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Tonghou River and Mt. Hongludi Hike: The Best Stream Trail to Escape Summer Heat in Taiwan

Posted by:  Anusha Lee
Published date: March 16, 2021
Last update: November 4, 2021
Tonghou River hike is my favorite place to visit in summer. You first hike to the most famous mountain in Yilan, Mt. Hongludi, to enjoy the stunning views of eastern Taiwan. Then, you descend to Tonghou River, sitting by the water to relax. If you want both epic mountains and a relaxing river, this hike is for you.
Tonghou river and Mt. Hongludi infographic
Tonghou river and Mt. Hongludi infographic

Table of Contents:

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About Tonghou River, Mt. Hongludi, and A Black Hawk Down

Tonghou River 桶後溪 is the largest branch of Nanshi River 南勢溪, and its river source is from Mt. Hongludi 烘爐地山 with the height of 1,166 meters (3,825 feet), which is located in between the border of Wulai, New Taipei City, and Jiaoxi, Yilan. Mt. Hongludi was also on our itinerary on this hike.
Tonghou River source hike: a great trail to embrace the hot summer in Taiwan
The view on Mt. Hongludi peak
There is a historical trail called Tonghouyueling Trail (it actually means Tonghou Crossing Historical Trail) 桶後越嶺古道, and this trail used to be one of the three Atayal people’s trails. Tong Hou in Chinese means behind the bucket. The bucket here refers to Mt. Datong, and I hiked Mt. Datong in April 2020.
Tonghou River source hike: a great trail to embrace the hot summer in Taiwan
Tonghouyueling Trail starts in Wulai and is a very pleasant trail to hike
The trailhead of Tonghouyueling Trail is in a very remote part of Wulai. I hiked there in July 2020 after it was open to the public, and the car ride to get to the trailhead takes much longer than the time to finish the trail. Please note that this trail was closed in January 2021 due to some collapsed sections of the trail.
A map to see the trails I've done related to Tonghou River
Year 2020 was truly a difficult year. On January 2nd, one Black Hawk helicopter carrying several high-ranking military officers suddenly crashed in the mountainous district of Wulai in New Taipei City. Of the 13 passengers and crew on board, 8 lost their lives, sadly including the Chief of the General Staff Shen Yi-ming 沈一鳴. In order to rescue the passengers and retrieve the wreckage, the military built several new dirt roads near the one to Tonghou River.
Tonghou River source hike: a great trail to embrace the hot summer in Taiwan
Those new dirt roads were very obvious.

How to Get There

There is no public transport to get to the trailhead. You have to drive or hire a car to get there.

Peaks and Places to Reach

Mt. Hongludi: 烘爐地山, height 1,166 meters (3,825 feet). There is a Class One Triangulation Stone, and you can see the 360° view on the peak.
Tonghou River: 桶後(后)溪. Tonghou River is the biggest tributary of Nanshi River 南勢溪 and her river basin covers the northeast Wulai in New Taipei City. In Chinese, “tong” means bucket 桶, and “hou” means in the back or behind 後. This river flows behind Mt. Datong 大桶山 Tonghou River originates from Mt. Hongludi.
Nanshi River: 南勢溪. Nanshi River originates from Songluo Lake 松羅湖, and the length of Nanshi River is 45 km (28 miles). Nanshi River is also the major water source for northern Taiwan.
See the map and itinerary first

Mt. Hongludi: 360° View of Yilan Plain and Mountains

GPS coordinates of the trailhead: 24.8301892, 121.700955
It’s near Wei-Shui Chiang Memorial Cemetery 蔣渭水之丘 and Yinghua Cemetery 櫻花陵園.
Tonghou River source hike: a great trail to embrace the hot summer in Taiwan
Wei-Shui Chiang Memorial Cemetery is a popular place to see the whole Lanyang Plain
I hiked this trail on July 21st, 2018 and I had a very scary accident which could end up ugly. Lucky for me, I’m still here. After that, I have a new fear towards certain kind of trail terrains like sidehills and heights. I'm glad that it didn't stop me from hiking and I always wanted to get back to Tonghou River to do it properly. This post mainly focuses on my second hike, but I will put some photos from my first one.
I joined Dudu for this hike. As usual, we left Banqiao at 7:00 am and arrived at the parking lot near Wei-Shui Chiang Memorial Cemetery around 9 am. We went to Wei-Shui Chiang Memorial Cemetery to take some photos and returned to the dirt road.
Tonghou River source hike: a great trail to embrace the hot summer in Taiwan
We got off here to enter the gate.
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New Dirt Trails to the Helicopter Crash Site

