Caihong Waterfall (彩虹瀑布 [Cǎihóng Pùbù]; Rainbow Waterfall)

Dongpu / Yushan National Park, Nantou County, Taiwan

About Caihong Waterfall (彩虹瀑布 [Cǎihóng Pùbù]; Rainbow Waterfall)


Hiking Distance: 1.6km round trip
Suggested Time: 60-90 minutes (from closest car park)

Date first visited: 2016-11-01
Date last visited: 2016-11-01

Waterfall Latitude: 23.56687
Waterfall Longitude: 120.93767

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The Caihong Waterfall (彩虹瀑布 [Cǎihóng Pùbù]; meaning “Rainbow Waterfall”) was one that Mom and I had to work a bit for.

We technically only had to hike around 1.6km round trip from the nearest parking area that we could find, but it was a steeply and relentlessly uphill hike.

Rainbow_Waterfall_083_10312016 - The Caihong Waterfall with some hideous diversion pipes around its lower cascade
The Caihong Waterfall with some hideous diversion pipes around its lower cascade

Even that nearest parking area where we got started from involved going up a dicey and steep single-lane road (see directions below).

Given that our visit took place on a pretty hot, humid, and sunny day, it became quite a deceptively tiring hike.

Since this waterfall was pretty much right above the Dongpu Hot Springs (I’ve also seen it spelled Dongbu Hot Springs), if ever there was a proper pairing between a waterfall hike and relaxing at a hot spring, I’d say this would certainly fit the bill.

Sadly, due to time constraints, Mom and I didn’t engage in soaking in a hot springs here nor did we see any of the namesake rainbows despite the fine weather.

Rainbow_Waterfall_107_10312016 - Looking back across the high suspension bridge (making us feel like we were on top of the world) above Dongpu Hot Springs on the trail to the Caihong Waterfall
Looking back across the high suspension bridge (making us feel like we were on top of the world) above Dongpu Hot Springs on the trail to the Caihong Waterfall

What we did see, however, was a plunging 25m waterfall contrasting against blue skies with that on-top-of-the-world feeling after having climbed so high to get here.

For all the effort it took to get up here, we were disappointed to see the area was spoiled by a huge mesh of pipes running before the main waterfall.

The scenery was especially spoiled further downstream above an intermediate waterfall on the Bading Stream (八頂溪 [Bādǐng Xī]).

This made us wonder if there was some water diversion going on with this waterfall to feed some of the hot springs in town further down the mountain.

Caihong Waterfall Trail Description – uncertainty in the starting point of the hike

Rainbow_Waterfall_028_10312016 - Mom hiking up a very steep and single-lane road in pursuit of the Caihong Waterfall (Rainbow Falls) above the Dongpu Hot Springs
Mom hiking up a very steep and single-lane road in pursuit of the Caihong Waterfall (Rainbow Falls) above the Dongpu Hot Springs

Initially, we started hiking from the main road running through the town of Dongpu.

We had doubts about being able to drive up a narrow steep road that began almost immediately from its turnoff deviating from the main road.

But when we spent around 25 minutes of relentless uphill hiking along the mostly single-lane road, we saw that there were more parking spaces.

And it wasn’t until we reached a particular cafe (that wasn’t open at the time) with a distant view of the Caihong Waterfall still way up the mountain did we decide to start our hike higher up the mountain.

Rainbow_Waterfall_034_10312016 - When we initially attempted to walk all the way up from Dongpu Hot Springs, this was when we saw how much more climbing and hiking we had to do as Rainbow Falls was still way up there
When we initially attempted to walk all the way up from Dongpu Hot Springs, this was when we saw how much more climbing and hiking we had to do as Rainbow Falls was still way up there

So that meant that we had to go back down the road, pick up the rental car, and make the drive up to the highest car park that we could get to.

Once we did that, we then started the hike with the minimal amount of climbing left to do.

Had we walked all the way up here from town, it seemed like the overall hiking distance would have been about 3.1km round trip with over 350m of elevation gain.

The way we wound up doing it instead was around 1.6km round trip with over 200m of elevation gain.

Caihong Waterfall Trail Description – from the highest car park to the falls

Rainbow_Waterfall_119_10312016 - Looking back towards the buildings where we started our hike up to the Caihong Waterfall
Looking back towards the buildings where we started our hike up to the Caihong Waterfall

So after leaving the car, we went through a little area between a handful of buildings.

