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Maling Hot Spring: Feeling Cold, Bored or Both? Check This Out!

Updated: Apr 27


 
 
 

Index

 

Maling Hot Spring Area Map


Azure pools, beautiful scenery, natural hot springs, and plenty of hidden side areas to explore - what's not to love?
 

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The Map Room's Map of Hot Springs in Taiwan



Introducing this week's adventure:

Maling Hot Spring

 

Looking for your next adventure? Or, maybe you just want to get away and relax? Either way, the Maling Hot Spring area in Taiwan’s Taichung County (台灣台中谷關附近大甲溪谷馬陵溫泉) could be just what you're looking for! Nestled in the stunning Dajia River Valley, this hidden gem offers azure pools, breathtaking landscapes, and of course, natural hot springs. With river tracing routes for beginners and the more experienced alike, it's a great place to escape the ordinary and immerse yourself in nature’s raw beauty.

 

Some of the debris strewn along the route to Maling Hot Spring


IMPORTANT Safety Notes

 

Maling Hot Spring makes a great day or overnight trip for beginner and intermediate river tracers and adventurers, as long as you keep a few important safety tips in mind.



It's best to visit when water levels are low, for example during winter, or extended periods without rain. For one thing, the hot springs are more likely to be submerged during summer. For another, you will have to cross the river several times, which is safer and easier with less water. Also, the Deji Reservoir, which is located just upstream from the hot spring, may release water and flood the entire area with little or no warning - though it is easy to avoid this by following a few, simple steps. 



Please be sure to check out the Special Safety Considerations section (below) for more information on the dam, rockfalls, where NOT to camp, and other things to keep in mind when visiting this wonderful outdoor destination.


Parking and Entrance

 

Getting to Maling Hot Spring is not difficult. The trailhead is not far from Guguan, and parking for scooters and cars is readily available.


Trailhead and car parking at Maling Hot Spring in Taichung
Maling Hot Spring's scooter parking area

Once you've parked, just head on down the side road.



Go around the left side of the Taipower gate and keep on going. Technically, this land is managed by Taipower, which operates several dams not far upstream, but it's easy to tell from the very obvious trail that they don't mind much when people come in (except at some specific, dangerous times - see below).



BE SURE to keep this important safety information in mind when you go - there are times when they DO let water out of the dams upstream, flooding the entire area with little to no warning. This tends to be easy to avoid with just a quick check of the resources below, but it's very important to be aware of the possibility.


The second gate on the way to Maling Hot Spring

There is a second gate not much further down the road. This time you need to climb up over it on the left, using the bars like a ladder.


Climb over the gate like a ladder


Pass by the abandoned Taipower buildings...



...walk to where the gravel begins...


Head down the rock slide

...and head left down the rock slide area.


Head right on the trail just before the river

Once you get to the bottom, watch for the trail heading off to the right through the bushes (above). You can also cross the river at this point (below), but I recommend you follow the trail for a faster and easier route.




Soon, you will come to the first of many river crossings. Be ready - you'll have to cross many times before you reach the hot spring!


Taipower Facade

 
Guguan Power Plant bridge facade 谷關發電廠

Once you cross, keep an eye out on the right (river left) for this amazing, cliff side remnant of the past. It looks like a temple carved right into the sheer side of the cliff, but it's not. Can you guess what it is?


Guguan Power Plant bridge facade 谷關發電廠

Contrary to what you might be tempted to think, it's not some Indian Jones style lost temple. This used to be a bridge to the abandoned Taipower plant on the opposite bank, and this facade was above one side of it.


Guguan Power Plant bridge around the time of the 921 earthquake (courtesy of Taiwan Landscape Conservation Network 照片取自台灣地景保育網)

Here's a photo of the Guguan Power Plant bridge around the time of the infamously devastating 921 earthquake of 1991 (Photo courtesy of Taiwan Landscape Conservation Network 照片取自台灣地景保育網). What a difference!


Guguan Power Plant bridge facade 谷關發電廠
Guguan Power Plant bridge facade 谷關發電廠
Guguan Power Plant bridge facade 谷關發電廠

The Wide Campsite

 
Crossing the Dajia River (大甲溪) on the way to Maling Hot Spring (馬陵溫泉)

Continuing past the Guguan Power Plant bridge facade (谷關發電廠), you soon come to the first crossing.


