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The Shrine Grotto and Waterfall: Taiwan's Lulu Hot Spring Post 2 of 3

Updated: Oct 29, 2023


 
 
 

Index

 

Lulu Hot Spring Area Map


There are countless hot springs, waterfalls, and river tracing destinations in Taiwan, but few - not even the famed Golden Grotto - can compare with The Lulu River Shrine!

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 River and The Shrine Waterfall (轆轆溪和轆轆神殿瀑布) Beginner - advanced

  2. 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: Lulu River and The Shrine Waterfall


Follow our quest to the otherworldly Lulu Shrine Waterfall! Though it lies less than a kilometer from better know parts of Taiwan's famous Lulu Hot Spring, this is no place for beginners to go on their own: It takes skill, experience, the right equipment, and yes, a little bit of luck to get there. But if you can overcome the obstacles that stand in the way, it's guaranteed to be an experience you'll never forget!


There are countless hot springs, waterfalls, and river tracing destinations in Taiwan, but few - not even the famed Golden Grotto - can compare with The Lulu River Shrine Grotto and Waterfall!


 

*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 Lulu River Canyon

 

The beautiful Lulu River in Haiduan Township, Taitung (Taidong), Taiwan (台灣台東縣海端鄉)


It was The Map Room's first journey to Lulu Hot Spring (post and directions here). There were two of us - John and David - and with about half a day to spare, we decided to trace up Lulu River to see what was there. (轆轆溪). We had absolutely no idea what wonders awaited us there!


John (left) and David (right) prepare to explore Lulu River on The Map Room's first trip to Lulu Hot Spring


The Lulu River was smaller than the main, Dalun River (大崙溪), but it was only a matter of minutes before we realized that it was an incredibly special place.


The first 'waterfall' - a very short little thing - near the confluence of the Lulu and Dalun Rivers


Much like the Dalun River, there were hot springs and steam spurting out of the cliffside everywhere. Unlike the Dalun, though, the Lulu quickly turned into a much narrower stream, rushing and bubbling like a ribbon of liquid turquoise through one of the most magnificent canyons we had seen in years and years of river tracing in Taiwan.


Dave (above) and Lamin (below) prepare to enter the Lulu River Canyon for their first time during The Map Room's second expedition up the Lulu River

Lamin heads upstream


Steam billowed from bubbling springs of warm, hot, and scalding water as they dripped, flowed, and sprayed from the stone all around us. Everywhere veins of color ran though the rock, almost as if God himself had run an enormous paintbrush up and down the canyon walls and then filled its base with a flowing river of liquid sapphire.


David traces up the Lulu River Canyon

Steam billows from the canyon walls of Taiwan's Lulu River. The Lulu Hot Spring area is an incredible example of geothermal activity.

David stops to look at some of the beautiful geothermal formations at Lulu Hot Spring


Soon, we were winding and snaking our way through an unearthly slot canyon. Up and down, left and right, the walls seemed to move in all directions - almost as if they had been suddenly frozen in the middle of some kind of twisting and twirling dance in ancient times now long forgotten.


Swimming up the Lulu Slot Canyon


We swam, traced, and scrambled deeper and deeper up the river. At times we felt like we could almost touch both sides with our outstretched hands, though not quite.



Colors and shapes mixed and melded in an endless collage all around us. Solid rock, liquid water, and steaming gas - all the primordial elements seemed to have come alive and started mixing together, reveling in their beautiful power and preparing to remake the world around us even as we watched.


John snaps a shot. It seemed no words could express the wonder of what we were experiencing!


Dave pauses to take in the amazing beauty of the Lulu River




The wonder of the place seemed to have erased any feeling of the passage of time, and unlike most times, we hadn't been hurrying to get deeper. We took time for photos, videos, and just the sheer amazement that had overwhelmed us. In fact, we could have easily made it this far in 15-20 minutes had we wanted to, but... well, some things take longer simply because they deserve to.


The First Waterfall

 

Not far upstream, we came to the first obstacle. It was only a minor one - this little rapid - but it was fun nonetheless. Little did we know that we were about to encounter something much more serious blocking our way!



As soon as we crossed the rapids, we came to the first REAL waterfall of the trace. It poured down from above, a shining ribbon of silvery-white, glittering like diamonds in the clear sunlight.


