About Xiao Wulai Waterfall (小烏來瀑布 [Xiǎowūlái Pùbù])
The Xiao Wulai Waterfall (小烏來瀑布 [Xiǎowūlái Pùbù]; meaning “Little Wulai Waterfall”) was kind of a strange experience for Mom and I because we were torn between how to experience this falls given the choice of options on offer. On the one hand, there appeared to be quite a bit of infrastructure for what I thought were a bunch of man-made tourist contraptions like the Xiau Wulai Skywalk (basically a glass bridge above the Xiao Wulai Waterfall), some suspension bridges, and other exhibits. On the other hand, there was a more quieter experience seemingly away from the commotion. Being more into natural attractions, we opted to go away from the commotion and experience the relative peace and quiet of the natural beauty of the waterfall. This meant that we not only got frontal views of the falls, but we also got to go all the way to its unsanctioned base. Given that the quieter experience further downstream of the falls seemed to be better than the manmade ones, we wonder how this place will continue to evolve as the Taiwanese government would continue to find new ways to monetize and develop the somewhat undeveloped spots.
That said, with the way our experience went, we were treated to an impressive 50m tall waterfall flowing on a tributary of the Daxi River (大漢溪 [Dàhàn Xī]) called Yunei Stream (宇內溪 [Yǔnèi Xī]). So even though its name suggested that the falls was “small”, it was definitely no slouch on its own as it was said to drop 50m over three tiers. Once we found parking near the easy-to-miss observation deck (see directions below), we walked along the road to that observation deck, where we got commanding panoramic views of the Xiao Wulai Waterfall (as pictured at the top of this page) as well as the downstream scenery towards the Daxi River and bridge.
After getting our fill of this vantage point, we descended a series of steps leading down to a toilet facility as well as the start of the trail leading all the way down to the Yunei Stream and its gorge. From the lookout, the hike was about 800m in each direction, and it involved a junction roughly 580m into the descent. We went left to go upstream to the base of the Xiao Wulai Waterfall, but going right (which we didn’t do) would have led to the smaller Dragon Phoenix Waterfall (龍鳳瀑布 [Lóngfèng]) in a little under 940m. So the remainder of the walk was pretty flat as it followed along the stream, but then we reached a bridge with a right-angled turn that was fronted by a closure barricade due to a landslide that pushed right at the joint of that right-angle. We were able to squeeze through the obstruction though it underscored the danger of being down here.
Once we got to the bridge fronting the waterfall’s base, we were pretty much looking right against the midday sun where the gushing falls (probably swollen from many consecutive days of rain) was throwing up a lot of mist in our direction. The far side of the bridge led up to a lookout tower, but it was closed. Upon further inspection of that tower, it looked like the floors were rotted away or destroyed by flood. Either way, it was pretty obvious why we didn’t entertain going any further. Once we had our fill of this spot, we did the all uphill hike back to car park, but not before seeing a handful of people heading to the base of the falls. Given that we didn’t really park closest to the observation deck, our overall hike turned out to be 2km round trip. We
We actually drove to the Xiao Wulai Waterfall all the way from Sun Moon Lake (it took us 3.5 hours). But we’ll describe the directions from closer to Taoyuan City since that was where the expressway exit that we took was, and that was also where the Taipei Taoyuan International Airport (TPE) was as well.
So from the National Expressway 3 exit, we followed the signs for Xiao Wulai Scenic Area and took one of the exits towards the attractive tourist town of Daxi (大溪 [Dàxī]). The exit that we took made us take the Tai-3 route to the northeast before making us turn right to follow the Tai-4 highway. After about 6km, we then turned left (as directed by signs for Xiao Wulai) onto the Tai-7 highway, which we would follow for the next 18km or so. There were white lines along the Tai-7 highway on the right, which meant we could legally parallel park there. This was just before the road would pass through an archway and entrance booth. The parking here was free.
Now, if you did as we did and miss this spot, you could still drive another 250m then keep right to descend towards a paid car park at the end of a sharp curve. This was where we parked the car. The drive from the expressway exit to here took us a little over an hour due to the volume of traffic through much of the drive.
For geographical context, Daxi was about 15km south of Taoyuan City (between 30-60 minutes depending on traffic), 40km south of the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport (under an hour drive), 53km southwest of Taipei (about an hour drive), and 217km north of Sun Moon Lake (under 3 hours drive).
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