lI had been to Hualien (花蓮) when I was a little kid, but don’t have any lasting impressions since I was so young. It seems that the words, “beautiful”, and “Hualien” are synonymous, and it certainly doesn’t fail to disappoint, particularly Taroko Gorge (太魯閣). Being a short train ride away from Taipei, the landscapes offer an escape from the hustle and bustle of the city with beautiful scenic views of canyon drop offs and deep valleys.
I had an opportunity to explore the area before my 3 day bike tour to the southern tip. My mother who happened to be in Taiwan at the same time was able to accompany me. Her childhood was spent in the Hualien County and I had the opportunity to visit her old stomping grounds. The transportation system isn’t as developed as Taipei City, so plan on riding taxi cabs, or plan ahead if using the public buses. Either way, it’s best to get started early to see as much as possible!
From Taipei Main Station, there are multitude of trains departing Taipei City. Book early if you can (around two weeks in advance). The road closures due to rock and mudslides will flock those who would normally drive to riding the train system. Train tickets can be found at the Taiwan Railway Administration web site.
The main springboard from Hualien to Taroko Gorge can begin at Hualien Train Station. They offer a day pass bus ticket that allows unlimited on/off privileges, where the buses arrive on the hour every hour.
Scooters can also be rented. If you have an international driver’s license, you can legally rent a gas scooter. Rentals are about $400NT for the day and gas will cost less than $100NT.
I’ll highlight a few hikes that we managed to do that day. There are others as well, but these three were said to be of the best.
Traildhead GPS: 24.161905 N, 121.612910 E
Time: ~45 minutes
This trail runs along the Skahadang river. A post hike research did not result in any historical signifigance. If anyone is more familiar with the background of this, feel free to send me a message! The hike is quick and if traveling continuously can be done within the hour to catch the next bus.
The entrance involves a caged staircase to a lower level path running parallel to the river.
Baiyang Waterfall / Water Curtain Cave (白陽步道 / 水簾洞)
Trailhead GPS: 24.185758 N , 121.489820 E
Distance: 9 km, Time: ~3 hours
This trail was recommended by the park worker at the TianXian (天祥) Tourist Center, and it was the highlight of the day. It took about 3.5 hours from the Tourist Center. The entrance of the trailhead is a little inconspicuous as it lies in the middle of the road tunnel. If you are driving, you will most likely miss it unless you are searching for it. The hike was relatively flat and quick with beautiful views.
This path was created by Taiwan Power Company to implement a hydroelectric damn in 1984 but was later cancelled. The remnants of the construction paths still remain.
From BiaYang Waterfall, the water curtain cave is 2.1K and definitely worth the trip!
Swallow Cave / Yanzikou (燕子口)
Trailhead GPS: 24.177377 N, 121.517880 E
At the entrance of Yanzikou is a suspension bridge. To limit the amount of traffic allowed, a permit is required to cross. The path along the river is neat, but after having been in a waterfall cave and been in Taroko for the entire day, the scenic novelty had begun to wore off. 😛