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A Tribute to Taroko: Shakadang Three Heroes - Mt. Qingshui, Mt. Qianliyan, and Mt. Liwu

Posted by:  Anusha Lee
Published date: April 25, 2024
Shakadang Three Heroes refers to three mountains, Mt. Qingshui (Qingshuidashan or Qingshui Big Mountain), Mt. Qianliyan, and Mt. Liwu, near Shakadang Creek in Taroko National Park. This hike is challenging, but the views of the East Coast of Taiwan are stunning from the rock scrambles.
Qingshuidashan by Xiao Tsai
View from Qingshuidashan by Xiao Tsai.
However, the devastating magnitude 7.2 earthquake that hit Hualien, Taiwan, on April 3rd damaged the renowned Taroko tremendously. I don't know how long it will take for Taroko to reopen again, and I'm not sure Shakadang Three Heroes will be the same, either.
This post commemorates this breathtaking hike and Qingshuidashan, the mountain that I haven't had a chance to visit. For any updates about Taroko National Park, click their website here.
Tom's Qingshuidashan by Tom Wilson
View from Qingshuidashan by Tom Wilson.
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Table of Contents:

Trail Information: Qingshuidashan 清水大山, Mt. Qianliyan 千里眼山, and Mt. Liwu 立霧山, aka Shakadang Three Heroes 砂卡礑三雄

Trail Name: Shakadang Three Heroes
Distance: 46.4 km (28.8 miles)
Route type: Out and back
Days/Hours Needed: 3 days
Total Ascent/Descent: 4,439m/4,421m
Permits: Not required
Difficulty Level: trail difficulty
Trail Name: Dali Datong Trail, Mt. Liwu, and Mt. Qianliyan
Distance: 24.6 km (15.3 miles)
Route type: Out and back
Days/Hours Needed: 2 days
Total Ascent/Descent: 2,518m/2,512m
Permits: Not required
Difficulty Level: trail difficulty

Peaks to Reach

  1. Mt. Qingshui, or Qingshuidashan, Mt. Qingshui, Mt. Cingshuei 清水大山, 2,408 meters (7,900 feet) above sea level.
  2. Mt. Liwu 立霧山, 1,274 meters (4,180 feet) above sea level. A Minor 100 Peaks in Taiwan.
  3. Mt. Qianliyan 千里眼山, 1,624 meters (5,328 feet) above sea level.

Accommodations and Map/GPX Data

There are several hostels in Dali and Datong Village. Most cost NT$1,500 per person per night, including dinner, breakfast, a bunk bed or shared bed, and a hot shower. No hair dryer, toiletries, and charging outlet are available.
Which one to stay in depends on where you hike. Those humble-looking hostels may not have fancy amenities, but their beds are surprisingly comfy and warm. Moreover, they have the best views and surroundings you will never see elsewhere.
In both villages, there is no electricity and no tap water. The hostels use generators and wood burners to cook and boil shower water.
Rainbow House
The bathroom at Rainbow's House

For Datong Dali Trail and Mt. Liwu: Dadao's House 達道的家 or Dali Lily Farm 大禮百合休閒農莊-大禮百合屋

Dadao's House has the best views among all the hostels here, and the beautiful Mt. Liwu Observation Deck is close, too.
View from Dadao's House
Dadao's House doesn't have a website. To make a reservation, call and text our arrival dates: +886 932019638. The cost is NT$1,500 per person per night.
The meals and beds at Dadao's House
Dali Lily Farm 大禮百合休閒農莊-大禮百合屋 is right next to Dali Church. If you only want to visit this church, staying here is the best option. I met the hostel host and had a brief conversation with him. His hostel is NT$2,200 per person per night, and he serves indigenous delicacies.
I had never had a chance to stay here before the earthquake. Hopefully, I will in the future.

For Mt. Qianliyan and Qingshuidashan Hike: Rainbow House 彩虹屋

If you aim for either Mt. Qianliyan or Qingshuidashan or both hikes, staying at Datong Village will save you time hiking in the dark.
Rainbow House
Meals and bunk beds at Rainbow House
I stayed at Rainbow House, and the hosts, Mr. and Mrs. Jian, were very friendly and nice. My friend Tom stayed there and left his passport in the bunk bed. Mr. Jian even walked back to the trailhead to return Tom's passport.
Rainbow House
The hosts at Rainbow House
There is another hostel in Datong Village, Coconut House 椰果的家. Some hikers said the owner had to take care of a sick family member, so they didn't receive hikers for a while.


