Hiking in Taroko Gorge – Introduction
Hiking in Taroko Gorge is a top experience in Taiwan! The national park is home to some of the most stunning landscapes in Asia.
Most people who visit Taroko Gorge enjoy the scenery from the comfort of their car or the convenience of the various parking lots and “viewing platforms” or lookouts from the road. That’s a shame because the real beauty and magic of Taroko Gorge only reveals itself from the trails and forest paths which criss-cross the valeys, rivers, and mountain cliffs of the region.
On this page I will show you where the main hiking trails are in Taroko Gorge and around Tianxiang – the main village in the gorge where most hotels and restaurants are found. You should know that there are two other hiking areas in Taroko National Park: Hehuanshan (Mt. Hehuan) and Nanhudashan, located further afield in the western and northwestern part of the national park in the mighty (and more remote) Central Mountain Range.
Check your trail status in advance!
As with all other hiking destinations in Taiwan, trails are way too often closed due to maintenance, landslides, or other unknown reasons. This situation is highly frustrating and is only getting worse all across Taiwan. To make sure you’re not wasting your time, check the trail status on the Taroko National Park website, or at park headquarter at the bottom of the gorge. There is nothing more frustrating than showing up at the trailhead only to find a CLOSED sign.
Baiyang Trail / Baiyang Waterfall 白楊步道
This is my personal favorite excursion in Taroko Gorge! The Baiyang trail is a really exciting outing you shouldn’t miss if it’s open. First, you walk through a dark (pitch-black) 380m-long tunnel that takes you to a narrow valley. You’ll want to bring a proper headlamp for this part. You’ll also want to carry a good rain jacket and possibly rain pants for the spectacular Water Curtain Cave. The trail ends at a beautiful waterfall.
The trailhead is about 10 minutes up the road (walking) from Tianxiang, inside the car tunnel. There is a parking lot at the northern end of the tunnel. This parking spot turns into a free campground at night. The Baiyang trail is one of the most popular hikes in Taroko Gorge, so it’s a really good idea to leave as early as possible to beat the crowds, which can really be madening.
Shakadang Trail 砂卡礑步道
My second favorite trail in the gorge, the 4.4km Shakadang path offers vistas that seem to come straight out of an ancient Chinese painting. The trail is mostly flat and runs along a river in a marble canyon. Because it’s so easy and beautiful, it’s the #1 spot where tour buses bring tourists, so I don’t recommend you start hiking mid-day. Go as early as possible, or late afternoon, when the noisy tours have left. About 2.5 hours round-trip. The Shakadang hike can be extended all the way to Dali and Datong villages, but you need to arrange permits first.
Lushui Trail 綠水步道
Short 2km trail which connects Lushui to Heliu along the old Hehuan Mountain Road. From Lushui, the trailhead is behind the Mountaineering School building. You can walk on the trail one way, and come back on the main road. Bring a headlamp, there is a short tunnel along the way. Some nice views here, but nothing as exciting or spectacular as Baiyang or Shakadang.
Hiking in Taroko Gorge – Permits Needed
The 3 following hiking trails require a permit, which you can get at the Taroko National Park Headquarters, the Tianxiang police station, or on the Taroko NP website.
Jhuilu (Zhuilu) Old Trail: must apply online at least 7 days in advance, big headache / pain in the ass to get permits, stupid process. This trail is closed most of the time, and it’s a shame because it’s one of the best hiking trails in Taiwan.
Lushui – Wenshan Trail: Best hike to see wildlife in Taroko gorge, strenuous, allow 5 hours, permits can be obtained at the Tianxiang police station on the day of your climb. Most people walk from Lushui to Wenshan on the trail, then walk back down or hitchhike on the main road. There is a hot spring at Wenshan, but it’s closed 99% of the time.
Dali-Datong Trail: This seven to eight hours return hike takes you to two aboriginal villages high above the Shakadang Trail. You can get a permit at Tianxiang’s police station.
Map of Hiking Trails in Taroko Gorge
Considerations when hiking in Taroko Gorge
The weather can change at any moment in this mountainous part of Taiwan. It is not uncommon to start a hike in blissful sunshine, only wearing shorts and T-shirt, and finish in cold, wet, miserable rain and wind. Always carry proper rain gear with you.
Like everywhere else in the mountains of Taiwan, there are venomous snakes, so don’t walk in tall grass, and always try to be aware of where you step, especially at night or when it rains (they like to come out when it’s wet).
River-tracing in Taroko Gorge
It is illegal to river-trace alone in Taroko Gorge. You must join an adventure outfitter / tour operator to river-trace in Taroko. You will get fined if you are found walking along the rivers or swimming in one of the beautiful turquoise ponds among the boulders – especially on the Shakadang!
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