Pingxi is a small village situated less than an hour from Taipei. It´s famous for producing massive paper lanterns that once a year, during the Sky Lantern Festival, get sent to the sky with wishes written on them. Unfortunately we missed that one by many months. And we arrived in Pingxi for a different reason… The nearby mountains. Three mountains to be exact. It might sound like a lot in a day but those are actually not that challenging and the views are more than rewarding.

How to get there?

The trails to all the 3 mountains meet at the same spot that you can see on our map below. To get there from Taipei there are quite few options. You can either take a train to the Rueifang train station and then switch to the Pingxi Rail line that will take you to Pingxi Station or take a direct bus from Muzha Zoo. Unfortunately both options won’t get you there before the sunrise and they both take at least 2hrs. So we decided to take an UBER, which was the best choice for us. It only cost 900 Taiwanese dollars (around 27 euro) and it took just 40 minutes.

Why so early?

We really wanted to be there very early to see the sunrise which was just epic, with clouds and fog. We also wanted to skip the heat of mid-day. Even when we started, before 5 am, it was very warm but at 6.30 the sun was already unbearable. As soon as we started walking I was really happy that we didn't have to share the spot with other people. It was not only soothingly peaceful but also safer. I can’t imagine how it could be crowded on those narrow stone stairs or worse… on the ladder.
Early start gave us an option of combining two trips in one and go to nearby waterfalls.

Xiaozi Mountain (Filial Son Mountain)

The lowest of them all and a perfect spot for a sunrise. Hiking from the beginning of the trail to the top took us around 20 minutes. The views were just insane with fog and clouds tight densely around the mountains. From there we could see the other two peaks in their full glory and also the stairs from hell that would take us to the second peak.

The only small detail about Xiaozi peak is that it requires cold blood. It’s a straight forward walk on the stairs that are pretty exposed and as a last part of the hike you need to climb a ladder that is even more exposed. Good news is that there are super steady ropes to hold on both sides. I’m really, really scared of heights and I managed to do it... Nearly got a heart attack though 🙂

The top of the mountain is pretty tiny and surrounded with a metal railing. I honestly can’t imagine that more than 5 people could fit there… Unless we are talking Asian size people, than maybe 10 would fit. I was extremely glad we were there just the 2 of us.

Cimu Mountain (Motherly Loving Mountain)

The trail begins just next to Xiaozi one and it’s hard to miss. It’s the beginning of millions of stairs and although they looked pretty bad from the first peak, they're really not difficult. It took us maybe around 30 minutes to get to the summit, not counting a big stop for pictures half way.

The staircase is not as exposed as the first one and it has very steady ropes to hold on both sides. I would even dare to say that here two people could even pass each other.

The views from The Mother Loving Mountain are spectacular, here we could see the Filial Son Mountain which from the distance looks completely out of this world. We also saw Putuo Mountain, the last one of the 3 peaks.

At the top of Cimu, it wasn’t clear which way down we should have taken. There were few paths, including old ones still with ropes in great condition… We decided to go down exactly on the other side of the mountain since it looked less steep and challenging. Big mistake. It turned out to be far from clear, challenging at times, and at some point the trail completely disappeared in vegetation leaving us without a clue of where to go. In final end we managed to go down through the bushes. But I would recommend just going down the same way…

After the view from the Motherly Loving Mountain we decided to skip the 3rd peak. It seemed pretty covered with trees and from what we could see we would only get a view on one side which would be similar to the one from the 2nd peak especially since they are so close by each other. Taking that into consideration and the fact that it’s the highest of the three we decided to end our adventure as it was.

Since it was just 7 am and we were full of energy and enthusiasm we decided to visit some waterfalls nearby 🙂

Shifen and the waterfalls’ hike

Shifen waterfall is the widest one on Taiwan and it's where a hike to 3 other ones starts/ends. Being so close to it we couldn’t miss the opportunity. Shifen is also famous for sky lanterns but in the morning there are barely any shops open.

We took a train from Pingxi to get to Shifen which takes just 20 min. The train itself was charming and well-kept in old style. It was also pretty frequent which surprised us.

From the station it’s still quite a walk but we managed to arrive at the entrance to the waterfall at precisely 9 am. The exact time when it opens… Unfortunately the waterfall is very much commercialized and there are restaurants, observation decks, toilets… So close to the nature and yet so far. It was clear they were prepared for hundreds of visitors. Thankfully those masses don’t wake up so early.

Behind the waterfall there are train tracks and that’s where the hike to other waterfalls begins. It’s illegal to walk on them and there is a fence with a sign to make sure it’s clear… But well, that’s the only way. The route along the trails is just about 15 minutes and most of the time there is enough space to step aside in case a train passes. Except for a short tunnel… Fortunately the trains are not frequent and when we were there, one just passed us before we head to the tunnel so we were pretty sure we would survive that part 🙂

To know where you should step down from the train tracks on a path you can download our map.

From there it’s pretty straight forward and super slippery. The rock stairs are covered in leaves and it’s wet all the time. Here there are no ropes to hold on to so it can be pretty dangerous. On the bright side it’s a really picturesque route in the forest.

Once we put that difficult 30 minutes behind us we were relieved to realize that was the most challenging part of the path. The rest was pretty much walking on well maintained trails or even paved roads.

Pipadong Waterfall

Walking from Shifen meant that we first saw the waterfall from up close and up high. Going down we could already hear that at the bottom of the stream was where all the fun was going on. There was a natural swimming pool with plenty of flat rocks for everyone to sit and relax between the swims in the chilled water. True mercy in such a hot, sunny country and an epic way to rest after the hike.

No wonder that it’s a pretty crowded spot, especially since the hike from Sandiaoling Waterfall has been adapted to be more family friendly.

After some down time, we started walking towards the Sandiaoling Waterfall with our two new friends. One of them literally walked in sandals… which I wouldn’t recommend to anyone. But it does say a lot about the difficulty of the path from here on. On our way to civilization we passed Motian Waterfall that was as beautiful as the Pipadong one, although it missed the pool option. Busy talking we almost missed the Hegu Waterfall that turned out to be rather inaccessible and only visible from a platform from quite a distance.

From there it was just a short walk to the train that took us back to our cozy apartment in Taipei.

We got you interested?

4 thoughts on “Pingxi mountain tops and dips in waterfalls- Perfect day trip from Taipei

  1. Reply
    Lida - July 10, 2017

    I woke up early and started reading your story, with the pictures it’s amazing and gave me a good day, thanks.

    1. Reply
      In search of umami - July 10, 2017

      Dat is fantastisch om dat te horen! Dank je wel! 🙂

  2. Reply
    Lydia - October 1, 2017

    Hi, the pictures look breathtaking!
    Where did you tell the Uber driver to drop you off to start the Pingxi hike up Filial Son Mountain?

    1. Reply
      In search of umami - October 2, 2017

      Hi, Glad to hear you like the pictures.
      We walked from the Pingxi town itself. But you could ask the Uber driver to drop you off at https://maps.google.com/?cid=13081307705703690960
      Because there is a parking just next to the start of the hike 🙂

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