About Taroko Gorge Waterfalls (太魯閣的瀑布 [Tàilǔgé de Pùbù])
The Taroko Gorge Waterfalls (太魯閣的瀑布 [Tàilǔgé de Pùbù]) were my excuse to celebrate the many unnamed and named waterfalls in Taiwan’s most famous natural attraction.
The Taroko Gorge itself featured very tall vertical-walled gorges composed of marble and cut primarily by the Liwu River (立霧溪 [Lìwū Xī]).
Our October 2016 visit to the Taroko Gorge was a bit disjointed mainly because of safety closures.
The original intent of this write-up was to discuss the Baiyang Waterfall, which was perhaps the most significant of the waterfalls in the Taroko Gorge.
Unfortunately, the verticality of the gorge combined with the unusually warm Summer and Autumn resulted in several thunderstorms and typhoons that battered Taiwan.
This resulted in landslides that limited access along Hwy 8, and it ultimately caused the closure of the trail to the Baiyang Waterfall.
Heck, we couldn’t even get to the village of Tianxiang [天祥 or Tiānxiáng]; meaning “Heaven-like”, I think).
So we’ll break up this page into sections of specific walks or excursions in the gorge.
I’m sure it’s due for a re-write, especially if we’re fortunate enough to finally come back and do the Baiyang Waterfall.
Experiencing the Taroko Gorge – Walking around the Swallow Grotto Area
We drove part of the Cross-Island Highway (Hwy 8) that went within the gorge making for a vertigo-inducing and neck-cranking experience.
The Taroko Gorge felt a little more developed because they let vehicular traffic (including tour buses) through the narrow roads while the Cares Gorge was foot traffic only.
Nonetheless, they both featured many tunnels and suspension bridges as well as a series of waterfalls plunging right into the depths of the gorge.
Perhaps from a waterfalling standpoint, the waterfalls of the Taroko Gorge were more legitimate as they weren’t primarily caused by overflow spillage from ditches like in the Cares Gorge.
Instead, many of these waterfalls came from springs where water would emerge from potholes within the marble in addition to the conventional waterfalls tumbling down grooves and gullies in the cliffs as well.
Once we managed to find parking as deep into the Taroko Gorge as we could (given the circumstances), we found ourselves somewhere near the so-called Swallow Grotto (燕子口 [Yànzǐkou]) area and walked around the immediate area.
Parking was only available in designated spots (basically where the lines along the road were not red; see directions below).
We wound up walking about a length of 2.6km round trip (or 1.3km in each direction), and this was reflected in the walking difficulty rating you see at the top of this page.
During this walk, we pretty much went through sections where vehicular traffic was limited or closed off.
So we found ourselves walking through tunnels, beneath overhangs, and enjoying the verticality of the marble gorge itself.
As far as waterfall highlights were concerned, we did encounter a couple of notable unnamed ones that were definitely natural, but they were side waterfalls that ultimately fed the Liwu River.
I wondered whether such sights that we enjoyed on this walk would have been doable under more normal circumstances (i.e. the road being open).
That’s because during our walk, I noticed that roadside pullouts were quite few and far between on the narrow (mostly one-way) roads.
Perhaps a happen medium between walking and driving would have been to explore the area by bicycle.
Something quirky that we saw during our walk was that most of the visitors were wearing hard hats to apparently minimize injury should a rock fall on you.
Mom and I wondered if even those helmets would be of any help should one be unfortunate enough to have a rock fall hundreds of meters onto one’s head.
I guess in the off-chance the rocks were the size of a golf ball or smaller then perhaps the helmets would be of help.
However, if it’s any kind of rock the size of a tennis ball or bigger, then I don’t think the helmet will help much in terms of preventing a fatality.
Not everyone wore one of these hard hats, but they were offered for free near the mouth of the Swallow Grotto area (there may be other spots where they’re distributed).
So that underscored the inherent danger of being within this area, but I’ve learned that often the most beautiful places in the world also tend to be the most deadly.
After all, the very forces that created such scenery also tended to be the same forces that could be destructive as well.
