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Two Hot Springs and a Rainbow Waterfall: This NanAo River Trace Has it All!

Updated: Apr 27




 

INDEX

 
 
"Laka Rainbow Waterfall (拉卡彩虹瀑布) and Laka Hot Spring (拉卡野溪溫泉) are absolutely stunning, and that day we had perfect weather and sunlight to enjoy them in!"


The Map Room's Map of Hot Springs in Taiwan

Introducing this week's adventure:


Jinyue Waterfall (金岳瀑布): Thunder and Wonder in Nan'Ao

 

Two hot springs, a rainbow waterfall, and amazing scenery the whole way: Join us as we river trace up Nanao Bei Xi (Nanao North River / 南澳北溪) to Siqu Hot Spring (四區野溪溫泉), Laka Hot Spring (拉卡野溪溫泉), and Laka Rainbow Waterfall (拉卡彩虹瀑布)!


 

*Please note that The Map Room participates in the Amazon Associate Program, and other affiliate programs, and may earn from qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you.

 

The Entrance Area

 

Ever since I began exploring the rivers and canyons around Nanao, the area has just never ceased to surprise me. It's is such an amazing river tracing destination! Between hot springs, waterfalls, canyons, and beautiful deep pools, the possibilities are pretty much endless.



The end of the driveable section of the road to Laka and Siqu Hot Springs (拉卡和四區野溪溫泉)

There are three main rivers in Nanao - Naoao North River (南澳北溪), Nanao South River (南澳南溪), and the Lupi River (鹿皮溪) - along with several smaller traceable creeks as well. Today we're going on an adventure up the Nanao North River, taking in two hot springs and a stunningly beautiful rainbow waterfall along the way. The destination: Laka Hot Spring (拉卡野溪溫泉) and Laka Rainbow Waterfall (拉卡彩虹瀑布). We will also get a nice bonus as we pass Siqu Hot Spring (四區野溪溫泉) along the way.



The trail down the Nanao North River (南澳北溪), on the way to Laka and Siqu Hot Springs (拉卡和四區野溪溫泉)

Starting out the trace is easy. Just follow the directions in the GPS and GPX in the Nitty-Gritty Section (below), park, walk to the end of the road, and follow the obvious trail down to the river.


Rocks reflected in pools along the Nanao North River in Yilan, Taiwan (台灣宜蘭南澳北溪)

Siqu Hot Spring (四區野溪溫泉)

 
Siqu Hot Spring in Nanao North River (南澳北溪四區野溪溫泉)

After a little while, you will come to one last section of the road that has been broken off from the section which is still driveable. Once you come down from there, take a look across the river. There is a small, but easy to reach, hot spring right there. Simply cross the river, and you have arrived at Siqu Hot Spring!


Soaking in Siqu Hot Spring in Nanao North River (南澳北溪四區野溪溫泉)

Siqu is pretty easy to reach, and if you're just looking for an easy and relaxing trip, you'd probably just stop here. But if you want more of a challenge, and a much more beautiful destination as a bonus, don't spend long at Siqu. Head on up the river to Laka Hot Spring!


Tracing In (and important safety considerations)

 

Laka Hot Spring CAN be a low-stress, intermediate-friendly river tracing option, but there are some important safety considerations that need to be addressed:


River tracing in Taiwan's Nanao North Creek (在台灣南澳北溪溯溪)

  • You have to go when the water is low.

    • This might seem like a no-brainer, but the Nanao North River is notorious for high water levels. If a storm goes through, it will likely be weeks before it is passable again, so try to get information about the water levels before going, and have a backup plan (like Jinyue Waterfall or Heliu Canyon) in case you need to go somewhere else.


Boulders in Taiwan's Nanao North Creek (台灣南澳北溪巨石)

  • The river is known for suck holes.

    • Water often flows under and between the many boulders (above, below) in the river. This causes dangerous suck holes, and if you get sucked into one there is a very strong chance you will never come out alive. Just be wary if you see water disappearing under a rock and not coming out on the same side.


Boulders in Taiwan's Nanao North Creek (台灣南澳北溪巨石)

  • There are a lot of annoying boulders to climb over, under, and between.

    • Pretty self explanatory. Basically, don't over pack! I made that mistake... wow... yeah...



  • Safe and UNSAFE camping options

    • QUESTION: Look at the two pictures above and below. Both look like nice campsites... but one is great, while the other is extremely dangerous! Can you tell the difference? Try to figure it out before scrolling down.



  • ANSWER:

    • The top picture is a good campsite, while the bottom one is not. Notice the surrounding terrain: The top one is next to a gently sloping valleyside, while the bottom one is exposed directly under an opposing cliff. The cliff is nearly vertical, which means the chance of rockfall is significant. We even found freshly fallen, jagged rocks strewn all over the false 'campsite.'


Laka Hot Spring Campsites (拉卡野溪溫泉營地)

 
Riverside camping at Laka Hot Spring inTaiwan (台灣拉卡野溪溫泉營地)

Once we got to Laka Hot Spring, we immediately started looking for a campsite. We soon found several, including this very nice one just meters from the hot spring area. It had the added bonus of being a little elevated above the river, so that even in the unlikely event of rain and a rising river we would be fine.


Riverside camping at Laka Hot Spring inTaiwan (台灣拉卡野溪溫泉營地)

Riverside camping at Laka Hot Spring inTaiwan (台灣拉卡野溪溫泉營地)

Here is another even nicer campsite right at the river bend (above). It even has a nice, fresh water source flowing right into the main river (below). This could be useful when there has been rain upstream and the main river is a bit dirtier.


Riverside camping at Water source at Laka Hot Spring inTaiwan (台灣拉卡野溪溫泉營地水源)

Laka Hot Spring (拉卡野溪溫泉)

 
Relaxing at Laka Hot Spring in Nanao, Taiwan (台灣南澳拉卡野溪溫泉)

After only three and a half hours, we arrived at Laka Hot Spring. It didn't take all that long, and conditions were good, but I had underestimated the terrain, with all its boulder climbing, and packed a pretty heavy pack full of extra, heavy stuff.


Relaxing at Laka Hot Spring in Nanao, Taiwan (台灣南澳拉卡野溪溫泉)

Boy did I regret that! I ended up turning what should have been an easy and fun trace into WAY too much work! But that only made the hot spring all that much more rewarding.


Laka Hot Spring in Nanao, Taiwan (台灣南澳拉卡野溪溫泉)

It's a pretty good sized hot spring with plenty of room in several pools. There are different temperatures available, and lots of beautiful, colorful hot spring algae to enjoy.


Laka Hot Spring in Nanao, Taiwan (台灣南澳拉卡野溪溫泉)

Laka Hot Spring in Nanao, Taiwan (台灣南澳拉卡野溪溫泉)

Dragonfly in Laka Hot Spring in Nanao, Taiwan (台灣南澳拉卡野溪溫泉)

Just remember not to overdo it!


GALLERY: Laka Hot Spring (拉卡野溪溫泉)


Laka Rainbow Waterfall (拉卡彩虹瀑布)

 
Swimming under Laka Rainbow Waterfall in Nanao, Taiwan (台灣南澳拉卡野溪溫泉彩虹瀑布)

Now Laka Hot Spring is, of course, the most famous attraction on this trace. However, there is another very cool thing to see: Laka Rainbow Waterfall!


Laka Rainbow Waterfall in Nanao, Taiwan (台灣南澳拉卡野溪溫泉彩虹瀑布)

Laka Rainbow Waterfall (拉卡彩虹瀑布) is absolutely stunning, and that day we had perfect weather and sunlight to enjoy it in.


Laka Rainbow Waterfall in Nanao, Taiwan (台灣南澳拉卡野溪溫泉彩虹瀑布)

The waterfall was absolutely FULL of rainbows that day! There was even a double ring rainbow that followed us around!


