The short walk to Taroko Gorge 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 Taroko 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.
A short Taroko Gorge walk
At the western end of Taroko Gorge is the village of Tiansiang (Tienhshiang), from where a number of hiking trails start. A tall pagoda (Tianfeng Pagoda) and a temple sit high on a hill overlooking Tiansiang, which can be reached via a suspension bridge. There are a multitude of hiking trails throughout Taroko National Park – today we only have time for a short walk across the suspenspion bridge to Tianfeng Pagoda.
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.
- 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.
- Shakadang Trail (Mysterious Valley Trail) – 4.1km (one-way). Another popular trail that’s built along the edge of the gorge.
- 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.
- 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.
When to visit Taroko Gorge?
Taroko National Park has a tropical rainforest climate with has a rainy (summer) and dry season (winter), but temperatures vary by elevation and it can snow in winter on the highest mountains. Average rainfall is around two metres per year, with the rainiest months occurring from June to September. The high mountains of the park also receive the full force of typhoons, which generally occur between July and September. Winter is drier, but you’ll need to be prepared for cold weather on the higher trails.