The Pingxi Railway Line is a (mostly) single-track railway line that provides access to some of the most popular day trips from Taipei, mainly in Ruifang and Pingxi districts of New Taipei City.
From the train line’s main access point, Ruifang Station, you can take a bus to hugely popular Jiufen Old Street.
Ride the train to reach the equally famous sky lantern releasing stations of Shifen and Pingxi, Shifen Waterfall, as well as Houtong Cat Village. Several other stations provide access to some incredible off-the-beaten-track hikes and waterfalls.
In this article, I’ll introduce all 9 stops on the Pingxi train line, plus 2 more stops on the connecting Shen’ao Line, for a total of 11 fun stops. I’ll also cover how to access the train line from Taipei, ticket information, and tips for planning an epic day on this train line.
Pingxi Line Introduction
As you may already know, the Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) runs various trains in a full loop around Taiwan. This train system was developed by the Japanese during their colonial occupation of Taiwan (1895 to 1945).
The Japanese opened the 12.9-kilometer Pingxi Line (in red on the below map) in 1921 to transport coal from the area. Even though the coal industry came to an end around 1971, the trains never stopped running.
Today, these trains transport tourists to from Ruifang Station (which is on the main round-Taiwan line, between Taipei and Yilan, in gray on the below route map) to 8 stops in the highly scenic Keelung River Valley (or Pingxi Valley).
The trains go south from Ruifang and then west into the valley.
Another small train line, called the Shen’ao Line (in blue on the above map), goes north from Ruifang. This line dates to 1936 and was also built for transporting coal. This line was closed, reopened, closed, and finally reopened again in 2016.
The Shen’ao Line today only has two stops (Haikeguan and Badouzi), which I’ll cover in a section at the end of this article.
The Pingxi and Shen’ao lines are connected, with the same trains running up and down them, making for a total of 11 stops. In other words, Pingxi trains run from Badouzi to Jingtong, but Ruifang Station is by far the biggest one.
Pingxi Lantern Festival
The Pingxi Railway Line provides access to the famous Pingxi Mass Sky Lantern Releases during the Lantern Festival.
The Lantern Festival is a traditional Chinese festival in Taiwan on the 15th day of the 1st month of the Lunar New Year. It is celebrated with many different events across Taiwan, but the sky lantern releases only happen in Pingxi area.
The event is so popular (and crowded!) that the mass lantern releases take place on two different days – usually the two Saturdays closest to the official holiday date. One of them usually takes place at Shifen Station and the other at Pingxi Station.
Mass lantern releases only happen on these two days. For the rest of the year, tourists can buy sky lanterns, write their wishes, and release them individually from the train tracks at Shifen Station anytime when the shops are open, around 9 AM to 7 PM daily.
You can also buy and release sky lanterns at Pingxi station (less popular and crowded than Shifen station) or the especially quiet Jingtong station, the terminal station of the Pingxi Line.
Please note that sky lanterns are bad for the environment, so I don’t personally recommend this activity.
For a few extra dollars, you can buy eco-friendly sky lanterns at Shifen Station (see Shifen Station section below). These will totally burn up in the sky instead of falling down and getting struck in trees.
Getting to Pingxi Railway Line
The most common way that people access the Pingxi Line is at Ruifang Station. From there, the Pingxi line goes south to Houtong, Shifen, and other stations. Or it goes north to Haikeguan and Badouzi stations.
A second option is to ride from Taipei to Keelung and then board the train at Haikeguan or Badouzi stations. Only choose this option if you’re planning to do some sightseeing in Keelung first.
Taipei to Ruifang
Local trains from Taipei Main Station to Ruifang take 45 minutes to one hour. You can search the train times here.
You can swipe your EasyCard for any trains called Local. These trains have no seat numbers.
You may also notice a few faster trains called Tze-Chiang (all numbers except 3000). You can also swipe EasyCard for these but you won’t be guaranteed a seat. If the seats are full, you can stand in the aisle.
And for any trains called Tze-Chiang 3000 or Puyuma Express, a reserved seat is required. Learn more in my guide to buying train tickets.
You will arrive at Ruifang Station on Platform 1 or 2. You will need to go down the stairs and follow the signs to Platform 3 for the Pingxi Line. Make sure to catch the train bound for Jingtong.
If you’re going to Haikeguan or Badouzi for the Shen’ao Rail Bike, you’ll catch the train in the opposite direction, bound for Badouzi.
