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Kaiweng Canyon: An Otherworldly Kaleidescope of Colors (Lulu Hot Spring Post 3 of 3)

Updated: Apr 27


 
 
 

Index

 

Lulu Hot Spring Area Map


The warm colors of the rocks and the cool colors of the river water melded into a spectacular, all-encompassing visual experience that felt more like a work of fiction or a dream than a part of the waking world...

Alternative route: trace all the way there! (We haven't tried this yet, maybe plan all day, just to be safe...)


Posts in this series:

  1. Lulu Hot Spring (轆轆溫泉) - Beginner - intermediate

  2. The Shrine Grotto and Waterfall: Taiwan's Lulu Hot Spring Post 2 of 3 (轆轆溪和轆轆神殿瀑布) Beginner - advanced

  3. Dalun River and Kaiweng Canyon (大崙溪和開翁峽谷) (COMING SOON!) Intermediate - advanced

  4. Or, check out The Map Room's growing collection of Hot Springs in Taiwan!

Hot Springs in Taiwan Master Map




Introducing this week's adventure:

Taiwan's Lulu Hot Spring: Two Rivers, One Massively Endless Hot Spring!


Taiwan's Dalun River may be famous for the amazing Lulu Hot Springs, but it's actually just the gateway to an even bigger adventure: Kaiweng Canyon (開翁峽谷)! A steam-filled kaleidoscope of reds, whites, blues, and greens that has to be seen to be believed, this gorgeous gorge is more than worth the skill and effort demanded to explore it. So... are you up to the challenge?

 

*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.

 

Entering Kaiweng Canyon

 

Our journey to Kaiweng Canyon started by getting to Lulu Hot Spring. Though it took a bit of time and energy, it wasn't particularly demanding or technically challenging. Kaiweng Canyon (開翁峽谷) itself begins just upstream of Lulu Hot Spring, and is the next section of the Dalun River (大崙溪).


The last of the easier to reach hot springs that make up Lulu Hot Springs


We headed upstream past the last of the easily accessible hot springs in the Lulu Hot Spring area and reached the entrance to the canyon. The rock walls were suddenly much more beautiful, but also much steeper. The beauty was perilous, though, so from here on it was helmets all the way!


Dave and Lamin stand at the entrance to the legendary Kaiweng Canyon


Heading into Kaiweng Canyon!


The first part of the canyon is easy enough, but we soon got to parts that demanded strong swimming skills and technical capabilities. Soon after, ropes, harnesses, and other equipment quickly became extremely helpful!



Despite the challenge, we met several other groups on the way in. They were all geared up and ready for some good tracing and it was lots of fun sharing the adventure and talking to them along the way!


The entrance to the otherworldly Kaiweng Canyon (開翁峽谷)


This area can be dangerous - some sections can have strong waterflow, and fatal accidents have happened there - but experienced river tracers should be fine. Just keep your head on straight and don't let yourself get cocky!


Heading deeper into the canyon


David climbs a rock wall


The further we went into the canyon, the more spectacular the views became. The warm colors of the rocks and the cool colors of the river water melded into a spectacular, all-encompassing visual experience that felt more like a work of fiction or a dream than a part of the waking world...



Hot steam billowed out of countless inaccessible hot springs far above as we traced, waded, and swam through the wintery cold waters below.


David swims up the Dalun River (大崙溪)


John and David stop for some views - and a photo!


Ropes, Pools, and Waterfalls

 

Ropes and harnesses become extremely useful the further upstream you go


Further upstream, things began to get more technical. I enjoyed the challenge of swimming across this deep, fast-moving pool; Dave took advantage of another friendly group's rope to save a bit of energy. Soon, though, it would be my turn to borrow a rope!



Once I got past the pool, I found myself faced with a tricky climb up the rocks at the side of this waterfall. It was doable, but would have taken more time, energy, and work than I really wanted to use. Fortunately, there's always a sense of comradery amongst river tracers, and the team with the rope was more than happy to let me use it to climb up!


Looking back over one of the main waterfall obstacles of the canyon


Comradery goes both ways, and I was... is lucky the right word?... to be able to pay it forward on the way out. I had just ridden the waterfall and its strong current out into the pool, whooping and hollering and laughing the whole way. It put me on the far side of the pool against the wall, and suddenly I realized the other tracer who was there was exhausted, scared, and about to slip off!



The timing was perfect, and I'm glad I wasn't a few minutes later! I calmed him down as I took off my floating backpack and then used it to help him float across to safety. It was an important reminder that, despite the beauty of this place, we were still there at the mercy of mother nature, and caution was always required!


