Fenghuang Waterfall (鳳凰瀑布 [Fènghuáng Pùbù])

Fanlu Township / Chiayi City / Tainan, Chiayi County, Taiwan

About Fenghuang Waterfall (鳳凰瀑布 [Fènghuáng Pùbù])


Hiking Distance: 1.4km round trip
Suggested Time: 75-90 minutes

Date first visited: 2016-10-31
Date last visited: 2016-10-31

Waterfall Latitude: 23.46832
Waterfall Longitude: 120.62056

The Fenghuang Waterfall (鳳凰瀑布 [Fènghuáng Pùbù]; meaning “Phoenix Waterfall”, not to be confused with the one in Hualien) felt like one of the more obscure waterfalls that we had visited in Taiwan.

Maybe we got this vibe because Mom and I happened to encounter a couple of senior locals (coming back from doing a longer hike further up in the mountains) who never knew about this waterfall in all the years they had lived here.

Fenghuang_Waterfall_Chiayi_098_10302016 - The Fenghuang Waterfall in Chiayi County
The Fenghuang Waterfall in Chiayi County

Furthermore, we also had to contend with the relative lack of signage except for the actual trailhead itself.

We didn’t even find any formal parking, and we at first wondered if we were in the right place or not (see directions below).

From reading other blogs, it appeared that this particular spot was more known to foreigners than to the locals.

Well, whatever the case may be for its obscurity, I thought this place was a gem of a find.

Fenghuang_Waterfall_Chiayi_116_10302016 - Accessing the Fenghuang Waterfall meant descending many steps to get to the bottom of the gorge. They didn't call this place the 'Thousand Steps Waterfall' for nothing!
Accessing the Fenghuang Waterfall meant descending many steps to get to the bottom of the gorge. They didn’t call this place the ‘Thousand Steps Waterfall’ for nothing!

It was where the Bazhang Stream (八掌溪 [Bāzhǎng Xī]) plunged 20-25m into a deep pool that was perfect for swimming.

Of course as is often the case in life, the most worthwhile things typically require a little work to reach, and this excursion was no different.

Hiking to the Fenghuang Waterfall

Our hike to the Fenghuang Waterfall started from a road shoulder nearby the signed (in Chinese) trailhead.

We walked along the road towards the signage and then followed along some descending steps amongst a grove of betel nut (檳榔 [bīnláng]) trees.

Fenghuang_Waterfall_Chiayi_014_10302016 - Mom descending an extensive grove of betel nut trees on the way down to the Fenghuang Waterfall in Chiayi County
Mom descending an extensive grove of betel nut trees on the way down to the Fenghuang Waterfall in Chiayi County

Mom and I noticed that these trees seemed to be quite common in Chiayi County (suggesting it may be a key cash crop in the area).

Anyways, as the concrete steps descended what appeared to be a sloping ridge, it also seemed like there was a bit of overgrowth conspiring to cover up some of these steps.

There was at least enough overgrowth to plant some seeds of doubt in our sense of navigation.

Moreover, we also had to be a bit careful about making this descent without a misstep.

Fenghuang_Waterfall_Chiayi_036_10302016 - Mom continuing to descend to the Fenghuang Waterfall as the vegetation shifted from betel nut tree plantations to more local jungle flora
Mom continuing to descend to the Fenghuang Waterfall as the vegetation shifted from betel nut tree plantations to more local jungle flora

Something that we noticed in most trails throughout Asia (and Taiwan was no different) was that they were typically paved or were along concrete.

While this could be jarring to the knees, unnaturally unsightly, and prone to damage (especially from typhoons), in this particular case, it might actually make sense.

For if the steps weren’t here, then it would require a very dicey and steeply-sloped descent on what would most likely be a muddy and eroded trail.

After the initial flight of steps, we crossed what appeared to be an unpaved road or trail, but we kept straight ahead on the next series of steps.

Fenghuang_Waterfall_Chiayi_042_10302016 - Mom finally making it down to the plunge pool before the Fenghuang Waterfall in Chiayi County
Mom finally making it down to the plunge pool before the Fenghuang Waterfall in Chiayi County

And it turned out that we would still have a long descent ahead of us.

