Shifen Waterfall (十分大瀑布 [Shífēn Dà Pùbù])

Pingxi District / Sandiaoling Valley / Keelung / Taipei, Xinbei (New Taipei City), Taiwan

About Shifen Waterfall (十分大瀑布 [Shífēn Dà Pùbù])


Hiking Distance: 1.2km round trip (from Yanjingdong Waterfall side) or 3km loop
Suggested Time: 30-90 minutes

Date first visited: 2016-11-05
Date last visited: 2016-11-05

Waterfall Latitude: 25.04885
Waterfall Longitude: 121.78745

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]).

Shifen_Waterfall_111_11042016 - Shifen Waterfall and morning rainbow
Shifen Waterfall and morning rainbow

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 visit 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.

Cumberland_Falls_075_20121021 - Cumberland Falls in Eastern Kentucky was probably a closer comparison to the Shifen Waterfall than the real Niagara Falls
Cumberland Falls in Eastern Kentucky was probably a closer comparison to the Shifen Waterfall than the real Niagara Falls

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.

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.

Shifen_Waterfall_163_11042016 - Shifen Waterfall and nearly a full arcing morning rainbow
Shifen Waterfall and nearly a full arcing morning rainbow

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.

Shifen_Waterfall_325_11042016 - Lots of people showing up to the Shifen Waterfall about an hour after opening time, which was a big drawback of their late opening time
Lots of people showing up to the Shifen Waterfall about an hour after opening time, which was a big drawback of their late opening time

Indeed, we had to share this place with hundreds of other people despite our early arrival at 8am.

Walking the Shifen Waterfall Loop Backwards – early arrival and the Yanjingdong Waterfall

That said, our early arrival to the Shifen Waterfall actually yielded some benefits.

It meant that we had some time to survey the area around the actual main Shifen Waterfall complex itself.

We noticed on the map signs that in addition to the loop trail that seemed to suggest we should do the self-tour in a counterclockwise manner, there was another waterfall closer to the loop trail’s “exit”.

Shifen_Waterfall_026_11042016 - View of the Yanjingdong (Eyeglasses) Waterfall from the suspension bridge and railway bridge as we walked towards the 'exit' of the Shifen Waterfall Loop Trail
View of the Yanjingdong (Eyeglasses) Waterfall from the suspension bridge and railway bridge as we walked towards the ‘exit’ of the Shifen Waterfall Loop Trail

This waterfall was called the Yanjingdong Waterfall (眼鏡洞瀑布 [Yǎnjìngdòng Pùbù]; Eyeglasses Waterfall), and it was outside the paid and controlled area.

So we walked briefly back across the road bridge over the river then turned right to walk along the Highway 106 before reaching the small car park and complex closer to the Yanjingdong Waterfall.

This small cascade had nowhere near the size of the Shifen Waterfall, but the trail was fun.

In addition, the unusual situation of the falls being under a couple of bridges made it memorable (if not an excuse to kill that extra hour before the Shifen Falls viewing area would open).

Shifen_Waterfall_050_11042016 - This was as much of the Shifen Waterfall that we could see before they opened the gates at 9am during our early November 2016 visit
This was as much of the Shifen Waterfall that we could see before they opened the gates at 9am during our early November 2016 visit

Indeed, the trail required us to walk across a long suspension bridge alongside a railway bridge (most likely the Pingxi Railway) across the Keelung River.

Once we were on the other side, we then descended some steps and reached a lookout across the river looking right at the Eyeglasses Waterfall from beneath these long bridges.

Walking the Shifen Waterfall Loop Backwards – going against the flow of traffic at the Shifen Waterfall

Beyond the Yanjingdong Waterfall, we continued to walk the trail in the direction of the Shifen Waterfall where we could already see its mist rising further downstream.

We eventually went past some cafes before arriving at the “exit” gate for the main Shifen Waterfall complex.