Because of the helicopter accident, the government dug new dirt roads to transport the helicopter remains. When we arrived at the real trailhead, which was also a junction of trails going to different mountains.
Tonghou River source hike: a great trail to embrace the hot summer in Taiwan
The newly dug dirt trails near the real trailhead.
There were also many new signs telling you which trail will take you to which mountains. We waited here for a while for the rest of our group to catch up. I actually can't remember what it was like when I first hiked here in 2018.
Tonghou River source hike: a great trail to embrace the hot summer in Taiwan
The real trailhead to Mt. Hongludi

Wonderful View on Mt. Hongludi

It took us around 20 minutes from the real trailhead to the junction of two trails: the one going up to Mt. Hongludi and the one going to Mt. Sanjiaolun 三角崙山. Part of the trail to Mt. Sanjiaolun was also overlapped with the loop trail we were going to take later. Mt. Sanjiaolun is close to Marian Cabin Trail and you can read Taiwan Trails and Tales' post for more details.
Tonghou River source hike: a great trail to embrace the hot summer in Taiwan
We reached to junction with two trails: the left one went up to Mt. Hongludi, and the right one went to Mt. Sanjiaolun.
Our first peak to reach was Mt. Hongludi. We took the left trail that went all the way up. It was steep and the weather was hot but cloudy. The grass on both sides of the trail was taller than most of us, and it was like swimming in the grass when we were trying to get to Mt. Hongludi with hight of 1,166 meters (3,825 feet), the highest point of our hike.
Tonghou River source hike: a great trail to embrace the hot summer in Taiwan
Peak of Mt. Hongludi
There was a Class 1 Triangulation Stone on the peak of Mt. Hongludi, but we couldn’t see much because it was cloudy.
Tonghou River source hike: a great trail to embrace the hot summer in Taiwan
A very cloudy day
But no worries, because I got better photos when I first hiked there in 2018. You could see Lanyang Plain (or Yilan Plain) in the distance.
Tonghou River source hike: a great trail to embrace the hot summer in Taiwan
We got a great weather when I first hiked there in July 2018.
After everyone had taken enough photos, we went downhill. It was steep when we went up, and it was also steep when we tried to descend. If it was raining, it would be very slippery to hike here.
Tonghou River source hike: a great trail to embrace the hot summer in Taiwan
Steep and slippery slope going down to Tonghou River

Tonghou River: A Relaxing Beautiful Place to Go in Summer. Plus My Accident

We stopped at a junction waiting for the rest of our hiking mates to catch up. I checked the signs at this junction and there were three trails: one was where we came from, the second one went to Mt. Gupaoliao 姑婆寮山, and the third went to Mt. Sanjiaolun.
Tonghou River source hike: a great trail to embrace the hot summer in Taiwan
We stopped here to take a break and waited for other hikers to come.
Although I've been here before, I couldn’t recall much about this junction and the woods from here. We walked a little bit in the woods and then Tonghou River showed up. It was as beautiful as I could remember, and my memory of that day also emerged. The fear was getting stronger and I had to let other hikers to go first.
Tonghou River source hike: a great trail to embrace the hot summer in Taiwan
I think my palms sweated a little bit when coming back here.

How Did My Accident Happen

On July 21, 2018, I joined Densanler 登山樂 to hike this trail. When we arrived at this slope, I was busy with taking photos of the river. I remember I didn’t stop to put my phone in my fanny bag, which was a mistake. Then, when I was on the slope, I was too confident to make sure I had grabbed the rope on the slope properly before moving my feet forward. Before I knew it, I found myself losing my footing. When I slipped, the only thing I could do was trying to grab anything frantically, but I got nothing. At that moment, I said to myself: ok, that’s it. I stopped struggling and waiting for the end to come.
Where I fell on the slope of Tonghou River
Aside from the horror accident, this place was beautiful.
What happened next was I landed on the riverbank on my left side so hard that the air was squeezed out of my lungs. It also hurt so much that I even couldn’t scream or breathe. I could hear other hikers behind me screaming in horror and yelling: she’s not moving, she’s not moving. I murmured to myself thinking of course I wasn’t moving. It hurt too much.
Where I fell on the slope of Tonghou River
One hiker in my previous trip caught the moment of me standing up trying to stretching my back. Our guide tried to help me.
After lying on the cold riverbank for a while, I felt the air came back to my lungs and I unbuckled the chest and hip belts of my backpack to release myself. I slowly stood up, checking myself to see whether I broke anything. Surprisingly, I was feeling ok. I didn’t think I break my bones or hit my head. Then, something caught my attention, the river.

