Taiwan has nine National Parks, and they are all unique in their own way. We visited a few of these parks in the meantime. Most of them are big and have many trails to hike and beautiful places to visit. For some mountainous areas, you need a permit where you have to apply for several days or weeks before you go. So be aware of this if you travel to Taiwan and plan to do some hikes in the National Parks. The park that we love the most is Taroko National Park. This park is a must-visit when you travel to Taiwan, and I’m willing to help you plan your trip by providing you lots of information that especially helps if you travel with kids and with your own/rental car.
Click here for more information about all the National Parks in Taiwan.
Taroko National Park
Taroko means beautiful, and it definitely can be said about the 9.000 hectares Park. The National Park is all about mountains, shallow rivers, marble, mysterious rock formations, impressive waterfalls, and panoramic views. Taroko Gorge and its surrounding area are well known for their abundant marble supply, leading to its nickname, “The Marble Gorge”. Here you can discover a part of Taiwan’s amazing nature.
This National Park is one of the most popular places to visit in Taiwan, so don’t expect to have the place for yourself. You will likely be sharing this place with thousands of others. But don’t let that deter you from visiting. Most organized day trips stick to the same attractions and only stay in the Park for a few hours. So try to plan your trip well, and you will also have places where you’re not overwhelmed by the crowds. I will also advise you to visit this National Park during weekdays, making a big difference.
Free information sheet
In this blog, I want to give you the information to visit this park with kids and your own/rental car and help you plan your itinerary. There is also information about a hiking trail for the more experienced hiking families, and you will find an A5 information sheet that you can download, print, and take with you on your trip. This sheet will provide you with all the information you need.
A little bit of history
Four million years ago, the island of Taiwan was formed by the collision of plates. After millions of years of wind erosion, the marble rocks were exposed and cut by the Liwu River, creating impressive grand canyons. This National Park was established in 1937 during the Japanese Reign in Taiwan. After World War II and Japan’s defeat, they have abolished the park as China has conquered Taiwan. They established the park again, and in 1986, Taroko became a National Park.
The canyon is 19 km long, and the mountain peaks reach up to 3000 meters.
Essential tips for visiting Taroko National Park as a family!
Before telling you more about the most important places to visit, I will give you these helpful tips to consider when planning your visit to the National Park.
Best time to visit Taroko Gorge National Park?
The park is open all year-round, but the best time to visit Taroko Gorge is from October to June. From July to September, it’s Typhoon season in Taiwan and the time that most families can visit the country. If you visit Taiwan during this time of year, closely follow the weather predictions. Typhoons will be predicted a few days before they will hit the country. Don’t visit the park directly after a typhoon, or check the national park website to ensure it’s safe to go there.
How many days do you need in Taroko Gorge National Park?
I would recommend spending at least one full day exploring the National Park. If you want to do some longer hikes, you would need an extra day to see all Taroko Gorge’s beauty. Both times when we visited the Park, we stayed for two nights.
Not all trails are always open.
As your trip approaches, I’d highly recommend checking the national park website to confirm which trails are open. Trails are often closed due to weather, damage of the trail, routine maintenance, or environmental rehabilitation. This list covers the entire Taroko National Park, but the official trails that lie within Taroko Gorge are:
Scenic Trails | Taroko Terrace, Shakadang, Xiao Zhuilu, Buluowan, Yanzikhou (Swallow Grotto), Lushui, Baiyang, and the Tunnel of Nine Turns.
Hiking Trails | Dali-Datong, Dekalun, Changchun Shrine (Eternal Spring), and Huoran Pavilion.
Mountaineering Trails | Zhuilu Old Trail (permit trail) and Lushui-Wenshan Trail.
Permits in Taroko Gorge National Park
Taroko National Park is free to enter, but some hikes need a permit, and you have to pay an entry fee. One of these hikes is the Zhuilu Old Trail.
If you and your kids are experienced hikers, you can hike the stunning Zhuilu Old Trail. This hike goes through dense forest and scuttling along a narrow cliff from around 500 meters long. This is the most challenging section of the trail. There is no cover at all on the trail as it cuts across the cliff. There is only a metal cable to hold if you pass the narrow cliff. The trail is rugged and prone to rock falls.
The permit that you need for this trail you can find here. Applications will open 1-30 days before entry. I suggest applying for this on the first day within your 30 days period. There is a daily quota of 96 hikers on weekdays and 156 people on holidays and weekends. On this website, you will also find all the hike regulations and an advanced applications window, for foreigners only, that opens 4 months to 35 days before the intended entry date. Check out the website to read more about this.
