Hike the trails of Taiwan’s Taroko Gorge
Taroko National Park is focused on a famous landmark - the world’s deepest marble gorge, which carves through a landscape of crags and waterfalls for 19km. As you walk its web of excellent trails you may meet members of the region’s indigenous tribe, or see some of its wildlife - and wherever you wander, you’re guaranteed superb views over the gorge and its surrounding landscape.
What to expect when hiking in Taroko...
Taroko Gorge winds from Taiwan’s central mountains out to its east coast, and even the route there is dramatic, winding past vertiginous scenery. Make sure you save plenty of room on your SD card for when you get to the gorge, though, because Taroko is full of photo opportunities!
There are many trails to choose from, ranging from short and sweet to tough and treacherous, but all of them offer tremendous scenery. Some cross bouncy bridges over the Liwu river at the bottom of the gorge, while others wind through natural stone galleries along the rock face, and up into the mountains on either side.
The Tunnel of Nine Turns clings to the side of a narrow stretch of gorge, with only a sliver of sky overhead and the light filtered green by overhanging plants. The 400m Swallow Grotto trail passes by dozens of caves that offer nest-sites for the little birds, which dart in and out as you pass.
The Firethorn Trail is particularly striking in spring and autumn, when the Formosan Firethorn trees that line it are either erupting with blossom or bright with berries. For a more intense experience, you could hike the 10.3km long, 90cm wide Jhuili Old Road, which was part of the cross-mountain road built by the Japanese colonial authorities as part of their tactics to control the aboriginal tribes, following uprisings in the area.
There are cafes at strategic points along the gorge, and near the coast there’s a visitor centre and museum on a flatland area near the gorge, where you can learn more about the area, the aboriginal tribes who’ve called it home, and view an exhibition of tribal crafts and prehistoric artefacts found in the area.
Location: Taroko National Park, Taiwan
Duration: a day
Accommodation: Silks Place Taroko Hotel
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Taroko is one of Taiwan's most famous sights for a reason - the scenery here is genuinely dramatic, and the hiking is very satisfying indeed, no matter what your ability.
Some of Taroko’s trails can be treacherous, so tread carefully! The trails are usually well made but we’re not talking boardwalks here - this is proper hiking country. It’s also worth noting that due to the park’s unstable geology, some of the remoter trails can be cut off by landslides, so try not to set your heart on one to the exclusion of all others. Some trails have restricted access, with only a limited number of people permitted each day, and on some you may be required to wear a helmet.