Taroko Gorge (Eastern Taiwan)

Multiple vantage points of the spectacular Taroko Gorge in Hualien County (Taiwan) from the old Central Cross-Island Highway.

This short walk is from the bushwalking archives; the photos are scanned from slides (back in those days were you had think twice before taking every photo) and well before digital cameras were the norm. I visited Taroko, which means “magnificent and beautiful“ in the local Truku Aboriginal language, on a student study tour to Taiwan back in 1995. Located in Eastern Taiwan in Hualien County, Taroko was formed by the Liwu River (“River of Mist”) which cut a steep gorge through the marble and gneiss rocks. 

Until the 1950s only a trail ran through the gorge, before Nationalist Army soldiers contructed the Central Cross-Island Highway from 1956 to 1960. The “highway”, which is really a narrow and winding mountain road, runs through the whole Taroko Gorge. Some parts of the highway have since been re-routed through new tunnels, and part of the old highway retained as walking trails.

At the western end of the gorge is the village of Tiansiang (Tienhshiang), from where a number of hiking trails start. A tall pagoda and a temple sit high on a hill overlooking Tiansiang, which can be reached via a suspension bridge.

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As well as vantage points from the old highway, there are multiple hiking trails that provide views of the spectacular gorge:

  • Yanzikou Trail (Swallow Grotto Trail) – 1.4km. Follows part of the old highway along some of the narrowest, deepest and swiftest, sections of the Liwu River. A very popular trail with limited parking at both ends of the trail. More info.
  • Baiyang Waterfall Trail – 2.1km. A scenic and easy trail that passes through seven tunnels along the gorge before reaching the impressive, tiered Baiyang Waterfall. More info.
  • Shakadang Trail (Mysterious Valley Trail) – 4.1km (one-way). Another popular trail that’s built along the edge of the gorge. More info.
  • Lushui-Wenshan Trail – 5.5km (one-way). A rougher, more demanding and much less trafficked trail along part of the gorge and the surrounding subtropical forest. Access to the trail is a bit tricky and a permit is required. More info
  • Zhuilu Old Trail (Jhuilu Old Trail) – 6km. A narrow walking track carved into the side of a cliff, well above the gorge. Numbers restricted and online permit required. More info.

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