The first large waterfall on the Lulu River


We looked and we searched, but there was no easy way around it. We had only just begun exploring this amazing place, and here, already, was a significant obstacle that threatened to end the day's tracing much sooner than we had hoped.


David chimneys up the crack to the left of the waterfall. This is much more difficult in high water conditions!


Once it was clear that there was no way around, we began looking for a way up. The main waterfall itself was a raging torrent even in these low water conditions, and with no footholds it was clear that going right up it was out of the question. Fortunately, though, there was a cleft large enough to be its own, second waterfall directly to the left (river right) of the main waterfall, and only a small amount of water was trickling down it.


Looking back down from the tunnel at the top of the cleft


It was clear that either we had to turn back or one of us was going to have to attempt the climb. John, though brave and capable, decided not to risk it. It looked slick and there was no room for error, and he didn't want to take a chance like that when he had several kids at home to think about!


John climbs up the cleft to the side of the waterfall


It fell to me, then. I didn't have anyone to worry about at home, and I love a challenge! As I climbed, I started to notice that it felt significantly higher from up there than it looked from below. I was used to this from other adventures, but this was different: This place was not just beautiful, but perilous. It would be unforgiving if I slipped, and there was no pool of water or good landing spot below. Only the hard-earned skill of much experience could prevent me from falling to a potentially serious injury.



I won't lie, it was nerve-racking to say the least! I tried several times, getting a bit further and learning just a bit more about the route with each attempt, but after the third or fourth, I felt like my courage was beginning to fail me. What if I slipped? What if I missed a hand- or foot-hold? What if... well, anything, really?


Looking back down at John from the top of the waterfall


I paused and took a few moments to re-center myself. John suggested that, maybe, we should just stop here and call it good. We had already seen so much more than we had imagined in just this short section of river! But... well, something inside told me to try again. Somehow... I just felt... no, I knew - there was something amazing beyond that waterfall! I can't explain how I knew, maybe I had just learned to read canyons after all those years of river tracing in Taiwan? But somehow... I just knew. Something was calling out to me from up there, urging me not to give up. I had gotten us past many serious obstacles in the past, and I would get us past this one as well!


David tries to climb up on The Map Room's second trip. Unfortunately, the water was much higher, and the climbing equipment was gone, so he was unable to get past on that trip!

Davd and Lamin enjoy the beautiful waterfall area below the Lulu Shrine


The Upper Canyon

 

The view from the top of the waterfall. Rainbow colors surrounded me as I looked back along the canyon we had come up. Unfortunately, the climbing equipment pictured here is no longer in place!


'One more time...'


I turned to John and said something that I have often yelled when hiking and tracing - as much for fun as anything else - but this time, it didn't feel like a joke, or fun, or any of that. It felt serious, real, and powerful. Just one word. I looked him right in the eye and said...


"Onward!"


Staring up at the amazing slot canyon above the first waterfall


Up I went, climbing along footholds and handholds that I had discovered already along the way. Using some webbing (flat rope) in some eyelets we had discovered already in place thanks to some prior tracer's hard work. But helpful though they were, it was the top part that had stopped me before: A tongue of rock jutted straight out, way up high, just before the top, and that was where I had gotten stuck.



Finally, I reached over it and found... a handhold! Yes, a handhold at last! The angle was a bit awkward, but it was solid and I had a hold good handle on it. Up I went, chimneying and pulling myself past the rock, and finally, there I was - I was over the top! In front of me was a short tunnel crawl, and then...


David passes through the slot canyon


...the most amazing slot canyon I had ever seen! Green vines hung from the high canyon top, all lit up in the bright sunlight, and I was engulfed by a whole new kind of beauty! I quickly secured my rope on a rock and let it down for John, and in a flash he was up there with me.



The slot canyon continued on and on, slicing and boring its way straight into the naked rock of the mountains above. Darker and darker, but punctuated with beams of light all around, deeper and deeper it went. We felt less like we were standing on Earth, and more like we had somehow strayed into the dream of some great fantasy author.



Chambers and passages led deeper, and Onward we pressed. The rushing, echoing sounds of the river were all around us now, but soon... yes... it was unmistakable: That was the sound of a waterfall ahead, and it sounded really, REALLY big!


