Taroko Gorge Waterfalls (太魯閣的瀑布 [Tàilǔgé de Pùbù])

Taroko Gorge National Park / Hualien City, Hualien County, Taiwan

About Taroko Gorge Waterfalls (太魯閣的瀑布 [Tàilǔgé de Pùbù])


Hiking Distance: 2.6km round trip (Swallow Grotto section only)
Suggested Time: 60-90 minutes (Swallow Grotto section only)

Date first visited: 2016-10-27
Date last visited: 2016-10-27

Waterfall Latitude: 24.16071
Waterfall Longitude: 121.60215

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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]).

Taroko_Gorge_248_10262016 - The Shrine of the Eternal Spring with one of the more permanent Taroko Gorge Waterfalls that we saw
The Shrine of the Eternal Spring with one of the more permanent Taroko Gorge Waterfalls that we saw

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.

Taroko_Gorge_149_10262016 - One of the more impressive waterfalls that we noticed amongst the myriad of waterfalls around the Swallow Grotto section of the Taroko Gorge
One of the more impressive waterfalls that we noticed amongst the myriad of waterfalls around the Swallow Grotto section of the Taroko Gorge

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.

Taroko_Gorge_005_10262016 - Looking down across a swinging bridge spanning the width of the Taroko Gorge near the Swallow Grotto section
Looking down across a swinging bridge spanning the width of the Taroko Gorge near the Swallow Grotto section

In a way, it reminded me very much of the Cares Gorge in Spain as they both featured roads or trails that used to be created for the purposes of hydroelectricity.

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.

Taroko_Gorge_028_10262016 - Looking upstream towards the tunnels and overhangs that we were about to walk through on our way to the Swallow Grotto section of the Taroko Gorge
Looking upstream towards the tunnels and overhangs that we were about to walk through on our way to the Swallow Grotto section of the Taroko 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.

Taroko_Gorge_169_10262016 - Context of the road and the gushing spring with the verticality of the Taroko Gorge at the Swallow Grotto section
Context of the road and the gushing spring with the verticality of the Taroko Gorge at the Swallow Grotto section

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).

Taroko_Gorge_185_10262016 - Context of the road skirting by the Swallow Grotto section of the Taroko Gorge and a spring seeping out of a marble cliff near the base
Context of the road skirting by the Swallow Grotto section of the Taroko Gorge and a spring seeping out of a marble cliff near the base

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.

Taroko_Gorge_188_10262016 - Looking across the Liwu River at the namesake Swallow Grottos in the Taroko Gorge where one of the holes in the cliffs there had a gushing spring emerge out of it
Looking across the Liwu River at the namesake Swallow Grottos in the Taroko Gorge where one of the holes in the cliffs there had a gushing spring emerge out of it

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.

Taroko_Gorge_070_10262016 - Some people wore hard hats while touring the precipitous Swallow Grotto section of the Taroko Gorge
Some people wore hard hats while touring the precipitous Swallow Grotto section of the Taroko Gorge

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.

Taroko_Gorge_245_10262016 - Context of the Shrine of the Eternal Spring as seen across the Liwu River in a more open part of the Taroko Gorge
Context of the Shrine of the Eternal Spring as seen across the Liwu River in a more open part of the Taroko Gorge

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.

Authorities

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.

