๐Ÿƒ How to Plan a Taroko Gorge Day Trip from Taipei

A colorful shrine with waterfall running underneath it, through an arch.

Taroko Gorge, the landmark of Taroko National Park, is one of Taiwan’s best natural attractions and a great day trip from Taipei.

Taroko Gorge was one of the highlights of my Taiwan trip, and here, I share practical tips on visiting it. This post covers:

  • ๐Ÿš— How to get to it from Taipei
  • ๐Ÿš™ How to get around
  • ๐Ÿ—“๏ธ A day trip itinerary
  • โญ๏ธ Top 11 attractions
  • ๐Ÿ“ Map with key places
  • ๐ŸŽ’ What to pack

Planning a trip? Here’sย what to know about Taiwan.

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Taroko Gorge at a Glance

Here is some general information on Taroko Gorge National Park to help you plan your trip.

โ›ฐ๏ธ What Is Taroko Gorge Known For?

Taroko Gorge, a stunning marble gorge carved by the Liwu River millions of years ago, is known for its breathtaking natural beauty and dramatic landscapes.

It is particularly known for its marble formations, which include the canyons, tunnels, and cliffs.

A blue river with gray stones running between lush, green trees.
A stunning view inside Taroko Gorge.

๐Ÿ“Where Is Taroko Gorge Located?

Taroko National Park is located in Hualien County on the eastern side of Taiwan.

Most park visitors travel from the capital city of Taipei or the nearby city of Hualien City:

  • Taipei โ€“ From Taipei, you’ll have to travel about 90 miles (approximately a two-and-a-half-hour train journey) southeast to the national park.
  • Hualien โ€“ From Hualien City, you’ll have to travel about 15 miles north (about a 30-minute drive) to the national park.

For a closer day trip from Taipei, visit the picturesque town of Jiufen.

โ˜€๏ธ Best Time To Visit Taroko Gorge

The best time to visit Taroko Gorge is from November to April when the weather is pleasantly mild (65 ยฐF to 78 ยฐF) and there is a lower chance of rain. That said, Taroko Gorge has decent weather year-round.

The rainiest months are between June and September and the most humid months are between May and September.

A red bridge that connects to a green, lush mountain with trees.
Taroko Gorge in October.

๐Ÿ•œ When Is Taroko Gorge Open?

According to Taroko National Park’s official website, the park is “open to the public at all times and all days of the year.”

โณ How Long To Spend in Taroko Gorge?

Taroko National Park is 26 miles wide and has over a dozen attractions.

You can spend a full day visiting its top attractions or stay for two to three days to deeply explore the park and do its numerous hiking trails.

In this post, I will focus on how to do a full-day trip to Taroko Gorge because I did just that and can talk about it from firsthand experience.

I recommend staying in Hualien City for a night if you’re coming from Taipei. Getting to Taroko Gorge from Taipei takes five hours, so it’s a long one-day trip. You’ll also get to explore Hualien’s night market, which was my favorite Taiwanese night market.

๐Ÿ’ฐ Does Taroko Gorge Have an Entrance Fee?

Taroko National Park has no entrance fee, so it’s free. The only exception is Zhuilu Old Trail, a narrow trail with limited edge protection with a 200 NT (roughly $6) fee.

If you visit Taroko Gorge with a full-day tour group, expect to pay over $100. This is especially true if you want the tour guide to speak English (tours in Mandarin are cheaper). Multi-day tours are also available for over $500.

I share my travel expenses in this Taiwan cost breakdown.

All prices mentioned here are in USD ๐Ÿ’ต .

How To Get to Taroko Gorge From Taipei

You can reach Taroko National Park from Taipei by booking a tour that includes transportation or taking public transit to Hualien City, where the park is located.

๐Ÿš— Option 1: Taroko Gorge Guided Tour

The easiest way to visit Taroko National Park from Taipei is by booking an organized tour with a local guide, which will include round-trip transportation.

Taroko Gorge tour groups will provide a private vehicle to drive you or take care of train tickets on your behalf.

Since it takes two and a half hours to travel one way, Taroko Gorge tours from Taipei usually have early morning pickup times (e.g., 5:30 am or 6:30 am).

