Shimenggu is one of the best day hikes that I have done in a long time. It has everything that a hiker wants in a hike. It starts out going through bamboo forests while also offering big views of a nearly 1000 meter deep canyon. It goes through a now uninhabited mountain property with a beautiful flower garden. Qingrengu (translates to Lover’s Gorge) Pools are beautiful and they feed a great waterfall. Sadly only one of the giant trees remain (near the trail) due to illegal logging but there is an amazing mossy forest followed by the odd pools at Shimenggu. This is only a list of things directly on the trail. Near the beginning there is a side trail over a suspension bridge that eventually leads to 1000 person cave and Shuiyang Lake. Both Qingrengu and Shimenggu could be further explored and likely contain additional great sights including an additional waterfall.
Alternate hikes from this trailhead – The trail to Shuiyang Lake is steep but it is okay shape and we talked to a few hikers that had hiked it. It takes about 4 hours to get to 1000 person cave (camping location) and 2 additional hours to reach Shuiyang Lake. A permit is required to hike this trail. It is also possible to hike to Alishan from this trail but I haven’t done this yet.
note – the waterfall is unnamed on all maps so I have named it after the valley and pools immediately upstream. This hike is referred to as Shimenggu and Richard Saunders has translated it to Stone Dream Valley.
How to get there – Drive east out of Fengshan village in Chaiyi County. Don’t cross the river at the intersection but instead stay left. Stay right at a signboard for Tianyun Waterfall and stay right again and follow the road down to the river and cross on a new bridge. In less than 1 km there is a pavilion and cars should park here. Motorcycles and possibly AWD vehicles (confident drivers) can continue for another 1/2 km but the road is too steep and potentially slippery for cars.
The hike – The hike follows the road for 1/2 km (unless you have a motorcycle). This is a little tiring but the hike becomes even steeper after the official trailhead climbing almost 300 meters in 1 km. There is a pavilion to rest at in the middle and at the end of the steepest part is a beautiful mountain house and garden. In December or January there are maple trees turning red and in February both rhododendrons and cherry blossoms were in bloom. The elderly couple that we met in 2013 have moved away and the house is gated. There is a community bathroom and a break area for hikers along with running water (unfiltered).
The trail continues to ascend after the garden but at a more reasonable rate. In 2013 there was a bad landslide blocking part of the trail but a reasonably good trail has been trampled into place around it. Just after the landslide there is a trail junction. I think it is best to do the loop clockwise but either way is fine. Going clockwise you will reach the Qingrengu Waterfall in <1km. It isn’t that difficult to access the cave behind the waterfall but be careful. The trail ascends straight up to the Qingrengu Pools that are right on top of the waterfall. The trail keeps ascending steeply. Part way up the ascent there is a junction. To the right is a giant cypress tree (possibly the only one left in the area) and at the tree you can enter the secret canyon that we believe is actually Shimenggu. There is no trail but the canyon is stunningly dramatic as moss covered walls rise with a very impressive waterfall. Return to the giant cypress and continue uphill (added from a Jan 2017 trip).
The saddest part of the trail are the stumps of giant cypress trees that have been illegally logged. Nothing was left of the trees (2/2016) but the cuts had to have been done in the last year (several Vietnamese and their bosses were caught 4/2016). Continuing upward the trail passes through a mossy forest that is only found a few places in Taiwan. Shimenggu is located just after the green forest and isn’t really the most impressive sight on the trail. It is the oddest sight though. Shimenggu features about a dozen 2-3 meter wide holes in a large sloped rock. The water is crystal clear and some of the holes like they were several meters deep. It is possible to explore upstream at Shimenggu and not far around the corner is a trail to Alishan (not hiked yet). After Shimenggu the trail starts to descend back to the trail junction.
Date visited – 2/29/2016 – 1/7/2017
A view into the secret Shimenggu Valley.