There are many superlatives to describe Shifen Waterfall (十分瀑布). It is the widest waterfall in Taiwan, the largest waterfall in Taiwan by water volume, and it the country’s most famous and visited waterfall.
There’s no denying the beauty and magnificence of Shifen Waterfall itself, but the touristy nature of the viewing area and sheer number of visitors there may spoil your experience.
In this article, I’ll cover everything you need to know for visiting the “Niagara Falls of Taiwan”, including how to get there, the best tours, and how to walk there from Shifen Old Street.
I’ll also give you some alternatives to Shifen Waterfall which are also on the Pingxi train line but with few or no people.
Shifen Waterfall Introduction
The curtain waterfall is 20 meters (66 feet) tall by 40 meters (130 feet) wide, for a total area 800 m2 (8580 sq feet). While the river is fairly shallow, the pool below the falls is very deep. Swimming is absolutely forbidden.
While Shifen Falls is only a tiny fraction of the size of Niagara Falls in North America, it is often compared to the latter because both are curtain and ledge waterfalls. Shifen has a similar look, just on a much smaller scale.
Shifen Waterfall is named after Shifen village nearby, where Shifen Old Street is located (a 30-minute walk away). Shifen (十分) means 10 portions, as the original 10 families in the villages used to request 10 portions of supplies – just like nearby Jiufen (九份) means 9 portions.
Shifen Waterfall is at its most impressive after rain. After dry spells, it can be reduced to a few trickles – the headline of this 2022 Mandarin-language article compared it to “a peeing child” in one extreme case.
There have been some disputes about access to the waterfall. The waterfall is on public land, but private landowners around it used to charge an entrance fee to all visitors.
There has been no fee to visit Shifen Waterfall since the end of 2014, but the waterfall has opening hours of 9:30 AM to 4:30 PM. It’s only closed one day per year: Lunar New Year Day (see my Taipei Lunar New Year guide).
Getting to Shifen Waterfall
There are four main ways to get to Shifen Waterfall: by tour, driving, walking from Shifen Old Street (which is train accessible), or taking the bus.
Shifen Waterfall Tours
There are many day tours from Taipei which include Shifen Waterfall and other popular spots in the area like Jiufen Old Street and Yehliu Geopark. Each one has a slightly different itinerary, route, and price, so you can compare this one, this one, this one, this one, or this one.
Most of these aren’t really guided tours, but rather they will just drive you between each spot and give you time there to enjoy it as you wish. They are a good deal considering how much transportation time and planning they will save you.
If you rent a car or hire a driver, the driving time from Taipei to Shifen Waterfall is about one hour, depending on where in Taipei you’re coming from and what time of day. Most visitors will park at Shifen Old Street (for setting off sky lanterns) and then drive to this parking lot at Shifen Waterfall Visitor’s Center. The parking lot also happens to be one of the venues for the Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival.
From the parking lot/visitor center, it’s a scenic, 15-minute walk along the river to Shifen Waterfall. See the next section for how to walk there. Also note the left-side red dotted line on the below map.
If you prefer not to walk so far or need wheelchair access, you can have your driver drop you off here, from where it’s only a 5-minute walk to the waterfall viewing platforms. Note the right-side dotted red line on the below map. Parking at that spot is not allowed, though.
Walking from Shifen Old Street
It takes about 30 minutes to walk from Shifen Old Street to Shifen Waterfall (one-way), or 40 minutes from Shifen train station to the waterfall.
At the end of Shifen Old Street here, you can continue along the lane on either side of the train tracks (both are called “Shifen Street” or 十分街). Taking the one on the right side will be a little faster.
After a few minutes, you can make a tiny optional detour to see this small Taoist temple in a lane between the two Shifen streets.
The nicer part of the walk starts here (see the left-side dotted red line on the above map). You’ll cross Siguantan Suspension Bridge (see above photo), walk along Keelung River, then climb up some stairs beside Yanjingdong Waterfall to Guanpu Suspension Bridge (see below photo).
As you cross this suspension bridge, you may see some Pingxi trains going by on the adjacent bridge.
After Guanpu Suspension Bridge, you’ll descend some stairs then pass a small Hindu-Buddhist shrine with a collection of horse statues. Right after that, there are some tourist food stalls and finally the waterfall.
If you want to get back to Shifen Old Street faster and more directly, see the right-side dotted red line on the above map.
After viewing Shifen Waterfall from the highest platform opposite the falls, follow the cement path as it curves back (see below photo) to meet this drop off point on the vehicle road.
From there, follow the road back to Shifen Visitor’s Center and Shifen Old Street the same way you came.
If you happen to be taking Bus 795 from Muzha MRT in Taipei to get to Shifen, then you could ride the bus past Shifen Old Street and get off at Shifen Waterfall Visitor Center, which is the terminal stop.
Then after visiting the falls, you could walk back to Shifen Old Street and catch the Pingxi train to your next stop.
Places to Stay around the Falls
Very few visitors stay overnight in Shifen. Most people visit as part of a day trip to multiple spots east of Taipei, like Houtong Cat Village, Jiufen Old Street, Jinguashi, Keelung Night Market, and so on.
If you do want to spend a night in the area, the closest (and really the only) hotels are Pingxi Car Head B&B (see on Booking / Agoda), which is a very basic guesthouse near Shifen Old Street and Very Happy Guesthouse (see on Booking / Agoda), which is in the countryside about 30 minutes walk from the falls and 15 minutes from the old street.
Visiting Shifen Waterfall
There isn’t really much to know about actually visiting Shifen Waterfall. You’ll be viewing the waterfall from the south side of the river, where there are a half dozen snack shops and multiple viewing platforms.
One viewing platform is right beside the waterfall, only slightly higher than it (see above image).
From there, stairs and paths lead to several other platforms opposite the falls. Some are lower down, so you’ll be almost directly facing the falls. These are the best if you want to get a direct shot of the whole falls.
Other viewing platforms are higher up, so you’ll be looking down on the falls. However, trees will be partially obstructing the view, as in the below shot.
After viewing the falls from the lower and upper platforms, follow the cement path from the upper platforms as it curves upward around here to meet the vehicle road, which is the fastest way to get back to the parking lot or Shifen Old Street.
You’ll find a small merlion statue at the point where the path meets the road, which I also call the Shifen Waterfall drop-off spot.
Alternatives to Shifen Waterfall
If you want to see a beautiful waterfall in the region but avoid the crowds and tourist-trap vibes at Shifen Waterfall, there are several other choices, all on the Pingxi train line.
Coming from Ruifang, your first choice would be Sandiaoling Waterfall Trail. This is one of my favorite easy hikes in the greater Taipei region. The trail features not one but three lovely waterfalls. At the second one, you can even climb into a cave behind the falls. See here for more trail details.
The trail is quite easy to the second falls, with a difficult but short climb to the third one. You can visit all three and return to the train station in less than two hours. The trail is seldom busy.
One stop past Shifen, tiny and remote Wanggu Station has a short and easy (20 minute-return) walk to Wanggu Waterfall. This is actually a series of smaller waterfalls with a lovely pool between them.
Signs warn against swimming, but if so long as you stick to the calm pool between the falls and don’t get close to the actual waterfall, I would say it looks like a pretty ideal swimming spot to me!
From Wanggu, you can hike (one hour) or ride the train one more stop to Lingjiao Station. From the station, it’s only a five-minute walk, including some steep downhill stairs, to Lingjiao Waterfall.
Although not as wide as Shifen, this waterfall is quite large and the setting is beautiful, plus there’s usually no one there. Be careful as the rocks around the water are very slippery.