Taroko Gorge is one of the few places in Taiwan that really takes my breath away. The amazing landscape of the Taroko Gorge is just break-taking. To really absorb the beauty created by mother nature, I recommend you to rent a scooter and ride around the park. I feel that if you travel by car or bus, you can't really feel the surrounding as well as if you are biking.
Go early if you want to do a bit of hiking, because the entrance to Taroko Gorge is now regulated, so you may not enter or exit after 5:30PM (2011/12/23).
The Lushui-Heliu is an easy and scenic trail that includes a spectacular cliff-side section with railings. The trail starts from the mountaineering center across from the visitor center at Lushui, and climbs mildly uphill and crosses a suspension bridge before making its way onto an exposed cliff. Here, the trail follows the Old Hohuan Road, a path carved through the mountains here by the Japanese. Despite its location on a cliffside, the trail is for just about everyone- it's wide enough for two people and there are railings along the entire cliff segment. The views of the Liwu River and the gorge are spectacular here. After leaving the cliff, the trail passes through a short tunnel and then passes a memorial for Japanese workers and soldiers who built and patrolled the mountain roads here in the early 20th century. The trail then meets up with a wider path and descends to Heliu, just 1 km of walking from Lushui. You can return by following the Cross-Island Highway to Lushui.
Bring a flashlight for the tunnel.
The Baiyang Trail was formerly a flat, accessible trail that led to the Baiyang Waterfall. However, recent rockslides (in 2009, I believe) made a long tunnel at the beginning of the trail impassible. The Baiyang Waterfall is still accessible by the Tianxiang-Baiyang Trail, which is neither short, flat, nor accessible. The 8-km round trip includes 4 km of rough trail, which has chains to help you get up rocky areas and ropes to help you navigate along cliffs where much of the trail has eroded. From the church at Tianxiang, the trail immediately climbs into the forest, with the chain section occuring almost immediately; after climbing up the rocky section, the trail passes through a bamboo forest and then goes up and down a ridge, and then follows the forested side of a cliff. Here, views open up, with views of the Liwu River below. The trail climbs about 200 meters by the 1.7 km point; from here, a staircase descends the same 200 meters down to an intersection with where the former Baiyang Trail came out of the tunnel. Plan on at least 1 hour each way for this rough 2-km segment. From the intersection, the Baiyang trail crosses a beautiful turquoise stream and then follows the stream, with a number of tunnels, 2 km to the waterfall. As of June 2011, further rockslides had wiped out a bridge near the end of the trail; however, it was possible to see the Baiyang Waterfall from the tunnel at the end of the currently accessible trail. The waterfall itself plunges gracefully down from a cleft in a cliff- definitely worth the effort to get there.
Two notes of caution: you might want to bring a flashlight for the tunnels, and if you have very little hiking experience, you might not want to try this trail yet.
Taroko National Park is one of the scenic areas of Taiwan, with many trails you can take and long winding tunnels to drive through. Allow yourself plenty of time to see the area, and be aware at Chinese New Year it can become very busy and chaotic if using public buses.
This shrine, nestled at the base of the towering walls, was built in memory of those who died to create a nearby highway. It seems more like a miniature model when you view it against the backdrop of the overbearing Gorge. It was actually destroyed by a rockslide about 20 years ago (as earthquakes do happen in this region) but it has since been rebuilt. It's possible to head over to the shrine and to take a look, though due to tour constraints we weren't able to see for ourselves. If you can afford the time to let things settle in and take it slowly in the Gorge, the more you'll be able to have the true experience here. I only regret I didn't have the time to do so. Otherwise you'll only be seeing things from a distance and for but a few moments.
Our tour guide let us off at this section of the Gorge to allow us to wander down the Tunnel. Without any adequate English explanations of the significance of this particular area, it was difficult at the time to distinguish why this area would be more interesting than any other parts we had visited. The view doesn't change much compared to other areas we had walked through. The high rock walls enclose you while the river below rushes by without any change in intensity. Yet I guess here, compared to the other sections we strolled, the rock faces are even closer together and the waterfalls are more abundantly gushing from the walls. Why is it named the "Tunnel of Nine Turns"? According to the Taroko website, the narrow nature of the tunnel resembles a nine-curve dragon. My opinion? It's simply another beautiful part of Taroko Gorge. Beware not the dragon but the tourists.
