Visiting the Taroko National Park is a must while travelling Taiwan if you love scenery mountains. If you love hiking this national park is just the places to go, as it is home to the most scenery hike in Taiwan – Zhuilu Old Road.
Zhuilu Old Road is also know as the Taroko Gorge Hike, as you’re walking on a 550 m high cliff overviewing the 19 km long canyon Taroko Gorge. The view from the cliff is spectacular and the fact that the cliff is higher than the Taipei 101 makes it even more impressive. We done lots of scenery hikes in China, Taiwan and Europe but this was definitely the most impressive.
The trail and what to expect
The Zhuilu Old Road used to be around 10 km longs, but do to a typhoon in 2016 only around 3,3 km of the trail is accessible. You will get to a resting area after 3,3 km, from where you can’t go furthere as the rest for the road is blocked and illegal to access. So you have to go back again the same way, which makes the trail around 6,6 km long. The trail took us exactly 4 hours including a lot of stops for taking pictures and a 30 min snack break at the rest area. So if you are in a normal shape without any injures or complications you would be able to do the hike in 3 to 5 hours.
The first around 2 km of the trail is steep sometimes narrow and mostly consist of roots, unstable rocks and simple stairs. This means that the 550 m high cliff path is only around 1 km of the trail. This is the most scenery part, overlooking the Taroko Gorge and the beautiful mountains. Actually it is the easiest part as it is flat and you have a rail to hold on to, so it isn’t dangerous as long as you walk carefully. The first 2 km before getting to the cliff is actually the most dangerous as it is steep, slippery at times and there’s no rails to hold on to.
We ignored the advises about bringing hiking sticks as we though the trail only consists of the flat cliff path. We done lots of dangerous hikes in China without brining hiking sticks, but we really missed the this times. On the way down I even slipped on the slippery rocks, which could have been avoided with hiking sticks. We would advise anyone to bring hiking sticks, as they could be very helpful especially for going down.
We would not advice anyone without hiking experience to do this trails as its very steep and sometimes challenging. Even people with hiking experience should be prepared for the steep path and be aware that it can be very hard and sweaty on sunny days as you keep walking up a steep path for 2 km.
How to get the permit
To do this trail you need to apply for two permits, one at the Taroko National Park and one at Taroko Police. In the weekdays they give out permits to 96 people and in the weekends it’s 156 people. Entering the trail cost 200 NT.
To get the first permit from the Taroko National Park you need to apply online at https://npm.cpami.gov.tw/en/apply_1_5.aspx . You need to fill in the route as shown on following picture and informations about applicant, leader and team member. If you fx are two persons during the trail, one of you can be the applicant and leader and the other can be the team member. You also need to fill out the emergency coordinator information, and it’s important to notice that this need to be a Taiwanese citizen! We just asked the staff at our hostel to fill out this page, and that’s all they have to do. They will only be needed in case of emergency, so the police will have a Chinese speaking person to talk to.
You have to apply for the permit 2 working days before going, and it needs to be done between 7 am and 11 pm. It’s important not to do it earlier than 2 working days before going, due to the weather and the fact that you can’t change the date. When to Taroko National Park has accept you permit, they will send it to you by email the next day.
To get the second permit for the Taroko Police you need to print out Permit 1. It’s important to bring 1 printed permit per person. Getting the police permit is very easy, you just walk into Taroko Police station with permit 1 and your passport and the police officer would ask you to fill a form and give you the permit. The permit you get from Taroko Police is the one you bring to the entry point.
When getting to the trail head you would see a small house across the entrance. This is where you go to show your permits and pay the 200 NT per person. After paying the entrance fee, you go to the door leading to the trail. Show them your ticket and they will let you in. It’s important to notice that they only let people enter the trail between 7 am and 10 am.
How to get to the trail from Hualien
To get to the trail you have to take bus 1133A from Hualien Station. You should take the first bus leaving at 7:00 am, so you have time to go the the police station and still enter the trail before it gets too hot. To get to Taroko Police station you need get off at Taroko Visitor Center and walk 150 m down road to the police station. After getting the police permit you can take one of the shuttle buses to Yanzikou.
Instead of buying a day pass for the 1133A bus (250 NT), you should get a Yoyo card/ EasyCard. This will give you 50% of every ride and allow you to take different shuttle buses around the park. We took the bus 4 times and only spent 131 NT each.
When to go
The most important is not to go on a rainy day as the trail would be very dangerous and slippery. At the same time you should be aware that if you go in the summer time, hiking the trail would be very hot and sweaty. In this season there is also poisons snakes and wasps.
We went in December which was great, as it was a sunny day with only 20-25 degrees. Going up was still very hot though.
Weekday or weekend?
It is better to go on a weekday as they only allow 96 on the trail compared to 156 in the weekends. We went on a Friday and only meet around 20 people on the trail.
Time of the day
It’s best to go as early as possible as there tends to be fewer people going up. At 10 am just before the trail closes there is a lot of people going up. Due to the weather is also better to go up early, so it isn’t to hot.
We went up at 8.30 and there were only 6 other people on the trail.
What to bring
You should bring following items for the trial:
- Printed out permit from the National Park
- Hiking shoes
- Hiking sticks
- 1-2 liter water
- Raincoat in case of rain. – we walked through a cloud on the cliff which was a bit rainy
- Sport-tights and high socks – you have to walk through long grass
- Snacks – should be high energy food and some sugary snacks
- A backpack – better to bring a small one so it isn’t to heavy. We only brought 5 liter backpack.
- A camera or a smartphone with a good camera. And a GoPro if you have that
- Yo-yo card/ EasyCard
- Plastic bag for your trash – there isn’t any trash cans so you have to bring down your trash
- Band aid – I slipped on the rocks on the way down and got a scratch on my waist