I recalled in doing my trip research that this waterfall was informally called the “Thousand Step Waterfall”, and as Mom and I engaged in this hike, it was clear to us how it got its name.

Indeed, the descent kept persisting, and we knew we’d have to get all this elevation loss back on the return hike.

On top of that, it seemed like the climate was getting muggier and the mosquitos were more abundant the further down this trail we went.

Fenghuang_Waterfall_Chiayi_048_10302016 - Finally making it down to the base of the Fenghuang Waterfall
Finally making it down to the base of the Fenghuang Waterfall

That said, at least the betel nut trees were behind us as we were encountering more local jungle flora.

Eventually after about 30-40 minutes of hiking, we then bouldered our way to the inviting plunge pool that separated us and the Fenghuang Waterfall.

After all the sweat and exertion it took to make it down here, the cool spray and breeze generated by the falls was very welcome as it somewhat offset the humidity.

This was one of those spots that we didn’t want to leave, especially when we had to go back up all those steps.

Fenghuang_Waterfall_Chiayi_113_10302016 - After having our fill of the Fenghuang Waterfall, Mom and I had to endure a long climb to recover the car back up at the main road
After having our fill of the Fenghuang Waterfall, Mom and I had to endure a long climb to recover the car back up at the main road

But eventually, after having our fill of this spot, we sweated our way all the way back up to the trailhead and eventually regaining our rental car where we really looked forward to its AC.

All told, we had spent a little over 90 minutes away from the car covering a distance of about 1.4km round trip (at least according to my GPS logs).

Authorities

The Fenghuang Waterfall resides near the Fanlu Township in Chiayi 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 the Taiwan Tourism Bureau website.

Fenghuang_Waterfall_Chiayi_007_10302016 - Mom walking towards the Fenghuang Waterfall Trailhead by that aboriginal-looking sign
Fenghuang_Waterfall_Chiayi_003_10302016 - Nearby the aboriginal sign, we saw this series of steps leading down to the Fenghuang Waterfall
Fenghuang_Waterfall_Chiayi_004_10302016 - Nearby the Fenghuang Waterfall trailhead, we couldn't help but notice this monoculture plantation of betel nut plants
Fenghuang_Waterfall_Chiayi_009_10302016 - After reaching the Fenghuang Waterfall Trailhead, we saw these sets of steps, which we immediately descended
Fenghuang_Waterfall_Chiayi_017_10302016 - This photo probably shows the extent of the overgrowth conspiring to obscure the steps on the way down to the Fenghuang Waterfall
Fenghuang_Waterfall_Chiayi_019_10302016 - Mom continuing the long descent to the Fenghuang Waterfall as the vegetation started to shift from the monoculture betel nut trees to more local jungle flora
Fenghuang_Waterfall_Chiayi_025_10302016 - Mom continuing the long and sweaty descent to the Fenghuang Waterfall, where it was getting increasingly steamier with more pesky mosquitos buzzing about along the way
Fenghuang_Waterfall_Chiayi_032_10302016 - Deep in our descent to the Fenghuang Waterfall, we stayed along the trail to the right of this faded sign as there was a false path on the left. We had no idea what it was trying to say.
Fenghuang_Waterfall_Chiayi_038_10302016 - Mom continuing to make the long descent to the Fenghuang Waterfall as it seemed to maintain its steepness
Fenghuang_Waterfall_Chiayi_041_10302016 - Given how hot and sweaty this hike was, I wondered how many people would just ignore this sign and choose to swim at the Fenghuang Waterfall anyways
Fenghuang_Waterfall_Chiayi_058_10302016 - Direct look across the plunge pool towards the idyllic Fenghuang Waterfall
Fenghuang_Waterfall_Chiayi_077_10302016 - More long exposed look at the Fenghuang Waterfall from across its plunge pool
Fenghuang_Waterfall_Chiayi_098_10302016 - Last look at the Fenghuang Waterfall before we had to make the long climb back up
Fenghuang_Waterfall_Chiayi_100_10302016 - Broad look at the inviting Fenghuang Waterfall as seen from across its plunge pool
Fenghuang_Waterfall_Chiayi_109_10302016 - Angled look at the Fenghuang Waterfall in context with some large boulders fringing its plunge pool
Fenghuang_Waterfall_Chiayi_112_10302016 - Apparently, there was another lower but inaccessible tier further downstream of the main drop of the Fenghuang Waterfall
Fenghuang_Waterfall_Chiayi_117_10302016 - After having our fill of the Fenghuang Waterfall, we now had to deal with the hot and sweaty climb back up to the trailhead
Fenghuang_Waterfall_Chiayi_121_10302016 - Mom still continuing on the long stairmaster as we made our way back from the Fenghuang Waterfall
Fenghuang_Waterfall_Chiayi_123_10302016 - Back at the betelnut plantation so we knew we were getting close to the end of the Fenghuang Waterfall hike at this point
Fenghuang_Waterfall_Chiayi_127_10302016 - Back at the Fenghuang Waterfall trailhead and walking back to the car
Fenghuang_Waterfall_Chiayi_128_10302016 - Last look at the betelnut trees grown around the Fenghuang Waterfall Trailhead
Fenghuang_Waterfall_Chiayi_129_10302016 - Walking along the road back towards our parked car where we noticed this tiny flat bed truck parked off the side of the road. Tiny vehicles were definitely your friend in the narrow and twisty mountain roads of Taiwan

