Taiwan, 160 kilometers from Taipei (3 hours by car or 3-3.5 hours by TRA express train+public bus).
Taroko Gorge review:
Taroko Gorge is the most prominent feature of the Taroko National Park, listed as the UNESO World Natural Heritage.
Created by thousands of years of the Liwu River erosion, it stretches for 19 kilometers in length and reaches 1000 meters in depth. Its marble vertical cliffs and spectacular “eagle-eye” mountain views attract lots of tourists from around the world.
Carved into the side of the gorge is a section of the Central Cross-Island Highway, a narrow and winding mountain road connecting the west side of Taiwan to the east. It cost 212 workers lives to built the road, that was honored by construction of the Eternal Spring Shrine.
Nowadays the road serves touristic and publc buses, bicyclists and hikers who come here for the true mother nature attractions. Some get a shot in a day, hopping to top-3 most popular (and easy) spots, the others stay for 2-3 days to test endurance on the mountain trails.
So, here’s the list of top-4 Taroko Gorge scenic trails:
- Baiyang Waterfall Trail / 2.1 km, 2 hours round walk, difficulty level: 1 out of 5. This trail leads to the Baiyang Waterfall (which is just a trickle in winter) on the left, and impressive Water Curtain Cave, on the right (see the pjotoes below). It makes its way along 7 tunnels (some are long and curved with an absence of natural light). Grab your flashlight, rain jacket (!) and umbrella, and get ready for fun! The path is wide, flat and well-maintained.
- Nine Turns Trail / 1.22 km, 40-50 mins round walk, difficulty level: 1 out of 5. The best sights-trail. It’s a part of original road once cut straight into the vertical canyon. Its tunnels wind along the marble cliffs just a few feet over the river rushing below. Make special attention to Jiuqudong tunnel where the two opposite cliffs stand from each other for mere 10 meters.
- Lushui Trail / 1.97 km, 1 hour walk, difficulty level: 1 out of 5. This route is part of the old road between Mount Hohuan and the east coast. It comes through forests and cliffs, and features small suspension bridge followed by a narrow tunnel. Stop at Lushui Geological Exhibition Center (at the beginning of the trail) to learn how Taroko Gorge emerged.
- Shakadang Trail / 1.6 km, 1.5 hour round walk, difficulty level: 1 out of 5. All the way along Shakadang river (once used to wash gold sand), the trail requires numerous river crossings. The path has little elevation change. At the end of the trail there is access to the river to sit on the rocks and dip tired feet in the cool water.
And the list of top-2 tough (but still bearable) trails (permission and mountain pass might be needed):
- Old Jhuilu Trail / 6.2-10.3 km, 4.5-7 hours round walk, difficulty level: 4 out of 5. This path leads to the top of Taroko Gorge to the height of 780 meters (the longest route). Up at the top there’s a meter-wide section with a cliff, on one side, and vertical abyss into the bottom of the gorge, on another. Get ready to hike walls of steps that seem to go on forever (that is twice challenging in wet weather). For safety reasons, there’s a permission system to keep track of those who enter and leave this mountain trails. It is recommended to request permit online and put yourself on the short list 3-7 days upfront the Hike Day (there’s a limit of 60 persons weekdays/96 weekends and holidays). When the permission is granted, on the Hike Day, don’t forget to retrieve a mountain pass at the police station and show at the starting point before 10am with a proof of your credentials on hands.
- Lushui – Wenshan Hot Springs Trail /5.5 km, 4-5 hours walk, difficulty level: 3.5 out of 5. The trail can be done in either direction but it’s slightly easy to start at Wenshan. It’s a fairly tough (at 350 meters hight) with reward of distant views of Tiansiang and Lyushui and possibility to bath at Wenshan Hot Springs. No permit is required.
More sightseeings of Taroko Gorge
- Wenshan Hot Springs: completely open-air and natural acidic carbonated hot springs, located in several kilometres into the gorge. The water is bearably hot, at around 46-48 oC.
- Swallow Grotto（Yanzikou): marble cliffs covered with small holes, the result of long-term erosion by river and ground water. House swifts and Pacific swallows often forage and nest here, giving the place its name.
- Xiangde Temple (in Tianxiang village): temple that features what is claimed to be the world’s tallest Bodhisativa statue.
- Cimu Bridge (The Bridge devoted to lovely mother): it’s were Chiang Ching-kuo built a small pavilion in memorial of his mother.
- Eternal Spring Shrine: it was built in memory of people died while constructing the highway.
Taroko Gorge attractions on map:
How to get to Taroko Gorge by public transport:
The nearest city to Taroko Gorge is Hualien.
- by train+bus: take TRA train to Sincheng (Xincheng) station (2-3.5hours) and then Hualien bus (29km, 1hour to Taroko Visitor Center or 48km, 1.5hour to Tianxiang).
- by plain: take TransAsia Airways flight from Taipei Songshan Airport to Hualien (40mins) and then take Hualien bus to Taroko (20km, 30mins).
Travelling to Taroko Gorge tips:
- To get the best impression of Taroko it is recommended to take: a) a private tour/taxi (65-110$ USD/day), b) get on/off ‘Tour Taiwan’ red buses, running to/from Tianxiang (8$/person for a day pass), c) rent a bike with dropoff service at Tianxiang (25-34$/person a day). There’s also an option to join a Taroko Bus tour (23$/person/6 hours) but it will be limited to 2-3 spots.
- For the best (sunny) photo shots and pleasant Taroko hike, better consult Central Weather Bureau’s website for the Hualien weather forecast a week ahead or before coming to Taroko National Park.
- Taroko is seismic active and so experience constant rockfalls that may cause hiking trails being closed. Consult Taroko trail conditions before planning your route.
- For hiking better wear long pants in a light fabric (it’s very humid) and hiking boots or shoes with good tread. Get also a bottle of water and a flashlight (for crossing tunnels).
- On some trails you may get into Formosan monkeys. Do not approach them as they may attack without warning.
- There are lots of tourists on weekends/holidays, especially in the afternoon. Better start early.
Trips to Taroko Gorge:
by (published May, 2015)
Taroko Gorge photoes: