What to do in Taroko National Park. Don’t miss it!
If you’re trying to figure out what to do in Taroko National Park then you’re in the right place. Whether you are planning to make a day trip up from Hualien, or perhaps spend a night in the national park and explore the hiking trails, I’ve got you covered.
I personally stayed in Taroko National Park for two days and one night, traveling around with the hop on hop off bus and by hitchhiking. This gave me enough time and flexibility to visit the main attractions such as the Tunnel of Nine Turns, and the Eternal Shrine, and explore some of the hiking trails further in the park. More on all of that soon.
The Taroko National Park covers 920 square kilometers of mountains and valleys. The steep mountain ranges are covered in thick forest. A deep gorge winds its way through the forest floor, carved out by the strong currents of a rushing river. The air is cool and refreshing, it’s one heck of a place to explore.
Take a natural beauty and throw in a few temples, pagodas, hiking trails and a natural secret hot spring. This is the Taroko National Park. It is a destination you don’t want to miss.
Make sure you figure out what to do in Taroko National Park before you go, or else you will miss out on some amazing spots. This guide will give you everything you need.
How to Get Around Taroko Gorge
First, you need to get to Hualien, the best way is by train. The express train from Taipei to Hualien only takes two hours while the standard train takes 3-4 hours. Make sure you check which one you are booking first. The express train costs just 440 NT (USD 15). Although the website is a bit confusing, you can check train timetables from Taipei to Hualien online.
Before or after visiting Taroko National Park, you may also like to consider these things to do in Hualien. There is far more to explore around this part of Taiwan than you may first realize.
Once at Hualien, there are a few ways to get around Taroko National Park. These include:
Taroko Gorge Hop on Hop Off Bus. This tourist bus costs 250 NT (USD 8) for 1 day, or 400 NT (USD 13) for 2 days (check here for a schedule). The first bus departs from Hualien Station at 6.30am, and the last bus departs the park returning to Hualien Station at 6pm.
Motorbike. You can rent a motorbike in Hualien for about 400 NT per day (USD 13). This is one of the best ways to get around Taroko National Park. A motorbike gives you total flexibility with where and when you want to stop. You will need to show your passport to hire a motorbike, which is OK as long as you don’t plan to crash or steal it. I suggest you also have some prior experience riding a motorbike too.
Hitchhiking. This is my favorite way to get around Taroko National Park. Hitchhiking is free and works well in Taiwan. In fact, there are even designated hitchhiking locations. Drivers are happy to pick you up and drop you off where you need, as long as it is on their route. Be prepared to walk a little extra to get to your destination.
Taxi. If you’re ready to splurge out on some cash for comfort then a taxi from Hualien to Taroko National Park and around the attractions is the way to go. Expect to pay 2500 NT (USD 80) for a trip to the popular attractions, and more to explore deeper in the park. You will want to try negotiating with the driver first too.
What to do in Taroko National Park
Taroko National Park has a long list of attractions such as; amazing tunnels carved into the rockface, waterfalls out in the forest, hiking trails overlooking the gorge, and hot springs right in the river.
Popular attractions can be easily visited in one day using the Taroko National Park hop on hop off bus.
Eternal Spring Shrine (Changchun Shrine)
The eternal spring shrine is one of the most iconic attractions in Taroko National Park. This is actually the destination that first got me interested in visiting Asia way back when I was just 12 years old! Visiting this was quite a special experience for me.
This ancestral shrine has a beautiful waterfall running through the bridge right in the middle. It is a great spot to just hang out and admire for a half hour.
Interestingly the eternal shrine has actually been rebuilt twice! it was destroyed by landslides in the national park. Beware, there are plenty of landslide warning signs around the park.
Swallow Grotto (Yanzikhou Trail)
The Swallow Grotto overlooks one of the narrowest sections of the Taroko Gorge. To really appreciate this part you should walk along the road which is shared with vehicles. The trail is 1.3km in length and takes about 20 minutes to complete.
The Swallow Grotto is located near the middle of Taroko National Park.
The Cimu Bridge was only built in 1959. it connects the mountains parts of Taiwan with Hualien in the east. The Cimu Bridge is located near the middle of Taroko National Park and offers some pretty amazing views of the gorge down below.
Tunnel of Nine Turns
The walk through the Tunnel of Nine Turns takes about 30 minutes and gives some of the most amazing views of Taroko Gorge. This is one of the narrowest sections of the gorge where it seems you can almost reach out across to the other side. The tunnel winds its way inside the edge of the mountain. It is a spectacular construction achievement.
Tianfeng Pagoda (Xiangde Temple)
The Tianfeng Pagoda is located just south of Tiangshen, that’s the small town in the national park where you will find the guesthouses. Walk south of the town back towards the entrance of Taroko National park, then take a left across Pudu Bridge. This will take you to the other side of Taroko Gorge.
From there you need to climb some steep stairs to the base of Tainfeng Pagoda, then climb even steeper stairs to the top floor. The top of the pagoda gives a great view looking out over the valley. I recommend it as a sunrise lookout spot. At least it will get you out of bed nice and early!
Lesser Known Taroko National Park Attractions
The real beauty of Taroko National Park is found in the lesser seen attractions. There are many hiking trails around the mountain ranges and a beautiful natural hot spring at the bottom of the gorge.
If you want to explore deeper into the national park you will need at least two days. There aren’t many accommodation options, but you can try an overnight stay in the Xiulin township. The budget traveler should try the Tiensing Youth Centre. A more comfortable option is the Taroko Intertek Bed and Breakfast.
Accommodation is within walking distance from the small town, where basic food and water supplies are available.
Hiking Trails in Taroko National Park
The national park has plenty of amazing hikes on offer which wander through the mountains and the valleys. A few hikes you should definitely consider in your stay are:
- Jhuilu Old Trail
- Lushui-Wenshan Trail
- Shakadan Trail
- Meiyuan Zhucun Trail
- Baiyang Trail
One of my favorite things to do in Taroko National Park is to visit the Wenshan Hot Spring in the middle of winter. The Wenshan Hot Spring is hidden in the valley of the Taroko Gorge, fed by hot volcanic water. The naturally heated water pours out of cracks in the side of the gorge and into a small rock pool carved into the river banks.
Exploring beyond the town Taroko National Park requires you to put on your hiking boots and stretch those hitchhiking thumbs. The hop on hop off bus does not travel out this far. To make matters more difficult, most locals pretend to not know about the Wenshan Hot Spring, I think they’re trying to keep it a secret.
To get to the Wenshan Hot Spring you need to head about 5km up the winding mountain road away from the Xiulin township. Keep an eye out for the almost hidden “Wenshan Hot Spring” sign. It is located on the right-hand side just before the tunnel.
From the roadside, a small route continues over the road barrier and down an almost vertical and slippery stone staircase. Descend through the footpath tunnel and cross the river by a rope swing bridge. It is a scene reminiscent of an Indiana Jones film.
From the rope swing bridge, the rest is fairly obvious. Use your own judgment or caution towards the sign which states Danger No Swimming.
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How much does Taroko National Park cost?
Entry to Taroko National Park is free and there is no hidden charge for the hot spring or any other attractions. The main costs are associated with transport and limited accommodation options.
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