Our Taiwan trip had a few major highlights but our day in Taroko gorge was by far the best. Most who visit Taiwan take a trip to the Taroko National Park. This isn’t some off the beaten path destination. They bring tourist by the bus loads here. The roads are narrow, winding and you come in and out of tunnels. There are hikers, and cars, and bikers, and buses and high heeled asian women(how do they do that?!) all trying to see this natural wonder. All of us dodging each other on narrow roads and 2 mile high cliffs. That is steep!
A day in Taroko won’t cover all this place has to offer but if you plan it right, you can cover a lot of ground and avoid the crowds.
Still, you must go.
This gorge has been in the making for over 70 million years. I mean, just think about that for a second. 70 MILLION years it has taken for the earth to carve a river and build these marble walls around it. To put it in perspective, the last dinosaurs were around about 65 million years ago…. I’ll give you a second to wipe your blown mind from the screen.
So, you must go.
There are countless trails, paths and roads you can meander around for a day in Taroko. There are also countless of those that are closed.
Taiwan has it a little rough; incredibly steep landscape, rainy weather and thousands of earthquakes a year. Stir that together and you Taiwan is the perfect place for rock falls and landslides. Mother nature does not take into consideration the work that went into building these roads. When we went they were in the process of fixing a major section. The road was only opened for 10 minutes every two hours! Luckily we hit it at the right time and didn’t have to wait too long to continue our journey but be warned, this goes both ways so you may get stuck trying to leave as well. There are worse places to be “stuck” I suppose. On our way out, we had an hour to kill so we grabbed some beef noodle from one of the three restaurants that are located in the park, which are all located after the road closing. Can you imagine me doing this without access to food?!
We wanted to hike some of the long trails, but truthfully we didn’t have the luxury of time. (You can fill out an online application to hike the mountain trails at the gorge and throughout Taiwan, usually with a week’s notice.) We opted for 3 smaller hikes that would take an hour or so each : Baiyang Waterfall, Lüshui Trail and the Wenshan Hot springs. Well wouldn’t you know it, 2 of them were closed. Lesson learned Taiwan, I will now research trail/road closures before planning my day!
Nonetheless, you must go.
That being said, we did still do 2 of the 3 trails. :::GASP::: I know we are terrible. Baiyang Waterfall was a no go. We came across the entrance, which is mid tunnel, and a tall gate was locked tight. Moving on…
Next stop was the Wenshan Hot Springs. There was a sign saying “Trail Closed blah blah blah”. I was ready to turn around when a few locals came climbing up the stairs. They encouraged us to go down and enjoy. “Do as the locals do, go where the locals go” they say. So off we went. I am so very happy I did. A group of locals were there and goodness do they knew how to hot spring. They brought lunch, a changing stall and drinks, much like you and I would hit up the beach. Also, this isn’t some au natural hot tub, there is a system you must follow. They explained in order to feel the healing benefits, you needed to enter the hot spring for 10 minutes then the cold river for 10 and cycle back and forth. We had the nicest time down here and it was the highlight of our whole trip. Taiwanese are really warmhearted people.
See, you must go to.
The Lüshui Trail was nice, it had beautiful views and we enjoyed walking the edge of the cliffs to get clear view of the riverbends. We hit this trail late afternoon. The tour busses were gathering their large groups of high heeled hikers to take souvenir shopping which left the trail was quiet. Considering this a more popular trail ( with an easy 40 minute loop) it worked out in our favor to try it on our way out of the park . A sweet ending to our day in Taroko.
Again, you must go.
When we weren’t hiking we were driving and resting along the road to take in the sights and look for wildlife. I was on the search for monkeys I had no luck here but perhaps later in our trip. ? A rental car or guide is essential to spend a day in Taroko. I prefer renting your own for the freedom. Pack snacks, check for road and trail closures, follow the locals and love every second of Taroko Gorge. It really is a stunning world landscape.
For all that, you must go.