A day spent in Hualien, Taiwan hiking the Zhuilu Old Trail, exploring Taroko National Park, Taroko Gorge and incredible ocean views from Qingshui Cliff.
One of my favorite getaways from Taipei is Hualien, a city on the eastern coast of Taiwan. Home to white sand beaches, lush mountains, turquoise seas, otherworldly landscapes and jaw-dropping cliffs, there’s an endless amount of natural wonders to explore. In addition, it is also home to Taroko National Park and Taroko Gorge, a marble-walled canyon formed over millions of years ago when two tectonic plates collided. The gorge was then carved by the erosive power of the Liwu River forming narrow, vertical cliffs, in some parts over 1000 meters high!
To see a bird’s-eye view of the marble walled canyon, you only need to hike the Zhuilu Old Trail, a 6.2 meter hike essentially climbing straight up the mountain. Not surprising, it’s one of the park’s famous hikes because of its expansive views of the gorge and river. Walking cliff side 1000 meters above the canyon floor, it requires an initial 2.5km hike up on mostly steep staircases and a few suspension bridges, then another 600m walking along the cliff to the end of the trail. It also requires permits and some planning. We wanted it all to go smoothly, so we decided to go with Meet My Guide, a tour company that specializes in local adventures around the park and in Hualien.
We started our day before sunrise to beat the heat and humidity that sets in by 7am during Taiwan’s summer. Driving about an hour from Hualien City to Taroko Park, we were able to witness morning glows as we drove through this mountain town. Hikers are only allowed in before 10am to ensure enough time for the hike.
The trail head starts with a suspension bridge, welcoming you into your 3.5 to 5 hour journey up the mountain. A straight up climb, the trail is clearly marked and safe. During the journey, Wei, our guide, kept telling us stories and the history of the trail. Created during the early 20th century by the Japanese to control the aboriginal tribes in the park, they carved this path from the cliffside for military purposes. Along the trail, we passed by remnants of aboriginal villages and all types of plants and giant spiders. We heard monkeys also come out to visit sometimes.
Looking down into the canyon floor was exhilarating. Without any handrails while walking on the side of the cliff, I kept peering over the edge to see how high up we were. The views looked like a painting, with shades of green, yellow and the bright blue sky with a few clouds mixed in. Wei said the fog rolls in around midday so it’s best to start early and end before visibility disappears completely.
After our exciting 5-hour hike, we went to a secret spring where the water was really refreshing (AKA cold!) but perfect for a dip after mountain trekking. The only other people around were some local kids from the indigenous tribes that lived nearby. Can you imagine having an entire national park be your “playground” growing up?
We also explored other parts of the park including the Qingshui Cliffs. This 21 kilometer length of coastal cliffs averaging 800 meters above sea level has some of the most stunning view of the Pacific Ocean. It reminded me of driving along Big Sur in California or in the southwest coast of France. You just can’t beat those cliff views.
There’s an endless amount of natural wonders to see in Taroko National Park and for our weekend trip to Hualien, it was perfect going with a knowledgeable guide. Thanks to Meet My Guide for taking us around and showing us all the local, non-touristy spots!
Meet My Guide