Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Taiwan Trip: Hiking in Taroko Gorge

As I said in my last post, Taroko Gorge is amazingly beautiful. Unfortunately, the whole of Taiwan knows this, and they all flood there in their bus tours to see it. Fortunately, buses aren't very good at driving off road, people are mostly lazy, and time on tours is always tight (due to the need to go and stop off at the bus driver's mate's shop on the way home). This means that it is very easy to escape idiotic bus tours, as long as you're prepared to do a bit of walking, and your self-preservation instinct isn't all that high.

One false step and you're tumbling down the mountainside. But on the plus side, no people!

Like everywhere else we hiked in Taiwan, we were very pleasantly surprised by the organisation and upkeep of hiking trails in Taroko Gorge. Whilst there are some trails closed due to landslides, all the open trails were easy to follow, well signposted and had information about items of interest as you walked along. There's good information here about the different day walks, and here about which ones are open. All the ones listed as "scenic trails" or "sights" on any website you see are likely to be short walks with wide paths, stairs and probably full of people. When we were there nowhere was so busy to be unpleasant, but from what I've read it would be a different story at the weekend.

All very easy and everything, but where's the fun in hiking if you can't pretend to be Indiana Jones?

We walked three of the short scenic "trails", which only took about 30minutes each, but were very enjoyable and pretty. 

The Xiangde Temple Trail was right next to our hotel. It was just a lot of steps up to a pagoda and temple.  Lovely views from the top, but I wouldn't exactly call it hiking!

You can climb all the way to the top of the Pagoda for a super good view!

View down the gorge

We also walked the Wenshan Hot Springs Trail. It was about 3km north of our hotel along the main road, and conveniently on the way to the main trail we walked. It's a lot of steps and a suspension bridge down to and across the river to some hot springs on the other side. They were far too hot for us, so we didn't stop to bathe, but they were in a lovely setting. 

Scary bridge #1 of many!

Pretty good place for a bath, hey?

If you thought I was being a wuss, this is the bridge I was on. Scary!

The third easy trail we did was the Lushui Trail. This was south of our hotel, at the far end of the trail we did. It's 2km long, and is just about worthy of being called a trail, unlike the 2 above! It's fairly flat and wide, easy to walk and has lovely views of the gorge.

I wish there was a person at the bottom to give a sense of scale. The boulders were gigantic.


While those three walks were very enjoyable, they were really just warm ups and cool downs for the main walk we did, the Wenshan-Lushui Trail. This wasn't the walk we'd originally planned to do, but the ones we wanted to walk were closed due to landslides. This actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as this one was much more challenging, and we both decided afterwards it was absolutely the best thing we did in Taiwan. Walking in the jungle, the only things keeping us company were the copious amount of pretty butterflies, the few monkeys(!) we saw and the beautiful scenery all around.

The trail's only 5.5km long, but it took us about 3 and a half hours. We're usually fast walkers, but this trail was HARD. The first section (coming from Wenshan) was constant up and down for about 2km. That section alone took us 2 hours. There was scrambling up sheer rock, hanging onto ropes to stop yourself falling off ledges, and clinging onto trees and you half slid down muddy slopes. But it was amazing. If you go to Taroko, bring hiking boots and challenge yourself. You won't regret it (well, you might regret your decision about 2km into the trail, but it does get easier, I promise). Just make sure you start from the Wenshan end. 

As you can tell from the photos, the day was cloudy and misty, but still some fantastic views. 

The suspension bridge that started the trail

If I remember rightly, that's our hotel in the middle

I know it's only a tunnel, and up close it was actually very industrial, but I like to think it's secretly Rivendell.

Exhausted by triumphant: at the end of the final climb.

A railing to reassure. 

John likes mushrooms (and ants and spiders and various other things that make me go eugh)


  1. Oh, but it does look like Indiana Jones and TLOTR combined! Based on the gradients in your photos, I'm not surprised at all that you had a solitary hike. That last one is a tough route!

    PS: I'm dreadfully disappointed that you didn't wear stilettos.

    PPS: So does this qualify as off the beaten track? ^^

    1. John says it was definitely Indiana Jones, but that he prefers the LOTR theme music, so that'll be the one he's singing on all of our hikes this summer. Goodie.

      It was a tough route, but I'd rather deal with difficult nature than difficult people!

      I'm sorry. I would promise to go on a hike in stilettos before the summers out but I'm not that sadistic. Plus I don't own stilettos!

      If this isn't off the beaten track, then nothing is. Put that in your "happy" pipe, Thailand goers!

  2. "I'd rather deal with difficult nature than difficult people!" Amen to that!