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- Taroko Trails: A Complete Guide to Hiking in Taroko National Park
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Looking for the best Taroko Trails? The Taroko National Park is one of the most stunning natural attractions in Taiwan. It is home to Taroko Gorge, a spectacular marble canyon carved by the Liwu River over millions of years. The park also boasts diverse landscapes, ranging from tropical forests to alpine meadows, and rich cultural heritage, including the Truku tribe, an indigenous group that lives in the area.
If you love hiking and nature, you will find plenty of Taroko trails to explore in the park. From easy walks to challenging climbs, from scenic views to historical sites, there is something for everyone. In this guide, I will share with you everything you need to know about hiking in Taroko National Park, including how to get there, where to stay, what to pack, and of course, the best Taroko trails to choose from.
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Table of Contents
How to get to Taroko National Park
Taroko National Park is located in Hualien County, on the east coast of Taiwan. The nearest city is Hualien City, which is about 25 kilometers away from the park entrance. There are several ways to get to Taroko National Park from different parts of Taiwan. Although I’d recommend heading there with Hualien as your base or staying inside the park area.
Heading to Taroko from Hualien
If you are already in Hualien City, you can take a bus, a taxi, or a scooter to Taroko National Park.
Bus to Taroko National Park from Hualien
The bus is the cheapest option, costing 30-50 TWD per ride. You can take bus 1133A or 302 from Hualien Train Station or Hualien Bus Station to Taroko Visitor Center or Tianxiang, which are the main stops in the park. The bus runs every hour or so and takes about 40 minutes to reach Taroko Visitor Center.
Taix to Taroko National Park from Hualien
A taxi is more convenient and faster, but also more expensive. It costs about 500-600 TWD to go from Hualien City to Taroko Visitor Center or Tianxiang. You can also negotiate a flat rate with the driver for a full-day or half-day tour of the park (more on tours below).
Note: our favourite way is to design our itinerary so we booked a private driver on Klook and did a DIY tour with his advice.
Scooter to Taroko National Park from Hualien
A scooter is another option if you want more flexibility and freedom. You can rent a scooter in Hualien City for about 300-500 TWD per day. However, you need an international driving license and some experience driving on mountain roads. You also need to be careful of traffic, weather, and road conditions.
The roads in Taroko are notorious for being windy so I would not recommend you to rent a scooter if you are not an experienced driver.
Taroko Gorge from Taipei
If you are coming from Taipei, you have two main options: taking a train or joining a tour. Taking a train is more budget-friendly and allows you to travel at your own pace. You can take a high-speed train (HSR) or an express train from Taipei Main Station to Hualien Station. The HSR takes about 2 hours and costs 440 TWD for a non-reserved seat. The express train takes about 3 hours and costs 340 TWD for a standard seat.
Once you arrive at Hualien Station, you can take a bus, a taxi, or a scooter to Taroko National Park as mentioned above.
Taroko National Park Tour
If you don’t want to worry about transportation and logistics, you can also join a tour within Taroko National Park. There are several tour operators that offer half-day or full-day tours of the park that include bus or van transportation, guide service, entrance fees, and sometimes lunch. The tour will take you to the most popular Taroko trails and scenic spots in the park. The price varies depending on the tour operator and the itinerary, but it usually ranges from 500-1500 TWD per person.
Hualien to Taroko Gorge
There are many tours available from Hualien to Taroko. As I’ve mentioned, the most flexible way would be to charter a car and DIY your own itinerary, but there are of course set route options.
Unless you plan on going on one of the permit-required hikes, you generally don’t have to prebook more than a few days in advance for the tour. We did leave it a bit late (2 days minimum) so missed the chance to hike on them. But in busier seasons the permits can be gone even earlier.
Taroko Gorge Tour from Taipei
Joining a tour is more convenient and hassle-free, but also more expensive. You can book a one-day or two-day tour from Taipei that includes transportation, entrance fees, guide service, and sometimes accommodation and meals. The tour will take you to the main attractions in Taroko National Park and some other places in Hualien County. The price varies depending on the tour operator and the itinerary, but it usually ranges from 2000-4000 TWD per person.
Here are some options:
- Taroko Day trip from Taipei by Klook, which has 4.7/5 stars from 375 reviews.
- Taroko Day trip from Taipei via train on GetYourGuide that also let you experience Taiwan’s high-speed train system
- If you want to be even more flexible, a private day trip is also available
Taroko National Park Tips
Before you go hiking in Taroko National Park, here are some tips to help you have a safe and enjoyable experience
How long does it take to hike Taroko National Park?
It depends on how many trails you want to hike and how fast you walk. You can spend anywhere from a few hours to a few days exploring the park. However, most people visit the park as a day trip or a two-day trip from Hualien or Taipei.
Do you need a permit for Taroko Gorge?
Most of the trails in Taroko National Park do not require a permit. However, some trails, such as the Zhuilu Old Trail, the Lushui-Wenshan Trail, and the Hehuanshan Trails, require an entry permit from the national park administration and/or a mountain entry permit from the police. You can apply for these permits online or through your tour operator.
How long do you need in Taroko National Park?
Again, it depends on how many trails you want to hike and how much time you have. You can see the main highlights of the park in one day, but if you want to hike more trails or enjoy the scenery more leisurely, you can spend two days or more in the park.
What should you pack for hiking in Taroko National Park?
You should pack comfortable clothes and shoes for hiking, sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses, water bottle, snacks, rain gear, insect repellent, camera gear, and cash. You should also check the weather forecast and road conditions before you go.
Now that you know how to get to Taroko National Park and what to prepare for hiking there, let’s take a look at the best Taroko trails to choose from. There are more than 20 trails in the park, ranging from easy walks to challenging climbs, from short loops to long treks, from paved roads to narrow paths. Here are some of the most popular and recommended Taroko trails for beginners and intermediate hikers:
Taroko Gorge Road
Taroko Gorge Road is not a trail per se, but it is the main road that runs through the park and connects most of the attractions and trails. It is also known as Provincial Highway 8 or Central Cross-Island Highway. It is a scenic drive that offers stunning views of the marble cliffs, the blue-green river, and the lush vegetation. You can drive, bike, or walk along the road, but be careful of traffic, tunnels, and falling rocks.
Almost everyone will be taking a photo in front of this sign from Hualien to Taroko National Park.
Shakadang Trail 砂卡礑步道
Shakadang Trail (砂卡礑步道) is one of the easiest and most beautiful trails in Taroko National Park. It is a 4.4 km one-way trail that follows the Shakadang River, a tributary of the Liwu River. The trail is mostly flat and paved, with some steps and bridges. The trail offers spectacular views of the clear turquoise water, the colorful rocks, and the forest. You can also see some Truku villages and cultural relics along the way.
The trailhead is located near the entrance of Taroko National Park, next to a large arch bridge. You can walk down to the river level and start the trail from there.
The trail ends at Sanjianwu (三間屋), where you can find a small shop selling drinks and snacks. You can return the same way.
The Tunnel Of Nine Turns 九曲洞
The Tunnel Of Nine Turns (九曲洞) is another easy and scenic trail in Taroko National Park. It is a 1.9 km one-way trail that goes through a series of tunnels and bridges along the Liwu River. The trail offers amazing views of the narrowest and deepest part of Taroko Gorge, where the cliffs are almost vertical and the river is roaring.
The trailhead is located near Swallow Grotto (see below), where you can park your car or bike or get off the bus. You need to wear a helmet to enter the trail, which you can borrow for free at the entrance (ask your driver to do so – but they probably know too already!).
It’s a deadend and we returned the same way we came.
Swallow Grotto Trail (Yanzikou Trail) 燕子口步道
Swallow Grotto Trail (燕子口步道) is Taroko Gorge’s most iconic site. This picturesque walking trail features a turquoise blue river flowing through the stiff marble gorge in varying shades of gray. The cliffs are home to a colony of swallows, hence the name. You can also see some interesting rock formations, such as Indian Chief Rock and Chieftain’s Profile Rock.
The trail is actually part of Taroko Gorge Road, but it is closed to traffic for safety reasons. You can walk or bike along the road for about 1.4 kilometers between two tunnels: Jinheng Tunnel (錦橫隧道) and Yanzikou Tunnel (燕子口隧道). You need to wear a helmet to enter the trail, which you can borrow for free at either end of the trail.
Eternal Springs Shrine Trail (Changchun Trail) 長春祠步道
Eternal Springs Shrine Trail (長春祠步道) is one of the most popular historical trails in Taroko National Park. It is a 1.5 km loop trail that leads to Eternal Springs Shrine (長春祠), a memorial temple built for the 212 veterans who died while constructing Taroko Gorge Road in the 1950s. The shrine is located on a cliff above a waterfall that never stops flowing, hence the name.
The trailhead is located near the entrance of Taroko National Park, next to a large arch bridge. You can walk up to the shrine and enjoy the view of the waterfall and the gorge. You can also continue the trail to Changuang Temple (禪光寺), a Buddhist temple with a large statue of Guanyin, the goddess of mercy. The trail then loops back to the road, where you can cross the bridge and return to the trailhead.
Baiyang Waterfall Trail 白楊瀑布步道
Baiyang Waterfall Trail (白楊瀑布步道) is one of the most adventurous and fun trails in Taroko National Park. It is a 2.2 km one-way trail that leads to Baiyang Waterfall (白楊瀑布), a spectacular cascade that plunges into a deep pool. The trail also passes by several other waterfalls, such as Shuilian Waterfall (水簾瀑布) and Mianyang Waterfall (綿羊瀑布).
The trailhead is located near Tianxiang, where you can park your car or bike or get off the bus. You need to walk through a 380 m long tunnel to reach the trail entrance. The trail is mostly flat and paved, but it goes through several dark and wet tunnels, so you need to bring a flashlight and a raincoat. The trail ends at Baiyang Waterfall, where you can enjoy the view or take a dip in the pool.
Note: the trail was partially closed in May 2023 from landslides, please check with the official website or locals before heading there.
Buluowan Bridge 布洛灣吊橋
Buluowan Bridge (布洛灣吊橋) is not a trail, but it is a scenic spot worth visiting in Taroko National Park. It is a suspension bridge that spans across the Liwu River, connecting Buluowan Terrace (布洛灣台地) and Swallow Grotto Trail. The bridge offers stunning views of the river and the gorge, as well as some aboriginal sculptures and murals.
Buluowan Terrace is an important cultural and ecological site in Taroko National Park. It is a large plateau that was once inhabited by the Truku tribe, who cultivated millet and taro there. Today, it is home to two visitor centers, two hotels, an exhibition hall, and an amphitheater. You can learn more about the history and culture of the Truku tribe, as well as the flora and fauna of the park.
Zhuilu Old Trail (Jhuilu Old Trail) 錐麓古道
Zhuilu Old Trail (錐麓古道) is one of the most challenging and rewarding trails in Taroko National Park. It is a 6 km one-way trail that climbs up to Zhuilu Cliff (錐麓斷崖), a sheer 500-meter high cliff that overlooks Taroko Gorge. The trail offers breathtaking views of the gorge and the Liwu River, as well as some historical relics from the Japanese era.
The trailhead is located near Swallow Grotto Trail, where you can park your car or bike or get off the bus. You need to cross a suspension bridge and walk along a road to reach the trail entrance. The trail is steep and narrow, with some steps and ropes. You need to wear a helmet and gloves to enter the trail, which you can borrow for free at the entrance.
The trail requires an entry permit from the national park administration and a mountain entry permit from the police. You can apply for these permits online or through your tour operator. The trail has a daily quota of 96 people, so you need to book in advance. The trail is also closed on Mondays and during bad weather.
Lushui Trail 綠水步道
Lushui Trail (綠水步道) is an easy and pleasant trail in Taroko National Park. It is a 2 km one-way trail that connects Lushui (綠水) and Heliu (合流), two small settlements along Taroko Gorge Road. The trail offers nice views of the river, the gorge, and the forest. You can also see some historical sites, such as a Japanese military outpost and a Truku stone house.
The trailhead is located near Lushui, where you can park your car or bike or get off the bus. You can check the official website for the trail’s status.
Lushui-Wenshan Trail 綠水文山步道
Lushui-Wenshan Trail (綠水文山步道) is an extension of Lushui Trail. It is a 5.5 km one-way trail that leads to Wenshan (文山), a former Truku village that was abandoned in the 1970s. The trail offers more views of the river, the gorge, and the forest, as well as some cultural relics, such as a Truku cemetery and a Japanese shrine.
The trailhead is located near Heliu, where you can park your car or bike or get off the bus. You can walk along the trail to Wenshan, where you can find some old houses and a small temple. You can either return the same way or take a shuttle bus back to Heliu.
You can check the official website for the trail details and opening status.
If you want to stay overnight in Taroko National Park, you have several options for accommodation.
Hotels in Buluowan Terrace
Leader Village Taroko (立德布洛灣山月村)
Leader Village Taroko is a rustic and cozy hotel that offers wooden cabins with aboriginal decorations and mountain views.
Silks Place Taroko (太魯閣晶英酒店)
Silks Place Taroko is a luxury and modern hotel that offers spacious rooms with marble bathrooms and gorge views.
The B&B offers cozy rooms with mountain views, air conditioning, and private bathrooms. It also provides a barbecue area and a restaurant. Guests love the hospitality and kindness of the hostess, the wonderful breakfast on the balcony, and the stunning scenery of the hotel.
This hotel is located in Xiulin, near Xincheng Train Station and Taroko National Park. It offers authentic rooms with mountain views, air conditioning, and private bathrooms. It also provides free WiFi and free private parking. Guests have enjoyed the unique architecture, the friendly staff, and the convenient location of the hotel.
Hotels in Tianxiang
Tianxiang Youth Activity Center (天祥青年活動中心)
Tianxiang Youth Activity Center is a budget-friendly and simple hotel that offers dormitory-style rooms with shared bathrooms and basic facilities.
Grand Formosa Taroko (太魯閣大飯店)
Grand Formosa Taroko is a mid-range and elegant hotel that offers comfortable rooms with river views and hot spring baths.
You can also find some guesthouses, hostels, and homestays in nearby towns, such as Xincheng, Xibao, or Hualien City. You can search for the best deals on Booking.com or Agoda.com.
Taroko National Park is a must-see destination for anyone who loves hiking and nature in Taiwan. It offers a variety of trails that suit different levels of fitness and interest, as well as stunning scenery that will leave you speechless. Whether you visit the park as a day trip or a longer stay, you will find plenty of things to do and see in this amazing place.
I hope this guide has helped you plan your trip to Taroko National Park and choose the best Taroko trails for you. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below. Happy hiking!