Although it is best to see Taroko Gorge National Park over a couple of days, it is possible to visit it in a day, if you plan well.The National Park is world famous for its beautiful scenery and massive marble walls and has mountains that reach well over 3000m, making it a definite must see even if you only have a day to spare.
The gorge is located outside the quiet town of Hualien on Taiwan’s east coast and it's fairly easy to get there from Taipei. Check out our article, Taroko how to get there, for more information.
Somethings to consider before you head off.
- If you are planning to see Taroko Gorge in a day, do consider the sheer size of the park and hire either a scooter or a tour guide. Don't expect to be able to walk it.
- Just driving through Taroko Gorge is an attraction on its own and you should plan to spend your day with this in mind, regardless if you get to see everything or not. Rushing to see everything in a day can be stressful.
- You won't find many places to get food in the park so pack your own or stock up at the 7-11 just before the park entrance.
Transport in the park.
Taking the bus around Taroko Gorge is definitely the most budget-friendly option, with all day ticket going for 200 NTD. The bus frequencies are every hour so you’ll have a bit of time to explore each area before moving on to the next place. If you take a bus, however, you must consider the time you will be waiting for a bus when you plan your itinerary.
Car hire might be the most comfortable and flexible way to get around the park, but parking can be difficult due to Taroko Gorge being a very popular tourist attraction. Not the best option if you need to save time.
Like hiring a car, hiring a taxi for the day is a great option to consider if you don’t want to worry about bus schedules. it also has the added bonus of not having to worry about parking as the driver can simply drop you off and collect you when you wish. This is fairly expensive, however, but fine when shared among a group.
Much quicker than walking, much more budget friendly and a bit more active and exciting than taking the bus.
All the same benefits of a bicycle, but quicker and not so tiring. This option is much better value for money for solo travelers or couples who want the flexibility of having a car but don’t want to spend too much. You can rent these in Hualien with a valid motorcycle license
Unless you have a load of time or just want to check out a few trails in the same area, walking through the park is not recommended.
What to see.
Shakadang Trail or Mysterious Valley Trail: A very easy but beautiful walk along the turquoise water and white marble boulders of the Shakadang River. It is the first stop after the visitors center, at the exit of the Shakadang Tunnel. There is a parking lot here and a bathroom. There are also still some local tribes that live close to the trail selling delicious food along the way.
The trail will take you about an hour and a half.
Eternal Spring Shrine: Is about a kilometer away from the Shakadang trail. The shrine is built around a natural spring and is very picturesque with views of the mountains, a waterfall, and the shrine. However, since you aren’t allowed into the shrine, the best view is from the parking lot. Do arrive early before the crowds, it gets very busy.
The Bell Tower above Eternal Spring Shrine: It takes about 20 minutes walk through mountain tunnels to reach the Eternal Spring Shrine but if you continue 2.2 km behind the shrine there are steep stairs called the “sky ladder”, leading to the Bell Tower, a suspension bridge, and Changuang Temple. The trail offers spectacular views and is crowd-less.
It will take about 50 minutes to an hour to do the entire loop and it is relatively easy but steep and slippery if it has been raining.
Swallow Grotto: These marble cliff faces are home to swallows who dart in and out of the natural holes in the rock. If you come here in the early morning or late in the afternoon, you can see swallows hovering to catch insects. The path here also provides stunning views of the river and a narrow gorge, it is also an easy walk so it is suitable for the whole family. There are caves to view here so remember to hire a helmet at the visitor's center if you would like to see them. It is a popular tourist stop, so expect the crowds and try to get here early.
It will take you about 50 minutes to an hour to complete.
Tunnel of Nine Turns: This offers one of the most magnificent views of the gorge. the Tunnel of Nine Turns features strangely-shaped rocks and steep cliffs. With an altitude of 1,660 meters it is really spectacular, but take a torch as it gets dark in parts. This is one of the most amazing parts of the gorge but unfortunately, at the moment it is closed however because of earthquakes. Go here for updates.
You can walk through the Tunnel in about 30 minutes
Cimu Bridge: The Cimu Bridge is the only bridge in Taiwan that was built of marble obtained from Hualien. It also showcases the most magnificent views of Taroko Gorge's massive marble walled cliffs. Cimu bridge is a good stop before you head off to the Tunnel of Nine Turns and there is free parking available on the east side of the Bridge.
Tiansiang: Located at the west end of the gorge, Tiansiang is a tiny picturesque village where public buses stop and are about the only place in the park to find restaurants. It’s a good place for lunch if you didn't bring. Some of the most interesting trails also can be reached via Tiansiang.
ChingShui Cliffs: One of the most popular places in Taroko National Park and 5 kilometers in length. It is also the highest coastal cliff in Taiwan and is easily accessible by car or scooter. You can see different colors in the ocean due to the temperature difference between the cold and warm currents. The cliffs are Located along the Su-Hua Highway connecting Hualien and Yilan within the park.
Wenshan Hot Spring : Wenshan Hot Spring is a natural outdoor hot spring, with a cold stream nearby so you can enjoy the best of both worlds. It is located about 2.5 kilometers past Tianxiang and is easily accessible by scooter, but you could also catch any of the buses that terminate at Tianxiang and walk the rest of the way. There is a small parking lot just before a tunnel.
Tianxiang: Is a small village and often a final stop for visitors as you can catch a train from here to Huilen or to Xincheng. It is a good place to finish your day.
What to do : Half day hikes.
If you would prefer to skip the tourists and head off on a more strenuous trail, there are numerous half-day trips in and around the gorge. The hiking trails in the park are spread out so it’s best to choose a few that you think look good before you go. Don't think you can see it all on foot, you can use the public bus service to get between trails.Just remember you do need permits for some of the hikes (but none of ours).
The Baiyang trail : The entrance of the Baiyang Trail is located about 300 meters from Tianxiang on the Central Cross-Island Highway. There is a tunnel at the beginning and along the trail, there are six tunnels of different lengths. The longer tunnels have solar-powered lights which can be quite beautiful to see. A turn in the trail at the end of the third tunnel offers an excellent view of Tijili River, and the end of the sixth tunnel is a view of the beautiful Baiyang waterfall with the suspension bridge in the foreground. A seventh tunnel leads to a cave behind the falls, but because of the danger of falling rocks, this area is closed to the public.
The trail takes about 1.5 hours.
Water Curtain Cave: The water curtain cave is located at the end of Biyang Trail. It's an easy 2.2km walk from the trail entrance and the cave is about 100 meters long with various natural cracks on the roof where water sprays through like a shower or ‘water curtain’. It is thus a good idea to bring along a raincoat and a torch as it gets dark. Baiyang Waterfall is located 200 meters before Water Curtain Cave, on the same trail.
Trail time: About 2 hours for the round trip.
Chingxi Suspension Bridge: is the longest suspension bridge in Taroko National Park, with views of mountains and the river and is located 10 mins away from the trailhead of Lotus Pond Trail (see below). Be careful, however , you need to be fit.
The trail takes about 2 hours.
Lotus pond: is located at the 168-kilometer point of the Central Cross-Island Highway. The pond is about 500m in diameter, but sadly there are no longer any lotus plants here. The beginning 1.5 km of the trail is easy, and you will cross Jiumei Suspension Bridge. The trail becomes steeper however after this and is about 2.2 km, passing through a forest area to the pond. Do consider your physical limits before setting out.
The trail will take about 4.5 hours to complete.