Distance: about 4km – I ended up walking double this because I wanted to continue on towards Shifen.
Time: 2¼ hours – I walked quite slowly for me and took my time enjoying each spot, so if you wanted to make it quicker you could. Likewise, you might want to stop for a paddle, in which case you’d need to allocate extra time.
Total ascent: about 140m, so not too much.
Difficulty (regular Taiwan hiker):2/10 – slippery trails and very occasional difficulty finding where you’re going.
Difficulty (new Taiwan hiker): 3/10 – there’s not a huge amount of elevation gain, but there is some. Be careful on the muddy paths, they can be slippery even when it hasn’t rained. Most signs are in English and Chinese, but make sure you have a map or GPX file to follow.
Water: I was fine with 0.5L on a warm late summer day (26-28°C). If I’d stopped to rest at the waterfalls or if it had been hotter I would have needed a little more. You can buy water from the little shop in Lingjiao, there are snacks too, but not a whole lot of choice.
Shade: The trail between the two villages was pretty well shaded, but on the roads you will need sun protection on bright days.
Mobile network: I think my network coverage was fine for the whole walk.
Enjoyment: this walk is great fun. There are waterfalls, an easy but pretty trail, and it can be combined with other explorations nearby. It’s definitely one I would recommend.
Other: despite the signs prohibiting swimming, many people chose to swim in these places. If you chose to do this, be aware of your safety and exercise extreme caution. The pools are deep, the waterfalls create currents underwater that have caught out plenty of swimmers before, and streams in Taiwan are prone to surges after periods of heavy rain.
Permit: none needed.
Lingjiao and Wanggu Waterfall Trail Map
GPX file available here.
My walk got off to an inauspicious start when I got off a stop too late because I thought I could take a shortcut down one of the lanes leading between the main road and Lingjiao. A few metres down the lane was Cihang Temple (慈航宮), and inside the temple I met a tiny grandma who was just about to settle down for her late morning tipple and brunch of whole, small, dried fish and something that was glistening in an unappealing fashion. From the get go it was clear that communication would be tough – she spoke only Taiwanese and my ability to understand what she was saying seemed to match her ability to understand what I was saying – limited to odd words here and there. Despite this, she grabbed my arm and pulled me towards a spare seat next to her table and encouraged me to join her meal and drink. I managed to convey the fact that I am vegetarian and that I was going to the nearby waterfall. She in return was able to guess my country on the first attempt, tell me that she’s 90 years old and that the waterfall is in a different direction. I was only saved by the arrival of the local corner shop guy who arrived on his scooter to deliver a large crate of alcohol.
I headed back down the road to the previous bus stop and started my journey anew by heading down a road with signs that promised to take me to Lingjiao Station.
I got lucky on this second attempt and soon found myself walking towards the train tracks. I don’t know what was going on, but it seemed like Lingjiao Waterfall was reluctant to be discovered – at first I crossed over the tracks and started walking towards the trail heading to Wanggu, but then I met two women who told me that if I was heading to Lingjiao Waterfall then I was going in the wrong direction. They said they’d just been to see it themselves and told me to follow the tracks towards the station, then keep going a little further.
Lingjiao Station is a short distance away from the centre of the village, and to the side of the single-track road that runs parallel you can see the remains of a suspension bridge that once spanned Keelung River.
Just metres beyond the end of the platform there is a flight of steps that double back on the right, a couple of laminated signs here direct you down towards the water.
I paused to let a couple climb up the steps before I started down them myself. As you head down you will spot a few buildings left to decay in the forest, these date back to a time when visitors used to be charged a fee to see the falls.
The first view you’re likely to get of the water is this side-on view from the left bank. We had had persistent heavy rain all day the day before I visited, so the water curtain pouring over the lip of rock was thunderous rather than the thin trickle that I’ve seen in many photos.
One unique feature of these falls is the odd looking holes that have been carved into the rocks by previous visitors – this is where the alternative name Lingjiao Grotto comes from. I’m not sure if it was their intended function, but the two of them that open up onto the water seem perfectly placed to frame the falls. (The one negative is that I doubt it will ever be a favourite location for anyone with trypophobia.)