I Survived and Took the Most Beautiful Photo on this Hike

While I was checking myself, it was difficult not to look at the beautiful Tonghou River and I wanted to take photos of what I saw. I hesitated for one second but still took out my phone (it wasn’t broken, either), and snapped this shot.
Tonghou River source hike: a great trail to embrace the hot summer in Taiwan
The river looked so stunning from the riverbank. I was glad that I was still okay to take this photo.
Our guide and other hikers got down to help me. Our guide asked me how I was doing, and I told him that I was doing okay, hurt, of course, but okay. He told me that he was worried sick when other hikers told him someone fell and thought he was going to call 112 for help. He also said I fell off 5 or 6 meters, which was about 2 floors. After making sure I was okay, he asked a male hiker to keep me company, and I finished the rest of the hike.
Where I fell on the slope of Tonghou River
I think I finished taking the precious photo of the river and putting my phone back in my bag in this photo.
By the time, I got back to Taipei and checked myself in at the emergency room of the hospital near my place, it was already 9 pm. The doctor said it’s been 10 hours and he thought I was doing fine.

Made it Home in One Piece and Got Only Nasty Bruises. Warning: Graphic Image

When I got home and took a shower, this was what I saw, and I didn’t even have any big scrape.
It seems I bumped against the slope hard on the back of my right thigh, but I couldn’t remember what was going on before I landed. The more I thought about the accident, the scarier scenoriors popped up. I even didn’t break my gear. I was extremely lucky.
Tonghou River source hike: a great trail to embrace the hot summer in Taiwan
I was very lucky. The worst I got was those ugly bruises. I have to blur this image to make it less graphic.
When I reflected what happened later, I think I made several mistakes. The biggest one is I was too confident. I didn’t make sure I was secured before I made the next move and I wanted to pass the slope as soon as I could. After this accident, I have a fear when passing the sidehill, but I learn to go with the fear as much as I can. My back still feels weird sometimes. So, stay humble, be cautious, and there's no need to be in a rush on the trails. Those are the lessons I learn from this accident.

The Highlight of Tonghou River: I Finally Enjoyed the River

Back to my second hike, when it was my turn to pass the slope, the memory came back, which wasn’t a surprise. But this time I made sure I had grabbed the rope tightly and put my feet steadily before I moved. Within a few minutes, I crossed the slope and reached to a wider trail section. It was not too bad. How come I didn’t do it properly two years ago?
Tonghou River source hike: a great trail to embrace the hot summer in Taiwan
I took this photo after passing the slope to a safe place. The river and the woods looked so soothing.
Now, I made it safe on my second attempt, and I could truly enjoy this river. There were schools of fish and shrimps in the river. It was so relaxing to watch the water and the trees around us. Our guides even carried home-made iced boba to let us enjoy in a hot summer day like this.

The Beauty of Tonghou River

I wore rainboots for this hike, but I forgot to bring a pair of sandals with me.
Tonghou River source hike: a great trail to embrace the hot summer in Taiwan
Rainboots worked well with this trail.
I stood in the river looking around, thinking it would be wonderful to visit here every summer or stay here much longer. But we still had to get back to our bus. I reluctantly pack my backpack and continued the hike.
Tonghou River source hike: a great trail to embrace the hot summer in Taiwan
It was difficult not to fall in love with this river.
Tonghou River source hike: a great trail to embrace the hot summer in Taiwan
A great retreat to forget everything

The Woods Turned into A Mystic World

Although we couldn’t stay here long, the rest of the hike was wonderful. The clean water and the vibrant jungle landscape made Tonglou River source hike even better.
Tonghou River source hike: a great trail to embrace the hot summer in Taiwan
I felt so sad to leave this lovely river.
I took many photos along the river, trying to make up what I lost from my previous hike.
Tonghou River source hike: a great trail to embrace the hot summer in Taiwan
Enjoy the tranquility.
Then we turned to a small hill and the trail went up. Our guides told us that we were getting closer to the river source.
Tonghou River source hike: a great trail to embrace the hot summer in Taiwan
We went uphill after the pleasant river hike.
Suddenly, Tonglou River decided to give us a different vibe and we were surrounded by mist.
Tonghou River source hike: a great trail to embrace the hot summer in Taiwan
We were surrounded by the mist.
Just following the water, we reached the end of the river. I was in awe to see this tiny pool of water was the beginning of raging rivers, the oceans, the life and everything.
Tonghou River source hike: a great trail to embrace the hot summer in Taiwan
The end of the river.