Group tours and private tours
You can also book a hiking tour with a tour organization. These people will take care of the process and give you lots of English information during your hike. They offer small group tours and private tours and picks you up at your hotel. Check out their website.
Places you have to visit in Taroko Gorge National Park!
I will give you the places to visit in order from when you drive through the National Park from the ocean side (Taroko). I think this will help you with planning your trip. However, the distances between the different spots are not that far. For the hikes I mention in this list below, you don’t need a permit.
1. Taroko Gorge Visitor Center
If you enter Taroko Gorge from the ocean side (Taroko), you will first see the Taroko National Park visitor center entrance. We stopped here to buy the book; A Walk to Taroko – Taroko National Park trail guide. This book costs around NT 200 ($ 7,- / € 6,-) and provides you with lots of information about the different trails, places to visit, and travel information. You can find the ISBN of this book on the information sheet if you want to buy this in advance. The visitor Center also provides you with more information, and you can buy souvenirs.
2. Shakadang Trail
This trail follows the Shakadang River and is easy to walk. The length of this trail is 4.1 kilometers and will take you around 2-4 hours both ways. You need to take the same route back, so it’s easy to walk shorter distances.
You can drive from the Visitor Center through the Shakadang Tunnel to reach the Trailhead. At the end of the tunnel, there is a parking lot and restrooms.
If you want to walk a longer distance and see more stunning views, you can leave your car at the visitor center and walk the Xiaozhuilu Trail first. This is a 650 meters trail and will take you around 20 minutes. The end of this trail ties in with the entrance to Shakadang Trail. The access to Xiaozhuilu Trail is by the pedestrian path on the left side of Shakadang Tunnel. On the middle section of the Xiaozhuilu trail, there is a suspension bridge over a dry creek ditch.
3. Eternal Spring Shrine (Changchun Shrine)
This Shrine was built to memorialize the 212 workers who died during the Central Cross-Island Highway construction. Inside the shrine, you will find all the names of the workers who died. There is a beautiful waterfall coming down from the bridge right in the middle of the shrine. It’s a great spot just to hang out a little bit.
TIP!!! The Parc advises you to wear helmets on several trails which you can borrow free of charge at the eastern entrance of Xipan Tunnel on the Central Cross-Island Highway. You will see a small cabin next to the road where you can borrow them. This is also the place where you can return the helmets at the end of the day.
4. Buluowan Terrace
At the spot where you can borrow the helmets, there is a road to your left going up to Buluowan Terrace and the Taroko Village Hotel. Buluowan Terrace is a service station that provides information and advice, and you can watch a film about the national park. Here you will also find an exhibition hall from the Taroko Tribe culture. They will show you examples of the tribe’s cloth weaving, rattan weaving, the typical facial tattoos, and other aspects of the culture. If you stay in the Taroko Village Hotel, you will also learn from this culture by the shows they provide and the food they serve.
Here you can walk the meander core trail that provides you with beautiful views of the Xipang Dam and the Liwu River gorge from above. This is an easy and short trail but so beautiful because you are so high up.
You can also walk from the Buluowan Terrace to Swallow Grotto or go there by car. The trail to Swallow Grotto is around 600 meters and is formed of steps along its entire length. On your way to Swallow Grotto, it’s all downhill, so your way back will be more challenging. I have to be honest to tell you that we visited Swallow grotto by car, but if it’s busy in the park, it can be an idea to take this trail because finding parking there isn’t easy. Don’t forget to bring your helmets. You need them at Swallow Grotto.
5. Swallow Grotto (Yanzikou)
Swallow Grotto is in the eastern section of the most magnificent part of Taroko Gorge. This trail is the old Central Cross-Island Highway and is used by both vehicles and pedestrians. It’s a short trail but so worth visiting. At the beginning of this trail, you will also find the entrance to the Zhuilu Old Trail. Entering is only possible with a permit.
6. Tunnel of nine turns (Jiuqudong)
The Tunnel of nine turns trail is the longest tunnel of the Central Cross-island Highway. They say that this 700 meters long trail is together with Swallow Grotto, the best part of Taroko Gorge. The path snuggles against the tall mountain and deep gorge. You have to take the same route back. It’s around 30 minutes on foot for a round trip.
You can’t park your car anywhere close to this trail, so we recommend driving further to Heliu Campground, where you can park your car and take the bus to the entrance of this trail. You can pay for the bus with your easy cart.
7. Lüshui Trail
This trail starts next to the Lüshui Geological Exhibition Hall. The trail crosses the cliff with the Central Cross-Island Highway running below. The views from above are really great. The last part of the trail is an industrial road. Follow the road down until you reach the Central Cross-Island Highway. You can choose to walk back next to the highway or return to Lüshui the same way you came. Much safer with kids, and the beautiful views will never get boring.
8. Tianxiang Recreation Area
Tiangshen is a small town in the national park where you will find Tianxiang Recreation Area. This area has a few scenic spots and trails, including Xiangde Temple and Tianfeng Pagoda, Plum Garden, and Wen Tianxiang Park. You can also find some accommodation to spend the night and another visitor center that provides information and advice.
I recommend visiting this area at the end of the day or first thing in the morning; it will be less crowded. Hiking up to Xiangde Temple and Tianfeng Pagoda will give you beautiful views.
9. Baiyang Trail
One of our favorite trails in Taroko Gorge is the Baiyang trail. The distance of this trail is 2.1 kilometers, and you will walk through eight tunnels. You will find a parking lot with restrooms directly when you come out of the Ming tunnel on your right side. Walk back into the tunnel, and you will find the trailhead on your right side. The trail is easy to walk, and you will be surprised by the beautiful views. At the end, you will cross a bridge and see the waterfall and a suspension bridge to a viewing deck. Be sure to visit the Water Curtain Cave (Shuiliandong) when you walk back, and don’t forget to bring your flashlight and raincoat; otherwise, you will get wet.
These are the must-see places in Taroko National Park. There is a big chance that at least one of the trails that I mentioned is closed during your visit. So be sure to check this the day or a few days before coming to Taroko on the park’s website. This to avoid disappointment and to optimize your planning.
Great to combine with your visit to Taroko Gorge
Qingshui Cliffs are part of Taroko National Park that borders the ocean. The Su-Hua Coastal Highway crosses the cliffs and is the most convenient road to view the cliffs. There are several places along the route where you can stop and admire the beautiful views. In the book ‘A Walk to Taroko,’ you will find some information about short trails in this area.
Another great area to combine with your visit to Taroko Gorge if your family loves hiking is Mountain Hehuan. You can reach this area by driving the Central Cross-Island Highway nr. 8 and nr. 14 through Taroko Gorge to the mountainous area of Taiwan. It will cost you several hours to reach Mountain Hehuan, but it’s a beautiful road to drive. Check out this blog post to read more about this mountain range.
Places to spend the night inside Taroko Gorge National Park.
You will find lots of places around Taroko Gorge National Park to stay for the night. I will give you some hotels very close or inside the National Park.
- Taroko Village Hotel is located in the National Park and is surrounded by green mountains. This Hotel shows you how the Taroko Tribe came to this area in the early 1700s and how they lived. You stay in a log cabin with an outside balcony to watch the stars during the evening. They serve dinner of traditional aboriginal dishes prepared using locally sourced ingredients. After dinner, they have shows and live music all related to the Taroko Tribe. You will be completely immersed in this unique culture.
- Silks Place Taroko is located in Tianxiang Recreation Area. This Hotel is the only 5-star hotel within the Taroko National Park. Silks Place Taroko offers family rooms and an outdoor and indoor swimming pool, and a wellspring spa. An excellent place to relax after a busy day. They also provide dining options and activities for adults and children.
- Li Wu Zuo Cun B&B is a beautiful B&B run by lovely people. This B&B is located between the ocean and the entrance of Taroko Gorge. We loved breakfast, and the rooms are perfect for families. There was a big outside area to play and to relax. They are not offering dinner, so you have to take care of that by yourself.
- Crossing The Rainbow Bridge B&B is a small B&B located between the ocean and the entrance of Taroko Gorge. A mostly local but great breakfast is included.
- Hualien Taroko Mountain Dream B&B is also located between the ocean and the entrance of Taroko Gorge. They don’t have family rooms, so you have to book two separate rooms. Breakfast is included.
There are more hotels and B&B’s that are easy to book via booking.com. Also, Hualien is an option, there you will find plenty of hotels in different price ranges, but you have to keep in mind that you have to drive around 30 minutes to reach Taroko National Park.
I hope you can use this information for your trip to Taroko National Park. Don’t forget to print out the information sheet that I made for this trip to have all the important information with you. Bring your water bottles to stay hydrated and your hats/caps to protect yourself from the sun. Some snacks or crackers are always a good idea to put in your backpack. If you plan to go hiking above 2,000m don’t forget to pack a light jacket. The temperature is colder the higher you go up.
If you have any questions about traveling in Taiwan or about Taroko National Park send me a message and I will help you.