๐Ÿš† Option 2: Public Transportation

The more affordable way to get to Taroko Gorge from Taipei is to take a train to Hualien Station.

From the Hualien train station, you have two options:

Here’s how to take the train from Taipei to Taroko Gorge:

Which Train to Take from Taipei to Taroko Gorge

You have two train options to get from Taipei to Hualien Station:

  • Express Train โ€“ These trains will take you to Hualien City in under three hours. The fastest trains to Hualien City are the Taroko Express and Puyuma Express, which cost 440 NT (about $14) per trip.
  • Local Train โ€“ These trains will take three to four hours.

You can see all train schedules on Taiwan Railway’s website.

A view of a small city against a mountain backdrop.
Hualien Station.

How To Purchase a Train Ticket to Taroko Gorge

To purchase a train ticket from Taipei to Hualien Station, you can do it online or in person.

Option #1: Online

The most convenient way to get a train ticket online is through the TRA mobile app (iOS, Android) since the train’s website is confusing and doesn’t let you claim the ticket. Here are three tips to keep in mind:

  • You must claim your ticket โ€“ Booking a train ticket only reserves it. If you don’t claim your ticket (in person or digitally) within 20 minutes of departure time, they can release your ticket to another passenger.
  • Turn on “English mode” on the TRA app โ€“ Once you overcome the small annoyance of figuring out how to turn on English mode, booking and claiming your ticket on the app is easy.
  • Each rider needs to claim their own ticket โ€“ One rider cannot claim multiple tickets. This means that each rider will have to download the app separately.
Option #2: In Person

You can purchase a train ticket in person if you don’t want to deal with the potentially confusing mobile app.

Some Hualien train times are very popular and need to be booked in advance. Some afternoon departures were already sold out when I booked a train to Hualien a week in advance.

Most trains will depart from the Taipei Main Station. Google Maps has several โ€œTaipei Main Stations,โ€ depending on whether youโ€™re catching a train, bus, or the MRT. Double-check the โ€œSubway servicesโ€ section of the location on Google Maps to make sure it is the right place.

A view of a small town with a large park.
Exploring Hualien City.

How To Get Around Taroko Gorge

Once in Hualien’s city center, Taroko Gorge’s entrance is about a 30-minute drive away.

You can explore Taroko Gorge by car, train, cycling, bus, or an organized tour. 

mountain highway runs east-west across Taroko National Park (see yellow line in the map below). Every hiking trail and attraction is located near the highway, sometimes on the side of the road.

A map showing a yellow line representing a highway running through a green area with trails and attractions along the way.
Mountain highway of Taroko Gorge. (Map by Google)

๐Ÿš— Option 1: Car or Motorbike Rental

You can rent a car or motorbike to explore Taroko Gorge National Park.

You must have an International Driver’s Permit (IDP) to drive in Taiwan legally. Once you’re in the park, you can navigate to the different attractions on your own.

๐Ÿ‘ Pros: This option offers the most flexibility. Navigating Taroko Gorge is not difficult as most attractions are either on or near the main road, Zhongbu Cross-island Highway.

๐Ÿ‘Ž Cons: Parking can be difficult. Many attractions do not have sufficient parking when they are crowded (I experienced this firsthand). You also need to be aware of any road closures and research the best times to visit each attraction to avoid crowds.

๐Ÿ›ž Option 2: Hire a Driver

If you can’t or don’t want to drive or navigate yourself, you can hire a driver to take you to the various attractions in Taroko Gorge.

This option will give you some flexibility. A driver will have basic knowledge of the park but will not give you an in-depth tour like a professional tour guide.

๐Ÿ—บ๏ธ Option 3: Taroko Gorge Guided Tour

The most convenient way to get to and see Taraoko Gorge is to hire a guide. They’ll pick you up at your accommodation or the Hualien Station. You won’t need to plan much and get the opportunity to learn a lot about the park.

I did my tour through Island Life Taiwan and highly recommend my tour guide, Iris, who was energetic, entertaining, and knowledgeable (e.g., she knew a lot about the park’s history and the best way to avoid crowds and road closures).

Three people holding a white rock in front of a blue ocean.
With a Taroko Gorge tour guide, Iris.

๐ŸšŒ Option 4: Public Bus

For the most affordable, but inconvenient option, you can also explore Taroko Park by a tourist shuttle bus.

You want the 1133A bus (catch it from a bright orange building next to the train station), and it costs 250 NT (about $8) for a full-day pass.

You’ll need to look up bus stop locations and the bus timetable to ensure you can visit all the attractions within a reasonable time as the bus doesn’t come that frequently.

๐Ÿšด Option 5: Cycling

For those who are more adventurous, you can get to and explore Taroko Gorge by cycling. You can do this on your own by renting a bike or by taking a guided cycling tour,

It’s best to cycle through the park when it’s less crowded (e.g., not during holidays or the weekends) as some roads are fairly narrow, and you’ll need to share them with vehicles.

Taroko Gorge Map

This map has all the Taroko Gorge attractions mentioned in this post.

Taroko Gorge Day Trip Itinerary

This Taroko Gorge itinerary efficiently sequences attractions and activities the park is famous for.

Iโ€™ve also included suggested times for each activity based on my firsthand experience.

The Taiwan trip planner below has this itinerary prefilled.

Morning
๐Ÿš™Get to the Taroko National Park entrance and parkBefore 9 am
๐ŸƒHike the Shakadang Trail9 amโ€“11 am
๐Ÿ’งVisit the Eternal Spring Shrine111 amโ€“11:25 am
๐ŸฆWalk through Swallow Grotto11:40 amโ€“12:10 pm
Afternoon
๐ŸšHave lunch at Taroko Village Hotel12:20 pmโ€“1 pm
โ›…๏ธCross the Buluowan Suspension Bridge1:10 pmโ€“1:35 pm
๐ŸชจWalk through the Tunnel of Nine Turns21:50 pmโ€“2:20 pm
๐Ÿš™Head to Hualien City and drive to Qixingtan Beach2:20 pmโ€“3 pm
๐Ÿ–๏ธ Look out at Qixingtan Beach3 pmโ€“3:20 pm
๐Ÿš™Return to Hualien City in time to take the train back to Taipei and arrive between 7โ€“8pm33:30 pm

๐Ÿ—“๏ธ With More Time in Taroko Gorge

If you have extra time or days in Taroko Gorge, consider making these modifications to the itinerary above:

  1. After visiting the Eternal Spring Shrine, head to the Changuang Temple. The two attractions share one parking lot.
  2. After visiting the Tunnel of Nine Turns, head west to hike the Baiyang Waterfall Trail.
  3. If you have a second day in Hualien City, I highly recommend visiting Hualien’s night market. If you like hiking, I recommend doing more hikes in Taroko Gorge, including the Zhuilu Old Trail, which requires advanced preparation. If you’re not much of a hiker, check out the dramatic Qingshui Cliffs, located 20 minutes north.

Top 3 Attractions in Taroko Gorge

Taroko Gorge has over a dozen attractions and things to do, including waterfalls, trail hikes, and shrines.

Here are the top three attractions based on hundreds of reviews and my firsthand experience.

1. Hike the Shakadang Trail

๐Ÿค” Why: The Shakadang Trail, also called the Mysterious Valley Trail, is a crowd favorite and likely the best place to visit in Taroko Gorge.

The trail requires an easy 3-mile hike through a lush forest following a river with stunning, sky-blue water. If you’re lucky, you’ll see some wildlife.

A blue river with gray stones running between lush, green trees.
The Shakadang Trail.

About a mile into the trail, you’ll come across Trukku people, a Taiwanese aboriginal tribe, selling beverages, snacks, and gifts in a few small stalls. Make sure to bring some cash if you want to buy something and support them.

๐Ÿ“ Getting There: The Shakadang Trail starts here, near the entrance of Taroko National Park.

A carved marble mountain creating a partial tunnel for a walkway. A blue river is on the left with green plants.
Carved marble mountains on the Shakadang Trail.

โฐ Suggested Duration: The trail takes approximately two hours to hike.

Being one of the most popular attractions in Tarako Gorge and closest to the entrance, Shakadang Trail can get extremely crowded so it’s best to go as early as possible and make it your first stop.

