About Shifen Waterfall (十分大瀑布 [Shífēn Dà Pùbù])
The Shifen Waterfall (十分大瀑布 [Shífēn Dà Pùbù]) was mostly likely Taiwan’s most famous waterfall as it was seemingly very reachable from the major population centers (namely Taipei and Keelung).
It was a major waterfall permanently falling some 20m high and 40m wide on the Keelung River (基隆河 [Jīlóng Hé]).
In fact, it was said to be the widest waterfall in Taiwan.
Thus, it had a bit of a horseshoe shape at its crest (common in most broad waterfalls), which even earned it the nickname the “Little Niagara of Taiwan”.
That said, I tend to think of the shape of Shifen Waterfall as being closer Cumberland Falls (i.e. the “Niagara of the South”) without the Autumn colors.
As you can see from photo above, the timing of our first visit (in November 2016) couldn’t have been better as we were treated to a bright bold rainbow refracting the sun’s rays in the waterfall’s mist right before its drop.
With this being the last waterfall in Taiwan that we visited in our trip in Autumn 2016, it whetted my appetite for more waterfalling experiences in the republic despite our waterfall fatigue.
That said, we came back almost 7 years later in July 2023, where we showed up at roughly the same time in the morning, but the rainbows didn’t arc across the falls in the same way due to the sun’s different position in Summer.
The Recent History of the Shifen Waterfall
Like the real Niagara Falls, there was a bit of a history with the Shifen Waterfall.
In the past, the area was privately owned and the owners would fleece visitors to see it while building kitschy infrastructures completely irrelevant to the natural experience.
This was not unlike how Niagara Falls in its early days was developed and even exploited.
And while its more famous North American brethren still had a Las Vegas meets Mother Nature kind of feel to it (despite its undeniable grandeur), at least the smaller Shifen Waterfall retained much of its naturesque scenery.
I believe the Taipei government managed to assume control of the area (apparently this happened not too long ago) and they went in this direction.
So now, we were able to experience the falls with a very well-built trail featuring plenty of lookouts to view it from all sorts of angles.
Perhaps the only down side was the area had limited hours from 9am to 4:30pm (as of our November 2016 visit) meaning that there would be no way to beat the rush.
Indeed, we had to share this place with hundreds of other people despite our early arrival at 8am on that first visit (we showed up closer to 9am on our second visit).
Experiencing the Shifen Waterfall – The Shortest Way
There are actually three ways that I’m aware of to experience the Shifen Waterfall.
The first (and shortest) way was to start from a small car park near the Yanjingdong Waterfall (眼鏡洞瀑布 [Yǎnjìngdòng Pùbù]; Eyeglasses Waterfall).
By the way, this waterfall was interesting in that it caused an underlying ridge over which the water flowed, which gave it the appearance of flowing over an elephant’s trunk.
Normally water finds its way around such formations, but this one actually stayed on the trunk before joining up with the Keelung River, and this effect can be easily seen when this waterfall has lower flow.
Anyways, this approach descended from a small food stall area into a small garden, where it then joined up with a trail that went onto a long suspension bridge above the aforementioned Yanjingdong Waterfall.
Once across this bridge (which parallels the Pingxi Railway), the path then continues east into a larger food and drink stand area.
The controlled part of the Shifen Waterfall begins right near the brink of the Shifen Falls.
Therefore, the refreshments area as well as the Yanjingdong Falls were not as limited by opening and closing times, which the controlled area strictly observes.
Of course, the best part of viewing the Shifen Waterfall continues another 300m further to the east, where there are multi-level lookouts with a direct look at the entire width of the falls with the chance of catching a morning rainbow.
After having your fill of these views, there are steps leading back up to the brink of the falls to complete a small loop.
From there, you can return to the car park, which would mean roughly 1.2km round-trip of gentle walking when all is said and done.
Experiencing the Shifen Waterfall – The Long Loop
From the way the trail seemed to be routed, it looked like the authorities really wanted you to spend your time doing this loop in a counterclockwise manner, which would build up to the Shifen Waterfall towards the end.
This method starts at one of a handful of car parks, which all the signs lead you towards, with the furthest car park located across from a restroom facility (and often road barricades prevent you from driving any further past the car park).
This car park can be self-served, especially if you have money stored in a 悠遊卡 (Yōuyóu kǎ) or Easycard.