Crossing the Dajia River (大甲溪) on the way to Maling Hot Spring (馬陵溫泉)


Camping at Maling Hot Spring in Taichung, Taiwan 台灣台中馬陵溫泉扎營

Not far past that, you will walk past a tributary called the Xiaoxue River (小雪溪). Just beyond, you will find a wide, open area that's very good for camping. It's not too far from the entrance, but also not so close that it's crowded. It's also just a little way before the more popular White Tower Campsite area (see below), and with the Xiaoxue River as a fresh water source, this could be a good option if you're looking for a bit more privacy.


Camping at Maling Hot Spring in Taichung, Taiwan 台灣台中馬陵溫泉扎營
Camping at Maling Hot Spring in Taichung, Taiwan 台灣台中馬陵溫泉扎營

To The White Tower

 


Next, you will come to the White Tower Campsite. This is by far the most popular campsite on the entire route, and very safe in case of sudden downpours, rockfalls, and other emergencies.





The White Tower

 
Camping at Maling Hot Spring in Taichung, Taiwan 台灣台中馬陵溫泉扎營

There is camping available on both sides of the White Tower. While the area behind the Tower tends to be more popular, it's also possible to camp just before it.


Camping at Maling Hot Spring in Taichung, Taiwan 台灣台中馬陵溫泉扎營

It's also a wonderful place to swim, jump, or just catch some rays!






Camping at Maling Hot Spring in Taichung, Taiwan 台灣台中馬陵溫泉扎營

The White Tower Campsite itself is HUGE - and it's far from any falling rocks.



While there is a big rockfall area off to one side, and during storms you may well hear big boulders coming down, it is definitely far enough away to stay safe and secure even in emergency situations. In fact, I have personally heard rocks falling in the distance during a heavy downpour there, and we were completely safe by the White Tower.



Camping at Maling Hot Spring in Taichung, Taiwan 台灣台中馬陵溫泉扎營
Camping at Maling Hot Spring in Taichung, Taiwan 台灣台中馬陵溫泉扎營

No matter where you camp, just be sure NOT to camp in the hot spring area itself. The campsites there are highly prone to rockfall, so set up your tent somewhere along the way instead.


Using gear creatively to stop a leak in an old tent on a rainy night



The Forest Campsite

 
Camping at Maling Hot Spring in Taichung, Taiwan 台灣台中馬陵溫泉扎營

Just above the White Tower, you will see a high, forested piece of land jutting far out from the canyon walls. There are plenty of very nice campsites up there, and while they are farther from the river (water source), they offer shade, privacy, and that nice, foresty feeling.


Camping at Maling Hot Spring in Taichung, Taiwan 台灣台中馬陵溫泉扎營

This is also probably the safest place to run to if you are unfortunate enough to be in the area when they open the dams - it's fast and easy to get up, but also much, much higher than the surrounding river valley, and has the look of a place that has never been flooded.



Camping at Maling Hot Spring in Taichung, Taiwan 台灣台中馬陵溫泉扎營

The Tall Rock Campsite

 






Camping at Maling Hot Spring in Taichung, Taiwan 台灣台中馬陵溫泉扎營

Continuing on, you will come to another large rock with an elevated campsite (above, below). While not as big or nice as the White Tower Campsite, it is much closer to the hot spring area.


Camping at Maling Hot Spring in Taichung, Taiwan 台灣台中馬陵溫泉扎營

The Overhang (Cave) Campsite

 

Keep your eye out on the left (river right) bank as well, and you might find this hidden little overhang / cave campsite. It would also keep you safe in a pinch, if there were a sudden downpour - though the White Tower Campsite is still larger and, probably, a bit safer as well.


The Curve (DANGEROUS Campsite!)

 



Soon you will come to this curve in the river, with a beautiful pool next to a white cliff. Once you see it, you know you are close!



Now, this LOOKS like a good place to camp... but PLEASE DON'T CAMP HERE - or anywhere from here onward!! The overhanging cliffs on the opposite side of the river are prone to rockfall, especially in storms, and we have personally seen a very large rockfall here during bad weather.




The First Hot Spring

 
Maling Hot Spring (馬陵溫泉)

Once you pass the curve, it won't be long until you reach Maling Hot Spring (馬陵溫泉)! While the exact size and location of the hot spring pools changes from year to year, and they need to be dug out fresh at end of each typhoon season, there generally tend to be three hot spring pool areas.


Maling Hot Spring (馬陵溫泉)

The first hot spring is just behind this boulder - and it's a good thing, or that land slide would have buried it!


Maling Hot Spring (馬陵溫泉)

This is a nice enough pool, but with all those rocks just waiting for an excuse to fall down right into it, it's probably best to just move on to the second and third pools.


