Hualien Taroko Gorge National Park (花蓮太魯閣國家公園)
Named after the local Truku aboriginal tribe, Taroko National Park is one of Taiwan’s most beautiful sights. Created by the continual rising of the mountains combined with the erosive power of the Liwu River, Taroko Gorge with its tall, almost flat walls are a true marvel to view. Besides the gorge, other attractions include aboriginal settlements, temples, museums, and numerous hiking trails for visitors to experience the true beauty of mountainous Hualien County and eastern Taiwan.
Sized at 920SQ KM, Taroko National Park covers areas that are now part of Hualien County (花蓮縣), Nantou County (南投縣), and Taichung City (台中市).
Attractions in the park along road PH8 are listed lower on this page.
Formally established on 28 November, 1986, the park’s opening was a milestone for the environmental protection movement in Taiwan. As a side effect of Taiwan’s miraculous economic growth as one of the 4 Asian Tigers over the previous decades, serious damage has been done to the island’s natural resources. A government initiative started in 1972 to designate some of Taiwan’s magnificent scenic areas into the current 9 national parks has helped to preserve the integrity of these regions as well as facilitate scientific research, conserve natural resources and protect wildlife, and promote environmental education.
Entrance to the park is free.
In Taroko National Park, there are a total of 3 hotels: the iconic Silks Place Taroko Hotel at Tianxiang, the aboriginal-staffed and themed Leader Village Hotel on the mountaintop at Buluowan, and the Tianxiang Youth Activity Center (Hostel). Staying in Hualien City provides more choice and availability, although it is a distance from the park. The closer Xincheng Taroko Train Station also has an availability of minsu (民宿) style accommodation.
How was the Taroko Gorge formed geologically?
Around 4 million years ago, the Philippine Oceanic Plate and Eurasian Continental Plate collided, rising thick layers of limestone rock from the ocean high up into the sky to heights over 3,000 metres. This phenomenon, combined with high pressures from the reactions, caused the original limestone rock to turn into marble through the process of metamorphism, with the erosive power of the Liwu River (立霧溪) forming the gorge valley. To this day, the walls of gorge are still rising at the rate of about 0.5CM per year, while the river basin has become deeper and deeper.
There is a wide range of wildlife in the park, including 34 species of mammals unique to Taiwan such as the Taiwanese black bear, Formosan Macaque (a type of monkey), serow (an animal similar to a goat and antelope), wild boar, and deer, as well as 144 species of birds including the Formosan blue magpie, finches, Swinhoe’s pheasant, and Formosan Laughingthrush (a medium-size land bird). Around half of the mammal and butterfly species and roughly 90% of the bird species on Taiwan can be found in Taroko.
Since the elevation of the park ranges from sea level up to 3700 metres, the park includes several different climate zones which provide varying habitats for many different types of flora and plant life, including Taroko oak, Chinese photon, dwarf bamboo, fir, hemlock, alpine juniper, pine, and spruce. Around 1/3 of the vascular-stem plant species endemic to Taiwan can be found inside the park.
Access to certain trails requires a permit from park authorities. These applications can be made online, however, most trails of interest to casual visitors along road PH8 do not require a permit, including Shakadang Trail, Eternal Spring Shrine Trail, Buluowan Recreational Area and Trail, Huoran Pavilion Trail, Baiyang (Waterfall) Trail, Lianhua Pond Trail, Hehuan East Peak , Hehuan Main Peak and Mt. Shimen Trail. Mt. Zhuilu Old Road Trail (exiting over the bridge at Swallow Grotto Yanzikou) does require a permit. Do note that venturing more than 50 metres beyond posted trails requires a permit.
List of Attractions along Route PH8
|Taroko National Park East Gate Elevation: 60M PH8 Marker: 186.5KM|
|Eternal Spring Shrine (長春祠, Changchun Shrine) Elevation: 85M PH8 Marker: 184.2KM|
|Xipan Tunnel, Access to Buluowan (布洛灣) Elevation: 230M PH8 Marker: 179.2KM|
|Swallow Grotto Trail (燕子口步道, Yanzikou) Elevation: 247M PH8 Marker: 178.8KM|
|Jinheng Bridge (靳珩橋) Elevation: 250M PH8 Marker: 178.3KM|
|Tunnel of Nine Turns Trail (九曲洞步道) Elevation: 300M PH8 Marker: 179.4KM|
|Cimu Bridge and Pavilion (慈母橋) Elevation: 390M PH8 Marker: 172KM|
|Lüshui (綠水) Elevation: 410M PH8 Marker: 171.5KM|
|Tianxiang Village (天祥) Elevation: 480M PH8 Marker: 169KM|
|Baiyang Trail (白楊步道) Elevation: 480M PH8 Marker: 170KM|
Visitors who intend on traveling between Taichung (台中), Qingjing Farm (清境農場, Cingjing), Nantou (Sun Moon Lake (日月潭), etc.) and Taroko should be aware that it may be easier to first transit through Taipei City (台北市) due to the fairly difficult drive through the mountains and the convenience of train and high speed rail (HSR) services.
During the Japanese occupation era, the area was zoned as the Tsugitaka-Taroko National Park (次高タロコ国立公園), however, after the transfer of Taiwan to the Republic of China government in 1945, the park was discontinued until its reestablishment in 1986.
Official Park Regulations
- Burning or slashing vegetation
- Hunting or fishing
- Polluting the air or water
- Felling trees or plucking plants
- Defacing trees, rocks, or sign boards
- Driving off the road
- Other prohibitions made by the administrative authorities