Shifen_Waterfall_057_11042016 - Looking back towards a pond and dining area at the 'exit' of the Shifen Waterfall Loop before they opened the gates
Looking back towards a pond and dining area at the ‘exit’ of the Shifen Waterfall Loop before they opened the gates

Little did we realize that when the gate would open at precisely 9am, we would be closer to the Shifen Waterfall than just about everyone else.

That’s because most people would try to reach the falls from the main entrance gate and walk the loop in a counterclockwise manner.

So while they would do the longer loop walk until reaching the Shifen Waterfall at the end, we were already there!

As a result, we had a few minutes of enjoying the falls before it would get really crowded.

Shifen_Waterfall_317_11042016 - Descending towards one of the main lookouts of the Shifen Waterfall before the crowds really started to show up
Descending towards one of the main lookouts of the Shifen Waterfall before the crowds really started to show up

Thus, in doing the loop trail backwards, we first experienced the brink of the Shifen Waterfall, which was where we could appreciate the horseshoe shape at its crest.

When we saw that there was a rainbow appearing in its wafting mist, we quickly made our way towards the more frontal lookouts further downstream.

That was when we had the nearly perfectly-situated rainbow alongside the Shifen Waterfall that you see pictured at the top of this page.

The main trail descended into a lookout area that was sheltered and wide enough to accommodate dozens of people.

Shifen_Waterfall_320_11042016 - The viewing decks around the Shifen Waterfall got really crowded within an hour after the complex opened its gates
The viewing decks around the Shifen Waterfall got really crowded within an hour after the complex opened its gates

There were also steps ascending out of the main lookout area affording us even more angles of looking at the falls while also appreciating the power of Mother Nature.

Meanwhile, some rockfalls and landslides appeared to have damaged some prior infrastructure further downstream of the main viewing area, which attested to the unpredictability of Nature in general.

While the Shifen Waterfall was basking in the morning sun, it didn’t last for long.

Eventually, some pop up thunderclouds started showing up and blocking the sun’s rays.

Shifen_Waterfall_283_11042016 - Taking advantage of the sun being blocked by tropical clouds in order to take long exposure photos of the Shifen Waterfall
Taking advantage of the sun being blocked by tropical clouds in order to take long exposure photos of the Shifen Waterfall

At least that enabled me to switch to taking some long exposure photographs as a result of the reduced brightness and even lighting.

Finally, it was a good thing that we had gotten our early start (despite the restricted opening hours) because we definitely felt the crush by the time it was around 10am and we had our fill of the falls.

Walking the Shifen Waterfall Loop Backwards – concluding the Shifen Waterfall Loop

So on our return to the car, we continued to walk in the opposite direction of just about everyone else towards the entrance gate.

Shifen_Waterfall_339_11042016 - Contextual look down towards one of the lower walkways with the Shifen Waterfall in the background as we were walking in the opposite direction of most people
Contextual look down towards one of the lower walkways with the Shifen Waterfall in the background as we were walking in the opposite direction of most people

That was when I realized that the way they routed the trail, it seemed like a much longer hike going from the entrance to the falls (as opposed to the way we did it in the opposite direction).

Thus, although it was contrary to what the convention seemed to be, I would actually recommend doing this loop walk in a clockwise manner.

After all, we pretty much cut right to the chase, so to speak, and then we had the rest of the time at leisure to finish the rest of the loop hike, which I thought was less interesting anyways.

Anyways, after returning to the main car park across the visitor center, we found ourselves having spent nearly 2 hours within the complex.

Shifen_Waterfall_371_11042016 - Looking down over an attractive wide waterfall on the Keelung River when we were almost back at the car park for the Shifen Waterfall
Looking down over an attractive wide waterfall on the Keelung River when we were almost back at the car park for the Shifen Waterfall

This didn’t include the additional hour of checking out the Eyeglasses Waterfall before the Shifen Waterfall opened for the day.

While the park literature suggested that it would only take less than an hour to complete the roughly 2.4km loop hike (which was really more like a stroll), we really took our time.

And I definitely advocate not being in a rush to really experience this place.