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Challenging Hikes with Rock Scrambles, A View of Crescent Bay, and Sunrise

Shakadang Three Heroes has been on my hiking list for years, but I only hiked to Dali and Datong Village. I finally hiked to Mt. Qianliyan in November 2023, but Qingshuidashan is still waiting.
Each of these trails is proof of the unique beauty you can only find in Taiwan. I've done Dali, Datong Village + Mt. Liwu, and Mt. Liwu + Mt. Qianliyan, each one leaving me with a sense of accomplishment and a thirst for more.
If you're up for the challenge, these can be done in two days. But if you're ready to push your limits, put Qingshuidashan in your itinerary, a three-day journey that will test your endurance and reward you with breathtaking views.
My guide, Xiao Tsai, and my New Zealand friend, Tom Wilson, and A-nong 張嘉榮 kindly lent me their photos at Qingshuidashan and Datong Dali Village. This hiker's post (only in Chinese): 清水大山|花蓮砂卡礑三雄 provides details of the whole hike. The Shakadang Three Heroes' GPX is also from his post.

Breathtaking Hualien Coast

The night before the hike, we stayed in Hualien and stopped by the beach near Qixing Lake or Qixingtan. The water and sky were blue and clear, and we could see Qingshuidashan from the beach.
We could see Qingshuidashan (2,408m) from the beach near Qixingtan in Hualien. You can also see this beach from Qingshuidashan.

Dekulun Trail, Dinosaur Ridge, Dali and Datong Village, and Mt. Liwu

If you do this hike, start as early as possible to avoid the rapidly changing weather around noon.
08:13 We started the hike from the north section of the Terrace Trail. The plank footpath was next to the toilets at the Taroko Visitor Center.
We started from the footpath next to the toilets, but there are also two other entrances.
08:23 There were two routes to do this hike. We took the more challenging route, Dinosaur Ridge 恐龍背. This section was steep and rugged. Anong told me that one hiker fell to his death here.
This shortcut did look like dinosaur's spikes on the back.
When the earthquake hit on April 3rd, three hikers were struck to death by falling boulders here.
08:59 We reached the first pulley station. The views were great here, overlooking the Taroko Visitor Center. We took a long break here.
The first pulley station.
We could see Taroko Visitor Center and Taroko Arch Gate.
Those pulley stations were the lifeline for Dali and Datong Village residents. Transporting 300 kg of goods is NT$6,000 (USD185, 175 Euros). The full gas cylinder weighs 40 kg, and the empty one weighs 20 kg, plus other daily goods that the residents need to use.
I saw the first pulley station from Taroko Visitor Center.
09:28 We reached the end of Dekalun Trail, which is connected to the Shakadang Forest Road 砂卡礑林道 and Dali Village.
We met the hosts of Dadao's House.
10:27 We arrived at a small weather station, where some farm carts were parked.
10:43 We reached the entrance to Dali Village.
The entrance to Dali Village and the sign of Dali Lily Farm
10:53 We passed an old police station and saw signages about Xoxos 赫赫斯.
The old police station in Dali Village (Xoxos).

The Dali Church with the Breathtaking Views

11:03 We passed some tables and chairs and took the small gap in the bush. Soon, we reached my favorite church in Taiwan, Dali Church.
We took a 50-minute lunch break to enjoy this view. This was my second time visiting this place. We were lucky that the weather was still good. The clouds in the sky were so mesmerizing.
Qingshuidashan and Mt. Qianliyan were clear to be seen.
Looking at Qingshuidashan (2,408m) and Mt. Qianliyan (1,623m) from Dali Church.
12:05 We reached the second pully station. The local villagers transported their goods using this method, and the cost was based on weight. There was no electricity or tap water here.
The second pulley station
View from the last pulley station
13:06 We arrived at the junction to Mt. Liwu. I took this route in July 2020. When I did this hike again, I saw a new route if you start from Dadao's House. If this trail opens again in the future, take that one.
Junction to Dadao's House and Mt. Liwu
13:54 We arrived at Mt. Liwu, with no views to enjoy.
The summit of Mt. Liwu is covered by trees.
We went to the Liwu Mountain Observation Deck from Mt. Liwu, and this section was slippery and treacherous. I don't recommend taking this one.
This area belongs to the indigenous people.
14:32 We arrived at Liwu Mountain Observation Deck. Unfortunately, the clouds had taken over the blue sky. If you come here and can get up early, catching the first ray of sunshine is definitely worth the effort.
The sunrise I saw when I first did this hike in 2020.
18-mt-liwu-observation-deck-view-by Anong
The beautiful crescent bay of Hualien coast. Anong took this photo in Febuary 2024.
14:55 Dadao's House is nearby. This was my favorite hostel in this area because of the fantastic views.
Who can say no to this?
16:14 We reached our destination for the day, Rainbow's House. If you do Qingshuidashan and Mt. Qianliyan, staying here is a must.
Rainbow House

