10 Tips When Visiting Taroko Gorge National Park
1. Go Early
By 10am, most of the walking paths throughout Taroko begin to fill with large tour groups. Many of their guides even bring megaphones to yell information to their groups. So when trying to enjoy the serene grandiosity of Taroko and the sounds of nature, this can be quite distracting. Also, who likes having to wait in line to get to that perfect photo location and then having twenty people in your shot! For these and many other reasons we suggest getting to Taroko as early as possible. Island Life Taiwan (the Early Birds of Taroko!) offers Taroko Gorge Tours that leave Hualien at 7:30am making their guests among the first few people in the park, often having many trails all to themselves to start the day and having a much better chance of seeing wildlife in the park.
2. Bring an Umbrella
Some days the sun can be blindingly hot… other days a cloud can roll through the gorge and dump rain unexpectedly. Having a small umbrella with you can protect against both! Like our parents always said, it’s better to have and not need, than need and not have!
3. Avoid the Large Tour Bus Companies
While the low prices of the large tour bus companies visiting Taroko Gorge each day can make them tempting, take a look at what you’re actually getting for the money. Most of the busses don’t have an English speaking guide to explain anything to you or give you any history or geology of the region. They typically all ply the same route at the same times so you can expect 2-10 other bus loads of people to be at any place you are at the same time. That can mean 200 people at the same viewing area as you. They only give you a few minutes of time at each stop, and only visit a tiny percentage of the numerous wonderful places in the park. And worst of all, on an 8 hour Taroko Gorge National Park tour, expect to spend only a few hours in the park and the rest at high pressure gift shops off the highway. The reason they can charge so little is because they receive commissions from the gift shops they visit. We highly recommend small group tours, private tours or if you’re feeling spunky, DIY.
4. Try an Aboriginal Sausage at the End of Shakadang Trail
Yes, you’ve probably already tasted a Taiwan sausage on a stick by the time you visit Taroko, but not like these! The old Truku man who sells them, claims they’re the best in Taiwan, and while we can’t go that far, they certainly are worth a try. Made with black peppercorns grown in the park, they are unlike any others in Taiwan. Near the 1.5 km mark on the Shakadang Trail you’ll find several aboriginal stands selling their wares. You can’t miss the sausage man!
5. Don’t Plan on Walking Between Trailheads & Viewpoints
While some guidebooks foolishly suggest that you could walk completely through Taroko, we highly advise against it. The distance from trail head to trail head can often be 5-10 kilometers on winding narrow roads with NO shoulder. Add to that, speeding tour busses, tunnels with no lights and you have a recipe for a terrifying and LONG walk.
6. Book a Zhuilu Old Trail Tour
Do you like heights?! Do you like the idea of walking on a 90cm wide trail carved into the side of a cliff, 700 METERS above the canyon floor?! Did we mention, no ropes or guardrails? Welcome to the Zhuliu Old Trail. An old Truku tribe hunting path, widened slightly by the Japanese military during Taiwans occupation, this trail is a once in a lifetime experience for the daring amongst us. Book ahead as only a few permits are issued each day. See Taroko from an entirely new perspective.
For further reading on Zhuilu Old Trail, check out: The Zhuilu Old Trail: On the Edge of Insanity
7. If You Decide to DIY, Check for Trail Closures
Taiwan is Typhoon country and the mountains throughout Hualien County are notorious for landslides during big storms. Taroko Gorge is no different and several trails are closed every month for maintenance. If you decide to DIY it, be sure to check for the latest trail closures. The Taroko Park Service website has reasonably updated information here, though it’s best to consult with a ranger at the visitor center to confirm or just use a tour company that will take you to the best places currently available.
8. Spotting Wildlife
There are over 300 kinds of butterflies in Taroko Gorge, 150 kinds of birds, 46 large mammals including the Formosan Black Bear, the Formosan Macaque (Grey Rock Monkey) and the Sambar Deer, and countless lizards, snakes, insects and other wildlife in the park. As suggested before, the best time to see wildlife is early in the morning before throngs of tourists enter the park and scare them into the hills. While you probably won’t spot any bears or deer, the Formosan Macaque tends to hang around throughout the park. Good places for spotting them include the trees behind the 7-11 in Tianxiang, the small path behind the visitor center, and in the trees around the Qingshui Cliffs.
9. Bring a Wide Angle Lens for Your Camera
The views through the gorge can be sweeping beyond words. If you have a DSLR camera or even an Iphone with a lens kit, a wide-angle lens can really help capture the grandiosity of the park. While tripods are typically unnecessary, a wide angle can help you get that towering mountain above you, the sprawling cliff to your left and the river below into one spectacular shot.
10. Water, Water, then More Water
It’s easy to forget to drink water when out for a nature walk in such a beautiful place, but the heat in Taiwan can overwhelm people at times (especially in the summer time). For that reason, we suggest always keeping a bottle of water handy and remember to hydrate after each walk.
We hope you liked our list! For any other questions or to book our fun day tours to Taroko Gorge and many other wonderful places in the Hualien area, please contact us HERE.