Anyways, from this point, you could walk east along the road for about 1.3km or so to the actual gate and entrance to the Shifen Waterfall Park (i.e. the “controlled area”).
From there, you’d then continue another 500m or so descending towards the lookout area described above.
After having your fill of the falls, you could then walk towards the Yanjingdong Waterfall (basically part of the shortest way route described above).
Once at the waterfall, you’d then descend the suspension bridge leading to another trail that follows the Keelung River before crossing another long bridge eventually returning to the restroom facility and originating car park.
This last stretch from the Shifen Falls back to the car park was roughly 1.2km.
For the record, on our November 2016 visit, we actually did a combination of the shortest method with the long loop as we did the whole loop backwards even though we didn’t have to do it that way.
Experiencing the Shifen Waterfall – The In-Between Out-and-Back Option
Finally, the last method also involves starting and ending at the same car park described in the Long Loop Method above.
However, instead of hiking the entire loop, you only have to do an out-and-back hike to take in the Yanjingdong Waterfall and the best parts of the Shifen Waterfall before turning back.
This was the way we did it on our July 2023 visit.
According to my GPS trip logs, this out-and-back route was 2.4km round-trip, which sits right in between the shortest method and the long loop (and hence why I call this the “in-between out-and-back option”).
Interestingly, during our July 2023 visit, I remembered overhearing on the long suspension bridge over the Keelung River a tour guide telling her large Chinese tour group that this route I’m describing here is the way foreigners tend to take.
While most tour bus groups do the short way, this in-between out-and-back method is roughly double that short way in distance.
This is probably what caused the tour guide to make her remark (especially since the parking signs point you in this way).
Nevertheless, in all of our visits to the Shifen Waterfall (regardless of route), we devoted between 1-2 hours away from the car.
The Shifen Waterfall resides in the Pingxi District near the cities of Taipei and Keelung in Xinbei (New Taipei City), Taiwan. It may be administered by the Pingxi District Government. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, you can try visiting this website.
Although we took a more scenic route from Taipei City along the Hwy 106 towards the Shifen Waterfall, we’ll describe a more straightforward and faster driving route in this section.
Later, we’ll describe the approach from Keelung, which was the biggest neighboring city to the Shifen Waterfall.
Driving from Taipei to the Shifen Waterfall
However, we would then exit the National Expressway 1 to go onto the exit 2-八堵 (characters pronounced “bādǔ”) towards the Tai-2丁線 (characters pronounced “dīngxiàn”) towards Ruifang or 瑞芳 [Ruìfāng].
This exit was near the interchange for the Tai-62 Expressway.
Next, we’d turn right onto Shuiyan Road (also labeled as Tai-2丙 where the character was pronounced “bǐng”).
We would then take the Tai-2丙 Highway south for about 10km before turning right onto an access road to the Highway 106 (called 平雙產業道路 [Píngshuāng Chǎnyè Dào Lù]).
After another 400m, we’d then turn right onto Hwy 106 and follow it for 600m before reaching a fork.
Keeping right at the fork would lead another 300m to one of the main car parks (toll required) right across the street from the visitor center.
However, keeping left at the fork to remain on the Hwy 106 would lead another 600m to the signed turnoff and car park for the Yanjingdong Waterfall and “exit” for the Shifen Waterfall Loop Trail on the right.
Overall, this 32km drive would take about 30-45 minutes depending on traffic.
Driving from Keelung to the Shifen Waterfall
If we were coming from Keelung, we could take the Tai-5 before exiting at the Tai-2丁 (the character is pronounced “dīng”).
We’d then follow the Tai-2丁 as it became the Tai-2丙.
Next, we’d continue on the Tai-2丙 as in the directions given above and follow those directions the rest of the way to the Shifen Waterfall.
Overall, this 15km drive would take about 30 minutes depending on traffic.
The Possibility of taking Mass Transit to the Shifen Waterfall
Finally, given that we saw a railway passed by the Shifen Waterfall area, we’re aware that there’s the Pingxi Railway line (平溪線 [Píngxī Xiàn]) that can be boarded from Taipei and taken to the Old Street in Shifen Town (十分老街 [Shífēn Lǎojiē]).
From there, it would be about a kilometer walk to get to the Shifen Waterfall complex.
Then, we could walk the 2.4km loop to fully experience the falls without needing a car (something not necessarily desirable when staying in Taipei).
This might be something we’ll do the next time we’re in the area though we can’t divulge any more details on it until we’ve actually done this.
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