Yinhe Cave Temple (銀河洞, Yinhedong) is a wonderful little spot nestled in the mountains just south of Taipei, near the popular Maokong area; this area is famous for its tea plantations, temples, and hiking trails, and can be accessed using the Maokong Gondola from near Taipei Zoo Station (the southern terminus of MRT Line 1). It sees plenty of day-trippers and the teahouse-lined streets in the immediate vicinity of the gondola station can be quite busy, but it quickly gets much quieter away from the gondola.
銀 means silver and 河 means river or stream, and taken together they can mean ‘Milky Way’, so we have ‘Silver Stream Cave’ or ‘Milky Way Cave’; either way, the name appears to reference the way the waterfall strikes a slab of rock halfway down the cliff, just in front of the cave, resulting in a fine mist. Built into the recess of this cave is the small temple, humble in construction yet wonderfully atmospheric; a most rewarding goal for your hike.
You can make a short, steep hike up to Yinhe Cave Temple from Yinhe Road on the Xindian side (accessed by bus or taxi (or bike!) from Xindian Station, as per here), or you can hike down to it in half an hour from the gondola’s Maokong Station on well-maintained and clearly signposted trails; the hike described on this page is for those looking to do it from the Maokong side, but eschewing the gondola and hiking up from the base of the mountain near Taipei Zoo Station, over the ridge, and down to the cave.
The first 40 minutes of the walk from the station to the actual hiking trail are along city streets and through a university campus; you may well prefer to jump in a taxi straight to the trailhead, so on the map I’ve done the first bit in green, with the hiking trail proper in red. Being a university area, it’s fairly lively and has a plethora of food & drink options should you want to grab a bite or stock up on snacks, so there is an advantage to walking through it! You could of course also take a cab to the university, then walk up from there.
To walk to the trailhead from Taipei Zoo Station, take exit 2 and walk southwest on Xinguang Road (新光路, Xinguang Lu) past the gondola base station, and keep following the road as it turns south; after about 20 minutes you reach the end at a T-junction with Zhinan Road (指南路, Zhinan Lu). National Chengchi University is on the other side of Zhinan Road, and turning left here you’ll be in front of the main university entrance after a few minutes. The roads here are full of cafes, bakeries, convenience stores, bubble tea stands, etc, so grab whatever you fancy before tackling the climb.
Just past the main entrance to Chengchi University, you’ll see this road on the right:
Take this road (環山二道, Huanshan Erdao, 2nd Mountain Loop Road, given as ‘Round Top Circle’ on the street signs) and walk through the campus, over the bridge, and up the hill; when you reach some tennis courts on the right, take the steps just after the courts and cut through the playing fields, turning right when you meet the road again at the top. Another hundred metres or so uphill from there, you’ll reach the top of the road, with a car parking area on the right and the trailhead on the left (if taking a taxi from the station, this is where you want to be dropped):
From here to Yinhe Cave Temple you’re not actually following one single trail, but stringing together segments of other trails; from the trailhead your first goal is Zhangshan (sometimes given as Jhangshan) Temple (樟山寺), a walk of around 20 minutes uphill through the forest. It’s an easygoing trail like this:
You’ll spot these distance markers along the way:
When you arrive at Zhangshan Temple, stop for a rest and take in the views from the platform:
From the temple, walk a couple of hundred metres south on Laoquan Street (老泉街, Laoquan Jie), one of the vehicle roads that wends round the communities up here. From this vicinity you can catch some views of the enormous Zhinan Temple across the valley:
When you come to this bit:
You need to turn right at the bus stop, i.e. where the car in the photo is turning left, up towards the guy in the high-vis jacket. Where he’s standing, there’s a set of steps leading uphill from the fork in the road:
These steps are the start of the Zhanghu Trail, which you’ll be following up to the top of the ridge. It runs up through the forest, past a little village and its tea fields:
…and from there up to the ridge. It’s pretty overgrown at the back of the tea fields:
But that doesn’t last long, and you’re soon back on a wide path along the top of the ridge. It takes about 20 minutes from Zhangshan Temple to the ridge, where you emerge next to a large set of wind chimes:
From this point, you first want to follow the signs for Maokong Station (turn east i.e. left when you reach the wind chimes), walking along the ridge separating Taipei City and New Taipei City for 5 minutes until you reach the turnoff for the Yinhe Cave Trail:
It’s well signposted, so just keep walking down the trail past the odd farmhouse, over a little bridge, and down alongside the stream which is destined to tumble over the cliff at Yinhe Cave.
Views and wildlife along the trail to Yinhe Cave Temple:
After about 15 minutes of walking downhill you reach your goal, the magical little spot that is Yinhe Cave Temple:
The temple itself is very basic:
There’s a path leading behind the waterfall which takes you a short distance up past Tibetan prayer flags to a statue of a deity:
Not 100% sure, but I think this is one of the Eight Immortals.
Once you’re done at the temple, walk back up to the ridge and then either turn left to descend the way you came, or turn right to reach the Maokong Gondola. If you don’t want to take the gondola down, but do want to check out that side of Maokong (and have enough time), you can follow the latter part of the route here down to Chengchi University via Zhinan Temple; you could also reverse that route to ascend from Chengchi University via Zhinan Temple before either taking the gondola down or descending via the route I’ve described on this page.
Any comments or questions about Maokong or Yinhe Cave Temple? Give me a shout below and I’ll get back to you.
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