The Xinliao Waterfall (新寮瀑布 [Xīnliáo Pùbù]; some signage also spelled this "Sinliao Waterfall" or "New Liao Waterfall") was our excuse to visit the southern end of Yilan County though our experience was more memorable due to the trail and the weather than the modestly-sized waterfall itself. Actually, we had intended to visit the nearby Jiuxiou Waterfall (舊尞瀑布 [Jiùliáo Pùbù]; "Old Liao Waterfall") together with this falls, but the bad weather prevented us from doing that due to swollen creek crossings. Anyways, as you can see from the picture at the top of this page, the falls was quite attractive in its own right even if the sour weather made the scenery a bit more moody and the experience a bit more adventurous than what would be typical on a more benign day. The waterfall itself was modestly-sized (I'm guessing around 15-20m or so) though signage suggested this was 30m tall. Still, I thought it was the neighboring scenery that really made this falls as attractive as it was.
Getting to this waterfall was a pretty straightforward affair. We essentially hiked on a 1km mostly flat trail largely composed of wood chips, gravel, and dirt (with the occasional rock surface), which was a major departure from the Asian tendency to have concrete or asphalt trails (often enabling some women to visit waterfalls like this in high heels). I suspect that the damage and landscape changes from Typhoon Parma in 2009 made the authorities re-evaluate the way trails were constructured, and this new, more naturesque approach (which was more in line with what we're used to in America) was the more cost-effective (as frequent typhoons would force you into minimalist infrastructure). And on a rainy day like when we were here, this meant that the trail wasn't slippery while it was more forgiving on our knees. They also regulated the amount of hikers on this trail by limiting it to 350 people. Fortunately for us, we didn't have to worry about that restriction since the rain kept most people away when we checked in at the trailhead.
As the trail meandered alongside the southern banks of the raging Xinliao Stream (新寮溪 [Xīnliáo Xī]), we were flanked by tall green mountains with low clouds hugging and obscuring their tops in a way that reminded us of the kind of scenery depicted in Chinese watercolor landscape art. The mostly flat trail meant that even with the rain, it was pretty easy to enjoy with an umbrella or rain poncho. Throughout the hike, we saw numerous interpretive signs discussing things like the effect of Typhoon Parma, the eco-friendly focus of the trail, the area's recovery since the trail was re-opened, and the flora and fauna that called this area home. There was even a "Landscape Planting Area" where many flowers and plants were grown in an open area that otherwise would have been a featureless clearing filled with leftover debris from the flood that swept through here during Typhoon Parma.
After about 25 minutes, we started to get distant views of the falls, including the one featured at the top of this page. The further along the trail we went, it became a little more rocky (though still very tame), and the very end of the trail involved walking on an elevated boardwalk leading right to the misty lookout deck in front of the Xinliao Waterfall. While the falls was kind of underwhelming up close, there was no denying the somewhat raging personality it took on given the heavy rains during our visit. After having our fill of this spot, we returned the way we came (with a slightly different detour at the Landscape Planting Area) bringing the total hiking distance to 2km and the amount of time spent away from the car at a little over an hour.
We drove to the Xinliao Waterfall from Taipei (臺北 or 台北 in simplified Chinese [Táiběi]) so that's how describe the driving directions here. That said, the nearest town to the falls would be Su'ao (蘇澳 [Sū'ào]; about 17km east of the falls) or Luodong (羅東 [Luódōng ]; just south of Yilan City), and further to the north would be Yilan City (宜蘭 [Yílán]; 25km north of Su'ao) as well as the Jiaoxi Hot Springs (礁溪溫泉 [Jiāoxī Wēnquán]; 11km north of Yilan City) even more northwest of there. These would be perfectly good places to stay overnight if you're not in a hurry and want to enjoy places that would be a little less hectic than the big city.
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. We then kept driving another 16km going past Jiaoxi, then Yilan, before eventually exiting the expressway at an offramp onto the surface streets beneath the expressway along the Route 191甲 (the character is pronounced "jiǎ") towards Luodong Township.
We then followed the 191甲 for about 3km before turning right onto Chuanyi Road Section 2 (傳藝路二段 [Chuányì Lù èr duàn]). The GPS then had us turn left onto Guangrong Road (光榮路 [Guāngróng Lù]) and following it for 2km (eventually going west onto Route 9 in the process) before turning left onto Yicheng Road Section 3 (義成路三段 [Yìchéng Lù sān duàn]). We then followed this road for about 3km (along the way becoming section 2 of this road), then turning right onto Wanshan Road (丸山路 [Wánshān Lù]). We then followed this road for about 1.3km before turning left onto Xinliao Road (新寮路 [Xīnliáo Lù]). We followed Xinliao Road for 2km (going past the visitor center and also crossing the bridge over the Xinliao Stream) before keeping right at the fork (going onto Xinliao 1 Road) to drive the remaining 2.2km to the well-signed car park.
Overall, this roughly 72km drive would take us less than 90 minutes depending on traffic.
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