On this cool rainy November day, there were no swallows to be seen. Only the holes in the rock walls that were formed, according to the Taroko website, by "the grinding of pebbles against the marble walls over a long period of time". The swallows, I believe, come back to the area during the warmer parts of the year, though apparently they don't necessarily nest in the holes. The lack of an English-speaking guide on the tour hindered things a bit, but thanks to the Chinese medical students from Singapore doing the same tour for even bothering to offer translations. Is it worthy of a stop? Well it was on the tour, so, for me, it had its 15 seconds of fame. But, without the swallows, the view is no better than anywhere else in the gorge area.
This fairly modern building gives some insight into the area regarding its geographical and natural history along with its cultural background. There's an exhibition on the aboriginal tribes who have inhabited this area of Taiwan, showing off some video displays, wear, and other artifacts. If you're taking a tour, this is most likely your first stop. For others, it's worth it for at least a quick run through before checking out the real highlights of Taroko. And, like the rest of the park, it's free.
Tienhsiang is a small village with a 5-star hotel, 2 hostels and restaurants in Taroko National Park. The village is a frequent stop for travellers to the area.
Hsiangte Temple is located nearby across the river. The pagoda is located at the highest point on the hilltop, which require a bit of exercise to reach there. The temple can be reached by the suspension bridge.
There is a plum garden not too far from the bus stop. The plum blossoms are beautiful if your timing is right, which are usually in bloom in January. We were a bit early while we were there, and only saw a few flowers.
The photo was taken on the bus, as we were running out of time to visit the shrine.
It serves as a memorial to the hundreds of workers who died during the construction of the Central Cross Island Highway, the winding road that we have been walking on from Tienshiang to Yentzukou.
The highway was really an engineering marvel, as it carved through the marble gorge and ran right by the river. Many said that it couldn't be done when it was being built in the 1950s. When it was first opened, it was only one-lane with no barriers on the side. My uncle told me that even in the 1970s when he visited the park, there were still no barriers on the side!
As its name suggests, this part of Taroko is narrow and winding. (Nine turns imply many turns). Fortunately, the walking trail is separated from the traffic. The marble valley can be seen, and the cliffs on both sides of the crystal clear river run so high up into the sky.
The easy-walking trail is 1.9km one way.
An easy walking trail along the marble cliffside which follows the river to the Baiyang Waterfall. The colour of the river is turquoise blue.
The trail is about 4km round trip. But be sure to bring a flash light, as the entrance to the trail is a long unlit tunnel (at least 100m long, I think).
The main gate is a favourite spot for Taiwan tourists stopping for a photo....
Also a favourite landmark for cement trucks to crash and knock it to the ground... (which unfortunately also often happens...)
Pulowan is a tourist village in Taroko National Park. The village sits on a plateau above the gorge.
They have a cinema here along with the prerequisite tourist shops. You can also see some of the old women from the local Atayal aboriginal tribe demonstrate their traditional weaving techniques here.
If you like hiking, there are several short trails in the area, which is well manicured with the various native flowers and trees.
It is worth stopping at Pulowan if you are in the area, but the true attraction at Taroko is the Gorge itself...
Note: There is a waterfall high up in the mountains just south of Pulowan, which is worth taking a look at. (About 2 KM's east of Pulowan off of the south side of the road)
Meiyuan is one of the aboriginal farming communities up the mountains in Taroko Gorge National Park.
The scenery along the trail is great. This trail follows a clear white water stream that cuts through the mountains. Along the way there are some striking rock formations, along with a couple waterfalls. If you are afraid of heights, it would be best not to look down, though, as the trails is cut into some shear cliffs that are hundreds of feet above the river.
This hike is about 12 kms's round trip. The trail is wide and well maintainted, and is a fairly easy hike.