Taroko_Gorge_002_10262016 - Looking back at a suspension bridge near the mouth of the Swallow Grotto (as we were trying to figure out where we could park the car)
Taroko_Gorge_004_10262016 - Looking back at the one-way road through the Swallow Grotto section. Note the shoulders here were not for parking
Taroko_Gorge_003_10262016 - The one-way road passing by the Swallow Grotto passed beneath overhangs so it was understandable why parking was not allowed in this section (though that didn't stop some people from parking illegally anyways)
Taroko_Gorge_018_10262016 - We briefly loitered around the cafe, where we got this view of the one-way road leading into another tunnel as it went west of the Swallow Grotto in the Taroko Gorge
Taroko_Gorge_016_10262016 - Looking across the bridge going between tunnels, which was the road that bypassed the Swallow Grotto
Taroko_Gorge_024_10262016 - Context of loads of people walking past a large rockfall shelter as we headed towards the Swallow Grotto
Taroko_Gorge_014_10262016 - Looking into the Taroko Gorge from the head of the Swallow Grotto where a clear blue river merged with the swollen and muddy (from all the rains this area was getting) Liwu River
Taroko_Gorge_030_10262016 - At first, we explored an area that seemed to go away from the Swallow Grotto section of the Taroko Gorge (though we didn't know it at the time). This was the view looking back in the direction of the cafe that we parked at
Taroko_Gorge_031_10262016 - Aimless meandering about the Swallow Grotto Area though we weren't sure if we were walking towards it or away from it. Regardless, we were about to go into the tunnel up ahead
Taroko_Gorge_032_10262016 - Looking back towards the Swallow Grotto area with the context of a tall waterfall in that direction
Taroko_Gorge_043_10262016 - Looking towards springs seeping from the base of the Taroko Gorge cliffs into the Liwu River
Taroko_Gorge_050_10262016 - Looking down at the confluence of a clearwater river and the more sedimented Liwu River near the Swallow Grotto area
Taroko_Gorge_053_10262016 - Walking along the road away from the Swallow Grotto meant passing through more shelters and tunnels like what's shown here
Taroko_Gorge_058_10262016 - It turned out we continued to walk away from the Swallow Grotto as we passed through some tunnels
Taroko_Gorge_062_10262016 - Looking along scenery typical of the Taroko Gorge as we started to make our way back towards the Swallow Grotto
Taroko_Gorge_066_10262016 - Notice how most of the other visitors were wearing hard hats while walking along and near the Swallow Grotto area
Taroko_Gorge_076_10262016 - Walking through more tunnels with glimpses of the vertical scenery as we made our way to the west of the Swallow Grotto vicinity
Taroko_Gorge_086_10262016 - Looking ahead at more of the tunnels we had the share the road with vehicles within the Taroko Gorge
Taroko_Gorge_099_10262016 - More context of the one-way road and the Taroko Gorge west of the Swallow Grotto area
Taroko_Gorge_103_10262016 - Another look at the verticality of the Taroko Gorge in the context of tunnels as we walked to the west of the Swallow Grotto area
Taroko_Gorge_109_10262016 - This was one of the waterfalls emerging as a spring coming out of the marble cliffs somewhere west of the Swallow Grotto in the Taroko Gorge
Taroko_Gorge_111_10262016 - This bend in the road towered over by vertical cliffs was as far west of the Swallow Grotto area as we walked (upon realizing our mistake) before turning back towards the Swallow Grotto
Taroko_Gorge_113_10262016 - Looking towards another one of many waterfalls emerging from the marbled cliffs of the Taroko Gorge in the area to the west of the Swallow Grotto
Taroko_Gorge_117_10262016 - Mom walking back in the direction of the Swallow Grotto section of the Taroko Gorge after having realized our mistake
Taroko_Gorge_119_10262016 - Inside one of the many tunnels within the Taroko Gorge as we were headed back towards the Swallow Grotto
Taroko_Gorge_125_10262016 - Another look at the verticality of the Taroko Gorge somewhere west of the Swallow Grotto section
Taroko_Gorge_134_10262016 - Several smaller springs emerging from the base of the Taroko Gorge cliffs in parallel while we continued to walk towards the Swallow Grotto section
Taroko_Gorge_137_10262016 - Walking in the direction of the Swallow Grotto finally
Taroko_Gorge_140_10262016 - Looking down at one of the natural waterfalls spilling into a clearwater plunge pool while flanked by springs emerging from the marble cliffs of the Taroko Gorge near the Swallow Grotto
Taroko_Gorge_145_10262016 - Looking right across the head of the Swallow Grotto section towards an attractively tall waterfall with multiple drops above it
Taroko_Gorge_158_10262016 - Context of one of the waterfalls coming out of the base of the cliffs in the Swallow Grotto section and the road across the Liwu River
Taroko_Gorge_162_10262016 - Another look back at the attractive tall waterfall around the Swallow Grotto section showing more drops even higher up from the main drop at the bottom
Taroko_Gorge_166_10262016 - Looking along more springs emerging from the base of the marble cliffs of the Taroko Gorge by the Swallow Grotto
Taroko_Gorge_174_10262016 - Checking out more waterfalls emerging as springs in the Swallow Grotto area. This one gushed beneath an alcove
Taroko_Gorge_182_10262016 - Looking towards the gushing spring and the Swallow Grottos above it
Taroko_Gorge_191_10262016 - Closer examination of the gushing spring coming out of one of the Swallow Grotto holes or caves as seen from across the Liwu River
Taroko_Gorge_198_10262016 - Profile view looking back down at the gushing spring and other remnants of the Swallow Grotto above it
Taroko_Gorge_199_10262016 - Walking beneath the rock overhangings towards the mouth of the Swallow Grotto section
Taroko_Gorge_205_10262016 - Looking across a swinging bridge traversing the Taroko Gorge perhaps allowing people to visit a different section of the Swallow Grotto from the other side of the river
Taroko_Gorge_210_10262016 - Checking out the suspension bridge spanning the Liwu River at the mouth of the Swallow Grotto. Apparently, you needed a permit to cross this bridge and go onto the more rugged mountain trail on the other side
Taroko_Gorge_214_10262016 - After turning around at the suspension bridge, we were now walking along the direction of the one-way road through the Swallow Grotto section
Taroko_Gorge_223_10262016 - After having our fill of the Swallow Grotto area, we then regained the car and headed back east.  This was some side cascade near a dam that we noticed while driving through the Taroko Gorge between the Swallow Grotto and the Shrine of the Eternal Spring
Taroko_Gorge_229_10262016 - Checking out the Shrine of the Eternal Spring and its waterfall
Taroko_Gorge_233_10262016 - More contextual look at the Shrine of the Eternal Spring
Taroko_Gorge_237_10262016 - Looking up towards a temple way above the Shrine of the Eternal Spring
Taroko_Gorge_260_10262016 - Fast exposure shot of the Shrine of the Eternal Spring and its waterfall
Taroko_Gorge_267_10262016 - Focused on just part of the waterfall running beneath the Shrine of the Eternal Spring
Taroko_Gorge_273_10262016 - More angled look at the Shrine of the Eternal Spring and its waterfall as we walked to a bridge to see if it was possible to get closer to this shrine
Taroko_Gorge_277_10262016 - Vertical context of the Shrine of the Eternal Spring and its waterfall as we continued to check if it was possible to walk closer
Taroko_Gorge_278_10262016 - Looking up at the context of the temple high above the Shrine of the Eternal Spring
Taroko_Gorge_279_10262016 - When we went for a closer look at the Shrine of the Eternal Spring, we noticed this pathway across the road bridge
Taroko_Gorge_282_10262016 - However, the path leading to the Shrine of the Eternal Spring was closed during our visit
Taroko_Gorge_283_10262016 - Noticing some red characters written before the Shrine of the Eternal Spring
Taroko_Gorge_287_10262016 - More contextual look at the red Chinese characters written before the Shrine of the Eternal Spring and its waterfall

