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Taiwan's Lulu Hot Spring: Two Rivers, One Massively Endless Hot Spring! (Post 1 of 3)

Updated: Apr 27


 
 
 

Index

 

Lulu Hot Spring Area Map


"Located in a remote jungle river flowing through the mountainous jungles of Taiwan's deep, southern interior, even getting to Lulu Hot Spring is a serious adventure - yet it's just accessible enough that it's not out of reach, even for beginners, if they are carefully and well prepared."

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:

Hot Springs in Taiwan Master Map




Introducing this week's adventure:

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


Join us on a journey to Taiwan's incredible Lulu Hot Spring! With over 1.6 km (1 mile) of river absolutely jam packed with endless warm, hot, and yes, even boiling hot springs, this is a breathtaking, one of a kind experience you'll never forget. Put on your jungle explorer hat (and maybe grab your whip for swinging on some trees) - you can hike or river trace to get there, but either way, you need to be ready for some serious Taiwan outdoor adventure travel!


Getting There

 

The incorrect (right side) road. 2 wheel drive vehicles are almost sure to get stuck here!


Located at the confluence of the Dalun River (大崙溪) and the Lulu River (轆轆溪) in Taitung / `'s Haiduan Township (台灣台東縣海端鄉), Lulu Hot Spring (台灣台東轆轆溫泉) is just close enough to civilization that you can get there, but still far enough that it's not to be underestimated. It's two rivers worth of nearly endless hot springs - and that's just the tip of the... iceberg?


The upper (farm) parking area


Since it is located in a remote jungle river flowing through the mountainous jungles of Taiwan's deep, southern interior, even getting to Lulu Hot Spring is a serious adventure - yet it's just accessible enough that it's not out of reach, even for beginners, if they are carefully and well prepared. You'll have to bring your adventure hat, but it will be a great story once you've been there!


Hiking to Lulu Hot Spring, on the incorrect driving route, starting from the first parking area


To start with, you will need to drive along Taiwan's famously magnificent Southern Cross Island Highway (台灣南橫), most likely starting around Chishang (池上), and head west into the mountains as if you were heading to Lisong Hot Spring (李松溫泉 - post coming soon!). Go through the tunnel and watch for the road going steeply up the left (south) side of the highway (Google map link). Or, take public transportation from Chishang (池上) (Google public transit directions link).



Drive up to the first parking area and then turn left - NOT RIGHT - up the nicer of the two roads to get to the second (farm) parking area (picture above). 2 wheel drive vehicles should be fine up to the first parking area, and possibly to the farm if you go left. Going right is an easy mistake to make, and believe me, it will be a disaster for you unless you have a 4 wheel drive!


Hiking In

 

Once you get to the second (farm) parking area, the road ends. You will need to hike up 250 meters (820 ft) of elevation gain over a distance of 704 meters (2310 ft). The trail is forested, and pretty, though not spectacular.


Look for this sign near the farm parking area. You've found the trailhead!


Like something from a Hollywood adventure flick, this tree seems to cling to rocks by the roots for dear life. Take it as a warning of what lies ahead...


Beautiful views and strange plants abound on the way to Lulu Hot Spring

Beautiful fall leaves on the hike to the Taidong's Dalun River (台東大崙溪)


Once you get up the hill, there is a short, easy section of old forest road. Enjoy it while you can - you're going to dream of it in a day or two on the way back up!


The short, forest road section of the hike (above); contact information for the local police department (below)


You will soon reach the end of the road and start heading down... and down... and down... for several hours. You'll have to go down 872 meters (2860 ft) of elevation over 2.2 km (1.4 miles). The last section is very steep, with lots and lots of ropes, and can be extremely slick when wet, but there are plenty of rest areas on the way down before you get to it. Remember where these are (or download the GPX below), you'll want to know on the way back up!



The downhill section is truly brutal, enough to make even the most intrepid explorers wonder whether this hot spring is worth it - especially with so, SO many hot springs in Taiwan! But keep on going. The reward is worth all of this - and even more!


Winding precariously down the side of a cliff, the last, and steepest, section of the hike down to the Dalun River (大崙溪) and Lulu Hot Spring (轆轆溫泉) is the most challenging of all


Fording the Dalun River to reach the main campsite


Once you get down, you will arrive at the river confluence. There's room for a few tents on the near side of the Dalun River, but most people will need to cross and camp next to the Lulu River. It's not far, and not too deep, and there are usually ropes in place to help with the crossing.


