The hills rising to either side of the picturesque Pingxi Line are dotted with numerous mountain streams and waterfalls. Menghuan Waterfall (or Dream Falls) is perhaps less well known than some of the others, but its secluded nature makes it a great spot to visit.

Distance: Around 3.5km.

Time: 1.5-2 hours should be ample unless you plan to hang out by the water.

Difficulty (regular Taiwan hiker): 1/10 – This is a short and casual walk for a seasoned Taiwan hiker.

Difficulty (new Taiwan hiker): 2/10 – This trail has some steps, slippery sections and barking dogs.

Total ascent: About 120m.

Water: 0.5L was enough for me, the station has a water dispenser, but there aren’t any stores nearby.

Shade: It was cloudy when I visited, but on a sunny day I think I’d need more than just suncream, there are several exposed areas.

Mobile network: none near the waterfall, but ok as you get closer to the station.

Enjoyment: Because this is a little further from the road, this is one of the quieter falls in the area – it would make a pleasant spot to hang out in the summer. And if you combine a trip here with a trip to one of the coffee shops a little further down the track then you’ve got yourself an almost perfect day.

Other: I met quite a few leeches on this trail – best cover up if you don’t fancy feeding them.

Permit: None needed.

Jump to the bottom of the post for a map and GPX file.

I was one of two people alighting into the dark interior of Sandiaoling Station that morning. According to Foreigners in Taiwan, Sandiaoling is unique in being the only station that doesn’t have road access – a throw back to its legacy as part of the area’s mining past when railway workers used this post to keep watch over the adjacent junction. It certainly has a different air to it, all dark and enclosed, much unlike the other open platforms you’ll find elsewhere.

There’s only one clear way to leave the station, so I turned right out of the ticket barrier and walked along a narrow path squished between the tracks and a row of decaying buildings.

It had been raining all weekend, so the river had swollen to a larger and louder flow than normal. From inside one of the abandoned structures a window framed the convergence of Shibikeng Stream with the much larger Keelung River.

It’s not necessary to cross the track to get to the trail head, so I stayed on the near side as I made my way over the bridge. The path sits below and just far enough away from the tracks, but it would be an unpleasant kind of thrilling to be on the bridge at the same time as a train, it’s best to just pass over quickly.

NOTE: This may no longer be passable. If so, take the underpass below the tracks and just keep walking down towards the village, then double back and follow the river back along the far side of the road.

At the end of the bridge I crossed over another tributary and took the stairs leading up behind this private residence to join the road beyond.

Turning left at the top of the stairs, I headed back in the direction of the station, but on the far bank of the river. Only local trains and those plying the Pingxi Line stop at the station, (with an average of two trains an hour in each direction), but many more pass through. The one above is a local train (probably the 12:11 Su’ao to Shilin service of the timetable is correct).

Look out for a fingerpost, a map and some mail boxes next to concrete steps. This is where the trail breaks away from the road and starts to climb.

The first couple of minutes is steep, but beyond that the trail becomes a more comfortable gradient. It’s perhaps not the prettiest forest, but as with the most of the scenery around the Pingxi Line, rain makes it come to sparkly life.

At a bend in the path, there is a small Fude temple.

This one has been recently and colourfully decorated with prosperity and wealth attracting red and gold. I was surprised to see that the calendar hadn’t already had the previous day’s page torn off, invariably some early bird will have beaten me to it. The idol inside the temple was lit up by a white bulb placed in the far left corner which gave it the look of an artifact displayed in a museum – most have red bulbs rather than white so the effect was striking.

The path keeps climbing gently until it arrives Shengquan Temple (聖泉寺, so maybe Holy Spring Temple would be a suitable bane translation).

It’s an unfussy Buddhist establishment which seems to be maintained by live in nuns. I was greeted/menaced by the temple’s three dogs, which the nuns told me not to worry about. Only this sandy coloured one wasn’t chained up, and although she barked ferociously, the wag in her tail belied her true intent. I passed through quickly so as not to disturb the nuns as they saw to their devotions.

Just beyond the temple’s vine-clad gate I met a man who was staring intently at the earth next to the trail. Finding my curiosity (*ahem, nosiness*) piqued, I asked what he was looking for. “Cherry saplings,” came the answer, he pointed out a couple of tiny trees, barely more than 10cm tall and each with just a few leaves, then pointed up to the established cherry tree above them. He said he was finding them so that he could come back and take them to be replanted once they got big enough. He’d stuck an upright twig into the ground next to each of them to remind himself of where they were.

The steps lead up to a road, but the trail heads straight over and pass the collapsed remains of an older pavilion.

Still the trail isn’t exactly beautiful, but the mix of ferns, bamboo and rainy drama made it a pleasant walk.

The short section of path spits you out next to the toilet block which serves Menghuan Temple. I was happy to find toilets here because I’d foolishly downed my coffee so that I could put the mug in my bag.

Menghuan Temple is overseen by this Buddha statue at the entrance, and it’s own pack of loud dogs. The pack leader was an older black and brown one which seemed to be barking out of a sense of duty rather than because it wanted to, the most aggressive one was a three-legged Formosan mountain dog. Three-legs clearly wasn’t the brightest pup though, since every time it calmed down enough to turn its back on me, its shit-stirring shiba inu (or shiba inu mix) pack mate was able to repeatedly goad it into becoming agitated again by running into it, pushing it and other general shiba inu dickery. (Ok, so maybe I’m being a little unfair, these guys are bred hunters, aggression is in their nature.) Again, a resident nun came to the wing or to assure me that the dogs were fine and that I just needed to talk to them and tell them to be quiet.

The temple is quite a pretty building with unique orange paintwork making it stand out amongst its forest clearing.

The trail crosses in front of the temple and then continues beyond it. Just a few minutes further and you’ll hear the roar of Menghuan Falls as the water as it cascades down to the pool below. At the top of the steps there is a rough trail on the right which leads around the top of the falls to join up with the road – initially I had planned to go down to the water then continue along the rough trail, but after seeing how muddy it was I changed my mind, I was only in the mood for a relaxing walk, not scrambling.

There was a lot of water in the stream when I visited, so the noise was almost deafening, I imagine it’s a little more calming when it hasn’t just rained. I wouldn’t have thought that the plunge pool under the falls is a particularly good spot for a dip here, but it looks like people probably enjoy a paddle (not a swim) in a little further down.

Maybe thirty metres downstream of the waterfall I noticed a small pool formed by a manmade dam that spanned the width of the watercourse. I’m pretty sure this spot gets its fair share of summer visitors – it must be nice to come here with some lunch, some drinks and spend the day resting under the shade of the trees.

However there is one thing that may or may not deter you from cracking out your swimming shorts: the leeches. This beauty was the first of three that I found creeping up my trousers in search of blood. Thankfully I got home blood tithe unpaid, but it was a close call.

How to get there

Google maps address: This trail starts from Sandiaoling station. There’s some parking available on the far side of the road from the station.

GPS location: N25 03.780 E121 49.400

Public transport: All local trains leaving Taipei bound for Yilan or Hualien will stop at Sandiaoling.

Nearby trails:

New words leant on this hike:

  1. 樹苗 / shùmiáo / sapling

Menghuan Falls Trail Map

GPX file available here on Outdoor Active. (Account needed, but the free one works just fine.) Note, recent changes in the area (due to idiots nearly getting themselves killed while taking photos on the line) might mean that you cannot take a shortcut over the bridge closest to Sandiaoling Station. If this is the case, you will need to walk further down the tracks to the village

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