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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]).

Hualien_Train_048_10262016 - Looking back in the direction of the Qingshui Cliffs while taking the train between Taipei and Hualien
Looking back in the direction of the Qingshui Cliffs while taking the train between Taipei and Hualien

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.

We did so by catching one of the two-hour trains from Songshan Station (松山車站 [Sōngshān chēzhàn]) in Taipei to the Hualien Station (花蓮車站 [Huālián chēzhàn]) in Hualien City (花蓮市 [Huālián Shì]).

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.

Hualien_002_10262016 - Looking back at the Hualien Station
Looking back at the Hualien Station

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

Taroko_Gorge_209_10262016 - This was the fork near the entrance to the Swallow Grotto area, where we kept right onto the one-way road and avoided the tunnel
This was the fork near the entrance to the Swallow Grotto area, where we kept right onto the one-way road and avoided the tunnel

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]).

Taroko_Gorge_006_10262016 - Technically, you can't park long term in this part of the road by the Swallow Grotto section of the Taroko Gorge so we had to keep going to find more legitimate parking spaces
Technically, you can’t park long term in this part of the road by the Swallow Grotto section of the Taroko Gorge so we had to keep going to find more legitimate parking spaces

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.

Taroko_Gorge_008_10262016 - We managed to find parking near this cafe within walking distance of the Swallow Grotto section of the Taroko Gorge
We managed to find parking near this cafe within walking distance of the Swallow Grotto section of the Taroko Gorge

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.

Taroko_Gorge_290_10262016 - The lookout adjacent to the car park with a nice view across the Liwu River towards the Shrine of the Eternal Spring
The lookout adjacent to the car park with a nice view across the Liwu River towards 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).

180 degree sweep examining the so-called potholes or springs at the base of the Taroko Gorge at the Swallow Grotto


Checking out an attractive waterfall at the Swallow Grotto part of the Taroko Gorge


Sweep checking out the waterfalls beneath the Shrine of the Eternal Spring in the Taroko Gorge

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Tagged with: hualien, taroko, gorge, waterfalls, marble, canyon, liwu, river, taiwan, eternal spring, shrine, changchun



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Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
Read More About Johnny | A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls.