The trail to the three waterfalls (Hegu, Motian and Pipadong) in Sandiaoling (三貂嶺) is one of my favorite in northern Taiwan. If you are tired of stairs and paved trails around Taipei, but don’t feel like doing a serious hike in the mountains, then this one might be an ideal choice.
Sandioaling is relatively close to Taipei and can be reached within one hour by train. The trail to the waterfalls is 2.2 km long and can be done in about 1-2 hours, depending on how many photo-breaks you make. A nice thing is, that the trail is not too difficult, but also not too easy. Also some adventurous spots are waiting there, for example crossing a stream on bridge made from a thick rope, rope climbing to reach Pipadong waterfalls, going really close to the edge of Motian waterfall, and almost behind the waterfall curtain. Besides this, you will be also rewarded by lush green bamboo forest, enchanting woods and small streams, and of course an impressive view on the waterfalls.
The trail actually doesn’t end at the third waterfall. Different trails continue from there. One choice is to go a 5 km long trail to Houtong (猴硐), also known as cat town (猴硐貓村). If you have enough time and feel like doing a bit of extra workout, then this is a nice add-on. But this one is tough, its long and partly quite steep.
Here I will share my photos from the hikes I did there. In the last couple of years I went there few times. So the photos are from different years and seasons.
The trail entrance is between the train station and Sandiaoling. After arriving at Sandiaoling train station walk parallel to the railroad tracks until you reach the bridge. Take the underpass to cross the railroad tracks safely, turn left and keep walking along the small street next to the track of the Pingxi Branch Line. From time to time the colorful trains to Pingxi will pass by. Be careful when the trains are coming, they are very close. A few meters after crossing a bridge, you will see a small rail road crossing. Cross the tracks here and go towards the elementary school. Here is also the trail entrance. In the meantime signs and some information boards have been installed. So it should be easy to find the way.
Hegu Waterfall (合谷瀑布)
After climbing the stairs up you can enjoy the view on Sandiaoling and the railway bridge. Could be an interesting spot for train enthusiast to capture trains on the Pingxi Line.
Along the trail are clear signs, which will guide you into the right direction.
No idea how serious this warning is, but the trail to the waterfalls is safe.
A small shrine dedicated to the land god.
Depending on the season, you can see these impressive spiders.
Hegu waterfall. This is the closest you can get.
Motian Waterfall （摩天瀑布）
Next stop Motian Waterfall. On the sign and map it is written as Motain Waterfall, but the Chinese characters are pronounced as MóTiān. So I will use the Chinese name here.
On the way you will cross two of these bridges.
Motian Waterfall. It is much bigger than it looks on the photo.
You can climb half way up and go almost behind the water curtain. This is an interesting experience.
Pipadong Waterfall (枇杷洞瀑布)
Pipadong Waterfall is above Motian Waterfall. There are less than 200 meters away from each other. To reach Pipadong Waterfall you need to do some climbing.
In the past there was only this way up. Was pretty exciting to climb here, but now…
…the wooden stairs and ropes are replaced by this metal stairs. A bit boring now, but much much safer than before.
Luckily not all the way was refurbished. There is still some part to climb.
The space in front of the waterfall is a perfect place to take some rest and enjoy lunch.
The edge of Motian Waterfall.
You can go directly to the edge of the waterfall and enjoy a nice view from there.
Climb a bit higher and you get this view. From here the trail splits to Houtong or other places in this area.
Bonus: Houtong （猴硐）
When you are already in this area, and you love cats, then a visit to Houtong could be a good idea. The former coal mining town is now popular for its large amount of cute cats.
The easiest way to reach Sandiaoling is by train. By car or scooter would be possible, but not sure if there is a space to park the vehicles close to the trail entrance or even somewhere in Sandiaoling. There is no convenience store in or near the village. Probably one of the few places in Taiwan without a 7-11 😉 So you need to bring food and water with you. Recently people started to sell snacks and drinks near the entrance during weekends. Good hiking shoes are recommended. Especially after rainy days parts of the trail can be slippery. Also for the climbing part it is good to have shoes with some grip.