Updated: Jul 26
Main post / The Qikeng Hot Spring Area / Shikeng Hot Spring / From Shikeng to Shisankeng / Shisankeng Hot Spring / The Nitty-Gritty (GPS, GPX, other hot springs and more) / Baolai River hot springs: list, gps, and map links
Baolai River Area Hot Springs Map
Taiwan Hot Springs Master Map
Introducing this week's adventure:
Baolai River Qikeng, Shikeng, Shisankeng Hot Springs
With at least five hot springs, Baolai River (寶來溪) is a relaxing river tracing and camping destination for anyone seeking easy or medium access to wild hot springs in Taiwan. Three popular hot springs include Qikeng (七坑溫泉), Shikeng (十坑溫泉), and Shisankeng (十三坑溫泉) Hot Springs. Flowing through a wide, flat, rocky mountain valley in Kaohsiung, it's a great weekend getaway.
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The Qikeng Area
One of the many, many nice places to camp along the Baolai River
Camping - yes!! It's been FAR too long since I've been able to get out camping in the wild! A few months ago, I suffered a severe shoulder injury. It was so bad that I needed to get shoulder surgery! Without going into too much detail, it's meant that I've been confined mostly to the city during the first stages of recovery. So, when an acquaintance from a river tracing chat messaged me to ask about going south for the weekend, I naturally jumped at the chance!
This beautiful waterfall served as our fresh water source for camping. It's much better to drink and cook with filtered water from a side stream such as this. Oil from trucks, garbage, and many people river tracing up the main river (and occasionally using the bathroom close by) mean that the main river is not an ideal water source.
We talked about a few different places, and soon we hit on the idea of visiting the hot springs in the Baolai River in Taiwan's Kaohsiung area. Neither of us had been there before, and the relative ease of access combined with the flat, wide river valley we would be walking up (read, no serious uphills) meant this would be a great, but relatively relaxing, chance to get out into nature.
Felix, my new friend, had one simple objective: Let's get out, go somewhere nice, and relax! For me, this was a great option. I knew I wasn't yet ready for heavy- or even medium-intensity river tracing yet, and soaking my still-recovering shoulder in hot springs for the weekend was going to be a hard option to beat.
Hiking along the jeep trail that runs from Qikeng Hot Spring to Shikeng Hot Spring. This trail used to go all the way to Shisankeng Hot Spring, but an absolutely massive rockslide just beyond Shikeng has completely blocked off all vehicle access to Shisankeng.
We camped at a secluded spot just a few minutes upstream of Qikeng Hot Spring for the first night. I haven't included any pictures of the hot spring itself here because, well, there really isn't much to show. Being directly at the end of the drivable section of the road, it's a popular destination with lots of people. Mobile karaoke machines, tarp-lined stone circles, and plenty of noise make this a pretty lively, busy, and crowded place to be, but since we were here specifically to get away from crowds and noise, we headed upstream instead.
Shikeng Hot Spring
Just a few of the heavy duty, 4 wheel drive jeeps / monster trucks that we encountered at Shikeng Hot Spring. These kept passing us the whole length of the trail from Qikeng to Shikeng.
Arriving at Shikeng Hot Spring in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. After a two hour hike from Qikeng Hot Spring, Shikeng was a beautiful sight!
Amazing weather, friendly locals, and beautiful, colorful, hot spring water made our visit to Shikeng Hot Spring a wonderful travel experience!
The next morning, we set our sights on Shikeng Hot Spring. While Qikeng had only been the staging point, we hoped Shikeng would be a true prize! With Felix preferring a more relaxed pace, and me being injured, we estimated that it would take about two hours to cover the roughly seven kilometers of river bed that lay between us and our first destination, and as it turned out, our estimate was just about dead on right.
Mountains, sunlight, and hot springs!
Shikeng Hot Spring
A local boy jumps in and has a laugh with Felix
"The Tudigong Earth God Temple (土地公廟) at about 9.5 km. in is DEFINITELY the better entrance to Shisankeng Hot Spring for those with less experience, or who want a shorter, more relaxed approach."
Talking to locals while enjoying the hot water
Even honey bees love a good hot spring!
Honey bees enjoying Shikeng Hot Spring. Don't worry - they keep pretty far away from the people!
Some of the four wheel drive monster trucks at Shikeng Hot Spring. A massive landslide just beyond this point prevents them from going on to Shisankeng Hot Spring. This works out well - the trucks have one nice hot spring, and there's another one for those who want to get away from machines and noise.
Once we got to Shikeng, we suddenly found ourselves anything but alone. It was already a Sunday afternoon and many people had already headed home for the work week, but it was pretty obvious that if we had been there on a Saturday the whole place would have been incredibly crowded.
From Shikeng to Shisankeng
The Baolai River beyond Shikeng Hot Spring
After a nice break and a good soaking, it was time to move on. Beautiful as Shikeng was, we were only half way to our true goal, Shisankeng Hot Spring. We estimated it would take about two more hours to cover the roughly five kilometers that we needed to cover to reach our goal.
Looking back over the landslide towards distant Shikeng Hot Spring. There is absolutely no way for land-based vehicles of any kind to get past this behemoth!
The other visitors had told us about a huge rock slide that had blocked the previously passable road from Shikeng to Shisankeng, and we reached it almost as soon as we set out. It was absolutely massive, like the whole side of the mountain had collapsed in a colossal pile of rocks and boulders ranging from the size of whole cars (the small ones) to whole houses! This part of the trail suddenly turned our relaxed hike into a real adventure, and it definitely took some skills and experience to get past!
Beautiful pools in the mountain valley beyond the Shikeng landslide area
It's hard to imagine more perfect weather than we had that day!
The place where the trail down from the Earth God Temple (土地公廟) meets the river
The weather that day was absolutely ideal, and even with the rockslide, it was fun, relaxing, and beautiful. Then, after another 2.5 km, we reached the trailhead for the route coming down a steep hillside from the Tudigong Earth God Temple (土地公廟) at about 9.5 km. in. This is DEFINITELY the better entrance to Shisankeng Hot Spring for those with less experience, or who want a shorter, more relaxed approach. While I was feeling amazing - it had been SO long since I had gotten out into the wild for any real exercise - Felix was in the mood for a much more relaxed experience as an escape from work. After talking for a minute and looking at the time, we decided that this might be a good place to split up and go in two different directions. Given that it was still only the afternoon on a bright, beautiful, and sunny day, Felix headed back to spend a bit more time soaking in Shikeng Hot Spring while I went ahead to explore and burn off some of my two months' worth of pent-up energy. Win-win!
Some of the many, many small campsites just upstream from the trailhead (above, below)
With Felix heading back and the call to explore singing its siren song, I picked up the speed and pushed onward. I had to know what lay ahead, waiting for me up the river. I had to see Shisankeng for myself!
Just a few minutes past the very well marked trailhead, I saw the first of many, many small campsites by the riverside. There were quite a few of them, but they were also spaced well apart from each other, each only being about the right size for 1-3 tents or so, so I got the impression that a lot of people could probably spend the night there in relatively close quarters and still have a bit of privacy and a space for themselves.
The way from the trailhead to Shisankeng Hot Spring is very, very well marked and relatively easy to follow (above, below)
Soon, the river began to change. Gone was the wide, flat, and featureless gravel expanse, replaced by much more dramatic, beautiful, and somewhat more challenging terrain. While under normal circumstances this would have been a fun and quickly passable excursion for me, the fact that I had only one fully functional arm to work with gave me a whole new perspective on things. Challenge? Definitely! Accepted? Unquestionably!
False hot spring just before the real thing. Don't stop here - Shisankeng Hot Spring is still just a little further ahead!
It wasn't long before I saw what I thought was Shisankeng in the distance ahead. Once I got closer, though, it quickly became obvious that something was wrong. While this was definitely a steaming, colorful, volcanic feature, if there were any hot springs here, they were tiny at best. After looking around for a couple minutes, I quickly concluded that this couldn't be the hot spring I had been hearing about. I was here looking for something even larger and more beautiful than Shikeng; what I saw before me, however, was nothing even close.
A tree and root ball lodged inside a pile of massive boulders. What a reminder of the absolute, raw power of nature's fury!
Shisankeng Hot Spring
Shisankeng Hot Spring on the Baolai River in Kaohsiung, Taiwan
I was watching the time and starting to get a little concerned about what time I would get back to Shikeng to meet up with Felix. Yes, we had anticipated hiking out in the dark and brought our head lamps, but even still, the more distance we could cover in natural daylight, the easier our return trip would be. Checking the GPS, though, my destination should be only minutes ahead...
Boiling water, colorful mineral formations and steam at a fumarole in Taiwan's Shisankeng Hot Spring
...then, as I rounded another bend in the river, there it was - Shisankeng Hot Spring, in all of its golry!
Calling this place 'a' hot spring is actually a little bit misleading. Sure it's one, single hot spring area, but it's also really, really big! There are pools and rivulets of warm, hot, and yes, dangerous, boiling water all over the place! You definitely have to be careful which pools you do (and don't!) get into, but it's pretty easy to tell them apart, for the most part.
"Calling Shisankeng Hot Spring 'a' hot spring is actually a little bit misleading. Sure it's one, single hot spring area, but it's also really, really big!"
Now, I LOVE to take pictures, and so I never did end up getting into the water and soaking at Shisankeng - even though I tested the water and found several very nice pools that would have been just amazing to relax and spend some time in. Instead, I ended up going up and down the length of the place looking for beautiful things and good angles. But hey, as long as you have a good time, right?
One of the beautiful bathing pools at Shisankeng Hot Spring in Kaohsiung, Taiwan
Algae and other life forms give some of the hot water flows a beautiful, emerald green color
Boiling hot volcanic fumaroles (left) flow into a cool river pool (right) to make a perfect, beautiful, milky-looking natural hot tub
Volcanic mineral formations at Shisankeng Hot Spring in Taiwan (above, below)
After a while, it was obvious that I needed to start heading back. It was still daylight, yes, but there were two hours of tracing between me and Shikeng Hot Spring, and another two more hours from there back to our camp. So, after one last look, I started the long journey back.
The beginning of a beautiful sunset reflected in the water at Baolai River
Another beautiful, Taiwanese sunset at Baolai River!
Sunset began to set in just as I reached the far side of the rockfall area. I pulled out my headlamp, scrambled over, and went on to look for my new friend at the hot spring just beyond. It would prove to be a long trip back... but it was absolutely worth every second!
List of the Baolai River hot springs we know about so far (including several not in this post). Please contact us if you know of any more!
Click for Google Map Links:
Shidong Hot Spring 23.086229, 120.727736 (as per Google Maps - will be updated when TMR visits personally)
Wukeng Hot Spring 23.087781, 120.733020 (as per Google Maps - will be updated when TMR visits personally)
Qikeng Hot Spring 23.101723, 120.752654
Shikeng Hot Spring 23.120642, 120.788865
Shisankeng Hot Spring 23.122671, 120.828268
GPX file: Baolai River Qikeng, Shikeng, Shisankeng Hot Springs - The Map Room 寶來溪七坑，十坑，十三坑溫泉-地圖寶庫.gpx
Check out the Map Room Members' Area for more maps, GPX links, and other members only perks!
Skill level: Beginner to intermediate, but higher skill may be required to cross the rock slide area.
Length of hike:
Total: 13 km
Parking to Qikeng: Roughly 0.5 km
Qikeng to Shikeng: Roughly 7.5 km
Shikeng to Shisankeng: Roughly 5 km
Total: 8.5-11 hours, not including breaks and time spent in hot springs
Parking to Qikeng: Roughly 5-10 minutes
Qikeng to Shikeng: Expect 2-3 hours in good conditions
Shikeng to Shisankeng: Expect 2-3 hours in good conditions
There are several small and large waterfalls joining the river from side streams along the route, as well as some pipes with fresh water at Shikeng. It's much better to drink and cook with filtered water from a side stream as oil from trucks, garbage, and many people river tracing up the main river (and occasionally using the bathroom close by). See the map and GPX track for precise locations.
Gear and provisions:
Good hiking shoes, hiking-appropriate clothes (see remarks), enough water (see below), a lighter (always!), a headlamp or flashlight, lunch and snacks. Hiking poles highly recommended.
River tracing-appropriate shoes and clothes (see remarks), helmets optional, waterproof backpack recommended but not necessarily required, life jackets for anyone who is not a strong swimmer, water filter or other treatment options (see below), a waterproof headlamp or flashlight, a lighter (always!). A basic rope may also be useful for helping people to cross the river.
Definitely! Expect to be highly exposed much or most of the way.
Yes (...and no)! If you are only going to Wukeng, or you have a serious four wheel drive monster truck, then go ahead and bring the whole family. Otherwise, the route to Shikeng should be fine for children as young as 8 in good physical condition. Use your best judgement passing the landslide area.
From what we have heard, going down from the Earth God Temple (土地公廟) entrance seems like it should also be ok for children 8 and older in good physical condition. HOWEVER, we have not personally gone down that route yet, so use discretion! We will update this section once we have a chance to do it ourselves.
Possibly, though you will have to cross rivers many, many times (or only once for Qikeng). We saw a dog with a collar that seemed to have wandered down from above near the trailhead to the Earth God Temple, though it seemed like he hadn't crossed a river to get to where we saw him.
Camping /overnighting options:
There are plenty of raised sandbanks and flat spots in the valley which are high enough to protect against changes in water level. Some of the best are marked in the map and GPX.
You can park at the GPS navigation point provided in this article, but unless you have a very serious 4x4 monster truck, you'd better just plan to hike and trace the rest of the way. For monster trucks, there is parking at Qikeng and Shikeng, as well as a number of pull-offs along the way, for example at waterfalls.
For this hike, plan at least 2-3 liters and keep in mind that it is highly exposed the whole way and you will be in hot springs. Definitely make sure you have enough - or better yet, bring a filter and use the side stream water sources (see below).
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, and personally uses the 1600 lumen Fenix HM70R Headlamp - (Amazon affiliate link*)
Optional gear: A bandanna, headband, or other light cloth for wiping sweat is also often useful when you are not fully immersed in water.
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.
The Map Room personally uses and highly recommends the Sawyer Squeeze water filter (NOT the Sawyer Squeeze Mini - Amazon affiliate link*)
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, get wet, and have an amazing time!
Loved this article? Make sure to check out TMR's growing collection of hot spring articles!
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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