When I first sat down to research where to go in Taiwan, I stumbled across a few photos and blog posts about Taroko Gorge. Within less than half an hour of reading, it quickly moved to the top of my list. I’m a sucker for gorgeous scenery, and every photo or video I saw was stunning. I only went for a day since the weather was pretty cold and rainy while I was in Hualien, but I thought I’d put together a total Taroko Gorge itinerary guide to help you plan your own trip!
2. 2018 Note: As I was finishing this post, I found out a terrible, magnitude-7 earthquake hit Hualien about a day after I left. I’m honestly not sure which charity organizations are accepting donations specifically and can’t find any listings besides the Taiwanese Red Cross in any articles I’ve read. If you know of any, please let me know, and I’ll include a link here!
**As always there are a few affiliate links in this post. They’re all noted with a *.
Visiting Taroko Gorge, Taiwan
Taroko (or more specifically Taroko National Park) is a marble gorge along the east coast of Taiwan and was formed by the Liwu river. It’s mostly mountainous, with around 27 peaks throughout the 1,200 square kilometers of land.
Within maybe 10 minutes of leaving Hualien, I was already craning my neck to look out the bus windows at the scenery around me. Photos really don’t do this place justice!
Taroko Gorge Must See Places + Trails
Here are some of the places in Taroko Gorge that you may want to see! They’re all stops on the shuttle bus except for Wenshen Springs.
All the way on the opposite end of the shuttle route from Hualien is Tianxiang. It’s a recreational area with a few notable landmarks, and you can stay here if you’d prefer not to stay in a city.
Baiyang Falls + the Baiyang Trail
From Tianxiang, you can follow the Baiyang trail to see the various waterfalls nearby. The whole trail is about a 2-hour walk round trip (2.1 km) and you’ll pass through 7 tunnels in all. Don’t forget a helmet and a flashlight!
The most famous one is the water curtain towards the end of the trail. This is one of the trails I wanted to do but was closed due to the weather! My friends went, though, and had quite an adventure:
Another option near the Tianxiang bus stop is the more intense Lushui-Wenshan Trail. It’s considered a mountaineering trail, so you need to apply for a permit beforehand. It was actually used by soldiers during the Japanese occupation! Overall, it’s 5 hours and 5.5km and one of the more advanced trails in Taroko.
Wenshen Springs is quite literally off the beaten path, and it’s no longer listed as one of the official spots for Taroko National Park because of the falling rock hazards. Since I was by myself and I wasn’t in the mood to accidentally trip trying to find them, I decided not to even attempt to go. However, the same friends from above went after they finished the Baiyang trail as it’s about 20-minutes away, so you can read their post for more information if you want to try going yourself!
Different from the Lushui-Wenshen trail, this one leaves from the Lushui bus stop and is about a 1-hr walk. It’s one of the smoother trails and was even open when all the other ones weren’t. If you’re interested in Taroko’s geological history, you can visit the Lushui Geology Exhibition before the trail starts.
Swallow’s Grotto (Yanzikou)
This is as far as I personally got when I went. Swallow’s Grotto was named so because of all the swallows that used to come and nest or rest in the little holes along the cliffs. Apparently, they don’t come around anymore because of all the noise.
It’s a really easy trail from the bus stop and pretty much goes along the road until you hit a café and souvenir area. I’d say it took me 15-minutes to get there and was so short that I thought I hadn’t actually started yet.
Zhuilu Old Trail
If I get a chance to go back to Taroko, I’m signing up for the permit and hiking this trail. My friend went, and her photos are absolutely incredible. It’s an all day kind of hike at about 10 steep kilometers, so if you do plan on going, make sure to bring plenty of water and food. You actually have to go with a guide, but it’s in the same spot as the Swallow’s Grotto stop.
** If you want to hike either of the permit trails, this is the site you need to register with.
The next stop is Bulowan, and here you can stop for lunch and learn more about Taroko’s tribal history. If you go in the spring, don’t miss the lilies!
The Eternal Shrine (Changchun Shrine)
This is by far the most popular area in Taroko. You can hop off the bus and see the shrine area with its mini-waterfall right away. If it’s open, there’s a trail nearby that goes along the cliff and is about 1-1 1/2 hours round trip.
The Shakadang Trail
The Shakadang trails, sometimes known as the “Mysterious Valley Trail,” is a 3-4 hour round trip trail that’ll take you along the river.
The Xiao Zhuilu Trail
The Little Zhuilu trail is near the Shakadang trail and is only about a 20-minute walk one way. If you want, you can get off at the Taroko Visitor Center stop and hike the Xiao Zhuilu trail to the entrance to the Shakadang Trail.
One stop before Hualien is Qixingtan Beach. It’s a pretty area where you can enjoy bay views and even rent a bike a check out the Qilaibi Lighthouse.
Taroko Gorge Itinerary Ideas
Taroko Gorge Day Trip
If you’re thinking of visiting Taroko Gorge for only a day, then I’d recommend the following course.