๐Ÿ€ Lukiih’s Take: I was on the trail by 9 am and it was mostly empty, so there were fewer tourists than usual. Walking through the tranquil Shakadang Trail while admiring the turquoise-blue water was an amazing way to start my trip.

Return to itinerary โ†‘

2. Visit the Eternal Spring Shrine

๐Ÿค” Why: The Eternal Spring Shrine, another popular tourist stop, is a cluster of colorful shrines tucked into the mountain with a waterfall spewing out underneath.

It was built to honor the 200+ workers who died while working on the highway in the early 1900s.

A colorful shrine nested in a marble mountain with lots of green trees.
Eternal Spring Shrine.

๐Ÿ“ Getting There: You can see the Eternal Spring Shrine from the parking lot here, which is also where you can start the walk to the shrine after crossing a bridge and going into some tunnels.

โฐ Suggested Duration: If you take the tunnel to the Eternal Spring Shrine, budget 20 minutes walking and visiting it. If the tunnels are closed due to landslides, 10 minutes looking at the surrounding area is sufficient.

๐Ÿ€ Lukiih’s Take: The shrine is great to admire both from far away and up close. Although the shrine is not as intricate as other Taiwanese temples I’ve seen, it’s still fun to walk through the tunnels leading up to it and see the waterfall.

Return to itinerary โ†‘

3. Walk the Buluowan Suspension Bridge

๐Ÿค” Why: The Buluowan Suspension Bridge is one of Taiwan’s tallest bridges, but it leads to nowhere. It was built to give visitors the chance to admire the stunning panoramic view of the valley.

A suspension bridge that reaches across a lush green mountain.
The Buluowan Suspension Bridge.

๐Ÿ“Getting There: To visit the Buluowan Suspension Bridge, you can park here and walk to the terrace before crossing the bridge.

โฐ Suggested Duration: Budget 20 to 30 minutes to cross the bridge.

๐Ÿ€ Lukiih’s Take: I found the suspension bridge a bit odd since it didn’t lead anywhere, but I can’t deny that the views from it were breathtaking even on a rainy day.

Return to itinerary โ†‘

8 Great Things To Do in Taroko Gorge

If you can spend an entire day or more at Taroko Gorge, here are eight other great things you can see and do there.

1. Swallow Grotto

Swallow Grotto is one of the narrowest parts of Taroko Gorge, with amazing sheer cliffs.

While walking the short 0.7-mile-long Swallow Grotto Trail, you can see the steep marble cliffs that have little holes in them, which are popular nesting spots for swallows.

Due to falling rocks, you’re advised to wear a hard hat when visiting this area. The park provides them for free at the entrance.

The blog author with a hard helmet in front of marble mountains with trees.
A hard hat is required in Swallow Grotto.

Return to itinerary โ†‘

2. Lunch at Taroko Village Hotel

There are several restaurants you can eat at in Taroko Gorge and Tarako Village Hotel is one of the few where you can have an amazing, delicious aboriginal meal. My lunch was included as part of my tour package.

Rice, pork belly, vegetable and a soup on a wooden tray. All food items are separated and organized.
My meal at Taroko Village Hotel.

Return to itinerary โ†‘

3. Zhuilu Old Trail

Zhuilu Old Trail is a narrow trail with limited edge protection next to a 1,500+ feet cliff drop. It’s a difficult, but adventurous hike that takes hours and requires a permit.

The number of visitors is limited to ~100 per day on weekdays and increases to ~150 a day on the weekends. Had I known about this trail in advance, I would have liked to hike it on my second day in Taroko Gorge.

Zhuilu Old Trail is the only attraction in Taroko National Park that has an entrance fee.

Return to itinerary โ†‘

4. Tunnel of Nine Turns

The Tunnel of Nine Turns is a well-maintained 30-minute walk featuring nine turns. It’s a fairly scenic route and showcases impressive engineering as the builders had to build it through the gorge.

Marbled mountains with trees and a small waterfall flowing in the middle.
A small waterfall seen from the Tunnel of Nine Turns.

Return to itinerary โ†‘

5. Changuang Shrine

Changuang Temple is near the Eternal Spring Shrine and can be barely seen from far away. You can visit the temple if you walk 15 minutes further from the Eternal Spring Shrine.

Although not many people make the trek to it, you will be rewarded with a higher gorgeous view of the surrounding area if you do. I wasn’t able to make it since I was running on a tight schedule with the tour, but I would have liked to.

Return to itinerary โ†‘

6. Baiyang Trail and Falls

The Baiyang Trail is an easy hike that is less than an hour long and features a waterfall, cliffs, and tunnels. It’s recommended that you bring a flashlight if you plan to visit it, as there are no lights in the tunnels.

Between the Tunnel of Nine Turns and the Baiyang Trail, you can also make a quick stop by a nice red bridge called the Cimu Bridge.

Return to itinerary โ†‘

7. Qixingtan Beach

Qixingtan Beach is not inside Taroko Gorge, but it’s a good halfway stop between the national park and Hualien City. This makes it a great last stop during your trip. The beach is filled with gray and silver pebbles that contrast against a clear, blue ocean.

Two people jumping and making a pose in front of a blue ocean and pebbled beach.
At Qixingtan Beach.

Return to itinerary โ†‘

8. Qingshui Cliffs

Qingshui Cliffs is located 20 minutes north of Taroko Gorge and another place with beautiful scenery. At 2,600 feet tall, it features some of Taiwan’s highest coastal cliffs.

Return to itinerary โ†‘

What To Pack and Wear for Taroko Gorge

Taroko Gorge has a subtropical climate, so you can expect a mix of humidity, rain and sunshine when visiting.

Depending on which attractions you plan to visit, you can wear casual clothes or more active, athletic ones.

Here’s a complete packing list for Taroko Gorge:

  • Light rain jacket or poncho โ€“ Taroko Gorge has four seasons, and it can rain all year around, with the wettest month being October and the driest month being December. When I visited in October, the day started dry, but rained in the afternoon, so I was glad I brought my rain jacket. If you prefer to carry something lighter to save space, these rain ponchos also work well.
  • Umbrella (optional)ย โ€“ Many other visitors brought umbrellas instead since the rain can be abrupt and hard. Some areas, like the Buluowan Bridge, can get windy, so make sure to pack a windproof umbrella.
The blog author posing in front of a suspension bridge on a rainy day.
Getting rained on by the time I reached Buluowan Bridge.
  • Running shoes or hiking shoes โ€“ The paths in Taroko National Park are well-maintained, so you can visit most of the park with just a pair of running shoes. I wore my hiking shoes, which I didn’t think was necessary for the terrain, but I was glad that they were waterproof.
  • Water โ€“ Most attractions in the park will not have water readily available, so bring some water. I brought my reusable water bottle that kept my water cold for hours, which is great since the weather is mostly humid and warm in Taroko Gorge.
  • Mosquito repellent โ€“ Taiwan has mosquitos that can spread dengue fever (you’ll see signs in Taipei encouraging you to protect yourself), so you’ll want to pack bug spray. I like to use this bug-repellent lotion since I think it works better than the spray alternatives.
  • Sunscreen (optional) โ€“ Since you’ll be outdoors the entire day, make sure to wear some sunscreen. I like to wear this dermatologist-approved and water-resistant sunscreen since it applies easily and doesn’t feel oily.
  • Flashlight (optional)ย โ€“ If you plan to visit Baiyang Trail, bringing a flashlight is recommended since some tunnels don’t have light.
  • Snacks โ€“ The park doesn’t have food and snack stations readily available (and some of them run low on inventory), so you might also want to bring some snacks.

The Taiwan trip planner below has the above packing list in a downloadable Notion.

Taiwan Trip Planner

To make your travel planning easier, download the trip planner below and use it as a starting point. The planner has country-specific travel information, an itinerary, a packing list, and a map with key places pinned.

The trip planner is built on Notion, which I use for all my travel planning (I genuinely love this tool). If you don’t have Notion, creating an account is free.

Three Notion template screenshots are shown: travel information, itinerary, and map + packing list templates.
Preview of Taiwan trip planner.

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