Lion’s Mouth Peak

The Lion’s Mouth Peak

The Sandiaoling Waterfall Walk is one of the classic walks of the Taipei area, but it’s a short one – really only a half-day hike. However since the upper Keelung River Valley (where the walk lies) is one of the most fascinating and interest-packed corners of Northern Taiwan, there are plenty of ways to fill up the remainder of the day, from cooling off in the stream (my favorite spot is at the top of lofty Hogu Waterfall) or snacking on the old streets of Shifen village, to scaling the rocky pinnacles at nearby Pingxi.

There’s also  the option of extending the walk into more strenuous territory with the help of the  interesting – and scenic – trail that goes over the small but startlingly sharp little summit known as the Lion’s Mouth Peak.

Another view

Start the hike one stop before Sandiaoling at Houtong Station, and follow the tracks south past the buildings, bridges and one of the old mine entrances that make up the Coal Mine Ecological Museum. At the southern fringe of the village a signposted track on the right passes under the railway tracks. Take this and after the railway veer right off the track onto a trail climbing into the hills above.  Look out on the left after the trail has climbed some distance, and the Lion’s Mouth Peak is unmistakable on the wooded ridge above to the left, a jagged rocky bluff sticking conspicuously out of the ridgeline, almost covered in thick forest.

A trail somewhere on the left here climbs directly to the ridge just below the summit of the Lion’s Mouth (it’s marked on the map, although we never found it) while the main trail continues straight ahead, climbing steadily into the woods, almost parallel with the main ridge. At a wooded saddle, turn left onto a narrower trail and the walking becomes more interesting – steep, rough and overgrown in parts, as it follows the ridgeline slowly towards the peak.

A rough and quite strenuous trail connects the peak with the Sandiaoling Waterfall Trail

There’s  a clear junction just below the summit bump of Lion’s Mouth Peak; it’s a steep but very short climb (although sadly there’s no exposed rock to scale) to reach the top, which is wooded, and gives only partial views. Back at the junction, ignore the very steep path dropping down on the right (the ‘direct’ route mentioned earlier) and follow a rough trail heading south. This is probably the most interesting part of the whole walk: the trail, through densely wooded hills, is a lot longer and more strenuous than a glance at the map would suggest, and being on it feels unusually remote and secret for such an often-walked area. Also hikers here must be pretty uncommon, considering how overgrown the conditions are. Eventually the trail joins a rather more oft-walked one, which is soon cut into the side of a deep gorge, which drops away as the trail passes the little known Flying Dragon Waterfall (飛龍瀑布; tall but usually just a trickle), which can be glimpsed through the undergrowth on the left.

From here the trail conditions are a lot easier it’s a simple descent along a wide and easy path which before long joins the Sandiaoling Waterfall Walk about ten minutes’ walk below Hogu Waterfall, the lowest of the three big leaps.

After this the three hours along the Sandiaoling Waterfall Walk to Shifen or Dahua railway stations is pretty straightforward stuff, and would make a great end to a lengthy day’s hike; fit hikers could even close the loop back to Houtong by taking a trail that starts by crossing the stream immediately above the Pipa Cave Waterfall (the topmost of the three falls). I’ve yet to explore this trail though.

Getting there:

You’d best take a hiking map to follow the trails to Lion’s Mouth Peak, as although kinda signposted, the route isn’t clear, and it’s easy to get lost. It’s also worth bearing in mind that the route is a lot more strenuous and tiring than the Sandiaoling Waterfall Walk, so don’t try to bag the Lion’s Mouth Peak trail unless you’re relatively fit. You’ll also need to allow enough time – it took us about 4 hours to walk the seemingly short trail that connects Houtong with the Sandiaoling Waterfall Walk, via the summit.

The Lion’s Mouth Peak from near Houtong

6 thoughts on “Lion’s Mouth Peak

  1. I didn’t know that there is trail following the Keelung Stream from Houtong to Sandiaoling, have you done that one before? We did the trail you describe, but not across the Lion’s Mouth Peak. At the saddle where you turned left we walked straight on. The trail, Chailiao Historic Trail connects to the highest of the three waterfalls of Sandiaoling, Pipa Cave Fall, and from there you can follow the path down back to Sandiaoling Station or further on to Dahua Station on the Pingxi Line. I like hiking in the Pingxi area very much.


    • Hi again Johannes,
      I was probably daydreaming when I mentioned a trail going along the river up to Sandiaoling (we did the walk way back in early September), so I’ve taken that out until I can double check it. After you wrote I thought about it and my friend may well have meant he followed the little lane (on the opposite bank) which leads all the way to Sandiaoling. I’d be interested in going back though and seeing if there really is a trail now, as I still have a nagging feeling I saw a sign pointing upstream….!

      • We once met a group of hikers at Dahua when we walked another easy route between Dahua and Sandiaoling stations and they said that they walked from Houtong to Sandiaoling. I can’t remember seeing a trailhead on either side, so I was curious about it.

  2. Thanks for the info Johannes! Actually I cheated a bit, the signpost says Sandiaoling and someone in our group the day we did the hike said they’d been that way before, but I haven’t taken it yet – I’d better take a look myself one day! Thanks for putting a name to the trail (I was too lazy to look it up on the map): the Chailiao Historic Trail is the trail I mentioned that would make a great loop walk. That same friend said it’s quite nice.

  3. About a month ago,On your Taipei Escapes 1 blog in the Sandiaoling Waterfalls section, I wrote up a summary of the route from the top of Pipa Waterfall over to Houtong. I recommend it. There are also trails on the other side of the river above the train line connecting SanDiaoLing and Dahua where there is a road on to ShihFenLiao.

    • Thanks for the reminder Lyndon! I’ve pasted the info you wrote on the T.E. site here, as it’s a useful rundown of that route:
      “At the top of Pipa Waterfall, the highest of the three waterfalls, mentioned on Page 140 Pt.8 there is a series of concrete steps across the stream. As an alternative choice to the route to Dahua, this other way goes to HouTong. The path goes from the other side of the stream up some steps and on to a shrine at the end of a road. Look to the right and the path follows a small stream and then goes up and down as it weaves through the headwaters of the stream that comes down near SanDiaoLing.
      The path has been renovated and there are benches and information boards as well as sign boards in Chinese and English. This is more of a jungle immersion hike than an opportunity for big views.There are the remains of old stone houses in a couple of places. The path goes behind Lions Mouth Peak deeper in the range although there is a linking path. The path goes down to a farm road on the outskirts of HouTong. Just outside SanDiaoLing Station exit, the map board marks this route and I think starting in SanDiaoLing is better. It’s also possible to connect with the main ridge seperating this drainage from the ridges going down to RueiFang one of which i took last week but that’s a much rougher path. This SanDiaoLing waterfall and outer loop route shouldn’t be confused with the direct route to Lions Mouth Peak which starts before the first waterfall.”


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