With its marble-walled canyons, remote mountains, rushing rivers, and hiking trails that cling to vertical cliffs, Taroko National Park is one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen in my life.
I’ve visited the area at least 50 times since moving to Taiwan and I still go back again and again to hike, take pictures, camp, or just ride my bike along the scenic Central Cross Highway.
Facts about Taroko National Park
- Taiwan’s second biggest national park (the first place goes to Yushan NP).
- The area has peaks that reach as high as 3700m.
- The gorge is the national park’s most eminent feature with its deep, narrow marble cliffs.
- Atayal people, Taiwan’s second largest aboriginal tribe, live in the area.
- The dramatic Cross-Central Hwy slices through the gorge and connects the west side of Taiwan to the east. More than 450 people died building this engineering feat.
- Tiansiang is the only village in the gorge. This is where you’ll find accommodation and restaurants.
Hiking in Taroko National Park in Taiwan
There are basically two areas where you can hike: down in Taroko Gorge and up in the mountains around Hehuanshan. The gorge is Taiwan’s number one tourist destination, so expect big crowds and heavy traffic during weekends and holidays. Hehuanshan is usually quieter, but it can also get pretty busy on holidays.
Eternal Spring Shrine Trail (Chengchun)
This easy walk is only 1.4km long and takes about half an hour to complete. The trail first takes you to Hsiangte Temple – an old, secluded buddhist monastery. Then, you have to cross a suspension bridge to get to Chengchun Shrine, the gorge’s landmark.
The trailhead is 2km past Taroko Gorge Visitor Center. Don’t expect solitude here; it’s easy and accessible, so crowds can be maddening on weekends.
Tunnel of Nine Turns Trail
This is the most scenic walk you’ll find in the gorge. This “trail” is actually the original road that was closed in the early 90’s. It was cut straight into the vertical canyon wall. The path takes you through tunnels along steep cliffs and gives you breathtaking views over the rushing river below. 2km long, half hour round-trip, walkable in the rain, 14km past the Park Headquarters. Always packed!
Baiyang Waterfall Trail
Grab your headlamp, a rain jacket and be ready to have a good time! The Baiyang Trail is a lot of fun to walk. From Tiansiang, walk about 800m west along the main road until you see a dark tunnel on your left.
That’s where the adventure begins. After 380m of complete darkness, the trail follows a river valley, high along a mountain side. Then you walk through some more short tunnels.
Most people stop at the wooden platform, right past the high suspension bridge to look at the waterfall (which is just a trickle in winter) but I encourage you to check out the water curtain tunnels, a few hundred meters further. They are quite a sight! Bring an umbrella if you’re gonna shoot pictures in there.
Hehuanshan Forest Recreation Area sits on the western edge of Taroko National Park in an alpine world of grassy green hills that roll endlessly in the clouds. Most of the peaks in this region reach as high as 3000m and are above the tree line. It’s only a two-hour drive from the gorge, but it really is a world away.
From short day-hikes to long overnight treks, this mountain paradise has something to offer you if hiking is your thing. Click here for complete Hehuanshan trails descriptions and pictures.
Taiwanese people like to say that Cilai is the most dangerous mountain in Taiwan and that people die trying to climb it almost every year. And it’s true. It should only be attempted by experienced climbers who have a good head for heights and a desire for true adventure. Cilai is not an easy day hike you do in flip flops.
The Cilai Ridge is a series of sharp, steep craggy peaks south of Hehuanshan. You basically have 2 hiking options here. The first one is to climb to the ridge, scramble to the North Peak and head back down. That usually takes 2 days. Other hikers will walk the ridge all the way to Lushan. This longer trek (Nenggao Ridge) takes about 4-5 days to complete.
Wenshan Hot Springs
Just to give you an idea how good these springs are, I’ll mention that I used to drive 4 hours from Taichung to the gorge only to take a bath in this wonderful setting. The bad news… they’re now closed due to a tragic accident: a huge slab of rock fell and killed someone.
Camping: I’ve never really bothered looking for public campgrounds in Taiwan. Pitch your tent wherever you find a flat spot. Heliu campground, just before Tiansiang, is a decent option. This place has wooden platforms and showers.
Tiansiang Youth Activity Center is cheap and comfortable. Last time I was there, I got a clean double room with AC, TV and private bathroom for NT1000, breakfast included.
The Grand Formosa Hotel is one of the most popular five star hotels in Taiwan and most definitely the best accommodation available in the gorge. It’s easy to find, just follow all the big tour buses when you get to Tiansiang. Rooms start at NT5000.
Eating / Restaurants in Taroko National Park
The restaurant in Tiansiang Youth Activity Center serves three decent meals/buffet a day for about NT150. It’s by far the best value eatery in the area. You’ll also find food stalls, coffee shops and basic convenient stores by the side of the road just past the Grand Formosa Hotel.
There is a cafe at Hehuanshan, next to the main parking lot. There are also restaurants and basic convenient stores at the Taroko National Park headquarters near Hehuanshan North Peak trailhead. Apart from that Ching Jing Farm and Hualien are the two nearest destinations that have more real dining options.
Getting There and Away
From Taipei: You can take a train to Hsincheng, a town about 5km outside the park entrance. Fast/slow; 2.5/3.5 hours.
From Hualien: Buses frequently leave for the park entrance at Taroko Gorge from Hualien train station. The trip takes about an hour. Some buses will go as far as Tiansiang. Ask the people at the visitor center by the train station in Hualien for the latest schedules.
From Taichung: Buses can take you as far as Wushe or Ching Jing Farm along the Central Cross-Island Highway. From there, it’s easy to get a lift if you show your thumb.
Getting Around Taroko / Transportation
The three best ways to tour Taroko National Park and the gorge are driving a car, riding a scooter and walking/hitchhiking.
Cars can be rented at the airport, scooters can be had in front of Hualien train station and good shoes I’m sure you already have. Hitchhiking along the Central Cross Highway is reliable, safe and it’s the best way to meet Taiwanese people and other travelers. Bring warm clothes and good rain gear if you plan on riding your scooter all the way to Hehuanshan. The weather is unpredictable up there. The only gas station is just before Dayuyling.
Taroko National Park Map
I hope you’ll enjoy your travels around this most beautiful Taiwanese destination. Stay safe out there!
Pictures of Taroko National Park
Links you may like…
Hiking in Taiwan: Understand why Taiwan will one day become a world-class hiking destination. Trails, camping, maps, pictures…
Hualien: Just 15km away from Taroko gorge, this city has a lot of charm, great beaches and a laid-back atmosphere. No Taiwan travel is complete without checking this one out!