The Campsite

 

The main campsite (across the river)


"Fortunately, we had heard ahead of time that it's important not to inflate your sleeping mats the whole way on the warm sands - otherwise, the expanding air pressure might make them explode!"

Down from the top - time to change into tracing shoes1


My ridiculously heavy and overstuffed pack full of tracing gear, along with a few luxuries...


Looking back across the Dalun River at the 'trail' up the cliff from the main campsite


Once we finally got down the hill to the campsite, we were really excited to set up camp on the warm sands we had heard so much about. Fortunately, we had heard ahead of time that it's important not to inflate your sleeping mats the whole way on the warm sands - otherwise, the expanding air pressure might make them explode!


Beware the 'nice' hot sands... trust me, they're NOT nice!


We had gotten there early on purpose so we could have the pick of the whole place. We got a really nice, flat, soft, and warm spot right in what we thought was the best part of the campsite. Unfortunately, we quickly realized we had made a BIG mistake! After only 10 minutes, the slightly warm heat had made our sleeping mats as hot as ovens, and the bottom of my tent was completely soaked with condensation.



It soon got so bad that we decided to move camp. I picked up my whole tent, gear and all, and dragged it over to a nearby spot where the sand was only barely lukewarm. The heat was so slight that I could barely even feel it with my hand on the ground. But... well, let's just say 15 minutes later it was time to move again. So much for our prime spot; we left it and found a COLD piece of ground off in a corner, learned our lesson, counted our blessings that there were enough spots that we could do so. We might have forgotten to bring eggs to cook in the hot spring, but at least we weren't cooking in it any more ourselves!


A small, side waterfall not far upstream from the campsite


The Hot Spring Area

 

One of the many hot springs at the camp site


That evening, we soaked in one of the many hot springs that completely surround the campsite. They... are... EVERYWHERE!! There are so many of them!


One of the many, many big hot springs near the camp area (above, below)

 

GALLERY: The Beauty of Lulu Hot Spring (轆轆溫泉之美)

 

David and John head upstream on our first of two trips to Lulu Hot Springs


The next day, we began heading up the Dalun River to explore. It was absolutely mind bending! Steam billowed from the ground, water boiled and bubbled, and the smell of sulfur was everywhere. It felt like we had somehow been transported to another world, or maybe back in time, and any minute a dinosaur might appear out of nowhere.


Helmets are advised, this area is prone to rockfall!

Steam billows from the ground at some of the endless hot springs

Lamin, Dave, and David on The Map Room's second trip to Lulu


This hot spring is naturally elevated right in the middle of the river!


Lulu truly is a place like no other. Steam billows from the ground, water boils, spits, and bubbles, and the occasional smell of sulfur wafts across your nose as you struggle to take it all in. There, among a thousand shades of a million colors of stone, trees, and all the strange and wonderful things that grow and live in the hot spring waters themselves, you suddenly realize how nearly the roots of the earth come to the surface. Fire below, water above, and you right in the middle of it all! Taiwan is alive, breathing, and wild, and in few places is that more apparent than here!



"If we had felt before like we had stepped onto another world, now we suddenly felt as if we were walking in a dream."


We passed many, many more hot springs, and then came to a change in the river. It had been beautiful the whole way already, but now it became absolutely stunning. This was the mere beginning of the amazing Kaiweng Canyon (開翁峽谷). Colors suddenly exploded everywhere in the gorge, stones, and water surrounding us. If we had felt before like we had stepped onto another world, now we suddenly felt as if we were walking in a dream.


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


We spent hours exploring Kaiweng Canyon, and later we also visited the nearly unknown Lulu Shrine Waterfall (轆轆神殿瀑布) - a wonder that is, without exaggeration, worthy of National Geographic Magazine - but those are stories for another day, and another blog post.



On our return from Kaiweng Canyon, it was time for a break in the hot springs again, and boy did Lulu have something special in store for us... an entire hot spring directly in the middle of the river! I couldn't believe what I was experiencing: boiling hot water comes right out of the river bed, mixes with the river water, and creates the absolutely one of a kind experience the likes of which I'd never even imagined before.


