Hiking in Taroko Gorge National Park

After our biking adventure and our night at the fabulous KeyInn Space hotel in Haulien, we were up to catch the 9:20 train to the Xincheng station where we would meet our transport to the park. After finding a complicated flow chart explaining how to apply for a special hiking permit that we wanted, we decided to camp at a nearby lodge and have the owner of the lodge take care of that and all our transport needs.  Good thing because it was heavenly to have drivers who could quickly navigate those hairpin turns and recommend daily activities.

On our first day, we planned to hike Zhuilu Old Trail, which we needed a permit to hike. We had to get to the trailhead by 10am in order to get our permits checked and start the hike. We knew we would be cutting it close taking such a late train, but we were told (many times) by Rihang, our lodge owner, “Do not worry.” So, we didn’t. Even when our train was delayed and I called to check in, Rihang just said, “Do not worry.” We eventually meet up with our driver and another couple they were renting bikes to that day, and we drive to the trailhead. Of course, the driver insisted that we stop at 7-11 first to stock up on supplies. We were late for our 10 am check in time, but Rihang was at the trailhead waiting for us. He said the guards had gone on break, but “do not worry, just climb this fence.” The fence decidedly warned against climbing, but we did have a permit, and we were under orders from the lovely family hosting us for the next 3 days.

We climbed and started the most gorgeous hike of my life. The trail is supposed to be about a 12km loop, but since the typhoon last year, only the first 3.1km are open, so it is now only about a 6km total hike. Every step was so worth enduring the heat and a small fear of heights.

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This was the first photo that I snapped of the gorge, but certainly not the last. That water color is so amazingly vivid. I can’t even get over how beautiful this place was.

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Selfie on the bridge we had to cross to start the hike. We look so fresh and unsweaty. That didn’t last. 

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The first part of the trail was lovely and uphill. We had to climb to the top of the cliffs to get the great views. My hiking companion added a splash of color to nature.

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There were tons of little tunnels carved into the cliff where there was no spot for a trail. So awesome to pass through the cool (temperature) rocks.

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We had a bit of fun posing in the caves along the way. I look less sweaty in silhouette.

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Rita gets in a core workout.

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There were tunnels even near the top.

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When we got to the top, there was a nice rope along the side of the cliff and a very wide ledge – as you can see. I found this trail significantly less scary than the beehive that the Werners and Rachel made me hike in Maine.

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Sometimes Rita wanted to jump into the gorge, but luckily, she knew its beauty was best enjoyed from above.

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Such a lovely view.

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Can you see me? I am a mere speck in this vastness.

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We took a good rest on this rock on the way down.

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I liked this caterpillar beside the contrasting leaf, but when I stopped to admire him, Rita insisted that he would look better on the leaf. I hope he enjoyed modeling for us.

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Another shot of the beauty.

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After our hike, our driver decided to take us to 7-11 for beers, and then to a nearby beach until it started to rain.  He seemed a little disappointed that we didn’t want to drink our beers on the beach. We were pretty much alone, except this guy who didn’t get in his tube until the rain came.

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I only touched the water with my hands, but it felt warm.

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I wish more beaches had these stones instead of sand. We could lie down comfortably, but they left no mess. Heaven.

That night, it poured a lot! Luckily Rihang had mixed up our message, and he thought we wanted a room in the lodge that night, so we got to sleep inside. The following night there was less rain, and we had to camp because the lodge was full of Chinese Boy Scouts.

Rihang told us that if we wanted to bike, we had to do it Thursday because the park would be full of Chinese tourists on Friday because they had a long weekend. We were in fact contributing to the problem because a friend of Rita’s who lives in Shanghai was joining us for the last few days of our vacation. So, Rihang drove us to the trailhead of Lianhua Pond Trail (about the middle of the map) so that Rita and I could hike for a few hours, and then he would pick up Praisku and meet us back at the end of the trail where we left the bikes. Then, we would bike the the Wunshan Hot Springs to bathe before hiking the Biayang Waterfall Trail and biking all the way back to the lodge. The lodge is in the white area on the right side of the map, but before the ocean. This sounded like my kind of day. Our first hike was about 3 hours long; 2 hours straight uphill, a walk around a pond, and an hour back down and across the crazy bridge to finish. It was good exercise and beautiful despite 3 monkeys who got what I would consider too close to us.

I even expected to like the biking. I had after all just biked 220km and loved it. However, this was not the same bike that I had bonded with. It was, I decided, a demon bike. It didn’t necessarily shift gears when I told it to; it just sort of did that as it chose. When it did shift, it was so violent that it would fling my feet off the pedals. This was not good since mostly we had to go downhill for a couple of hours. I enjoyed the hot springs and the waterfall trail. Rita realized in the cave of waterfalls that she forgot her waterproof camera at the hot springs, so we biked back uphill (only 3km), but didn’t find it. Then it was all the way down. We were fighting sunset and impending rain by the end, but we made it! My bike didn’t kill me, but I was super grumpy and determined to never ride a bike again. At 7-11, I was being irritable, so Rita “Mama Bear” made me switch bikes with her and the last couple of miles back to the lodge were blissful for me. Less so for her. It turns out that I do like biking, but only on bikes that work. It was a beautiful bike ride despite my fears, and I am glad that I got to see such a large part of the park outside the confines of a car.

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Map of Toroko Gorge National Park. We only got to do the right half of the map, so still plenty to see on my next sojourn to Taiwan. Also, there are jobs in Taiwan. I might want one.

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To get to our first hike, we had to cross this bridge. We had crossed many suspension bridges over the gorge, but this was the scariest. It was totally safe, but narrow and longer than most. No likey.

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The first half was wider than the second half. That made no sense to me. Engineers?

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The second half was decidedly narrower. There was no turning around to pose here. I even considered wearing the bike helmet strapped to the back of my backpack.

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A view from near the top. The sky was awesome that day!

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Our reward for hours of uphill was this pond! It was a little too scummy to stick our feet in, but so pretty.

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We walked the whole way around, and then headed back down. Luckily the monkeys had left the area.

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After meeting up with Praisku, we biked to about this spot of the gorge to play in some hot springs. The bridge you see is not one that we crossed.

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I loved the yellow of this tunnel. There were tons of tunnels large enough for cars and tour buses (just barely) to fit through.

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One of the waterfalls on the waterfall trail.

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Praisku and Rita headed back to our bikes after the waterfall trail.

After camping and packing up our tents, Rihang drove us back to the park on Friday for our final hike. It was not the best one. It was a little rainy, and we had grand aspirations of hiking straight up 3km and then starting on an 8km loop and making it back by 1:00 when we were meeting a driver to take us to the train station. It took us too long to hike up, and we realized that we had to just go back down rather than trying to make the loop and miss our transportation. I dislike going downhill when life is slippery (or all the time), but we made it. Then we found out that Rita’s camera was found and at the Wunshan Police Station. So, off we went to get it. Normally, this would have presented no problem, but remember that this was a Chinese holiday, so the number of tour buses and personal cars and taxis was about quadrupled from the other days. Our driver got us there, and the camera was saved. We did have to change our train tickets for later ones to Taipei, but no sweat. By this time, Rita was a pro at booking train tickets.

Even though our last day wasn’t as pretty as the first few, I loved Taroko Gorge, and I hope you can understand a fraction of the beauty from the photos. If not, you will have to go in person!

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Rita and Praisku with our foggy view. About as good as the viewing got.

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Some old cable cars at the top of our peak that day.

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Sad to be leaving Taroko – and SO dirty and sweaty.

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Until next time, you unreal beauty.

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