Experiencing the Taroko Gorge – the Shrine of the Eternal Spring
During our semi-auto-tour of the Taroko Gorge, we also stopped by the permanent waterfall tumbling beneath the Shrine of the Eternal Spring (長春祠 [Chángchūn cí]; see picture at the top of this page).
There was a fair bit of parking around a cafe with a nice view of the waterfall.
We also noticed that there was a walk that eventually led to the shrine itself.
Unfortunately, that trail was closed during our October 2016 visit so all we could do was to enjoy the view across the Liwu River from the road.
Maybe on a return visit, they might re-open the trails here so we could more intimately experience this shrine and the waterfall tumbling beneath it.
By the way, the Shrine of the Eternal Spring was built in order to commemorate the people who have lost their lives building the 192km Cross-Island Highway that includes this stretch through the Taroko Gorge.
The Taroko Gorge Waterfalls reside in the Taroko Gorge National Park near the city and county of Hualien, Taiwan. It is administered by the Taiwan National Government. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, you can try visiting the Taroko Gorge National Park website.
We made our visit to the Taroko Gorge and its waterfalls (太魯閣 [Tàilǔgé]) by self-driving so this is how I’ll describe the directions.
That said, most visitors (especially international visitors) visit the Taroko Gorge by taking a bus from Hualien (花蓮 [Huālián]).
Prior to hiring a rental car within the city of Hualien (within a block or two from the train station), we actually took mass transit from Taipei to Hualien.
Then, many buses leave from the station and head to the Taroko Gorge.
There were also many taxis waiting for people wanting a more customized experience on the fly without renting a car.
Thus, transportation logistics didn’t seem to be an issue regardless of whether or not you have your own vehicle.
However, I’ve observed that the buses tended to leave you towards the mouth of the Taroko Gorge.
Thus, any further exploration would require walking a long ways to get deeper into the gorge as well as walking back out.
I’d say you would need a minimum of a half-day to even appreciate the Taroko Gorge, but you’d probably need more time than that to give yourself the chance to explore the best parts of the Taroko Gorge.
Driving from Hualien to the Taroko Gorge
Anyways, once we picked up the car rental from Hualien, we then drove about 19km north along the Tai 9 (台力) Route to the mouth of the Taroko Gorge.
We then followed the signs and kept left to go into the gorge along the Tai-8 (台八) Highway.
We probably could have also crossed the Liwu River’s mouth on the right to continue on Tai-9 and then turn left to go into the gorge from the other side of the river).
Anyways, after another 3km or so, we kept right and crossed over a smaller bridge to continue west along the north side of the Liwu River (立霧溪 [Lìwū Xī]).
Note that the visitor center was just to the west of the north side of the bridge, which was where we saw lots of buses drop people off.
Then, after 9km we kept right at a fork (instead of heading into the tunnel on the left), which was the one-way entrance to the Swallow Grotto (燕子口 [Yànzǐkou]) part of the gorge.
We definitely noticed foot traffic in this part, but parking wouldn’t be for another 1km where there was a cafe and several shoulders to park the car.
This was where we left the car and walked back towards the Swallow Grotto.
Overall, this drive took us around 45 minutes to cover the 32km distance.
Driving from the Swallow Grotto to the Shrine of the Eternal Spring
When we regained the car after visiting the Swallow Grotto, we then got out of the one-way section another 120m or so further before turning left to go east on Tai-8.
We then continued east on Tai-8 for around 6km before keeping right at a fork (to void the tunnel on the left).
This fork led a further 1.5km to the parking for the Shrine of the Eternal Spring.
After our having our fill of this spot, we were able to continue driving east to leave the gorge and eventually re-join the Tai-9 highway going south back towards Hualien.
Just to give you some geographical context, the city of Hualien was the main base for excursions into the Taroko Gorge. Hualien was 98km (over 2 hours drive) south of the Su’ao Township, 122km south of Yilan City (over 2.5 hours drive or less than an hour by train), and 173km south of Taipei (over 3 hours drive or 2 hours by train).
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