On top of the bank where the steps descend into these tunnels there are many odd shapes made of concrete and rebar – I imagine it must be tables and seating left over from the time when this was more of an attraction.
Signs near every entry point and some on the rocks by the water warn that swimming is prohibited and that there have been fatalities in the area. I checked after returning and found out that a Vietnamese university student drowned here less than two two months before my visit after falling in upstream and being swept over the falls, and in further back in the past there was a horrible incident in 1996 which left six students dead after they attended a cram school outing to the falls, (there is TV footage from the reporting of the event which makes the current sensationalist coverage of deaths look tasteful – only watch if you’re feeling emotionally stable). Despite this, the location remains a popular swimming hole, and in the summer there is a steady stream of thrill seekers launching themselves off the cliff and into the pool below.
I stayed by the water for about fifteen minutes before heading back up the way I’d come. Just as I was about to leave, two women came down the steps – I wasn’t 100% sure, but I thought they were the two women I’d spoken to earlier, in which case it was weird that they’d returned since when I left them they were about to start the walk towards Wanggu.
Leaving the weird reappearing aunties behind, I returned to the station and crossed over the tracks towards Lingjiao’s small corner store, there isn’t one at Wanggu, so stock up if you don’t think you brought enough).
A few metres beyond the shop turn right up this alleyway. The signpost says that this direction goes towards both the Tsai family residence (蔡家洋樓) and Lingjiaoliao Shan Trail (嶺腳寮山步道).
The building to one side of the lane has been decorated with some extremely colourful graffiti which includes disconcerting renderings of both a pig and a sheep with human features.
At the end of the lane, beyond the houses is a land god temple – Fu An Temple. The deity inside is a stone tablet, and the candle is a gas lamp.
Keep following the road as it heads up behind houses along Lingjiao’s ‘main street’.
The road lines up perfectly so that you get a front-on view of the Tsai family residence as you approach it. The two-storey red brick house has clearly seen better days, but despite that it is still a grand structure. Built in 1939 by a Mr Tsai (the owner of Yongchang mine), this is another fading reminder of the wealth that was extracted from the earth during the area’s mining heyday. A sign outside the property notes that although the family still maintains it (not very much by the look of it), they have since moved away to live in Da’an District and California – I guess the wealth of the previous century has flowed down to the descendants.
There is tape half-heartedly strung up across the doorway to deter entry, but it’s clear that some people do explore inside. There was a family of tiny kittens making use of the ground floor when I visited and I didn’t want to scare them by intruding on their space so I carried on with my walk.
A little further along the road take a right turn up between some houses.
The path climbs up behind the houses and appears quite narrow at first.
But before long it widens up and becomes a very well established trail. The ground is muddy and a little slippery – going up it was ok, but you’d need to be careful walking down this way.
At the junction turn right again following the sign pointing towards Lingjiao Shan.
The peak has a few benches and a marker (293m above sea level), but no view.
From the peak, the trail becomes less of a climb, and more of a ramble along the ridge.
There still wasn’t really any view, but I found this part of the walk really pleasant. I enjoyed the variety of trees and the gentle, but still-requiring-focus nature of the walking.
Some of the longer up and down portions had been decked out with steps – probably quite recently judging by the state of them.
At a clearing with a few benches the path takes a sharp left and heads downhill.
After a short scramble down the slope, the trail reaches a stream and veers right to follow it for a few metres before crossing over.
The crossing is make up of concrete stepping stones, and on the far bank there is a net ladder to assist you in your climb up to the path.
I’m not sure if this type of trail building has been chosen for any particular reason, but the child in me remembers jungle gyms and playground assault courses and for a moment I feel like every trail should have them.
There’s a short pretty section after the net ladder where the trail hugs the stream and passes through a copse of fir trees.
The path loses sight of the water here, where it dives over the rock to continue its journey through the forest.
There’s one more net ladder to scale – this one seemingly strategically placed to avoid erosion and/or prevent walkers from falling.
Steps then clim down to a junction, turn left here to visit Wanggu Waterfall, (later return to this spot and take the path heading right and down towards the road).
A set of steps on the right will take you to the waterfall.
I liked the narrowness of the steps, it looks like they were built to accommodate the trees rather than just cutting down the ones that were in the way.
When I arrived there were two couples and a lone aunty there. One of the couples was the two people who were just leaving Lingjiao Waterfall as I arrived. Lone aunty had a brief chat with me as she was about to leave, then sneakily came back because she wanted a photo, (WHY?!), then both she and one of the couples left.
For about five minutes it was beautifully quiet, and then a trio of topless foreigners rocked up (well, actually only two were topless), and started to shout at each other over the noise of the water. Lone auntie had snuck back again, I turned round to find her standing less than a metre behind me, and when I expressed some surprise to see her again she said that she’d come back to watch them swim. The noisiest of the three seemed very happy to indulge
lone auntie voyeur auntie, and he quickly stripped down to tight little swimming trunks then clambered up to a smaller fall on the edge of the pool where he was filmed taking a natural shower by at least three of the watching Taiwanese people.
I decided to leave them to it and climbed back up the steps then turned left and headed on towards Wanggu Station.
Where the path meets the railway there is a sign prohibiting crossing but that walkway on the left doesn’t seem to lead anywhere, so your best bet is to look both ways and cross carefully, then turn left.
There is a rather grand view looking upstream along the river valley – the hills here look good in pretty much every light.
Before you reach Wanggu Station, the road passes through the support structure of Qinghe Suspension Bridge, another old mining relic.
To get to the station, head straight past this row of falling down houses, or to catch a bus follow the road as it bends right and then up to Qinahan bus stop. Personally, I wanted some snacks, so I walked along the road for another 30 minutes or so until I arrived at Shifen where I found some mango shave ice to round off the trip.
How to get to Lingjiao and Wanggu Waterfall
Google maps address: Lingjiao Waterfall is hereish, and Wanggu Waterfall is here.
- Lingjiao Waterfall – N25 01.710 E121 44.890
- Lingjiao Waterfall trail head – N25 01.880 E121 44.910
- Wanggu Waterfall trail head – N25 02.000 E121 45.570
Public transport: Both Lingjiao and Wanggu are served by bus and trains. To take a train, you’ll need to first head to Ruifang, then transfer onto the Pingxi Line, get off at Lingjiao/嶺腳火車站 and then return via Wanggu/望古火車站古. Trains are regular, but not so frequent, so it’s definitely better to do a bit of schedule planning. By bus, the best way is to catch the 795 from Muzha Station bus stop, alight at Tianzi/田子 then catch the bus back from Qinahan/慶和站.
Further reading: these are such easy to get to and well-known waterfalls that there is quite a lot of information written about them online. Foreigners in Taiwan have an article about Lingjiao Waterfall and another with photos of Lingjiao Old Street, Josh Ellis has some photos and information, and Tom Rook at Over the City has a curious post exploring the area in great detail
- Choutou Shan
- Pingxi Crags
- Sandiaoling Waterfall Trail
- Tamsui-Kavalan Trails – Neiganjiao to Shifen
- Tamsui-Kavalan Trails – Shifen to Nuannuan
- Wufen Shan
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3 thoughts on “LINGJIAO and WANGGU WATERFALLS (嶺腳瀑布/望古瀑布)”
This is a great post. We will like to this from cloudbridgetaiwan.com. Have a great day. SLP.
Great post. I was actually planning on going here this weekend. I did this hike last year, but went from Wanggu to Lingjiao… I also got off the bus a stop too late and walked awhile on the road. Leave it to those speedy Taiwanese bus drivers. The hike seemed doable in either direction. Thanks for the post!
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That’s a funny coincidence that you should happen to see this just before you revisit it. I imagine the falls will be pretty impressive after all this rain.