One of the chambers inside the canyon leading to the Lulu Grotto


The Shrine

 

We rounded the last bend, and suddenly there it was. We had found the Lulu Shrine Waterfall! We had had no idea that it even existed, and in fact even most people who do think that it's the smaller waterfall below. But here, suddenly, and to our amazement, we were faced with something much more awesomely powerful and immense than anything we had seen here, or even in the famous Golden Grotto in Hualian. THIS was something else. Even among the many natural wonders of Taiwan, THIS was something special!


John gazes up at the Lulu Shrine Waterfall


We were totally blown away! The immensity and grandeur of this place was beyond anything else we had ever experienced river tracing. We looked briefly around the inner chamber, hoping to find a way up, but this was it: the end of our journey. There was no way to get beyond The Shrine without the kind of serious, heavy-duty gear that we had not brought along. But what an amazing end to our adventure!


The Lulu Shrine Waterfall pours into the Lulu Grotto. From far above, sunlight pours in with it and illuminates the entire area.

Taking a break in The Lulu Shrine Grotto


We stayed a while, taking pictures and videos and trying to take it all in, but it was winter, and soon it got to be too cold to stay any longer. We took one last look at The Lulu Shrine Grotto and the mighty Lulu Shrine Waterfall that had carved it from the bedrock, and then it was time to depart. We knew that would be years before we were able to return, if ever, but we were leaving with a memory, and an experience, that would last us both for the rest of our lives.


 

THE NITTY-GRITTY

 

IMPORTANT NOTE: For full details on how to get to Lulu Hot Spring, please see article 1 in this series,

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. IMPORTANT NOTE: We were able to get past the first waterfall on our first journey there because the water levels were comparatively low and the left (river right) cleft was mostly dry. On our second trip, even though it was also winter and water levels were lower than summer, water was pouring out of it so that it had become a double waterfall. Additionally, the climbing gear that had bene anchored to the walls has now been removed. Because of this, we were unable to get in the second time, though another group said they had made it past. Be prepared for a difficult passage at the first waterfall!


Length of hike / trace:

  1. This depends greatly on whether you stop to enjoy the scenery on the way in, on whether you are able to get past the first waterfall or not, and if so, on how long it takes you. It should take no more than 30 minutes, at most, to get to the first waterfall, assuming you are not stopping for lots of pictures and videos.

  2. Once you've gotten past the first waterfall, it should take no longer than 30 minutes, at most, to get to Lulu Shrine Grotto and Lulu Shrine Waterfall.

Water sources:

Lulu River, though full of hot springs (and the chemicals that come from them), is mostly upstream of any camping. As such, it is probably as good a water source as you will get in this area. Do be careful to get past the area near the campground, though, in case anyone has used the bathroom!


Gear and provisions:

River tracing gear (see below), plus provisions and equipment for a short trace. Helmets essential! Note that you will also need hiking and camping gear to get to Lulu Hot Spring, where this post begins.


Sun protection:

Unneeded (for this part of the Lulu area) - unless you're there exactly as the sun is overhead in the heat of summer.


Hot spring area:

Anyone who has gotten as far as Lulu River should easily be able to get as far as the first waterfall. Use careful judgement in going past it, and into the Lulu Shrine area.


Dog friendly:

No. Just no. Really... 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 (see Lulu Hot Spring post 1 of 3 for further details):

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 for the trace:

Clothes:

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, though water levels will likely be much higher.


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*)

  • 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.

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!

 


The Map Room has an affiliate arrangement with Parkbus Taiwan and will receive a commission if you do. We stand strongly by our affiliates, because at the end of the day, they help get us safely to the end of the day.

 

Click the link above to get 20% off a year-long, premium Gaia GPS subscription! The Map Room has an affiliate arrangement with Gaia and will receive a commission if you do... but we ONLY recommend products that we have tested, used, and loved in the field ourselves! We stand strongly by our affiliates because, at the end of the day, they help get us safely to the end of the day.

 

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*Please note that The Map Room participates in the Amazon Associate Program, and other affiliate programs. Some of the links on The Map Room may refer to Amazon or our other affiliates, and as a member of these, The Map Room will receive a commission at no additional cost to you. We ONLY endorse products we ourselves use, have used, or would use personally!

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