The Maolin Valley Waterfall (茂林谷瀑布 [Màolíngǔ Pùbù]) was kind of our waterfalling excuse to do a trail that felt like a bit of an Indiana Jones-like adventure even though we were on a well-established trail in a scenic reserve - the Maolin National Scenic Area (茂林國家風景區 [Màolín Guójiā Fēng Jǐng Qū]). The excursion involved going over a pair of suspension bridges perched high above a gorge, a semicircular arched bridge that reminded me of some of the ones we noticed in Japan, and mountain-hugging trails surrounded by lush mountain scenery that really made us feel as if we really were part of some kind of jungle adventure. As for the waterfall itself, it was probably a modest 20-25m or so, which was contrary to the signage claiming this was 100m tall. Unless there were unseen tiers above the main drop that we saw, maybe they got the units wrong as it was more like 100ft? Anyways, given the amount of work it took to get all the way to the falls, it was understandably more of a swimming hole than a photo op. That said, there were also opportunities closer to the trailhead to cool off as well.
Our hike began from a car park area towards the end of a narrow single-lane road. The trail that we followed (called the Luomusi Trail or (羅木斯登山步道 [Luómùsī Dēngshān Bùdào]) definitely felt like it was newly renovated, which corroborated the signage saying that this trail had been closed for 5 years since the destruction by Typhoon Morakot in 2009 then 27 million Taiwanese Dollars were spent to fix it back up. Indeed, the trail climbed up some steps as it passed the newly renovated entrance pavilion before following along one side of the gorge flanked by tall bamboo stalks. Much of the trail involved wooden steps to handle the steeper climbs and descents with railings erected to help the unsure against the dropoffs on the other side of them.
After about 600m we reached the first suspension bridge, where there was a lookout showing us the context of the high bridge and the gorge below. Apparently, the material used at this (and the other bridge) were said to be lighter given the difficulty of hauling the material up here. On the other side of the bridge, the trail resumed its climb. After another 250m of hiking, the trail then reached the second suspension bridge, which was longer and more dramatic than the first. While traversing this suspension bridge, we noticed that there were some people who were river tracing (with the proper canyoneering gear) down in the river bed, which looked challenging but fun. Anyways, after another 250m of hiking, we then crossed over a small semi-circular arched bridge before the trail climbed some more.
Eventually, the trail terminated in another 350m or so, where there was a lookout shelter peering right down at the tall and slender Maolin Valley Waterfall. While the view up here yielded as much of the falls that we could see, there was a bit of queue for people making the steep scramble down from this vantage point to the plunge pool and base of the falls. Mom stayed up at the lookout so I went down and joined the crowd, where the final part of the descent was definitely slippery and tricky. I needed the aid of one of the guys who knew which way to go in order to make it down the last steep part without taking a spill. And once at the bottom, the air felt immediately cooler as the waterfall seemed to have generated its own micro-climate to offset the heat and humidity. Plus, the atmosphere down here felt more festive as many people were in the water swimming and beating the tropical heat.
After climbing back out from the base of the falls, Mom and I returned the way we came. In total, we spent about a little over 90 minutes away from the car, and according to my logs, we had hiked around 3km round trip.
The Maolin Valley Waterfall was part of the Maolin National Scenic Area (茂林國家風景區 [Màolín Guójiā Fēng Jǐng Qū]), which was directly east of both the cities of Tainan (台南 or 臺南 [Táinán]) and Kaohsiung (高雄 [Gāoxióng]).
So I'll describe what I think would be the quickest route to get to the Maolin Visitor Center first from Kaohsiung, and then I will describe how we would do a similar drive from Tainan. Once we get past the Maolin Visitor Center, the driving routes would be common to both starting places.
So from Kaohsiung, we took the Tai-10 Expressway east from the Lotus Pond towards its end, which would deposit us onto the Qibing Road 1 (旗屏一路 [Qíbǐng Yílù]). After going about 1.5km, we would then turn right onto the Route 28 and follow this road for just under 20km before turning right to go south on the Route 27/185. We then followed this route for a little over 1.2km towards the Maolin Visitor Center before leaving the Route 27 and turning left to go east onto the road leading to the Maolin National Scenic Area (there would be signs at this point indicating the way to the reserve).
We'd continue east along this road keeping left at just under 2km (passing over the Laonong River (荖濃溪 [Lǎo Nóng Xī]; "Old Farm River") to go into the Maolin Village. Then, we'd continue driving 500m through the Maolin Village before continuing another 1.2km towards a turnoff on the right almost across the highway from some fire station. Then, we followed the narrow winding road down towards the Laonong River before emerging at the other end of the bridge where we then followed a narrow (nearly single-lane) road eventually arriving at the trailhead parking for the Maolin Valley right at a steep hairpin turn. There was paid parking here, but we also noticed that there were road shoulders where people had parked to avoid paying the parking fee. In any case, this drive took us nearly 2 hours.
Coming from Tainan, we would go east towards the National Route 1 Expressway heading south before taking the Tai-86 Expressway. Then, we'd head east on the 86 towards the National Route 3 Expressway heading to the southeast for about 26km to the National Route 10 heading north. We then would take this expressway to its end, eventually getting onto Qibing Road 1, and then following the Route 28 to the Route 27 towards the Maolin Visitor Center (same as the directions from Kaohsiung). Then, once we'd turn left to leave the 27 and into the Maolin National Scenic Reserve, we'd then continue following the same directions as above to get to the Maolin Valley Waterfall. This drive would also take around 2 hours or so depending on traffic.
As for some geographical context, the Maolin Visitor Center was about 62km northeast of Kaohsiung (a little over an hour drive) and 81km east of Tainan (under 90 minutes drive). From a more macro scale, Tainan was 318km southwest of Taipei (under 3.5 hours by both car or train).
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