Lamin and Dave enjoy a one-of-a-kind hot spring directly in the middle of the Dalun River


Even though this was my second visit to Lulu, it's such an overwhelming place that each time felt like the first, and the next is sure to feel like I've never set foot anywhere like it before. There's so much beauty and so many unique and amazing things to see, feel, and experience! Even with the time and energy it took to get there both times it was worth it, and I'll absolutely be going back again!


Dave, David, and Lamin at the end of a good day's tracing


There's so much more to tell just about the journeys we've already had at Lulu - Kaiweng Canyon, Lulu River and The Shrine - and those stories will be coming soon. In the mean time, though, I hope this is enough to get you started. So, until next time... keep exploring!


 

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:

Beginner to intermediate


Length of hike / trace:

MY TIME: 3.5 hours from the farm to the hot spring; 4:10 from the hot spring to the farm. IMPORTANT NOTE - Though I had a ludicrously heavy pack this time, I'm an extremely fast and experienced hiker.

OTHER GROUPS' TIME: up to 6+ hours both ways.

RECOMMENDED TIME: Plan at least 4.5 hours going down and 5.5 hours coming up. Worst case scenario, you're out sooner than you planned, but be prepared to take longer.


Water sources:

Bring water for the hike. Though there is water everywhere at the campsite, it is full of whatever comes out of hot springs, but there's not much you can do about it. Try to get water from a fast moving part of the Lulu river upstream from all campers in order to avoid human contaminants.


Gear and provisions:

Hiking and river tracing gear (see below), plus provisions and equipment for an overnight stay.


Sun protection:

The hike is, thankfully, shaded almost the entire way. However, you'll probably want serious sun gear for the river area during any warm or hot weather.


Hot spring area:

Yes, with strong caveats: 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."


Dog friendly:

No. Just no.


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.


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:

Helmets are strongly suggested once you reach and move beyond any part of the main river area! If it's winter, be prepared with wetsuits and other warm gear. This place can be unbelievably cold, even for people like me who grew up in serious snow! The hot springs are a false comfort, as they won't keep you warm on the actual trace itself. The Map Room has visited twice, both times in winter. Summer should be much better.


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):

  • 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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6 Comments


My friends and I are going to be exploring around Lisong hotspring. still to be determined if they can handle this much longer hike to Lulu but it is definitely going to be on the bucket list. Do you think a 3mm wetsuit would suffice for a winter trip (January February)? Do you think thicker would be necessary or would even a 2mm be okay?

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Replying to

Mine is 2mm, but I also wore more underneath, and found it quite necessary for Lulu. However, if you're going to Lisong, you won't really need them. We have an article about Lisong coming out in the coming month or two, but haven't prepared or published it yet, unfortunately. If you have any questions about it, though, I'd be glad to answer them! Basically, you get down the hill, you go upstream for 5 minutes (cold, but only in the water 2.5 of the 5 minutes, give or take...), and you arrive. That's all there is to it. There's interesting tracing upstream, but that's a whole other ball of wax...

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Thank you! Is swimming skill needed just at the Lulu hotspring area or only if going further up the river to the canyons?

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Replying to

There are usually ropes to help crossing the river between the bottom of the cliff (end of the hike down) and the other side where the main campsite is (see picture above). To go further upstream, it's good to know how to swim in case the water is high and flowing fast, but a life jacket will likely be enough for those who can't swim. There are no deep swimming areas as far as this first post goes (though there definitely are if you go upstream into Kaiweng Canyon - post coming in a few weeks), but it's also important to note that the river sometimes flows with some real force. Basically, take conservative measures, be prepared, but don't be…

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Hi! Awesome website! I can't believe something so useful like this exists! To get to Lulu hot spring, are wetsuits mandatory? I assume it will be warm in the water even if not directly where the hot springs are? Is the path through the water to Lulu quite deep where swimming would be needed or is that further down the river to get to the other cool areas?

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The Cartographer
The Cartographer
Jan 17, 2023
Replying to

Thanks, I'm glad you found it useful! On our first trip, in the middle of the winter, it was absolutely frigid. Wetsuits were essential. For our second trip, also recently during the winter, it was not as frigid but they were still extremely important for us. If you were to go during the warmer months it should be fine, during the winter if you are not going to just stay right there at the hot spring by the camp, which would be kind of a waste, you should bring a wetsuit if possible. You will not need them for the hike down though, dress for a legitimate hike for that part.

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