Taroko National Park: Deep gorges, steep mountains, clear rivers

Most visitors to Taiwan stay in Taipei, the bustling, progressive capital of Taiwan. Yet most of the island is covered by rugged mountains and thick forests. The Taroko National Park on the Eastern coast of the island is a great place to explore the nature of Taiwan, with the Taroko Gorge at the heart of the park!

The island was shaped when tectonic plates collided more than 4 million years ago, pushing limestone rocks as high as 3,000 meters from the ocean. The Liwu river carved through these mountains for thousands of years, resulting in the sharp mountain cliffs along the river. The stunning landscape makes for a great trip to hike or bike into the mountains. On your visit, you can see bridges built to open up the area, like the Bridge of 100 Lions.

You can hike along the narrow tributaries with crystal clear, cold waters, for a very peaceful day trip.

Some of the walks are easy to do from a bus, along abandoned roads. Others include a walk across a narrow, swinging bridge that requires a good amount of courage to attempt!

Or you can pay tribute to the 225 men who lost their lives to build the roads and bridges through the mountains at the Shrine of Eternal Spring.

Whether you prefer a convenient park overview or can’t wait to explore the trails deep into the park on foot, there is plenty to see for everybody and a trip to the Taroko National Park is a highlight for nature lovers!

Travel Tips: The easiest way to explore the Taroko Gorge is to book one of many guided bus tours that will take you to several of the most popular sites above. The downside is that you’ll arrive at these very small sites with a crowd of others, making it a lot less peaceful than you’d expect from these remote mountains. And you’ll have limited time at each site, so your hikes will be limited to 20-40 minutes. Most of the stops on these tours are suitable for families with children.

To see much more and on your own schedule, you can travel to the Taroko National Park independently. The National Park Headquarters at the park entrance have a good model of the park to get an overview, there are also knowledgeable, English speaking rangers to help you plan your visit and hikes and some background information about the different sites.

To get there, you can take the public Taroko Shuttle bus from Hualien train station. It stops at all the major sites and you can hop on & off as often as you want all day. This is inexpensive and convenient enough, allowing you to combine a longer hike with shorter visits to a few sites. There are also 2 and 3 day tickets, so you can see even more! Make sure to check the current schedule at the train station – the online schedule does not seem to be updated regularly!

The ultimate in flexibility and comfort is to rent a motorcycle or car. Keep in mind that you’ll need an international drivers license to rent a car and the rental agencies are enforcing those laws. There is also limited parking at some of the spots, so you’ll have to leave early in the day to make sure you are able to do the hikes you want! Alternatively, you can hire a taxi for the day on an hourly basis, also easily available at the Hualien train station.

In any event, I’d recommend to start early. Depending on the season, clouds can gather during the day for an afternoon shower. The tour groups will also arrive mid-morning, so your best bet is to go early and beat the crowds and possible rain for the best experience. There are few shops or restaurants in the park, so bring plenty of water and food for your trip! While you are in the mountains and forest, some trails are exposed to the sun, so bring some sunscreen!

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