Maling Hot Spring (馬陵溫泉)


The Waterfall and Second Hot Spring

 
Maling Hot Spring (馬陵溫泉)

Past the first hot spring, you will see a beautiful waterfall streaming down the cliff side. Look to the right of it, can you seethe rock overhang at the riverside?


Maling Hot Spring (馬陵溫泉)

There it is - it's the main hot spring, and it's right under that overhang!



Maling Hot Spring (馬陵溫泉)

Maling Hot Spring (馬陵溫泉)

Maling Hot Spring (馬陵溫泉)

This is by far the best of the three hot spring areas, and besides, hanging out in a hot spring under an overhang makes for a pretty unique experience.


Hot Spring Campsite (DANGEROUS!)

 

Now, you may see people camped here, or be tempted to do so yourself. Yes, it is true that people do it fairly often, but again, The Map Room STRONGLY recommends against it for safety reasons.



Take a look at that cliff right above those tents. Imagine even one, single rock falling down from there. Now, just leave it in your imagination, and don't go for the real-world experience. The other campsites aren't far downstream, and it's just not worth it, given the kind of rocks that fall in places like this - and this area is prone to rockfall.


The Third Hot Spring

 
Maling Hot Spring (馬陵溫泉)

A little ways up from the main hot spring is the third, and final, hot spring area. You may be able to dig good pools out, but it's often better to have a tarp to fill with warm water. Otherwise, it can be difficult to get the hot water to pool and keep the cold water out.


Maling Hot Spring (馬陵溫泉)

Maling Hot Spring (馬陵溫泉)

Maling Hot Spring (馬陵溫泉)

Maling Hot Spring (馬陵溫泉)


Maling Hot Spring (馬陵溫泉)

Maling Hot Spring (馬陵溫泉)

So there it is, Maling Hot Spring! Yes, you should be careful of rockfalls, but hey, that's true of most river tracing destinations, so don't let it stop you! It's a great place, a lot of fun, and a good route for beginners and intermediates despite any other caveats. So go on, get out there and have some fun!


 

THE NITTY-GRITTY

 

Maling Hot Spring Area Map

The Map Room's Map of Hot Springs in Taiwan




SPECIAL SAFETY CONSIDERATIONS FOR THE DAJIA RIVER VALLEY AREA

 

Tracing to Maling Hot Spring is not difficult, but there are a few important safety notes to keep in mind. Under certain circumstances, the area has, or is prone to:

  • flooding when the dam upstream releases excess water (see below on how to safely avoid this)

  • rockfall (especially in rainy conditions, or when it has recently rained)

  • dangerous campsites (places that look good, but are rockfall prone - see above for details)


You also need to be ready for:

  • crossing the river multiple times

  • rocky terrain (don't twist your ankles!)

  • go over large rocks and boulders on certain stretches


Despite all of this, though, it's not a long, difficult, or technically demanding trace. Just make sure you check the weather (below) and reservoir conditions ahead of time and you should be just fine.


AVOIDING FLOODING:

Before starting, take a quick look at the water levels at this link: Deji Reservoir - Major Reservoirs | Central Weather Bureau (cwa.gov.tw)


Keep in mind that:

  • As long as it's not at over 99% full, WITH a forecast for significant rain, it will likely be fine.

  • The Water Resources Agency,MOEA (wra.gov.tw) also sends out warnings via text message well before purging the dams, and since there is very good reception along the whole trace, most people should be able to receive these without issue.

  • They also play a message (in Chinese) well in advance of letting water out, and they keep playing it for quite a while. If you hear blaring announcements in Chinese, it's time to leave.


GPX file: Maling Hot Spring - The Map Room 馬陵溫泉-地圖寶庫.gpx

Maling Hot Spring - The Map Room 馬陵溫泉-地圖寶庫
.gpx
Download GPX • 129KB




24°12'36.1"N 121°01'30.2"E 24.210040, 121.025060





Skill level:

Beginner - intermediate


Length of trace:

Roughly 3 hours one way, though you could do it in less if you are fast.


Water sources:

You could filter the water from the river, but given how close it is to some country roads, and how short the trace is, it might be better just to bring your own. Or, source it from any of the tributaries flowing in from the river right (opposite the road) side.


Gear and provisions:

Simple river tracing gear (see below)


Sun protection:

Yes, this is an exposed trace.


Family friendly:

As long as you and your family are comfortable and proficient in crossing a river a few times that may be as much as waist deep. As always, be sure to check the water levels and the speed of the river first.


Dog friendly:

Yes, but see the, 'Family Friendly' section, and the video, above.


Camping /overnighting options:

Plenty! See the map and GPX.


Remarks:


Parking:


Water:

See above and 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 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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