A Hidden Hot Spring

 

Some of our new friends take a break in a hot spring about a third of the way up the canyon


It took some effort to get across the pool and over the waterfall, but fortunately there was a WONDERFUL hot spring waiting right there, just over the top! It was the perfect place for a break before heading further upstream.



After a nice, warm break and some chit-chat with our new friends, it was time to get moving again. The scenery got more and more dramatic, the canyon got more and more challenging, and there was plenty of swimming, rope work, climbing, and scrambling still to come!



The next waterfall poured and billowed in hues of blueish-green over orange golden rocks striped with ruddy reds and greyish-whites. Standing in the middle of such a natural wonder, I suddenly felt as if God had knocked over some of his paint cans and the very colors of Creation itself were swirling, flowing, and mixing all around me in real time.



The Jump Spot

 

It wasn't much further until we came to one of the most exciting parts of the trace. Up and around we went on the only really passable trail until suddenly we found ourselves on the edge of a high cliff looking down into a beautiful, deep, blue pool far below.



One of the other groups had put up a rope and begun climbing down, but we decided to take the faster route. Off we flew into the air, yelling and hollering as we leapt into the abyss!



There's nothing like a good, high jump to inject some adrenaline into your day, and while this wasn't the highest we had jumped by far, it was still a good height and a lot of fun!


Looking back at the cliff we had just jumped down


The Pressure Cooker Hot Spring (轆轆電鍋溫泉)

 

It wasn't much longer until we got our first view of what would prove to be the end of our trace upstream for the day. Most of the tracers there needed to use this rope to cross the deepest and widest pool yet in order to get to the other side and climb up the next rock face.


Looking back over the last deep pool of the day

Lamin and our new friend, Weilong, pose for a selfie together


A drone's eye view of the Lulu Steam Cooker Hot Spring (轆轆電鍋溫泉)


Once we climbed up the rock face we arrived at the Lulu Steam Cooker Hot Spring (轆轆電鍋溫泉) - and let me tell you, the name is dead on the money! This hot spring is, well, hot! It's so hot, in fact, that, at least on that day, we couldn't go directly into it without getting burned.



Fortunately, someone had put up a wall of rocks to cut the main part of the pool off from one of the smaller corners so that the water there cooled down just enough that we could get in. Even still, though, it was really, really hot, and I couldn't stay in for very long without getting out again.



Blue sky and white clouds reflected in the milky, powder blue waters of the Lulu Steam Cooker

Walking up the back side of the Lulu Steam Cooker Hot Spring (轆轆電鍋溫泉)

Lamin loves his selfies!


I was the first of our group to climb up the top of the stone wall behind the Steam Cooker, and I couldn't believe what I saw! This beautiful waterfall was pouring down into a pool far higher than our heads just on the other side of the wall, only to fall down a second waterfall on the right (river left) and end up just as far below our feet, over in the deep pool we had just swum across.


The pool between the two waterfalls just behind the wall of The Steam Cooker


As it turned out, the Steam Cooker was like a reverse island - a pool of water protected and surrounded by a stone wall and trapped between the higher and lower levels of the Dalun River as it wound its way around and down on three sides. It was one of the most fascinating and unexpected natural features I had ever seen!


The Dalun river falls down a waterfall into a pool (above), then snakes its way around the wall of the Steam Cooker Hot Spring and down a second waterfall (below).



I'm a big fan of sci-fi and fantasy, but with all of the colors and contrasts all around us, I don't think even the great J. R. R. Tolkein himself could have dreamt up anything more unique than what we were seeing and hearing and feeling all around us. It was almost too much for our senses to take it all in.


The view from the top of the Steam Cooker wall (above, below)


As we stood there immersed in all the beauty, wonder, and danger that surrounded us, we knew we had come to the end of our journey through the Kaiweng Canyon. On and on it wound beyond the waterfall, snaking and cutting its way deeper and deeper into the mountainside, but to get any further would have required much more sophisticated and advanced gear than any that either we or the other groups had brought that day.


Lamin REALLY loves his selfies!



It was time to head back down the river. Perhaps some day we will return, better equipped, to the Kaiweng Canyon Steam Cooker and push further upstream to discover what wonders still await beyond. For now, though, it will have to remain a mystery, calling to us like a siren out of the deep, wild, and remote mountains of Taiwan. But that's another chapter, and it's time to put the bookmark in here... for now...