Some visitors do a little sightseeing in Keelung first then board the Shen’ao branch of the Pingxi Line at either Badouzi or Haikeguan stations.
From Taipei Main Station, it is a 45-minute train right to Keelung station (local train, swipe EasyCard).
In Keelung, you can catch the Keelung Tourist Shuttle to destinations east of the city center, like Heping Island Park, National Museum of Marine Science & Technology, and Shen’ao Rail Bike (where you can cycle in a small train car from Badouzi station to Shen’ao station and back, reservation required).
Then, you can board the Shen’ao/Pingxi train line at either Badouzi (the terminal station) or Haikeguan and ride it towards Ruifang, Shifen, and so on.
Note that Keelung is most famous for Keelung Night Market. So many visitors explore the Pingxi train line FIRST, then finish the day at Keelung Night Market in the Keelung city center.
If you want to do that, bus 788 goes directly from Jiufen Old Street to Keelung or you can follow GoogleMaps directions to get to Keelung from Shifen or Ruifang (there are multiple route options depending on the time of day).
Tickets for Pingxi Railway Line
The Pingxi Railway Line is operated by TRA (the regular train system in Taiwan). It is considered a Local type train, which means you can swipe EasyCard (or buy a ticket with cash from the window or machine). There are no seat numbers, so you can’t reserve a seat.
If you swiped your EasyCard to board a train from Taipei Main Station, you don’t need to swipe out when you transfer to Platform 3 for the Pingxi Line at Ruifang Station. You will just switch platforms and then keep riding.
When you arrive at stations on the Pingxi Line, make sure to swipe out with your EasyCard. That’s because these stations are very small and don’t have such obvious exit gates like bigger stations.
If you forget to swipe out when you arrive (for example at Shifen Station), then later, when you try to swipe on again (for example when leaving Shifen), the machine will make a weird noise and there will be a problem with your EasyCard.
Don’t worry, the attendant will help you fix it. You’ll need to tell them where you first got on the train (like Taipei Main Station).
If you plan to ride the Pingxi Line multiple times in one day, then you can consider getting a One-Day Pingxi Line Pass (pass info here). It includes unlimited rides on the Pingxi Line (including Shen’ao Line but NOT the Shen’ao Rail Bike activity) for TWD 80 (under 6 free, children 6-12 can get a “Concessionaire Pass” for TWD 40).
The pass can be purchased from ticket windows at the following stations: Banqiao, Taipei, Songshan, Keelung, Badu, Ruifang, Houtong, Yilan, Luodong, Pingxi, Jingtong, and Shifen.
To give you an idea of whether it’s worth it, here are some example prices of individual rides on the Pingxi Line:
|From||To||Price in TWD|
As you can see, the day pass is only worth the money if you plan to take at least 4-5 rides or more in one day.
For most visitors, just swiping EasyCard is easier and around the same price or cheaper.
You can also visit some of the most popular spots in the Pingxi region, including Shifen, Jiufen, and Golden Waterfall, on this day tour from Taipei. The price is very reasonable, and it saves a lot of time planning and waiting for trains/buses.
Similar tours include this one with Heping Island, this one with pastry making, and this one starting from Ximending.
Stations on the Pingxi Line
Here are the Pingxi Railway Line stations in the order you’ll reach them, starting from Ruifang. For the Shen’ao Line (Haikehuan and Badouzi), see the final section at the end.
Ruifang (瑞芳) Station is where most people board the Pingxi Train Line. It is a major stop on the round-Taiwan railway line, about halfway between Taipei City and Yilan county. It is the capital city of Ruifang district of New Taipei City.
There isn’t much to see or do in Ruifang city, but it is the main access point for getting to Jiufen Old Street, one of the most popular destinations in all of Taiwan.
Jiufen is a former gold mining boom town that is now an extremely popular and atmospheric old street. Note that is is built on the side of a mountain, so it has lots of stairs.
Jiufen Old Street is known for its traditional teahouses, narrow lanes, staircases with red lanterns, and local delicacies like sweet potato and taro balls.
When you first arrive at Ruifang in the morning, you’ll need to make a decision. Do you want to visit Jiufen first or save it for later, after you ride the Pingxi train?