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Even though the Fenghuang Waterfall was directly east of Chiayi (嘉義 [Jiāyì]) by about 30km or so, we made our visit after leaving from Tainan (臺南 [Táinán]) so we’ll describe the best route from there (which passes by Chiayi anyways).

From Tainan City Center, we made our way to the I-1 Expressway going north.

The most straightforward route from here would be to follow the I-1 north for about 55km before taking the Hwy 159 at the interchange into Chiayi City.

Ban_Tian_Yan_075_10302016 - The elaborate Ban Tian Yan Temple which we passed by on the way up to the Fenghuang Waterfall Trailhead
The elaborate Ban Tian Yan Temple which we passed by on the way up to the Fenghuang Waterfall Trailhead

Continuing the drive east on the Hwy 159 through the Chiayi City for about 5km or so, we then kept right to drive onto the Route 159甲 (the character is pronounced “jiǎ”).

We’d then keep driving east on the 159甲 for another 20km or so as we passed by the Ban Tian Yan Zhuyin Temple (半天岩紫雲寺 [Bàntiānyán Zǐyún Sì]; at about the 14km point) and kept climbing deeper into the mountains.

This was when we noticed an aboriginal-looking roadside signpost for the Fenghuang Waterfall (in Chinese).

There was no parking exactly at the trailhead so we had to drive a little further to find a legal place to pull over.

Fenghuang_Waterfall_Chiayi_002_10302016 - This was the aboriginal-looking sign for the Fenghuang Falls at the trailhead
This was the aboriginal-looking sign for the Fenghuang Falls at the trailhead

We wound up finding a road shoulder near some local shack.

However, we also found out that another 150m to the east along the 159甲 was a grassy car park right across from a smaller shrine or temple.

I would imagine that would be the spillover parking should the closer spots be occupied.

Note that had we continued driving further to the east on the 159甲, we would have eventually reached the Alishan National Scenic Area.

Fenghuang_Waterfall_Chiayi_005_10302016 - This was a roadside pullout next to some shack or building that we parked the car at to pursue the Fenghuang Waterfall. Apparently, there was another car park area a little further along this road across from a shrine or temple
This was a roadside pullout next to some shack or building that we parked the car at to pursue the Fenghuang Waterfall. Apparently, there was another car park area a little further along this road across from a shrine or temple

Overall, this drive took us around 2 hours, but a large percentage of that time was spent dealing with traffic and traffic lights in Tainan.

As for some geographical context, Chiayi City was about 70km northeast of Tainan (or over an hour drive), 114km north of Kaohsiung (a little over 90 minutes drive), 99km south of Taichung (about 90 minutes drive), and 262km southwest of Taipei (under 3 hours drive).

360 degree sweep right from the secluded base of the Fenghuang (Phoenix) Waterfall

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Tagged with: chiayi, fanlu, county, tainan, beetlenut, swimming, southern taiwan, taiwan, waterfall



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