Taiwan’s Wild Hot Springs VI: Nantou County

In Day hikes, Hot springs, Nantou County, River Tracing, Waterfalls, Wild Hot Springs by Richard0 Comments


Jingying Hot Spring

Nantou, Taiwan’s only completely landlocked county, is better known for its incredible mountain scenery and its many waterfalls than for hot springs, yet it has several of the finer wild hot springs on the island. Easily the best (for the awesome river trace at least) is Huisun Hot Spring, which has its own blog, HERE. However there are a fair few others dotted around these high central mountain landscapes.

Jingying and Yunhai Hot Springs (精英溫泉, 雲海溫泉)

Jingying Hot Spring is reachable by car, so is packed with visitors on weekends

The area around Lushan has several hot spring sources – most famously Lushan Hot Springs itself, once a favorite holiday spot for Chiang Kai-shek. Naturally Lushan has been developed to within an inch of its life, and offers little for the nature lover. Several other hot springs nearby have also been developed, but to a lesser extent: Quanyang Hot Spring (春陽溫泉) and Tailuwan Hot Spring (太魯灣溫泉) retain some of their natural qualities, but aren’t especially interesting, although nearby Quanyang Waterfall is one of the finer waterfalls in this area, and little visited these days.

Happily, above the main hot spring area is this much quieter (and rather attractive) smaller hot spring

A little further up the road past Lushan Hot Springs is Lushan village, an authentic aboriginal settlement, and from it an unsurfaced road descends into the deep valley below the village to Jingying Hot Spring. This was probably once a fine place – a whole series of small sources bubble out of a large, wide, rocky riverbed, and locals have piled stones up to dam the water into pools, or dug holes in the gravel to collect the water. Sadly the road down to the hot spring is (just) passable by ordinary cars, and the springs have become very popular, at least on weekends, so it’s not a quiet, pristine oasis.

Jingying Waterfall

Walk upstream beside the river for ten minutes and you’ll reach the small but rather fine Jingying Waterfall, which plunges into a rugged little gorge that’s far more scenic than the hot spring area just below. Retrace steps back to the hot spring area and take the track climbing upstream gently, away from the river. At the sharp bend carry straight on up a trail which passes the head of the waterfall. Just above it another smaller but unspoilt hot spring source fills a couple of tiny pools, stained bright orange by minerals or bacteria. Not suitable for much more than a foot bath, but very pretty.

The smaller hot spring pools above Jingying Waterfall

The first dam, en route to Yunhai Hot Spring

Yunhai Hot Spring [photo by Megan Click]

A much nicer place than either of these, Yunhai Hot Springs, although not much further upstream, remains quite pristine, thanks to it being tricky to reach. Continue upstream above the top of Jingying Waterfall, and soon there’s the first of four or five small dams (part of a flood control system) to negotiate. A ladder of steel rungs makes the first dam relatively easy to scale, but just above it the second, taller dam is climbed by a rope. It’s a tricky climb up, and having a bad head for heights I went no further on our visit, while the rest of the group continued. Apparently there are a further couple of dams to climb (one of which is also a bit tricky). Above them, maybe 50 minutes above Jingying Waterfall, Yunhai Hot Spring forms a couple of idyllic-looking pools beside the river, set in a lovely gorge.

The tricky second dam, en route to Yunhai Hot Spring

Lele Gorge Hot Spring (樂樂谷溫泉)

Dongpu Hot Spring is probably the nicest of Nantou’s several developed hot spring resorts. Some much-needed redevelopment has seen a number of very nice (and not too expensive) hotels open up, while Dongpu remains a nice village feel, which is missing at many other resorts in Taiwan. Best of all, the trailhead of one of Taiwan’s finest day hikes, the Batongguan Trail, is just a few minutes’ walk from the village, and in summer three magnificent waterfalls plunge down the nearby slopes.

You’ll need to walk the first section of Batongguan Trail (past the impressive Father-Son Cliff) to reach Lele Gorge Hot Spring. After passing the excitingly exposed (but these days wide and very safe) cliff path section, look out for an unmarked but obvious trail veering off to the right, which descends steeply to the riverbank below. Turn left, upstream and river trace for a kilometer or so to the hot spring. On my only visit (way back in the 1990s) I wasn’t especially impressed, although there are some nice petrified hot spring formations as the water trickles out of the cliffs on the river bank, but others who have been much more recently have been a lot more positive, so I’ll be back for a second look! Unfortunately the river on which the hot spring lies is often too high to safely trace, so pick a day after a prolonged period of dry weather when visiting.

The remote Hongxiang Hot Springs is sadly piped into this characterless tin shack

Other Hot Springs in Nantou

Just off the road to the trailhead of mighty Mount Baiguda (described elsewhere in this blog), Hongxiang Hot Springs (紅香溫泉), fifteen kilometers north of Lushan, is a welcome spot to ease tired limbs after an exhausting climb,  but as a hot spring it’s pretty lame, as it’s housed in an ugly corrugated iron hut! At least the countryside around here is spectacular.

Although I’ve yet to pay a visit, the two wild hot springs at Aowanda both look well worth checking out. Aowanda Forest Recreation Area (south of Lushan, but approached by a windy mountain road from Wushe) has some developed hot springs, but the Aowanda Beixi Hot Springs (奧萬大北溪溫泉) and Aowanda Nanxi Hot Springs (奧萬大南溪溫泉) both look well worth checking out, if only for the beautiful scenery on the way.

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