Then, the foot trail resumed as the path ascended a series of steps leading up to what appeared to be a longhouse at the end of a switchback.

The trail would continue its relentless climb while being mostly exposed to the sun.

We eventually made it up to a long and high suspension bridge called the Rainbow Suspension Bridge (彩虹吊橋 [Cǎihóng diào qiáo]).

Rainbow_Waterfall_054_10312016 - Traversing the high suspension bridge roughly 400m from the spot where we started the hike to the Caihong Waterfall
Traversing the high suspension bridge roughly 400m from the spot where we started the hike to the Caihong Waterfall

It was at a little over 400m from the trailhead.

This bridge actually provided a little bit of relief from the humidity because there was a breeze that passed through.

But the bridge also reinforced this top-of-the-world feeling as we could glimpse part of Dongpu way down below while the immediate gorge floor was also pretty far down below our feet!

This was definitely not the kind of bridge to be on if you have a crippling fear of heights.

Rainbow_Waterfall_069_10312016 - Mom continuing on the hike up to the Caihong Waterfall as it passed by an intermediate waterfall with unsightly pipes around it at the so-called Lover's Gorge
Mom continuing on the hike up to the Caihong Waterfall as it passed by an intermediate waterfall with unsightly pipes around it at the so-called Lover’s Gorge

Beyond the bridge, the path continued to climb while weaving in and out of shaded and non-shaded areas.

At around 200m, the trail skirted around an intermediate waterfall within what was apparently called the Lover’s Gorge (情人谷 [Qíngréngǔ]).

As stated earlier, the presence of a mesh of pipes or wires really took away from what would otherwise be a nice and relaxing spot.

After another 100m of uphill walking along the Bading Stream, we finally reached the end of the trail where we were right before the Caihong Waterfall.

Rainbow_Waterfall_074_10312016 - The Caihong Waterfall Trail continued its relentless climb past the Lover's Gorge section
The Caihong Waterfall Trail continued its relentless climb past the Lover’s Gorge section

At least with this waterfall, the pipes and wires were mostly alongside the lower parts of the Rainbow Waterfall, but we still thought they were eyesores.

Overall, Mom and I had spent about a little over an hour to do the last 1.6km round trip of hiking.

It could have easily taken us 2-2.5 hours round trip had we walked up all the way from the town of Dongpu Hot Springs to the Caihong Waterfall and back.

Timing for a Rainbow at the Caihong Waterfall

As for the rainbow, our arrival to the Caihong Waterfall at around high noon meant that we needed to be somehow higher up on the trail and looking more down at the falls.

Rainbow_Waterfall_094_10312016 - Mom checking out the Caihong Waterfall, but there would be no rainbows on our midday visit
Mom checking out the Caihong Waterfall, but there would be no rainbows on our midday visit

Since it wasn’t possible to do that during our visit, I suspect that the more optimal time to see a rainbow would be later in the day when the sun would sink lower on the horizon.

But that would mean that it would still have to be sunny towards the late afternoon, and the adjacent mountainsides must not block the sun’s rays either.

In other words, it seemed like that all the planets had to align in order for this waterfall to live up to its name.

That was kind of a bummer, especially since things in and around Dongpu seemed to be named Rainbow this or Rainbow that while numerous walls and railings had rainbows painted on them.

Authorities

The Caihong Waterfall resides near the Dongpu Hot Springs and Yushan National Park in Nantou County, Taiwan. To my knowledge, it is not administered by an official government authority. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, you can try visiting this website.

Rainbow_Waterfall_017_10312016 - Initially, we attempted to walk from the Dongpu Hot Springs up to the Caihong Waterfall along a very narrow road.  Here's a look back at a truck passing by us while we initially walked up that narrow road
Rainbow_Waterfall_023_10312016 - We knew something was up when even the steps alongside the narrow road in the upper Dongpu Hot Springs were closed due to some kind of damage
Rainbow_Waterfall_038_10312016 - Walking between some buildings towards the foot trail leading up to the Rainbow Waterfall from the highest car park that we were able to reach
Rainbow_Waterfall_039_10312016 - Looking back down towards the valley containing the town of Dongpu from the foot trail to the Caihong Waterfall
Rainbow_Waterfall_043_10312016 - Looking up at the relentless uphill trail to the Caihong Waterfall
Rainbow_Waterfall_045_10312016 - Looking back at someone who had just visited the Caihong Waterfall and was making his way down. Little did we realize that we had quite a long climb ahead of us still
Rainbow_Waterfall_046_10312016 - Looking back at another couple that was making a return from the Caihong Waterfall while we still had a long ways to go to get up there
Rainbow_Waterfall_047_10312016 - Continuing the long climb up the steep and unrelenting uphill trail to the Caihong Waterfall
Rainbow_Waterfall_049_10312016 - You know you have a steep trail when even the stairs are switchbacking its way up to the Caihong Waterfall
Rainbow_Waterfall_056_10312016 - Looking back towards the start of the Rainbow Suspension Bridge, which really felt as if we were on top of the world given how much climbing we had to do to get up here
Rainbow_Waterfall_064_10312016 - Looking back at the dramatic view from near the end of the Rainbow Suspension Bridge
Rainbow_Waterfall_067_10312016 - Mom continuing on the trail beyond the suspension bridge, which at least became a little shadier and less exposed to the sun
Rainbow_Waterfall_072_10312016 - Looking towards an intermediate waterfall in the Lover's Gorge (Qingrengu) with some hideous pipes or wires up above either for water diversion or for holding up the suspension bridge or both!
Rainbow_Waterfall_075_10312016 - Mom hiking past a shelter with some rest benches above the Qingrengu part of the hike as we were getting closer to the Caihong Waterfall
Rainbow_Waterfall_076_10312016 - Mom finally making the final climb approaching the Caihong Waterfall
Rainbow_Waterfall_080_10312016 - Finally at the Caihong Waterfall or Rainbow Waterfall above the Dongbu Hot Springs
Rainbow_Waterfall_087_10312016 - Just a focused look at the Caihong Waterfall at the end of the relentlessly uphill trail
Rainbow_Waterfall_090_10312016 - Looking ahead at what appeared to be rockfall damage to the end of the Caihong Waterfall Trail. It made me wonder whether this trail will continue to be maintained or if they will let it fall into disrepair
Rainbow_Waterfall_096_10312016 - After having her fill of the Caihong Waterfall, Mom started the all downhill hike back to the car while walking alongside these hideous wires
Rainbow_Waterfall_100_10312016 - Mom walking by more of these hideous wires as we were making our way through the Lover's Gorge part of the Caihong Waterfall Trail
Rainbow_Waterfall_102_10312016 - Mom continuing on the downhill hike from the Caihong Waterfall with the chance at birdseye views over the Dongpu Hot Springs
Rainbow_Waterfall_113_10312016 - Getting a glimpse of Dongpu way down below just before we descended to the Rainbow Suspension Bridge on the return hike
Rainbow_Waterfall_115_10312016 - Descending towards some kind of longhouse on the last switchback before getting to the highest car park for the Caihong Waterfall
Rainbow_Waterfall_116_10312016 - This 'longhouse' at the end of the last (or first) switchback appeared to be a place for serving food or soups along the Caihong Waterfall Trail

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We were able to access the Caihong Waterfall or Rainbow Falls from the town of Dongpu Hot Springs (東埔溫泉 [Dōngbù Wēnquán]).

The approach we took was from the north, where we passed through the town of Shuili (水里 [Shuǐlǐ]) before heading south to Dongpu.

We’ll focus on this driving route in this section.

That said, from looking at the maps, it also appeared to be possible to drive east from Chiayi (嘉義 [Jiāyì]) to Dongpu via the Alishan National Scenic Area (阿里山國家風景區 [Ālǐshān Guójiā Fēngjǐng qū]) along mostly the Tai-18 highway.

We can’t talk more about that since we didn’t do it though.

Many ways to reach Shuili

First, we had to drive to the town of Shuili.

We managed to get here from the Shanlinhsi Natural Park via the Highway 151 then the Highway 131.

It took us around an hour to make this drive.

To get to Shuili from Sun Moon Lake (日月潭 [Rìyuè Tán]), we would head south on the Tai-21 highway towards the town.

If we were taking the National Expressway 3 from either Taichung (台中 [Táizhōng]) or Chiayi, then we’d leave the expressway at the offramp to get onto the Tai-3 highway.

Then, we’d turn left and follow the Route 3丙 (the character is pronounced “bǐng”) before continuing east on the Tai-16 highway all the way to Shuili.

Driving from Shuili to Dongpu Hot Springs

Rainbow_Waterfall_011_10312016 - Looking back into the town of Dongpu Hot Springs
Looking back into the town of Dongpu Hot Springs

Once we were in Shuili, we continued to drive south initially along the Tai-16 highway then south along the Tai-21 highway.

We’d then continue along the Tai-21 highway (passing through a valley that appeared to have been affected by a severe landslide at one time) for about 25km turning left onto a road leading to Dongpu (called 開高巷 [Kāigāoxiàng]).

Once on the Kaigaoxiang road (by now there were signs pointing the way to Dongpu or Dongbu), we drove another 5km before turning left at a junction with a traffic signal.

We then followed this road for about another 3km.

Rainbow_Waterfall_010_10312016 - We initially were attempting to hike up to the Caihong Waterfall from this part of the Dongpu Hot Springs town, but it would have been a real grueling climb from way down here!
We initially were attempting to hike up to the Caihong Waterfall from this part of the Dongpu Hot Springs town, but it would have been a real grueling climb from way down here!

The turnoff leading up to the Caihong Waterfall or Rainbow Falls was on the narrow street to our left.

If driving narrow and steep single-lane roads doesn’t sound appealing, then you can find parking in town within walking distance from this turnoff.

The drive from Shuili to here took us about an hour.

However, if you’re ok with continuing the drive to shorten the hike, read on.

Driving from Dongbu Hot Springs to one of the upper car parks

Rainbow_Waterfall_012_10312016 - The start of the steep road up to Rainbow Waterfall was up this fork on the right
The start of the steep road up to Rainbow Waterfall was up this fork on the right

So once we were on the narrow turnoff, we kept right at the immediate fork to start the steep and narrow climb.

Given that the inclines were on the order of 15-20% grade, I’d recommend driving in low gear with the AC turned off.

After another 100m, we turned left and continued the climb.

Note that there were already a few car parks along this stretch.

Rainbow_Waterfall_021_10312016 - One of the car parks that we saw in the upper parts of the Dongbu Hot Springs town
One of the car parks that we saw in the upper parts of the Dongbu Hot Springs town

Anyways, we then drove an additional 600m before finally parking in a small lot near some buildings.

This was probably as high as vehicles could go (maybe scooters might still go higher if the roads were open).

To me, the scary thing about the last 750m stretch wasn’t so much the steep incline (though it could be nerve-wracking), but it was more so the single-lane nature of the road.

That was because there were no pullouts for most of this stretch.

Rainbow_Waterfall_036_10312016 - This was the small parking area where we started the hike up to the Caihong Waterfall, which was well above the town of Dongbu Hot Springs
This was the small parking area where we started the hike up to the Caihong Waterfall, which was well above the town of Dongbu Hot Springs

So if there happened to be traffic coming from the opposite direction (there wasn’t one during our visit, fortunately), then there would be no opportunities for the vehicles to pass each other.

That would mean, someone would have to be willing to back up on the narrow road.

And if you’re not skillful in backing up on such a narrow and steep road, then there could be some scrapes to the car as well as delays.

So this is the risk that we wound up taking.

Rainbow_Waterfall_025_10312016 - Just to give you an idea of how steep and narrow the road to the upper car parks for Caihong Waterfall was, we initially walked up part of the road, where Mom gives you an idea of how little width there was to drive through
Just to give you an idea of how steep and narrow the road to the upper car parks for Caihong Waterfall was, we initially walked up part of the road, where Mom gives you an idea of how little width there was to drive through

However, I’d imagine it might not be a good idea if there would be more drivers here (like on a weekend).

Finally, for a little bit of geographical context, Dongpu was about 37km south of Shuili (about an hour’s drive as mentioned before) or 64km east of the Alishan National Scenic Area (at least 90 minutes drive) and 124km east of Chiayi City. Shuili was about 16km south of Sun Moon Lake National Scenic Area (under 30 minutes drive), 46km north of Shanlinhsi Forest Park (between 60-90 minutes drive), 57km southeast of Taichung (over an hour drive), and 74km northeast of Chiayi City (under 90 minutes drive). Taichung was 168km southwest of Taipei (about 2 hours drive).

Sweep showing the smaller lower tier as well as the main upper tier of the Rainbow Falls with hideous pipes as well as sounds of cicadas

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Tagged with: dongpu, yushan, nantou, county, taiwan, waterfall, caihong, rainbow



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Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of the award-winning A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
Read More About Johnny | A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls.