Located in Taichung City, Nantou County and Hualien County, Taroko Gorge National Park is one of Taiwan’s eight national parks and encompasses 920 km² (355 mi²). The scenic park is a haven for hikers, backpackers, cyclists, rafters and wildlife-spotters, as well as those wanting to experience local culture as the park features eco-friendly guesthouses, high mountain tea shops and eateries serving dishes made with local park ingredients like wild mushrooms and peaches.
I started my journey of the park by exploring its namesake natural attraction, the beautiful 19 km (~12 mi) long Taroko Gorge. Marbled-walled canyons curve colorfully along the rapid Liwu River, with the scenery being enhanced by jagged rock formations, waterfalls and traditional temples. I was able to see the gorge up close by walking along the 0.5 km (0.3 mi) paved Swallow Grotto Trail, which is suitable for beginners. Just be careful of traffic as cars are also permitted on this trail.
There are a range of other hiking options in the part. As I enjoy waterfall hikes, my personal favorite was the 4 km (2.4 mi) roundtrip Baiyang Trail. Traversing canyon ledges, a shaky suspension bridge and the unique Water Curtain -- a dark marble tunnel with sheer curtains of crystal waters pouring down from the ceiling and a sparkling pool on the ground -- enhanced the experience.
Note: You’ll need a flashlight as there are numerous sections where you’ll go through dark tunnels.
A section of Taroko Gorge
A waterfall along the Baiyan Trail
The gorge can be closely explored walking on the Swallow Grotto Trail
For a touch of traditional culture, the 12 km (7.5 mi) roundtrip Meiyuan Trail (Plum Garden Trail) wound through an aboriginal farming community following a glistening stream through the vibrant green mountains. Additionally, the Huitouwan-Lianhua Pond Trail is about 7.4 km (4.4 mi) roundtrip and immersed me in a world of steep stairways, views of the Taosai River and surrounding rock, and an adventure on the Zhumei suspension bridge.
A paradise for hiking
View from Wuling in Taroko
Another waterfall in Taroko Gorge National Park
Tip: For those interested in doing a multi-day hike, camping is available at the Lyushui Heliu Campground, Lüshui Campground and Baiyang Trailhead, and there are numerous hotels and guesthouses within the park.
While I made this journey by car, hardcore biking enthusiasts should make their way to the top of Wuling, Taiwan’s highest accessible road at an altitude of 3,275 m (10,745 ft). Cyclists will begin at the Cisingan Scenic Area in Hualien City, biking for approximately 100 km (~62 miles) into the park and to the top, where you’ll take in aerial views of lush green valleys, jagged peaks, Yushan cane-covered mountains, majestic Mount Hehuan, cloud forest and tea terraces. It’s especially beautiful in the winter when the landscape becomes blanketed in snow. This is the same route traversed by the cyclists completing the annual King of the Mountains Race, which takes place each year during Taiwan’s November Cycling Festival.
Interested in spotting wildlife? Taroko Gorge is home to about half of Taiwan’s animal species, with some possible viewings including Formosan black bear, Formosan wild boar, Formosan Sambar Deer, Formosan macaque, Kikuchi's Turtle-Designed snake and flying squirrels. As I hiked around the park, hearing nothing but the singing of birds, I was not surprised to learn Taroko is home to 152 bird species (with 14 of these species only found in Taiwan).
Note that stopping at the Visitor Center upon arrival is a smart idea, as you’ll be able to obtain a trail map and get up-to-date information on which trails are open. In terms of gear, the hikes aren’t very technical so sturdy shoes, layers, water, snacks, a flashlight and a light rain jacket is really all you’ll need. If you’re biking, you should bring someone else along with you just in case the high altitudes affect you. Moreover, a bike repair kit can help you if something goes wrong, as there are long stretches of nothing along the route.
Useful contacts when visiting Taroko Gorge National Park include:
Toroko National Park Headquarters: (03) 8621100~6
National Park Police Corps Headquarters: (03) 8621405~6
No permit is needed unless you intend to climb one of the mountains in the park or visit the Ecological Protection Area.