 

THE NITTY-GRITTY

 

Alternative route: trace all the way there! (We haven't tried this, maybe plan all day, just to be safe...)



GPX file 1 of 3: Hiking to Lulu Hot Spring - The Map Room 爬山到轆轆溫泉 - 地圖寶庫.gpx

Hiking to Lulu Hot Spring - The Map Room 爬山到轆轆溫泉 - 地圖寶庫
.gpx
Download GPX • 158KB

GPX file 2 of 3: Kaiweng Canyon - The Map Room 凱翁峽谷 - 地圖寶庫.gpx

Kaiweng Canyon - The Map Room 凱翁峽谷 - 地圖寶庫
.gpx
Download GPX • 34KB

GPX file 3 of 3: Lulu Hot Spring Shrine Waterfall - The Map Room 轆轆溫泉神殿瀑布 - 地圖寶庫.gpx

Lulu Hot Spring Shrine Waterfall - The Map Room 轆轆溫泉神殿瀑布 - 地圖寶庫
.gpx
Download GPX • 5KB











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

Skill level:

Intermediate to advanced


Length of hike / trace:

Getting to Lulu Hot Spring (the entrance to Kaiweng Canyon):

IMPORTANT NOTE: To get to Kaiweng Canyon, you must first get to Lulu Hot Spring, which took 3.5 hours from the farm to the hot spring; 4:10 from the hot spring to the farm AT MY VERY FAST SPEED. Though I had a ludicrously heavy pack this time, I'm an extremely fast and experienced hiker, so for most groups, expect up to 6+ hours both ways just for this part. (see Taiwan's Lulu Hot Spring: Two Rivers, One Massively Endless Hot Spring! (Post 1 of 3).


For the Kaiweng trace:

6-8 hours round trip; we recommend planning the day and leaving early just in case: This can vary greatly depending on the size of your group, their speed at crossing long and deep pools, proficiency scrambling up rock faces, the amount and force of the waterflow, and of course, how much time you spend taking videos and pictures in this truly breathtaking place.


Water sources:

Though there is water everywhere in the Dalun River, it is full of whatever comes out of hot springs, but there's not much you can do about it. Perhaps try to get water from a fast moving part of the Lulu river upstream from all campers before leaving in order to avoid human contaminants.


Gear and provisions:

Getting to Lulu:

Hiking and river tracing gear (see below), plus provisions and equipment for an overnight stay (see Taiwan's Lulu Hot Spring: Two Rivers, One Massively Endless Hot Spring! (Post 1 of 3).


From Lulu to Kaiweng:

Provisions for a day (food etc), helmets (mandatory), life jackets for those who are not strong and confident swimmers (mandatory for them - several people from other groups almost got into real trouble on our trace because they did not have life jackets). Also, long ropes, harnesses, and related gear are HIGHLY recommended.

Sun protection:

You will be in the water much of the time, but also exposed to the sun for most of the trace.


Lulu Hot Spring area:

Yes, with strong caveats: First of all, you need to be sure people are in good shape and prepared for ropes, scrambling, and getting dirty - especially on the final section of the trail down to the hot spring area. Map Room Explorer John, who has taken his children on many outdoor adventures, recommends, "maybe 12 or 13 (years old at least), but in shape."


Kaiweng Canyon area:

Only people with skills, abilities, and equipment matching the above details, and definitely not for young children or weak swimmers! Exercise careful judgement.


Dog friendly:

There is absolutely no universe in which this could even possibly be a good idea!


Camping /overnighting options:

There is a HUGE campsite spread across the entirety of the river confluence area. It could probably fit over a hundred tents (see Taiwan's Lulu Hot Spring: Two Rivers, One Massively Endless Hot Spring! (Post 1 of 3).


Remarks:


Parking:

2 wheel drives can get to the first parking area, and probably the second (farm) parking area - but they MUST go left at the first parking area! UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES should 2 wheel drives go right up the 2-track at the first parking area!!


Water:

See above and below


Notes about tracing clothes and gear:


Notes for hiking:

Clothes:

Regardless of the hike, it ALWAYS pays off to have appropriate hiking clothes! These should be clothes you don't mind getting dirty and/or messed up. Pants, shirts, socks, and underwear should all be quick wicking to get sweat off of your skin and quick drying to get it off of your clothes. For these reasons, you should NEVER wear cotton hiking! Sports pants and a sports shirt are a good place to start, but hiking pants have many advantages. A bandanna, headband, or other light cloth for wiping sweat is also advisable.


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

  • IMPORTANT: See above (link)

  • 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:

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, 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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