Authorities

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.

Shifen_Waterfall_010_11042016 - Walking through some shops that were just opening up as we made our way backwards towards the Yanjingdong Waterfall
Shifen_Waterfall_011_11042016 - Mom, Dad, and one of Mom's older brothers walking towards the Keelung River as we headed towards the Yanjingdong Waterfall before the facility started to open up
Shifen_Waterfall_014_11042016 - Walking towards the suspension bridge traversing the Keelung River en route to the Yanjingdong Waterfall
Shifen_Waterfall_018_11042016 - Traversing the long bridge over the Keelung River, which also paralleled the Pingxi Railway
Shifen_Waterfall_021_11042016 - Looking upstream on a side stream over a cascade towards where we had gotten started on the backwards walk to the Shifen Waterfall from its 'exit'
Shifen_Waterfall_022_11042016 - While crossing the suspension bridge, we noticed wafting mist rising further downstream on the Keelung River, which we knew had to have come from the Shifen Waterfall
Shifen_Waterfall_030_11042016 - Looking upstream along the Keelung River across the Pingxi Railway while crossing the suspension bridge
Shifen_Waterfall_032_11042016 - Descending from the suspension bridge towards the walkway leading us ultimately to the back end of the Shifen Waterfall complex
Shifen_Waterfall_033_11042016 - Looking back beneath the suspension bridge towards the Yanjingdong Waterfall
Shifen_Waterfall_043_11042016 - Looking towards some thin waterfall (possibly with some man-modifications to it) while walking to the 'exit' of the Shifen Waterfall
Shifen_Waterfall_044_11042016 - Walking past some statues on the way to the cafes near the exit of the Shifen Waterfall Loop Walk
Shifen_Waterfall_045_11042016 - Approaching the commercial area towards the 'exit' of the Shifen Waterfall
Shifen_Waterfall_047_11042016 - The closure gate for the Shifen Waterfall as we were too early
Shifen_Waterfall_065_11042016 - Looking towards the context of some cafe tables alongside the Keelung River and the mist from the Shifen Waterfall with the closure gate yet to open
Shifen_Waterfall_070_11042016 - Once they finally let us in, we first got to look down over the brink of the Shifen Waterfall
Shifen_Waterfall_097_11042016 - Looking down over the brink of the Shifen Waterfall when a double rainbow started to appear in its mist
Shifen_Waterfall_099_11042016 - Walking on a fairly busy ramp leading us closer to the main frontal lookouts for the Shifen Waterfall
Shifen_Waterfall_102_11042016 - We then descended towards the main frontal viewing spots for the Shifen Waterfall, which was already starting to get busy despite our head start
Shifen_Waterfall_123_11042016 - Shifen Waterfall and rainbow in context with the waterfall's plunge pool and some fallen rocks in the foreground
Shifen_Waterfall_124_11042016 - The walkway then went to our left revealing more of the rainbow juxtaposed with the Shifen Waterfall
Shifen_Waterfall_163_11042016 - Another look across the full arc of the rainbow in the mist of the Shifen Waterfall as seen from one of its frontal lookouts
Shifen_Waterfall_165_11042016 - Looking back up at the series of steps that we took to climb out of the frontal lookout area for the Shifen Waterfall
Shifen_Waterfall_174_11042016 - We were fortunate in our timing as we managed to see the bold rainbow before Shifen Waterfall when the morning sun was out, but then the thunderclouds started popping up and blocking the sun's rays, which meant it was now time to take long exposure photos
Shifen_Waterfall_246_11042016 - Looking back at the very busy frontal viewing area for the Shifen Waterfall
Shifen_Waterfall_251_11042016 - A closer long-exposed look at the Shifen Waterfall
Shifen_Waterfall_314_11042016 - After getting our fill of the main lookouts for the Shifen Waterfall, we then had to walk back up to the paved walkway, which was now quite busy with people as our window of relative uncrowdedness was over
Shifen_Waterfall_324_11042016 - The context of the area near the brink of the Shifen Waterfall
Shifen_Waterfall_326_11042016 - Looking back in the other direction at the various overlooks in multi-leveled decks for getting top down views over the brink of the Shifen Waterfall
Shifen_Waterfall_329_11042016 - Looking downstream at what appeared to be a major landslide and rock fall that might have destroyed the old lookouts providing an even more direct and frontal view of the Shifen Waterfall
Shifen_Waterfall_335_11042016 - Looking back at the main walkway as I was headed back up towards the main entrance after having had our fill of the Shifen Waterfall
Shifen_Waterfall_340_11042016 - This was the gate at the main entrance of the Shifen Waterfall
Shifen_Waterfall_344_11042016 - It took quite a while to even walk to this spot, which was well before the main entrance for the Shifen Waterfall. So this made me think that perhaps walking backwards on the loop was better than going the counterclockwise way they intended for you to go
Shifen_Waterfall_348_11042016 - Looking over some colored tin roofs that I believe belonged to the cafes and shops closer to the brink of the Shifen Waterfall
Shifen_Waterfall_349_11042016 - Looking towards the lush mountain scenery around the Shifen Waterfall complex 'before' the entrance (or after the entrance in our case since we went backwards)
Shifen_Waterfall_351_11042016 - Looking back at more of the trail leading towards the entrance of the Shifen Waterfall
Shifen_Waterfall_354_11042016 - Looking towards some kind of lookout deck with a nice view towards the valley and the general area where the Keelung River ultimately meandered towards the Shifen Waterfall
Shifen_Waterfall_368_11042016 - Looking towards some suspension bridge near the visitor center. This was definitely not the ones we had crossed earlier by the Yanjingdong Waterfall
Shifen_Waterfall_377_11042016 - Another look across a suspension bridge that was definitely different than the one we took earlier by the Yanjingdong Waterfall. It made me wonder where it went though we didn't have a chance to explore it

