The Wufengchi Waterfall (五峰旗瀑布 [Wǔfēngqí Pùbù]; probably more accurately spelled "Wufengqi Waterfall" possibly meaning "Five Peak Flags"?) was a very well-known waterfall near the Jiaoxi Hot Springs. This was one waterfall that my Mom had visited before I went with her to Taiwan in 2016, and it seemed like most people living in Taiwan had either been here or had heard about this place. The falls was really a series of three pretty significant waterfalls where each waterfall seemed to get bigger and bigger the higher up the trail we went. The picture you see at the top of this page was the so-called first waterfall even though it was the third and uppermost one that we saw. Anyways, I guess when you couple waterfalls like these with a well-known hot springs resort area, then it made sense why this place was so famous. Further adding to its popularity was the newly constructed 12km tunnel that cut right through the mountains separating Taipei from Yilan thereby making it even easier to come here from the big city. Indeed, the large car park along with tourist infrastructure in the immediate area by the trailhead of the falls definitely seemed to reinforce this notion that this was a bonafide tourist spot for both locals and international visitors alike.
We started our hike from a very large and well-signed car park (see directions below). From there, we pretty much walked along a paved road skirting by some buildings that I wasn't sure if they were businesses or part of some hotel (we came here early in the morning so nothing was open at the time). Once we got to the end of the road, the surface changed and became more of a walkway. There was an interesting rock protruding in the middle of this walkway where it appeared that they had built around it. Then, we walked slightly uphill alongside a dam. Although the signs discouraged people from getting into the Dezikou Stream (得子口溪 [Dézǐkǒu Xī]), we saw quite a few locals swimming or doing some kind of exercises or meditation in the stream bed. From this wide open area, we noticed an interesting white catholic church perched high on the mountainside before us, which was quite an unusual sight considering most religious structures in Taiwan were loudly ornate temples and shrines full of reds and golds as opposed to white.
After passing by the dam, we then followed the signs, which took us up some steps past a large restroom facility, and then right up to a small roadside market at the very end of the Five Peaks Road. From this point forward, the official trail began as it followed alongside a tributary of the Dezikou Stream. After barely 50m of walking, we crossed a bridge over the Dezikou Stream, and on the other side of the bridge was a trail junction, where going left led to the Catholic Church while keeping right continued on the waterfall trail. We kept right, where we saw a small waterfall in the stream that turned out to be the so-called #3 Wufengchi Waterfall even though it was the first waterfall that we saw. The trail then climbed up and past this falls, for the next 200m as it led past a junction towards a small pagoda-like shelter fronting the #2 Wufengchi Waterfall.
This second falls was much more impressive than the first, and I'd imagine that it was around 20-25m tall. The presence of giant boulders around the base of the falls was a reminder to us that rockfalls do happen in such steep terrain. Anyways, there was a well-maintained lookout deck allowing us to take in this falls before we would continue on our hike, which kept ascending up more steps and ramps back at that junction we had just passed. After another 100m or so of uphill walking on the pavement, we reached a fork in the trail. Although it was closed at the time, we were told by some locals that it was possible to continue with care so we did that. The path on the left was another trail that led up to the Catholic Church, which we didn't do.
So the waterfall trail continued going up a lot more steps and switchbacks. This was the most tiring part of the trail because it was still on the muggy side when we visited (despite the threatening clouds that was going to dump rain on us soon) and the climb was pretty relentless. After another 200m or so of going up this trail, we went past a shelter and got partial glimpses back down the valley while every so often catching a glimpse of the Catholic Church now at nearly eye level with us. The trail then skirted along a ledge with fencing and tin roofs to try to divert sliding earth and rocks over the trail. It was clear that this section of the trail was the reason why they closed it to the general public.
Finally, after another 150m or so of hiking along this ledge, the trail turned along the Dezikou Stream and ended at a very slippery lookout platform before the #1 Wufengchi Waterfall (or third waterfall that we saw). The lookout deck was slippery because there was a layer of algae growing from the spray of the falls making it feel like we were walking on ice so we definitely had to be very careful here. Anyways, this waterfall was definitely the most impressive of the three as it had around a 25-30m plunge. It looked like the trail used to continue beyond this point to get closer to the very base of this falls, but that, too, was closed. We weren't sure if there were even more waterfalls further up the stream from here, but Mom and I weren't going to push our luck so we headed back the way we came.
By the time we returned to the car, we had walked around 3.6km round trip taking around 90 minutes away from the car. Perhaps next time, we'll check out that Catholic Church and get a better understanding of its significance and why of all places it was here.
