A full day of hiking in the famous Taroko Gorge
We thought traveling through Taroko National Park would be the highlight of our trip, the reason that everything was planned around for the right weather conditions. To be honest, the park is very popular and overrun. The narrow gorge and roads cannot handle this amount of buses and cars. Busses and vans block most of the parking areas from midday onwards. On the other hand, roads are rebuilt always and everywhere. The results are huge traffic jams in the gorge. Roads are sometimes closed for half an hour to an hour. We stuck twice in such a road closure on our way through Taroko to Hehuanshan and back.
All spectacular hikes were either closed since 2015 which was mentioned in my Rough Guide, or you need a permit which is almost impossible to get. You need to apply a minimum of three days before at the National Headquarter and the police. A part is also online possible to request, but how should you know when the weather permits. Some people take a guide in Taroko, but this is quite expensive.
During breakfast, we discussed with our Stick-On B&B host the situation in the gorge. Luckily, he had known some spectacular hikes which don’t require a permit. Three of these trails sound liked what we were looking for. Unfortunately, the most interesting one is too far in the north, and we didn’t want to stick in a traffic jam again. The other two were close to the entrance of the park.
The Shakadang Trail is 4 km one way, and only the first 500 meters are crowded. We started early, and there were still several parking places available. The trail leads along the Shakadang river. It offers stunning scenery and ample opportunities for photography. The trail and parking area were quite busy when we finished at midday.
After our self-cooked lunch, we made a stop at the Changuang Temple. From here leads a short trail above a suspension bridge to the Bell Tower. Unfortunately, the path to the Eternal Spring Shrine was closed.
In the afternoon we did the other recommended trail next to the visitor center. The trail is called Dekalun. This hike was unspectacular and wide at the beginning. There were shortcuts along with a water pipeline which was more fun to hike. This made our day. The last exit from the well-maintained trail was the beginning of a not marked loop trail. Always steep up with hands and feet above roots, rocks and slippery soil. By the time we met a resting man. We were lucky this trail exists, and we are not alone. Later we met a group of men resting on a platform. We greeted, asked if this is the right way and continued. Luckily, we used a mobile hiking app which is always helpful as well. When we came to a crossing we had to decide further up to the village Dali or along the loop trail back to the visitor center. The men we passed by before arrived and explained they are police officers. They showed respect for our climbing performance and suggested to turn back and due to the time and the predicted rain. We decided to follow their advice. The Dali trail wasn't steep at the beginning until we approached a long staircase with more than 1000 steps down always zigzagging which was the best option to get back.
We are sure that Taiwan holds many more hiking pearls like the ones we discovered, but they are often difficult to find or the trails are not marked.