Hike to the Rock Scrambles with the Fantastic Views: Mt. Qianliyan

It's better to start the hike around 4 a.m. or even earlier to see the sunrise. Despite the weather's uncertainty, with the previous night's rain, I decided to take a chance.
Mt. Qianliyan
After climbing up to the slope, the actual entrance to the Mt. Qianliyan trail is on the left side of bamboo woods.
Make sure to check where the entrance is before your hike. I couldn't see it in the dark but headed into the woods anyway.
It was pitch black if we didn't turn on our headlamps. Before hiking, I feared the dark, even with people around me. I still don't know how I overcame the fear. After the rain, the trail became much more slippery.
Mt. Qianliyan
The trail to Mt. Qianliyan was slippery and muddy.
After hiking in the woods for what seemed like forever, we finally reached the ridge. However, this didn't mean the hike became more accessible. The trail on the ridge was like the section between Mt. Liwu and the observation deck.
Mt. Qianliyan
The section on the ridge was still rugged.
06:44 The sky became brighter but still gray. I prayed that we could see some views. My prayer was answered when we finally exited the woods and reached a rock scramble.
Mt. Qianliyan
We saw Dadao's House and other buildings in the lower mountains. On our right were Mt. Liwu Main Peak 立霧主山, 3,069 meters (not Mt. Liwu), and the famous Mt. Qilai Main Peak 奇萊北峰, 3,607 meters. There are also other beautiful yet rugged mountains here.
Mt. Qianliyan
The mountain in the center was Mt. Liwu, and Dadao's House was on a plateau. Qixing Lake was on the left.
We reached another rock scramble, which was more strenuous than the previous ones. However, this was the perfect spot to see the sunrise! We could catch the clouds, the blue ocean, and the coast views.
Mt. Qianliyan
The view got better when we climbed higher. This is the spot to see the sunrise.
07:27 We entered the woods again and reached Mt. Qianliyan, 1,624 meters. There were no views here. I told myself that if I did this hike again, I would stay at the rock scramble to see the sunrise.
Mt. Qianliyan
No views at the summit of Mt. Qianliyan.
While returning to our hostel, Mother Nature rewarded our dedication with the fantastic views. The clouds flew over the mountains, and then the blue sky decided to call it a day.
Mt. Qianliyan
The moist clouds from the Pacific Ocean started flowing over the mountains.
If you thought climbing up this rock scramble was demanding, descending was even more tricky. Getting a footing on the loose rocks was hard enough, and we even took several wrong turns.
Mt. Qianliyan
We took several wrong turns on the rock scrambles.
10:17 I returned to the grass slope before Rainbow's House. I sat there and shot a timelapse video while waiting for my friend. We all hope for a blue sky on the trails, but the clouds and rain often surprise us the most.
Back to the slope near Rainbow's House.
12:00 We finally left our hostel and returned to the Tarok Visitor Center. We planned to take the Shakadang Trail back, but other hikers we met on the trail told us it was closed that day. In hindsight, it was a shame.
The first junction to Shakadang Trail was very close to Datong Village.
We decided not to take the Shakadang Trail and hiked on Tong Li Trail, aka Xoxos Trail. This section was more rugged than Shakadang Forest Road and was definitely not for new hikers.
Mt. Qianliyan
Some sections of Tong Li Trail can be too strenuous for new hikers.
13:19 We passed an old suspension bridge. I wonder if it survived the big earthquake on April 3.
Tong Li Trail
The old suspension bridge.
13:21 We reached the second junction of the Shakadang Trail and took a short break.
Tong Li Trail
The section junction to Shakadang Trail. We could see Dali Church from here.
14:19 We were back at the houses near Dali Church. We were already tired, so we continued without going to the church again.
15:30 We were back at the start of Dinosaur's Ridge, but we took the Dekalun Trail instead. This was my first time seeing what Dekalun Trail looked like. The endless and steep steps made my knees buckle.
Dekalun Trail
The endless steps on Dekalun Trail
16:12 Finally, we returned to the visitor center and called it a day. Please see my post about the hike from Datong Village to Shakadang Trail.

