The weather in northern Taiwan is notoriously bad in the winter and this year has been no exception. So f you’re going to hike in the rain, there won’t be much scenery to look, unless of course you visit a waterfall and the Sandiaoling Trail 三貂嶺 has waterfalls in abundance.
When I woke up on Sunday the weather in Taipei wasn’t too bad, just a slight drizzle and so I had high hopes for our hike. However, the further east we got, the heavier the rain became and when we finally arrived at the tiny station of Sandiaoling, it was pretty much a persistent downpour. Still, everyone was in high spirits as we headed along the tracks and got onto the very muddy trail.
You can’t get that close to the first waterfall, but the view of the Hegu Falls 合谷瀑布 from the trail is spectacular. From here the trails cross several new rope bridges and follows a stream up to the next fall.
My favourite of the waterfalls in this area, the Motian Waterfall 模天瀑布 cascades over a cliff with a cave behind it and smashes into rocks at the bottom. After all the rain we’ve been having recently the fall was just amazing as was crawling through the cave to get behind it.
From here the trail gets rougher with a few fixed ropes, some very slippery slopes and a wooden ladder of sorts before finally coming to the last fall, the Papi Waterfall 杷枇瀑布. It too has a cave behind it but you can’t climb into it.
It’s a short scramble up to a concrete track above the waterfall. We turned left here and followed the track, criss-crossing a road a few times before finally get to the small village of Xinliao 新寮. Just before the village we spotted a group of Formosan Magpies in a field but by this point my camera and I were much too wet to get a shot of them.
At Xinliao we made another left and followed the road to Yeren Valley 野人谷, which looks very much closed and dilapidated. We took the stairs to the right of the building and climbed up and then down to the red bridge which finally leads to the train tracks on the other side. The stairs are lethally slippery and almost everyone fell on the way down. (I didn’t!)
At the tracks you can go left to get to Dahua 大華 and right to Shifen 十分. We turned right and shortly arrived at the Shifen Waterfall. It’s $80 to get in to see the falls, but we’d seen enough water and waterfalls and instead made our way to the town of Shifen to catch the train back to Taipei.
Trains – You can get a train from Taipei directly to Sandiaoling, but the trains are not very frequent and so it’s best to check the timetable first. Make sure you select “all types” under train types or you won’t get any results.
Coming back you need to take the Pingxi Branch Line to Ruifang and then change to get back to Taipei. Again the trains can be quite infrequent and it’s a good idea to print out the timetable in advance.
Technically it’s illegal to walk on the tracks but everyone does it. Take care, keep an eye out for trains and keep the timetable handy so you know when it’s safe to enter the tunnels.
In the winter when it rains, you don’t get that much water and so it’s OK. However I would avoid coming here in the summer on a rainy day.