One factor that can help you decide is the time. If it’s too early, Jiufen will be totally dead. None of the shops and teahouses in Jiufen open until around 10 AM. Super early birds can consider to do the Pingxi Trail Line first (for example, Shifen Waterfall opens at 9 AM).
However, Jiufen becomes absolutely packed in the afternoon, every day of the year. The ideal visiting time is thus around 10 AM to noon or in the early evening when the lanterns are lit up and daytime crowds go home.
If you decide to visit Jiufen first, take the bus from Ruifang Station to Jiufen. Exit Ruifang train station on the south side, cross the street, turn left, and walk 1 bock to this bus stop. The bus takes 10 minutes to reach Jiufen.
Budget about 1-2 hours to visit Jiufen Old Street (make it 2 hours if you want to visit a teahouse). If you know you are starting your day at Jiufen, also consider to take a direct bus from Taipei instead of going via the train to Ruifang.
You may also consider to visit Jinguashi Gold Ecological Park, the former gold mine. There you can learn about gold, enter some old mine tunnels, and try gold leaf coffee at the cafe.
There’s also a great hike starting the park called Teapot Mountain. This hike includes views of the Yin Yang Sea phenomenon (see picture below), where different colors of water meet in the sea.
Most day tours to Jiufen like this one include seeing a view of Yin Yang Sea, but from somewhere else.
Another popular stop near Jinguashi is Golden Waterfall, but this is a little harder to reach on your own. Day tours like this include it.
All buses from Ruifang to Jiufen continue to Jinguashi, the terminal stop. Jinguashi is two just bus stops (5 minutes) past Jiufen Old Street on the bus.
Return to Ruifang Train Station on the same bus but heading downhill from either Jinguashi or Jiufen.
Houtong (猴洞), famously known as Houtong Cat Village (猴洞貓村), is only a 6-minute ride south of Ruifang on the Pingxi Line.
Houtong is a former coal mining village. Today, you can explore the Houtong Coal Mine Ecological Park on the east side of the station, just past the small collection of shops and restaurants.
But most people come to Houtong for the 300+ resident cats living in this tiny village. It all started many years ago when local villages started taking in stray cats.
Eventually it turned into a full-on cat-themed village and tourist attraction, although it’s nowhere near as crowded as Jiufen or Shifen. Unlike the latter two places, Houtong mainly attracts younger visitors and cat lovers, not tour groups.
When you arrive at the station, take the stairs up then cross the cat tail-shaped tunnel across the tracks to the village. You’ll meet some cats along the way.
The village is only a few blocks, but there are cats everywhere. Around a dozen shops sell cat-themed souvenirs. There are also a few cafés with drinks and foods shaped like cats or cat paws.
Budget 1-2 hours for visiting the cat village. If you want to start your day at Houtong, you can take a train directly from Taipei. You won’t need to transfer at Ruifang.
Sandiaoling (三貂嶺) Station is an amazing choice for anywhere looking to get off-the-beaten-track in Pingxi area. This tiny, remote station provides access to one of my favorite easy hikes in all of Taiwan, which features three beautiful waterfalls.
Sandiaoling is the point where the Pingxi Line splits off from the main round-Taiwan railway line and veers right into the Pingxi Valley (see below pic). The train lines turn in different directions right after the station.
There’s almost nothing at Sandiaoling. To find the hike, follow the path beside the railway tracks until you see a small staircase going down below the train tracks, which allows you to cross to the other side.
Then you will literally walk on (or beside) the Pingxi railway tracks as they veer to the right. If you’re brave enough, you can even cross the train track bridge (photo above). Just watch out for oncoming trains!
When you reach an abandoned school on the right, cross the train tracks and follow the sidewalk up past the school. This leads to the start of the Sandiaoling Waterfall Hike. The trailhead is here on GoogleMaps.
Besides one set of stairs at the beginning, the hike is mostly flat (I’ve even done it with my kids as toddlers). In total there are three awesome waterfalls.
For the first one (above pic), there’s a platform to view it from afar. For the second one (below pic), called Motian Waterfall (摩天瀑布), you can actually climb up into a cave behind the waterfall.
After the second waterfall, a short but challenging climb up a ladder leads to the third waterfall, which is similar to the second one. From there I usually go back, but it’s possible to hike from here all the way to Shifen or Houtong as a full-day hike.
From Sandiaoling Station, budget 1.5 to 2 hours to walk to all three waterfalls and back.