Laka Rainbow Waterfall in Nanao, Taiwan (台灣南澳拉卡野溪溫泉彩虹瀑布)

Climbing up into Laka Rainbow Waterfall in Nanao, Taiwan (台灣南澳拉卡野溪溫泉彩虹瀑布)

Climbing up into the pool area at the base of the waterfall takes a little work, but it's not too hard.


Climbing up into Laka Rainbow Waterfall in Nanao, Taiwan (台灣南澳拉卡野溪溫泉彩虹瀑布)

Even if you don't want to go up into the pool area, you can still enjoy an amazing view from the main river.


Swimming under Laka Rainbow Waterfall in Nanao, Taiwan (台灣南澳拉卡野溪溫泉彩虹瀑布)

Taking in the beauty of Laka Rainbow Waterfall in Nanao, Taiwan (台灣南澳拉卡野溪溫泉彩虹瀑布)

Exploring the Area

 

Once we were done with the waterfall, it was time for some more exploration. Lamin got out his drone and... well... he lost it. But don't worry, he ended up getting it back after a little while!



From there, we headed upstream to the end of the GPX track (below). There is some pretty river to see if you want a little extra, but going much further than the waterfall soon becomes much more advanced and really won't be worth it for most people.


River tracing in Nanao North River, Taiwan (在台灣南澳北溪溯溪)

A few shots of what's further upriver from the waterfall.


River tracing in Nanao North River, Taiwan (在台灣南澳北溪溯溪)

Frog eggs in Nanao North River, Taiwan (台灣南澳北溪溯溪青蛙卵)

River tracing in Nanao North River, Taiwan (在台灣南澳北溪溯溪)

We spent two days and one night in the Laka Hot Spring area. Water levels were low, the sky was mostly clear, and the weather was great, so it made for the perfect river tracing trip. So, if you ever want a bit of adventure and challenge, with a few beautiful places most people never get to visit, but you don't want to go too overboard, maybe Laka Hot Spring is the place for you, too!



THE NITTY-GRITTY

 

IMPORTANT NOTE:

All recommendations, times, and other information are for average conditions with average water levels, and are for reference purposes ONLY. Please also see important safety notes for river tracing (below).


Length of trace:

Roughly 6.4 km one way (13 km round trip)

Time:

Roughtly 3.5 hours in good conditions


Water sources:

There are several fresh water side streams along the way, but the Nanao North River itself is often pretty muddy. You could filter it, but it may clog up your filter quickly. I'd recommend starting with a bottle of water, and filtering from the side streams.


Food:

Bring snacks (if you are fast) or a lunch (if you are not) for the journey to the hot spring. While it is certainly possible to do a day trip if you are fit and experienced, an overnight trip (and appropriate food) is highly recommended.


Gear and provisions:

River tracing-appropriate shoes and clothes (see remarks), helmets, waterproof backpack, life jackets for anyone who is not a strong swimmer, water and water filter, a waterproof headlamp or flashlight, a lighter (always!). Rope and related accessories may be very useful. Overnight food and gear are advised. Be careful not to carry a heavy pack, though, as this trace involves a lot of climbing over, under, and between boulders, crossing heavy river currents, and other challenges.


Sun protection:

Yes. The entire route is highly exposed to the sun.


No.



Dog friendly:

That's funny... wait, you're serious?!



GPX file: Laka Hot Spring - The Map Room 拉卡溫泉 - 地圖寶庫.gpx

Laka Hot Spring - The Map Room 拉卡溫泉 - 地圖寶庫
.gpx
Download GPX • 176KB




GOOGLE MAPS LINK:

Trailhead: 24.50365, 121.75844






Check out the Map Room Members' Area for more maps, GPX links, and other members only perks!


Remarks:


Safety:

Even with the short distance and time involved in getting to Laka Hot Spring, make no mistake, this is NOT for beginners! Take this trace seriously, prepare for technical challenges, scrambling, bouldering, and multiple, challenging crossings of a serious river. Be extra wary of the many suck holes, they will kill you if you fall in, even if you're an Olympic swimmer. Most importantly of all, be 100% CERTAIN that you are going during low water levels and have a good weather forecast for the area, and the upstream area. This river is prone to flooding when weather conditions are less than perfect.


Don't let that stop you from going, just be sure you know what you're doing. It's well worth the trip!


Parking:

Cars:

You can park, and turn around, at the spot marked on the map.


Scooters:

You can park at the spot on the map.


Water:

Bring a filter or bring it with you, and try to time it so that you can get water from the side streams. The main river is often muddy and will clog your filter quickly. Consider starting with a bottle of water already ready.


River tracing gear and provisions (for basic not requiring rappelling and rock climbing skills and gear):

  • Clothes: Should be ok for swimming and getting dirty/torn, protect from scrapes. Quick drying, non-cotton, close fitting. UV reflective for hot traces, wetsuit for colder traces.

  • Boots: Neoprene or other river tracing specific boots (not shoes, NOT rubber or fishing boots!) to prevent blisters. High tops to keep stones out, soles to provide good grip and prevent slipping. I prefer felt soles for extra padding, especially after prior injuries. Some prefer alternatives which prevent organisms from being transferred between various streams and rivers.

  • Helmet: Designed for rock climbing.

  • Backpack: Waterproof. IPX 8 rating (protected when immersed in water over 1 meter / 3 feet) recommended.

  • Rope: Non-climbing rated, floating rope (that does not absorb water and get heavy) with knots is helpful, but NOT for doing serious climbs. Use ONLY for pulling weaker swimmers through more challenging stretches of water, and perhaps helping with scrambles up short sections of difficult terrain. For advanced climbing or rappelling, get advanced climbing rope, gear, and training!

  • Life jacket: If you are not a strong and confident swimmer.

  • Phone case: IPX 8 rating (protected when immersed in water over 1 meter / 3 feet) recommended.

  • Water filter or other water treatment options.

  • Waterproof headlamp or flashlight. IPX 8 rating (protected when immersed in water over 1 meter / 3 feet) recommended.



The Map Room recommends Fenix headlamps for high-quality, durable headlamps for hiking and river tracing (Amazon affiliate link*).

  • Lighter (always!)

  • Optional gear: A bandanna, headband, or other light cloth for wiping sweat is also often useful when you are not fully immersed in water.


Drinking water:

When sourcing water in the wild, choose water from a fast moving, clean source. This kills certain parasites, like giardia. Check upstream for polluting factors (dead animals, droppings, etc). Look for signs of pollution (vehicle tracks, lots of footprints). It's best to filter, and possibly either boil or otherwise treat it as well.




Important river tracing safety notes:

  • Strength and water levels of rivers change with rain, seasons, and other factors.

  • ALWAYS check the weather in advance of a river trace. If there is rain upstream, it is not advisable to go, due to the risk of flash floods.

  • If it has rained recently, rockslides are more likely. If the sun then comes out and evaporates recent rain, they are more likely still. Wear a helmet, and be sensible!

  • Stopping to rest in rockfall areas, under rock overhangs, or near sheer cliffs is not advisable due to the risk of rockfalls. Look for a wider, open area with less steep rock walls.

So now you're ready to go! Get out there, enjoy nature, be active, and have an amazing time!

 

Loved this article? Make sure to check out TMR's growing collection of river tracing articles!


Got questions or comments? Can you think of something we missed? Join in the discussion and leave a comment below. At the end of the day, we're just outdoors enthusiasts like you, and we'd love to hear from you!

 

All information on this page is intended for reference only. Preparing adequate food, water, and gear for your adventure, as well as following local rules and laws are, of course, your own responsibility! Always make sure that you check the weather for outdoor destinations, be careful and sensible for enclosed spaces like tunnels and bunkers, and bring a lighter - you never know when it could save your life! Now... get out there and have an amazing time!

 

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