A Short Description of Qingshuidashan or Mt. Qingshui Hike 清水大山 with the View of Crescent Bay

I haven't had a chance to hike Qingshuidashan, and I'm not sure when I can after the earthquakes. I’d like to thank my friends Tom Wilson and Xiao Tsai for lending me their photos. If you think Mt. Qianliyan is hard, Qingshuidashan is even harder. The following is a brief description of this remarkable hike.
Tom's Qingshuidashan by Tom Wilson
Photo by Tom Wilson.
The round trip from Rainbow House to Qingshuidashan is around 12-14 hours, depending on your pace. Like hiking Mt. Qianliyan, it’s better to hike in the very early morning, reaching the summit before 11 a.m. or even earlier. The weather changes fast, and you might only see the clouds if you hike too late.
Qingshuidashan by Xiao Tsai
A rock to oversee the magnificent East Coast of Taiwan. Photo by Xiao Tsai.
There are several campgrounds and water sources on the way to Qingshuidashan. So, you can carry a filter to reduce weight.
Qingshuidashan by Xiao Tsai
There are more rock scrambles to pass than Mt. Qianliyan. Photo by Xiao Tsai.
Yet, the hard work pays off with those stunning views, the famous Crescent Bay 月牙灣.
Many hikers hike Qingshuidashan to see the stunning crescent bay. Photo by Xiao Tsai.
And the spectacular views of Mt. Nanhu 南湖大山, 3,742 meters, which also has dashan in her name.
Tom's Qingshuidashan by Tom Wilson
Spectacular Mt. Nanhu from Qingshuidashan. Photo by Tom Wilson.
Qingshuidashan by Xiao Tsai
Golden Spider Lilies 金花石蒜 or 龍爪花 in summer. Photo by Xiao Tsai.

About Mt. Qianliyan, Mt. Liwu, Qingshuidashan, and Xoxos

Dekalun Trail 得卡倫步道

The Dekalun Trail, completed in 2003, is named after the indigenous people of the Taroko's Dekalun tribe that once inhabited the Taroko Plateau.
Dekalun Trail
Dekalun Trail is very steep. Just follow the steps.

The Dali and Datong Trail or Xoxos Trail 赫赫斯

The Dali and Datong Trail or Xoxos Trail, once a vital connection for residents, is also an essential path to Qingshuidashan. Nestled at about 1,000 meters above sea level, Dali and Datong Village can be accessed via three paths: the Dekalun Trail on the Taroko Terrance (plateau), the Shakadang Trail at Sanjianwu, and a small staircase near the Liwu Power Plant.
Tong Li Trail
Valley view from Tong Li Trail.
Approximately two to three centuries ago, the indigenous Taroko people migrated from the Nantou Wushe area 南投霧社, crossing the Mt. Qilai and Hehuanshan to settle in the Liwu and Mugua River basins. During the Japanese rule, most were forced to relocate.
Only the villages of Xoxos (Dali's old name), Shakadang (Datong's old name), and Sila'an were spared due to their agricultural areas, located on the plateau between the Shakadang River valley and the Qingshuidashan range. The views from the plateau include Qingshuidashan, Mt. Qianliyan, Mt. Baifa 白髮山, Mt. Sanjiaozhui 三角椎山, Tashan 塔山, and more.
Tashan is on the left. View near Dadao's House.

Mt. Liwu 立霧山

Mt. Liwu, also known as Mt. Chongde 崇德山, is one of Taiwan's Minor 100 Peaks. It is located in the watershed between the Liwu River, the Shakadang River, and several streams flowing into the Pacific Ocean.
Mt. Qianliyan
Mt. Liwu is the one that wasn't covered by the clouds.

Mt. Qianliyan 千里眼山

Mt. Qianliyan, one of the Shakadang Three Heroes, is also known as Mt. Shikeng 石硿山. Though remote, its untouched ecosystem and pristine landscapes are preserved. While the summit offers no views, the ridgeline provides spectacular scenery over the Pacific Ocean.

Mt. Qingshui, Qingshuidashan 清水大山

Taiwan's most spectacular landscapes undoubtedly include the Qingshui Cliff and the Taroko Gorge, shaped by the mighty Mt. Qingshui — a classic among Taiwan's mountains.
Tom's Qingshuidashan by Tom Wilson
View on the way to Qingshuidashan. Photo by Tom Wilson.
Mt. Qingshui, also known as Qingshuidashan, embodies magnificence. It is rightly named 'dashan 大山,' meaning 'big mountain.' Composed of solid marble, it rises abruptly from sea level to over 2,000 meters. Its almost perpendicular cliffs drop dramatically to the Pacific Ocean, creating the famous Qingshui Cliff. The geographical features of Qingshuidashan are unique. It is close to the coast and enveloped in mists almost around noon due to its abundant moisture.
Mountains bearing the name 'dashan' in Taiwan are unfailingly challenging hikes.
Qingshuidashan by Xiao Tsai
Qingshuidashan is not an easy hike.
Reference: Hiking Biji 健行筆記: Shakadang Three Heroes 【台灣山岳小檔案】砂卡礑三雄.

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Note: the following trails are closed due to the earthquake.
Datong Dali Trail (Xoxos Trail)
Shakadang Trail
Zhuilu Old Trail
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