Shimenggu (Stone Dream Valley) is located in one of the most remote parts of Chaiyi County in Taiwan. Shimenggu itself is a series of strange pools but the hiking trail is absolutely amazing with several different amazing sights. At the beginning of the trail there is a suspension bridge that links to an alternate entrance to Shuiyang Lake (blog) (and another Shuiyang blog) and some stands of enormous bamboo while walking up a valley of 500+ meter walls. After a hard ascent (300 meters in 1+km) you reach the perfect mountain garden. This garden used to be the home to a nice elderly couple that we met in 2013 and they operated a part time B&B. Since then they have moved away but their garden is still perfect.
The trail is nice before the garden but the best places are the furthest away. I had hiked part of the trail 3 years earlier with Richard Saunders (Richard’s blog from that trip) but I stopped at the garden to rest because I had a 5 hour motorcycle ride home that day. Richard and several other hikers came back gushing with how great it was. It took me 3 years to return but I finally found out how great the rest of the trail is.
Near the end of the trail is a loop that we hiked the loop clockwise. The waterfall was much larger than expected and is one of my favorites in Taiwan. Just above the waterfall are some great pools for summer swimming. The hike becomes very steep after this going past a grove of ancient trees that remind me of Jianxibao. Sadly most of the trees have been illegally logged. Immediately afterward it changes to a damp forest with green moss hanging from the trees like it was part of the Lord of the Ring set. Finally we arrived at Shimenggu. Shimenggu is a series of bizarre pools in a stream that runs down a large piece of rock. The hike is difficult but not impossible and it will take most of the day.
Looking up the main valley from the suspension bridge. The suspension bridge leads to an alternate route to Shuiyang Lake. We have looked a couple of times and the route to Dadianyu Waterfall seems to be blocked by a giant boulder. According to some hikers it takes 4 hours to reach 1000 person cave and an additional 2 hours to reach Shuiyang Lake. The trail was in much better shape on my 2016 trip though. In 2013 we couldn’t find anything that looked like a trail but now it seems to be in decent shape although it is a very steep climb out of the valley.
The cables across the valley are for a small cable car that was used by the family to transport their personal items up the mountain. The path shown leads to the small waterfall. Instead the trail climbs 500 meters in 2 kms to the top of the cables.
Huge bamboo flanks parts of the first half of the trail.
There is a fair amount of stinging nettles at the beginning of the trail and much more of it on the other side of the suspension bridge (a side trip and not the way to Shimenggu). It isn’t serious if you touch it but it is VERY annoying.
The flower garden that was part of a beautiful home and part time B&B. We met the owners 3 years ago but they have since moved away (likely into the village). The garden is stunningly beautiful and you walk through a tunnel of rhododendrons, cherry blossoms and other flowers.
This rather bizarre rock is right next to the trail. I have no idea what caused this.
Qingrengu was just the first spectacular sight of many near the end of the hike. The cave behind it is accessible and actually had an old stone wall built in it. This one will definitely be on my favorite waterfall list whenever I publish it.
Directly above Qingrengu Waterfall are some perfect pools that would be awesome to swim in during the summer. It is at 1500 meters of elevation so it might not be warm enough to swim even in early spring or late fall.
The trail goes vertical again climbing 200 meters in the next kilometer. This giant cypress tree is right next to the trail and is sadly one of the last ones in this area. There is access to an impressive valley here that I will explore next time. It looked like there was a nice waterfall and some vertical cliff walls.
Illegal logging has taken its toll on the giant cypress trees. There were several recently logged trees and we only saw one giant cypress and several other much smaller ones. I cannot imagine how difficult it would be to carry the entire tree (chopped up) out by hand. And they would probably have to work at night. This is a fairly difficult hike with a daypack.
At the highest elevations the trail becomes a lush green paradise.
One of the more creative parts of the trail. I am guessing that this type of construction is no longer allowed to preserve the larger trees in this forest.
This part of the hike was probably my favorite. It occurs at the highest elevation on the trail (about 1700 meters) and almost the absolute farthest point of the trail. It is definitely worth it to hike the entire trail even though is over 800 meters of elevation gain to reach this spot.
Shimenggu is a series of bizarre pools where the rock has worn away in deep pools that go straight down. This hole was well over 1 meter across and 2-3 meters deep. I think these would be good places to swim during the summer. We didn’t have time to walk upstream from the trail but there is potentially something really cool up there.
The whole trail is nice but the best part is the loop at the end of the trail. The bridge near the trailhead provides access to 1000 person cave (marked in Chinese in the top right of the map). It must be an exhausting hike since there are A LOT OF contour lines that it crosses. Shuiyang Lake is 2 hours past the cave.
The isn’t quite as long as shown due to the off trail exploring across the bridge and the long breaks at the break area and the waterfall. Overall the trail is about 10 km long.