- Bus from Hualien to Tianxiang: 1 1/2 hrs
- Tianxiang (Baiyang Trail): 2-3 hrs
- Yanzikou (Swallow’s Grotto): 30-minutes
- Changchun Shrine: 20-minutes or, if you want to do the hike, 1 1/2 – 2 hrs
- Qixingtan Beach: 1 hr to relax, enjoy the views, and grab something to eat
- Bus back to Hualien: 10-15 minutes
** You could also add in Wenshen Springs between the Baiyang Trail and Yanzikou.
Taroko Gorge in 2 Days
If you want to take your time, you can always spread everything out over two or even three days. My original plan was to give myself two days to explore Taroko Gorge, but since the weather was so crap and I got off at the wrong stop once, I only really did one day’s worth of exploring.
I organized these based on how easy it was to get to each stop on the shuttle bus, so, of course, you can mix and match depending on how you travel around.
- Bus from Hualien to Tianxiang: 1 1/2 hours
- Baiyang Trail: 2- 2 1/2 hours
- Lushui Trail: 1- 1/2 hours
- Qixingtan Beach: 1 hr
- Bus from Qixingtan: 10-15 minutes
- Head to Taroko Visitor Center from Hualien: 40 minutes – 1 hr
- Taroko Terrace Trail: 30-45 minutes
- Shakadang Trail directly from Taroko Terrace Trail: 3-4 hours
- Yanzikou: 30-minutes
- Changchun Shrine: 30-minutes or you can do the trail and give yourself about 1 1/2 hours
- Back to Hualien from Changchun: 50-60 minutes
If you do 3 days, I’d reserve one of the days for one of the bigger trails, either Lushui-Wenshen or Zhuliu Old.
How to Get to Taroko Gorge
Of course, the easiest way to get to and around Taroko Gorge is through a private charter. Check here for rates and availability.*
However, there’s also a much cheaper option that’s still pretty convenient.
Taroko Gorge from Hualien
The best way to get to Taroko Gorge from Hualien is via the Tourist Shuttle Bus (Bus 1133A). It leaves from the Bus Station (which is a bright orange building next to the train station). I grabbed a taxi from my hostel area but if you can figure out the local bus system, my hostel owner told me all the buses go to the train and bus station.
At the bus station, ask for Taroko Gorge, and they’ll give you the day pass and a little brochure guide. A 1-day pass is $250 NTD (~$8.50 USD) and a 2-day pass is $400 NTD (~$13.60 USD).
Here are the times as of 2018:
- 7:00 a.m.
- 8:30 a.m.
- 9:10 a.m.
- 10:00 a.m.
- 11:10 a.m.
- 12:00 p.m.
- 1:20 p.m.
- 2:10 p.m.
- 3:10 p.m.
The stops include:
Hualien Station -> Qixingtan -> Xincheng Station -> Taroko -> Taroko Visitor Center -> Shakadang Trail -> Bulowan -> Yanzikou -> Lushui -> Tianxiang
Taroko Gorge from Tianxiang
Another option is to stay in Tianxiang. If you do, then the Shuttle Bus times are:
- 8:40 a.m.
- 10:00 a.m.
- 10:40 a.m.
- 11:40 a.m.
- 12:50 p.m.
- 1:10 p.m.
- 3:00 p.m.
- 3:50 p.m.
- 5:00 p.m.
The stops are:
Tianxiang -> Lushui -> Yanzikou -> Changchun Shrine -> Taroko Visitor Center -> Taroko -> Xincheng Station -> Qixingtan -> Hualien Station
** Note: The shuttle bus stops are slightly different from Hualien – Tianxiang and Tianxiang – Hualien.
How to Get Around Taroko Gorge
Again you’ll want to use the shuttle bus. I learned from my friend, Nicole’s post to not trying walking between different points of interest. You’ll just be walking long distances on roads, and it won’t be very pretty or worth your while.
Besides the bus, you can get around a few different ways:
Option #1: Cycling
If you want to really commit to cycling around the gorge, then you can stop at Xincheng Station to rent a bike. All in all, it’ll be a 25km ride to Tianxiang and the route is pretty flat from what I remember. Of course, that doesn’t include any of the trails if you want to do those.
Option #2: Tour Guides
Going on a tour would be the easiest option if you want to pay a little more and have a little more freedom beyond the shuttle bus times. You can check out the different day tour options here.*
Option #3: Motorbike or Car Hire
The most convenient way, of course, is to rent a motorbike or hire a driver for the day. A car might be a good idea if you’re going in a bigger group or want to see as many spots as you can.
Taroko Gorge Accommodation Options
There are a few options on where to stay near Taroko Gorge. You can stay quite close to Taroko or find a place to stay in Tianxiang or Hualien.
I chose to stay in Hualien because I was planning on staying in the area for a few nights and wanted to check out the cafe and restaurant scene. I stayed Hualien Dropby Backpacker’s Hostel*, which I loved. It’s pretty central to the city, my room was super nice, and it’s only about a $150 NTD ride to the train station.
If you’re only visiting Taroko while you’re here, then you may want to find a place closer to the train station so you can just walk over to get the shuttle bus.
And there you have it! A complete Taroko Gorge guide to help you plan your own trip! Let me know if you have anything to add.
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