Exploring Taiwan’s Taroko National Park

Bring water. That’s my main advice. Yes, there are some places you can buy some, but don’t risk it. Beyond that, there’s not much else to worry about.

I’m talking of Taroko Nation Park, on the east side of Taiwan, near the town of Hualien. It’s easily accessible by car or scooter, or there are multiple buses. You won’t be able to see it all in one day, but there are lots of options for hikes of different lengths and difficulties to fit your abilities, interests, and time.

Here’s a look at one such day, to give you an idea about this excellent national park.

Unless you have your own car or scooter, your day will likely begin at the main train station in Hualien. There you can get tickets for the shuttle bus that conveniently leaves from right where you buy the tickets. There are multiple stops along the route, but it takes about 45 minutes to get from Hualien up into the park, so it’s best to leave early.

My friend Grace and I decided to do two of the hikes. Well, she decided. She’d recently moved there from Taipei and had been to the park numerous times. I trusted she’d pick the best route for us. My general travel advice: trust locals.

Our first stop was Yanzikou (Swallow Grotto) Trail, or should have been. The bus driver didn’t see we were trying to get off the crowded bus and didn’t stop. We got his attention and had to walk back to the hike’s starting point through a tunnel. No big deal. It was a rather cool tunnel, actually.

From the main road you follow a smaller one along one of the park’s many gorges. The rocks form natural openings that give you views down to the water below.

Continue on and it opens up into a beautiful canyon. Here there’s a small shop offering food, water, bathrooms, and quite a view.

It’s a bit too far to walk to the next bus stop, so we backtrack and wait for the next bus.

Our next stop is much farther along, the last stop actually, called Tianxiang. Here you can walk up another road, oddly without a sidewalk, and half-way through a half tunnel.

Without even trying, a local in a pickup truck offered to give us a ride. Taiwanese are some of the friendliest people I’ve met in the world.

Inside the half tunnel is the start of the Baiyang Trail, which begins in a pedestrian tunnel carved out of the rock and passes through the mountain.

Then a series of walkways, more tunnels, and even a bridge brings you to the Water Curtain caves. Smartly, we had purchased some inexpensive ponchos before we left Hualien.

You can leave your shoes by the entrance, and you should, as you’re going to get wet. The caves are not natural. A road tunnel cut into the porous rock leaked too much to be useful, so now it’s a tourist attraction. The cool water and shade is a welcome relief from the heat of the day.

Shoes back on and clothes relatively dry, we head back to the roadway. Luckily, we make it in time for the last bus of the day.

There’s a lot more that we missed, of course, and part of that was because we had to shape our day around the bus schedule. If you have a car or scooter it would be easier and you’d have more time to hike and explore.

Or just go for multiple days. There are lots more trails and hikes in the park I didn’t mention (or even get to see!). Also, Hualien is a lovely town with excellent food.

For more info, check out the Taroko National Park website.

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Geoff Morrison is a tech and travel writer/photographer based (occasionally) in LA. For most of the year he's a digital nomad, working while travelling around the world...