If you happen to be in the greater Taipei area, whether you are a resident or a backpacker, and like hiking or simply going outdoors, Sandiaoling Waterfall Trail is definitely one trail you don’t want to miss.
The trail featuring three beautiful waterfalls has been hailed as “one of the best waterfall hikes in Taiwan” by many outdoor enthusiasts. So pack enough water, provisions and a set of clothes and hit the trail.
The shady trail is located above the Keelung River in the lush forest of Pingxi Valley, one of the rainiest places in Taiwan, on the border between Ruifang and Pingxi districts, in New Taipei City.
There are several entrances to the trail, but hiking from Sandiaoling Train Station is most recommended.
There are two options for going to Sandiaoling. The most common and easiest option is to take a local train from Taipei to Suao (Yilan County) and get off at Sandiaoling, which takes about one hour. The other option is to take the train to Ruifang, then transfer to the Pingxi Rail Line, and get off at Sandiaoling.
Once at the Sandiaoling station, follow the only pedestrian pathway that takes visitors through a short underground tunnel that allows them to cut through the railway tracks to the other side and head to a small village and a bridge on the single-track Pingxi line about 350 - 400 meters from the train station.
As hikers come near the village and before the bridge, they should notice a path on the right that crosses the railway and goes up through a small community with an abandoned elementary school and a few houses at the bottom of a hill. There are signposts with a map and an introduction that mark the start of the trail. Turn right up to the small path and take the stairs, passing the elementary school.
As Sandiaoling Waterfall Trail is a popular trail, it is well marked with signposts. The trail is simple and clear to follow, at least as far as the third fall (about one and a half hours away).
After about 20 minutes of hiking, the first waterfall comes into view. It is called Hegu Waterfall, but you can’t get close to it. However, the view from the lookout point on one side of the trail is spectacular.
From here the trail crosses two rope bridges and follows a stream up to the next fall, which makes the hiking more fascinating. The Motian Waterfall cascades from the top of a semicircular and cavernous cliff and smashes onto rocks at the bottom. There is a crevice on the cliff that allows hikers to get close to behind the waterfall.
From here the trail gets rougher as it goes along steeper slopes before finally coming to the last fall, the Papi Waterfall, which bears a strong resemblance to the Motian Waterfall and is actually just above it.
Rain makes a big difference to the size of the waterfalls along the trail. After downpours, they are powerful with plentiful water coming down from the cliffs.
After reaching the third falls, hikers have to decide either to turn back or continue on to reach Dahua Station or even further to Houtong Station in the other direction. Continuing on to Houtong is another stunning hike that goes along a couple of streams, with a stretch of the trail following a stream bed. It will take about another two hours to reach Houtong.
If hikers decide to do so, be advised to pay extra attention to find the right path when they reach a small temple with a pavilion nearby shortly after passing the third waterfall. Be sure to take the trail on the right side of the temple for going to Houtong, which can be easily missed at this juncture, instead of going straight, which quickly take hikers out of the mountains onto a parking lot.
However, for those who are not familiar with the hiking trails in this area, the safest bet is going back where you came from.