Ever since a 12km tunnel was built to link Taipei to Yilan directly, day trips from Taipei to Wufengchi Waterfall could be accomplished without needing to overnight nearby
Night markets are a part of Taiwan's culture, and Taipei certainly has no shortage of them. Shown here was the Ciyou Temple at the foot of Raohe Night Market
Before the 12km tunnel, Mom said you either took the twisty Tai-9 or take the scenic the coastal road past the UNESCO mining town of Jiufen (shown here) to Yilan
Nearby Jiufen was my Mom's home town of Keelung. It featured the Miaokou Night Market, which was said to have the best food of the night markets in Taiwan
Starting the walk from the large official car park for the Wufengqi Waterfall
The initial walk followed this road taht skirted some kind of facility or accommodation
This was towards the end of the road that we had walked from the car park, which seemed to go by what appeared to be some businesses
Now we were walking on a more conventional sidewalk-type surface
Approaching some dam along the way to the Wufengchi Trailhead
While by the dam, we noticed this white Catholic Church high up the mountain, which seemed out-of-place considering most religious structures in Taiwan were temples or shrines that were loudly ornate with reds and golds instead of plain white like this
Some local doing some kind of meditation or exercise below the dam
Now the signs directed us to take this walkway up to the Wufengchi Trailhead
Going up some steps to get back up to the end of the Wufeng Road
The big restroom facility near the market at the Wufengchi Trailhead
The roadside market at the very end of the Wufeng Road. It wasn't open when we showed up first thing in the morning
Now we were finally on the official Wufengchi Waterfall Waterfall Trail
It wasn't long before we reached a bridge yielding this view of one of the Wufengchi Waterfalls
Context of the so-called #3 Wufengchi Waterfall
As we went by the lowermost of the Wufengqi Waterfalls, we had to walk up some series of steps
We started to see the second Wufengchi Waterfall at this trail junction
Approaching the second Wufengchi Waterfall
Looking up at the second Wufengqi Waterfall from the lookout deck
Looking down over some giant boulders reminding us that the danger of rockfalls around waterfalls was something not to be taken lightly
Approaching the second Wufengchi Waterfall
The trail continued climbing beyond the second Wufengqi Falls
Technically, the trail to the uppermost Wufengchi Waterfall was closed, but we knew what we were getting ourselves into and took the risk
The trail continued climbing up to the #1 Wufengqi Waterfall
Mom walking up past a lookout shelter on the way up to the uppermost Wufengchi Waterfall
Looking back down the valley from the lookout shelter
Mom continuing to climb up the trail to the uppermost of the Wufengchi Waterfalls
Looking back towards the interesting Catholic Church
This part of the Wufengchi Trail flattened out and hugged a ledge while exhibiting some trail damage
This part of the Wufengqi Trail seemed particularly vulnerable to rock falls and landslides
Finally at the lookout deck fronting the so-called #1 Wufengchi Waterfall or the third waterfall that we saw
The most impressive and uppermost of the Wufengchi Waterfalls
On the hike back to the car park, we got a different look at the areas of trail damage, which was probably why they closed it
It was mostly a downhill hike on the way back
Back at the street market, which was now starting to get busier as shopkeepers were setting up
Mom continuing the descent back to the official car park
Going back past the dams
Looking towards the Jiaoxi Hot Springs Resort, which was said to be one of the high end luxury accommodations in the area
Even though we stayed in Jiaoxi Hot Springs (礁溪溫泉 [Jiāoxī Wēnquán]), which was almost walking distance to the Wufengchi Waterfall, we'll describe the drive from Taipei (臺北 or 台北 in simplified Chinese [Táiběi]) since I'd imagine most visitors would be coming from there. In case you're wondering, the seaside town of Keelung (基隆 [Jīlóng]) was 28km east of Taipei City (about 30 minutes drive). Before the new expressways and tunnels were built, you used to have to drive either the twisty Tai-9 road through the Pinglin District or take scenic the coastal route via Keelung and Jiufen to Jiaoxi, Yilan, and beyond.
So from the National Expressway 3 skirting the southern edge of Taipei City, we drove east past the city towards its junction with the National Expressway 5. If you're on the National Expressway 1 going around Taipei's northern end, then you'd have to go east of the city to interchange with the National Expressway 3, then go south towards its junction with the National Expressway 5.
Once on the National Expressway 5, we then followed it through a series of tunnels (including a long 12km tunnel) eventually getting us to Yilan County. Shortly after the tunnel exit, we'd get off the National Expressway 5 for Jiaoxi, which deposited us onto (頭城交流道 [Tóuchéng Jiāoliú Dào]). We then followed this street before turning left onto the Tai-9 route. From there, the easiest approach would be to follow the Tai-9 route for about 3.5km before turning right onto Dazhong Road (大忠路 [Dàzhōng Lù]). Following Dazhong Road for a little over 1km, it would fork left onto the Wufeng Road (五峰 [Wǔfēng Lù]), which we followed for about the next 1.2km before turning left into the well-signed official car park for the Wufengchi Waterfall.
The Wufeng Road actually kept going for another 800m but there were no legal places to park in this stretch. We did notice some people take a narrow ramp down an obscure road to the left towards free parking near the head of the dam, but that's not a sure thing. Anyways, this 50km drive from Taipei to the Wufengchi Waterfall would take about an hour.
Given its close proximity to Jiaoxi, which itself was easily reachable from Taipei and Yilan by bus or train, I'd imagine that there would be public transportation options available. We can't say more about these options since we didn't do this, but Mom seemed pretty confident that we could have done this if we chose not to drive in this area. The only caveat besides the limited flexibility due to train and bus schedules would be the increased walking distance along roads just to get into the Wufengchi Scenic Area.
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