Taroko National Park
Taroko National Park is located in Eastern Taiwan and is most famous for its geological phenomenon. Most notably, the park holds marble and jade treasures which are valuable commodities. Although the area is also a natural wonder and it is best left undisturbed. Taroko National Park is quite large and it encompasses Hualien County, Taichung Municipality and Nantou County.
The drive from Taipei to Taroko Gorge is rather long. Therefore, it is not possible to visit the park and return to Taipei in the same day. However, I was staying in Hualien for a month and fortunately it was a short drive from there to Taroko National Park. The main reason I visited Hualien was to surf. The waves were not so good during my visit and fortunately Taroko Gorge was nearby.
The most famous aspect of the park is Taroko Gorge. The spectacular geological formation was carved out by the Liwu river. The canyon and surrounding area is most noted for its large marble deposits. The marble is most evident from the road and therefore it is not necessary to walk very far to enjoy the natural phenomenon.
To enjoy your Taroko Gorge tour you can go with a tour group or rent your own vehicle in Hualien. Rentals are easy to find but it helps if you have a friend who speaks Mandarin. Don’t expect anyone to speak English because they probably don’t! I used google for my Taroko Gorge map it worked great! You can also get a Taroko gorge map at the park visitor center if you need one.
The drive through the gorge is amazing. My friend commented that it is very similar to driving through the Swiss Alps! The road is literally dug straight into the side of the gorge. It is amazing construction!
Approaching The “Tunnel of Nine Turns”
Inside the “Tunnel of Nine Turns”
Looking back at The “Tunnel of Nine Turns”
The road has many viewpoints. As a result, it is possible to get out and enjoy the scenery at many points along your Taroko Gorge tour. Therefore, the views are amazing with lots of photo opportunities! It is incredible how they built the tunnels in Taroko Gorge without causing them to collapse!
The Geology of Taroko Gorge
The “Marble Gorge” is the unofficial name because of the abundance of marble in the area. The Taroko marble formations are the product of 200 million years of geological evolution. First sediment collected on the sea floor and over the next 100 million years it was transformed into limestone. The limestone was metamorphosed into marble due to another 100 million years of tectonic thrusting and pressure. Furthermore, this thrusting still exists and as a result the mountains are still rising around the gorge at .5 cm annually!
Another worthwhile adventure in Taroko Gorge is the hike into Baiyan Waterfall. This trail is pretty mild and the slope is moderate. As a result, this makes for some easy hiking in stark contrast to some of the other trails in the park.
Water Curtain Cave
Water curtain cave is another fun easy access adventure. Fortunately, this attraction is located close to Baiyan Waterfall. Therefore, you can tour both these locations in the same afternoon. Basically, water curtain cave is a long cave in which water has found its way into the cracks in the ceiling and walls. As a result, you better bring some rain gear or if you are lucky you can borrow some at the cave entrance.
It starts out pretty casual but as you drift deeper into the tunnel the water flow dramatically increases. This is one element of the Taroko Gorge weather that can cause you some problems if you are not prepared.
The cave is carved entirely through a geologic formation of marble. These photos show the composition of the cave walls and ceiling.
There is a trail carved into the side of the tunnel. Unfortunately, it is not always possible to stay dry.
I took some slow exposures to try and dramatize the environment.
Then when you are finished just hand off your rain gear to the next visitor on their Taroko National Park tour.
Driving Past Taroko Gorge
If you keep going up the road through Taroko Gorge you will eventually encounter a mystical mountain land. If you don’t have a Taroko Gorge map, it isn’t necessary. Just keep driving up the road through the park because it is a gorge, there is only one way in and one way out. However, the road is not a dead end. If you follow it you will eventually cross the mountain pass and arrive in Taichung City. From Taroko Park Kaohsiung can also be reached by using this road. However, this would be a really long drive!
This area is amazing and the work that went into building the road was a super human effort. However, mother nature is always trying to reclaim it and it appears that the landslide I encountered is a fairly common occurrence.
Landslide notwithstanding, the views up here were amazing. However, watch out for the truck drivers on these narrow roads. They yield to no one!