A Bonus: Partial Solar Eclipse

We made a loop back to the junction before going to Mt. Hongludi, and took the same trail back to the parking lot around 4 pm. While waiting for our bus to arrive, the sky was suddenly getting dark, which was weird. It was too early for sunset to come, but we remembered why.
Tonghou River source hike: a great trail to embrace the hot summer in Taiwan
We could only see partial solar eclipse in Yilan, but it was good enough.
There was a good reason for it. We had a solar eclipse on that day. Many people in Taipei could see the total eclipse, but I was happy enough to see the partial one and called it a day. After all, I got to finish this hike safely, so the partial solar eclipse was a bonus.

Thoughts about This Hike: The Best Hike to Do with People Who Are Important to You

There are so many hiking trails in Taiwan, and I don’t think I can get to do 1/10 of them in my lifetime. However, among so many trails, there are still some that make me want to come back again and again, and this is one of them.
Tonghou River source hike: a great trail to embrace the hot summer in Taiwan
A great getaway from busy daily life, especially in summer
In my humble opinion, Tonghou River source hike is ideal to hike to do in summer with people who are special to you, like your partners or your close friends, etc., if they also enjoy hiking. Imagine sitting quietly with people you care by Tonghou River and watching the water going into the deep woods, forget about the heat and other things, and just enjoy the pure moments. It's definitely a great getaway to refresh yourself.
Tonghou River source hike: a great trail to embrace the hot summer in Taiwan
Found a beetle on the way to Mt. Hongludi
However, due to the lack of public transport, it’s better to arrange your own transportation to get there, either driving a car or renting one or a scooter in Jiaoxi or Yilan.
If you are in Taiwan, how do you cope with the summer heat? What do you think about this trail? Please leave comments below. Don't forget to subscribe to newsletters to know more about the exciting trails in Taiwan.
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Map and Itinerary

Group Hike or Solo Hike: Group hike with Dudu
Date of Hike: June 21, 2020

Route map for Tonghou-River-Trace-Mt-Hongludi-hike by Anusha Lee on plotaroute.com

Click Menu in the map to download, print or share the map.
Click timer to change the speed to meet your condition.

Note:
My GPS track may not be totally accurate and is for reference only.

Based on my hike on June 21, 2020

07:00 Left Banqiao
08:47 Arrived at Wei-Shui Chiang Memorial Cemetery
09:06 Reached the real trailhead and waited up other hikers
09:40 Resumed the hike
09:59 Reached the junction to Mt. Sanjiaolun and Mt. Hongludi
10:20 Reached the junction to Mt. Houludi and the new dirt trail to the crash site
10:40 Resumed the hike
10:49 Arrived at the peak of Mt. Hongludi and took a 10-minute break
11:49 Arrived at the junction to Mt. Gupaoliao and Tonghou River and took another 10-minute break
12:03 Reached the slope where I fell in 2018
12:15 Arrived at the river and had a lunch break
13:30 Resumed the hike and walked along the river
14:41 Clumbed up a small hill
14:47 Reached the end of Tonghou River
15:07 Back the junction with trails to Mt. Hongludi and Mt. Sanjialun
15:35 Exited the trail and went to the parking lot to waited for our bus
16:08 Saw the partial eclipse
Total time: 7 hours 38 minutes, including long breaks

Recommended Blogs and Resources:

Chinese only:
Hiking Biji: 烘爐地山登山步道
山腳下的法蘭克: 烘爐地山-桶後溪源頭 P字縱走 Mt. Hongludi and Tonghou River Source: P-shape hike
陳生: 櫻花陵園、烘爐地山、桶後溪源頭P行走 Mt. Hongludi and Tonghou River Source: P-shape hike
English posts:
Taiwan Trails and Tales: TONGHOU STREAM and MOUNT HONGLUDI (桶後溪/烘爐地山)
Filming Location of Movie Seediq Bale: Tonghou River

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