A Tour of Taroko National Park

A few weekends ago I explored Hualien City, the county seat of Hualien, with my friend Josh (who by the way is super talented and responsible for all of the pictures of myself that I included in this article.)

I wanted to show him one of Taiwan’s most scenic areas so naturally we ventured to Taroko National Park!

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This was a slightly ambitious one day trip, however from Taipei we were able to make it to the park and enjoy the sights all before it got dark. To maximize your time you just need to be sure to get up early the day of and do some research prior to arriving in Hualien City.

There are two methods of getting to Taroko National Park, the first being by combo ticket and the second by taking a direct train. The two are close in cost, with the direct train being the faster and more comfortable option. For more information on transportation between the two cities, consult this expertly written blog.

Josh and I decided before hand that we were going to rent scooters in order to travel at our own pace and have the freedom to chose exactly what areas of the National Park we wanted to explore. Once we arrived at the train station in Hualien City we were approached by the owner of a scooter rental shop and he quickly escorted us to his nearby shop. It cost $500 NTD (or $22 CAD) to rent them for the day and of course they came with helmets #safetyfirst

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If you don’t feel comfortable driving a scooter there are also buses that will take you there and you can learn more about how to catch it here under the <About the shuttle bus in Taroko> heading.

We were feeling adventurous that day so we found our way there using our good friend Google Maps, however my new favourite app Maps.me is also really good for directions and accuracy! Once you are out of the core city it is essentially a straight shot and the whole ride will take you approximately 40 minutes.

On the way to the park the views of the mountains were beautiful but once we reached an area just outside the park, the beauty we were immersed rose to a jaw dropping level.

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We proceeded to the Visitor Centre and got some helpful information from a very friendly park enthusiast. I recommend doing this just to take a break, go to the washroom, or buy a snack and some water.

We then took a left out of the Visitor Centre, went straight for 500 metres and eventually took a right following the signs for Taroko Gorge. We quickly noticed that everyone is required to wear helmets in the park due to the potential of rock slides, luckily we already had ours.

We road along the impressive Taroko Gorge until we arrived at the Swallow Grotto. The potholes found in the cliffs were especially impressive, not to mention the built in springs.

There is a trail you can walk that is about half a kilometre starting from the beginning of the Swallow Grotto, it’s called the Yanzikou Trail and it offers an up close and personal view of this impressive rock formation.

Since we rented scooters, we continued to ride along until we got to Cimu bridge where we stopped to take in the awe-inspiring architecture complimented by the surrounding astounding landscape.

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The rushing grey water that flows throughout these marble mountains is most likely this colour from the rocks and sediment below it, but there are places in the stream where marble rock is exposed and clear blue water is visible. This combination really is stunning in person and despite being completely natural, looks as if it was painted to be that way.

Next we found a waterfall that we got to observe from a nearby (somewhat nervewracking) suspension bridge. It was pretty wonderful to witness this raw and powerful display of nature.

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Below is a map highlighting the major scenic spots within the Taroko Gorge. You can find out more details on the Taroko National Park website including various tour suggestions.

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Personally, Taroko National Park served as a large reminder of how small we as humans really are. Everywhere you look at in this park, from any angle, you are surrounded by mountains and gorges up to 3,000 metres in elevation. The park is literal eye candy, a dazzling visual experience if you will. The greenery, the waterfalls, the shrines, and statues are all sensational and I guarantee you will say the word “WOW” at least five times during your time there. It is trips like these that emphasize how beautiful this world is and how important it is that we enjoy our world’s wonders in a respectful way.

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Dusk at Elephant Mountain

As a girl from a small town surrounded by Lake Huron, I have seen my fair share of beautiful sunsets. However perhaps one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen took place from my view at Elephant Mountain, just about a 15 minute walk from the famous Taipei 101.

DCIM107GOPROElephant Mountain is the most famous of the Four Beast Mountain collection, which also includes Tiger, Leopard, and Lion Mountains.

There are actually two more mountains on this trail system called Nangang Shan and Jiuwu Peak that rise behind the beasts. Elephant  Mt. happens to be the part of the trail that links all these together.

Not only is this view of the city spectacular, it is also easily accessible by a 20 minute walk up the mountain (not to mention its free!!) The path to this glorious sight is made of stairs that are well maintained and include a railing so although steep, its not too difficult if you just go at your own pace.

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Although it will likely be busy the best time to go is during the late afternoon around 5-5:30 PM so that you can catch the sunset in Taipei, which currently occurs approximately 20 minutes after 6 PM (double check with your best pal Google). If you want to see the city landscape in daylight light, go earlier!

To get there by MRT, take the Red line 2 to its terminus, Xiangshan Station. You will be instructed to get off the Subway around the Da’an stop, but fear not, another car will be along shortly to take you to the end of the line, simply step off and wait for it.

Once you arrive at Xiangshan, take exit 2 out of the station and continue walking straight. You will notice a park and basketball courts to your left as you walk. Follow the signs for Xiangshan Hiking Trail and you won’t have any problems! When you reach the end of the road, walk across the street before you take a left, and follow both the fellow hikers and the corresponding signs. After a short distance turn right and soon you will have arrived at the base of the Xiangshan Hiking Trail.

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Take a swig of water, tie up those laces and prepare to be amazed.

You will come to a point on the trail where there is a picture taking pavilion. Although crowded there’s an unwritten code, people take their pictures and then move out of the way so that others may do the same. Be patient and you too will have your turn!

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To get the TRUE  birds eye view continue UP the path for not much longer and you will proceed to be amazed at how much of the city is visible.

In the backdrop you see mountains. In the foreground you see the impressive infrastructure of Taipei. Look right, left, and backwards; you will see greenery and perfect picture taking boulders to stand on.

Take pictures, take video, and then a deep breath and savour this moment because it really is so so breathtakingly beautiful.

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Once you take it all in I suggest walking back down to the pavilion area to get a great shot of the city lights after dusk. I guarantee you’ll be thinking about this scene the entire walk down, if not for the rest of the night. Did I mention you can see all this for free??

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To get a similar shot, have your camera ready between 6:30-7 PM, focus on the right side of your view and afterward use some good ole Instagram editing to really make the colours of that sky pop!

Wondering where this information came from? See for yourself! 

Elephant Mountain

https://guidetotaipei.com/visit/elephant-mountain-%E8%B1%A1%E5%B1%B1-xiangshan

Taipei Metro
 
The Four Beast Mountains
 
Xiangshan Taipei