Manyueyuan Forest Recreation Park (滿月圓森林遊樂區) is situated on the border between New Taipei City’s Sanxia District and Taoyuan county’s northern mountainous area. The forest park consists of 1573 acres of land and has trails connecting itself to Dongyanshan forest park (東眼山森林遊樂區) in Taoyuan. The land in the park rises from an elevation of 300 meters to well over 1700 meters above sea level which offers hikers a glimpse of different temperate environments within a single day-hike.
There are several reasons why Manyueyuan is attractive to weekend tourists – in late fall the park is one of the best places to see maple trees and the leaves changing colours. Another reason would be that the hiking trails are well developed and are attractive to those who enjoy hiking but aren't interested in hiking more difficult trails like nearby Wuliaojian (五寮尖.)
The main attraction of Manyueyuan for most people though is the mountain streams that run through the park and the two large waterfalls and those are what I'll be introducing with this blog.
The river running through the park is quite interesting as it is ultimately the combination of four different rivers higher up in the mountains that form into one larger river that flows from Manyueyuan all the way down to Sanxia.
The river that forms in the park is called the Dabao River (大豹溪) and it is very popular with residents of the area as it is a source of summer fun with pools for swimming in fresh water and also for river tracing.
Before I introduce the trails leading up to the waterfalls I should probably mention that there has been significant damage to the park caused by Super Typhoon Soudelor that recently hit Taiwan and from what I've seen on the news, the park could be closed for quite some time to deal with the cleanup.
If you are planning on going, it would be best to check to see if the park is currently open before making your way up the mountain. (Currently the park is closed until September 9th, 2015)
With that in mind, there are several smaller (and nameless) waterfalls in the park, but the two that I'll introduce are the largest named the Manyueyuan Waterfall (滿月圓瀑布) and the Virgin Waterfall (處女瀑布) which are both a short hike from each other.
When you enter the park you have to pay an environmental entrance fee of 100NT to gain admission. Once you pass the gates it is only a short walk before you start to see the Dabao river flowing on the left side of the trail. From there, there are markings that indicate how long it should take you to reach the waterfalls or any of the other sights within the park. I usually take the estimated time with a grain of salt and divide it by four. So for me, if the trail says that it should take an hour to reach something, I'm really only looking at 15-20 minutes of actual hiking.
The waterfall you arrive at first is up to the path you decide to take. I recommend that you take the path to the Manyueyuan Waterfall first. There are two reasons for this – The first being that it is the easiest route to take and the second is because there is a side path that brings you up to a cliff where you will get the best view of the waterfall. The cliff is the only places where you will get a full view of the Manyueyuan waterfall as it is blocked by rocks on the path below.
The waterfall is actually quite large, but it's hard to tell from the top as you can only see the top of the falls. The area above the waterfall however s quite pretty as there is another waterfall before the much larger one.
From the top of Manyueyuan Waterfall you can take a break or take the stairs to the Virgin Waterfall which is only about a 5 minute hike away.
The Virgin Waterfall is probably my favourite of the two because you can get a lot closer to it, it's wider and there is an excellent three-storey viewing platform beside it that gives you an even better view of the falls. The day I went to Manyueyuan had really great weather, so a rainbow appeared beside the waterfall making it look even cooler.
From the Virgin Waterfall it is a short and easy walk back to the main trail and the hike out of the park is much easier and faster than your walk in.
If you are looking for a relaxing day on the weekend and want to experience some nature, this park is definitely worth a visit and if you arrive early enough and still have time you can make your day complete and visit the nearby Cloud Forest waterfall (雲森瀑布) or just take a dip in one of the pool areas of the Dabao River on the way out of the mountain.
The last thing I'll mention is some words of wisdom: If you are travelling there on a Saturday or Sunday in the summer DO NOT DRIVE A CAR! Get a scooter and drive up. You'll thank me if you do. There is only one road out and it tends to get extremely jammed up on weekends