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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

So from the junction of the National Expressway 3 and the National Expressway 1 (east of Taipei City), we would keep going east towards Keelung along National Expressway 1.

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.

Shifen_Waterfall_001_11042016 - Driving on the road leading closer to the Shifen Waterfall
Driving on the road leading closer to the Shifen Waterfall

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.

Shifen_Waterfall_372_11042016 - This was the bus-only road leading to the main entrance for the Shifen Waterfall. This road was just beyond the main car parks
This was the bus-only road leading to the main entrance for the Shifen Waterfall. This road was just beyond the main car parks

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.

Shifen_Waterfall_009_11042016 - This was the entrance and car park area closest to the Yanjingdong Waterfall and Shifen Waterfall Loop Trail 'exit'
This was the entrance and car park area closest to the Yanjingdong Waterfall and Shifen Waterfall Loop Trail ‘exit’

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.

Shifen_Waterfall_382_11042016 - While driving out of the Shifen Waterfall area, we saw those Chinese lanterns (kind of like miniature hot air balloons) floating over Pingxi, which is cool, but it makes me wonder about where there lanterns end up (and whether that results in litter)
While driving out of the Shifen Waterfall area, we saw those Chinese lanterns (kind of like miniature hot air balloons) floating over Pingxi, which is cool, but it makes me wonder about where there lanterns end up (and whether that results in litter)

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.

Sweep showing the Shifen Waterfall with rainbow from a few different spots around the steps and the viewing shelter


Sweep starting from an elevated top down look over the falls' brink and profile before making my way down to the very brink of the falls. In the background was a recording on loudspeaker that played just when the park opened


Checking out the Yanjingdong (Eyeglasses) Waterfall from beneath the bridges while we were waiting for Shifen Waterfall to open


Short sweep showing some other small but wide waterfall well upstream of the main Shifen Waterfall

Trip Planning Resources


Tagged with: taipei, pingxi, sandiaoling, keelung river, taiwan, northern taiwan, waterfall, valley, famous, yanjingdong, eyeglasses



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Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of 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.
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