Dahua (大華) Station is the smallest and least used station on the whole Pingxi Line.
According to the Chinese Wikipedia page for the station, a mere 12 people got off the train here per day, on average, the last time they counted. And according to one reviewer on GoogleMaps, a Japanese film crew once waited at the station for 3 days before they saw a single person get off! I have never personally disembarked at Dahua, hence why I don’t have any photo for this entry.
GoogleMaps shows a “Dahua Trailhead” outside the station. To where it goes, I don’t know. AllTrails shows some trail lines there if you view any other map from the region but zoom in to Dahua, but there’s no specific trail page for it.
One reader of this blog mentioned that you can walk along the train tracks (carefully!) to the Dahua potholes.
If you’ve every gotten off at Dahua Station, please let me know what you found there in the comments section at the end of the article!
Shifen Old Street starts from the end of the train station. A row of business line the train tracks on either sides. These shops sell typical tourist snacks like ice cream peanut brittle cilantro wraps (花生冰淇淋卷) and deep fried squid (炸魷魚), souvenirs, and of course sky lanterns.
Painting your wishes onto a lantern and releasing it to the sky from the train tracks at Shifen is a bucket list experience for many visitors.
However, it is also terrible for the environment. Consider skipping it or at least buy one of the eco-friendly lanterns – see my Shifen Old Street guide to learn how to find them.
From Shifen Old Street, it’s a 30-minute walk to Shifen Waterfall. This is the widest waterfall in Taiwan, and it is indeed quite majestic.
However, it is also one of the country’s biggest tourist magnets, so expect lots of tour groups and souvenir shops. See my Shifen waterfall guide for a map and instructions on how to walk there.
To reach the watefall, walk to the end of Shifen Old Street, follow the highway for a few minutes, then turn right (there will be signs), cross the bridge to Shifen Visitor’s Center (parking available here if you drove).
Then you’ll enter the more natural half of the walk, which follows the river. You’ll cross two more suspension bridges (including some stairs) and finally reach the waterfall. There are multiple platforms to view the falls from different angles.
Visitor’s who have mobility issues can also get dropped off or picked up here, the closest you can get to the viewing platforms by car.
Shifen Old Street and Waterfall are without a doubt two of the most touristy attractions in Taiwan. In a poll I conducted in my Taiwan Travel Planning group, members voted them the 4th most overrated attraction in Taiwan (after Qingjing Farm, Sun Moon Lake, and Shilin Night Market).
For alternatives to Shifen on the Pingxi Line, you can also set off sky lanterns are Pingxi station, which has a similar Old Street but with less people, and the especially quiet Jingtong station.
As for waterfalls alternatives, the hikes to Sandiaoling, Wanggu, and Lingjiao waterfalls (from stations of the same name) all have virtually no tourists.
Budget 1 hour for Shifen Old Street (including sky lantern release and time for snacking and shopping) or 2 hours for both Shifen Old Street and Shifen Waterfall. The waterfall opens at 9 AM to 5 PM, while shops on Shifen Old Street are open from around 9 AM to 7 PM.
If you want to set off a lantern in the dark, do it around 5:30 to 7 PM, but don’t bother spending the night here. There are few hotels and nothing to do in the evening.
Wanggu (望古) is another very small station (no shops or toilet) that very few people get off at. This is another former coal mining town – the remains of a suspension bridge once used for transporting coal can be seen over the tracks near the station.
The only reason to get off here is to walk the very short (15-minute) and easy trail to Wanggu Waterfall.
Wanggu is actually a series of four small waterfalls. The pool of water between the first and second one is perfect for swimming, although signs say you shouldn’t. If you do go for a swim, just don’t swim close to or under the second (bigger) waterfall, as the current could pull you under.
From the waterfall, simply hike back to the same station, or go on this lovely hike from Wanggu Waterfall to Lingjiao station and waterfall (see next entry). You can follow this trail route map.
It took me 1 hour 45 minutes hours to hike from Wanggu Station to Lingjiao Station on this trail, including time for visiting Wanggu and Lingjiao waterfalls.
The next stop, Lingjiao (嶺腳) Station, is only slightly larger than Wanggu. There is a single shop beside the station selling snacks and drinks and a few dozen houses in the village.
From Lingjiao station, it’s only a 5-minute walk to Lingjiao Waterfall, which is quite large and impressive. After getting off the train, walk to the station at the end, cross the tracks, cross the small parking to your left, then follow the path along the train tracks (in the direction of Wanggu).
After just two minutes, a staircase will descent steeply to the right to the waterfall. Take care here, as the rocks beside the falls are quite slippery.
If you’re arriving here on the hike from Wanggu I described above, you’ll reach the village first, then train station. Then you’ll have to walk an extra five minutes past Lingjiao Station to the waterfall.
The railway line’s namesake station, Pingxi (平溪), is a great alternative to Shifen. While Pingxi Old Street is also very popular, it doesn’t see quite as many tourists as Shifen Old Street, mainly because it doesn’t have a waterfall and it’s a longer ride from Ruifang.
Just like at Shifen, there is a row of shops selling sky lanterns right next to the train tracks. However, most of Pingxi Old Street is away from the train station.
From the end of the train station platform, a narrow road descends into town and Pingxi Old Street, where there are many shops selling snacks, local products, souvenirs, and lanterns.
In my opinion, Pingxi Old Street is a little more local and authentic than Shifen Old Street, and it receives more Taiwanese visitors than foreign tourists.
During Lantern Festival, Pingxi village will usually host one of the mass lantern release nights (the other will be at Shifen). At that time, the village and station will be absolutely packed.
Pingxi is also the starting point for one of the most exhilarating day hikes in all of Taiwan. Near town, the Pingxi Crags are a collection of super vertical sedimentary crags (rock towers) jutting up into the sky.
A network of hiking trails lead to the top of six of these crags, mostly via steep ladders. While it isn’t dangerous per se, you will definitely experience some vertigo! A good trail to follow is the Mount Cimu Loop.
Instead of taking the Pingxi Train back to Ruifang for returning to Taipei, you can also take bus 795 from Shifen, Pingxi, or Jingtong to Muzha MRT station on the brown line (near Taipei Zoo).
During the Lantern Festival, this bus is also a great way to reach the area, when the Pingxi Train Line becomes crazy busy.
Few people make it all the way to the terminal station of the Pingxi Line, Jingtong (菁桐) Station. This may be the exact reason you decide to go there.
Jingtong is another former coal mining town. The train station itself is a lovely wooden building dating to the Japanese era.
Jingtong features a small and especially cute Old Street with small shops and restaurants. This is the quietest and least touristy place that you can buy and set off sky lanterns.
Stations on the Shen’ao Line
The Shen’ao Line (深澳線) has two more stations which are connected to the Pingxi Line. After Ruifang, the first one is Haikeguan and then the terminal station is Badouzi.
These two stations are located east of the Keelung city center and are technically part of Keelung.
Haikeguan (海科館) Station has the unique status of being the northernmost train station in Taiwan.
After visiting the museum, you can also walk to Chaojing Park (潮境公園), which has some artworks and walking paths along a rugged coast, with Keelung Islet visible in the distance.
If you have time, try the stunning Wangyou Trail (望幽谷濱海步道) near the park.
To get here from Keelung train station or city center, ride the Keelung Tourist Shuttle.
The terminal stop of the Shen’ao Line (and, you could say, of the Pingxi Line) is Badouzi (八斗子) Station.
Badouzi Station is considered one of the most beautiful train stations in Taiwan. Like the famous Duoliang Station in Taitung, it has a stunning oceanside location. This historic station reopened to train service in 2016.
Badouzi is also where you can board Shen’ao Rail Bike (深澳鐵道自行車). This is a tourist experience in which you can cycle in a small car along the train tracks from Badouzi Station to the decommissioned Shen’ao Station.
You can ride in one way (30 minutes) from Badouzi to Shen’ao or Shen’ao to Badouzi, or buy a return ticket. You must book your spot online. Each passenger must sit on their own seat (2 per car) and help to cycle. The minimum age for children is 3.
At Shen’ao, you can walk to the famous Shen’ao Elephant Trunk Rock on the coast. Take the rail bike or Keelung shuttle bus back to Badouzi for boarding the Pingxi Line to Ruifang, Shifen, etc.
Another option is to do Shen’ao Rail Bike at the end of your day. From Jiufen Old Street or Ruifang, take a taxi (10 min) to Shen’ao Station and ride the rail bike one-way to Badouzi. From there, you can take the Keelung Shuttle to Keelung Night Market before heading back to Taipei.
Just don’t miss the last rail bike departure! The schedule is here.