area used to look like.
To the right of the ticket booth is a trail that will lead you to the Keelung River and the Pingxi Line. The trail climbs briefly at first then descends down to the Keelung River. The trail is made entirely of black stone steps which are very slippery. You’ll need to go slowly along here. It is best to go down the steps sideways on the worst sections.
At the bottom, the trail crosses over the river on a large bridge, then more steps climb up to the tracks above.
When you get to the tracks you can either turn left and walk to Dahua Station a short distance ahead (there is nothing at this station). You can also turn right walk along the tracks in the other direction to Shifen. You are not actually supposed to walk along here and just before reaching Shifen Waterfall there is a tunnel and sign saying no entry. However, they also haven’t bothered to construct an alternative giving the many people that hike this way no choice but to go through the tunnel. It is not very long and the train sounds warnings well in advance of the tunnel.
After the tunnel the tracks pass the old entrance gate to Shifen Waterfall. Keep following the tracks to the bridge ahead. Coming from this way you’ll have to climb over the railing at the suspension bridge that provides access to the waterfall.
Shefen Waterall is the widest falls in Tawian. Admission to the falls is no longer charged, which means that it is now very crowded on weekends.
The falls are located about 1.5km from Shifen Old Street and the train station. Shifen Old Street is a great to place to have some coffee and snacks after the hike before heading back.