Taroko National Park Is a Taiwan Treasure

Taroko National Park is located in Eastern Taiwan and is most famous for its geological phenomena. Most notably, the park holds marble and jade treasures which are valuable commodities. However, the area is a natural wonder and it is best left undisturbed from commercial mining.

Furthermore, Taroko National Park is quite large and it encompasses the northern section of Hualien County and small sections of Taichung City 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 Hualien city to Taroko National Park.

The main reason I visited Hualien was to surf. However, the local waves were not so good during my visit and fortunately Taroko Gorge was nearby.

Taroko Gorge

The most famous aspect of the Taroko National Park is Taroko Gorge. This spectacular geological formation was carved out by the Liwu river. Additionally, 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 in Hualien, because they probably don’t!

Navigation is pretty straight forward. As a result, you can get a good Taroko Gorge map online and it will work great! Additionally, you can get a Taroko gorge map at the park visitor center if you need one. But again, English speakers are hard to find in this area.

Taroko Gorge
The walls inside the Taroko Gorge are lined with marble. It is an amazing geological wonder at Taroko National Park.

Driving Through Taroko Gorge

The drive through the Taroko gorge is simply amazing. My friend commented that it is very similar to driving through the Swiss Alps! Indeed, the Taroko Gorge road is constructed through the vertical stone cliffs of the gorge. It is amazing construction!

Taroko Gorge Road
Approaching the “Tunnel of Nine Turns” at Taroko National Park.
Tunnel of Nine Turns - Taroko National Park
Inside the “Tunnel of Nine Turns” at Taroko National Park
Taroko National Park Tunnel
Looking back at the “Tunnel of Nine Turns” in Taroko Gorge.

The road has many viewpoints and it is possible to get out and enjoy the scenery at many points along your Taroko Gorge tour. Most certainly, 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! Indeed, Taroko National Park is earthquake prone and it is potentially dangerous.

Taroko Gorge Suspension Bridge
There are several bridges that cross over the Taroko Gorge with the river far below. You can see one of these bridges crossing Taroko Gorge in the distant background of the above photo.

The Unique 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!

Furthermore, jade deposits are common in the Taroko National Park area. As a result, Hualien has a local jade market supplied with local jade resources. Additionally, the Chinese believe that precious jade will bring luck and long life to the owner. Indeed, jade is embedded in Chinese history dating back thousands of years.

Baiyan Waterfall at Taroko National Park

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.

Baiyan Waterfall
Baiyan Falls at Taroko Gorge – Taroko National Park
Dual Baiyan Falls
The hike into Baiyan Falls is very scenic. There is a second waterfall that emerges as you are approaching the end of the trail.

Water Curtain Cave at Taroko National Park

“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.

Water Curtain Cave
It starts out pretty casual but as you drift deeper into the tunnel the water flow dramatically increases. You will soon see in the following photos why they call it “Water Curtain” Cave.
Water Curtain Cave Taroko Gorge
It is best to bring a raincoat when you visit Water Curtain Cave at Taroko National Park.
Water Curtain Cave marble
This is one element of the Taroko Gorge weather that can cause you some problems if you are not prepared.
Taroko Marble Formations
The Water Curtain Cave is carved entirely through a geologic formation of marble. These photos show the composition of the cave walls and ceiling.
Taroko Marble
A formation of Taroko Marble is displayed on the ceiling of Water Curtain Cave.
Water Curtain Cave Trail
There is a trail carved into the side of the tunnel. Unfortunately, it is not always possible to stay dry.
Slow Exposure Water Curtain Cave
I took some slow exposures to try and dramatize the environment inside Water Curtain Cave at Taroko National Park.
Water Curtain Cave Entrance
Then when you are finished just hand off your rain gear to the next visitor on their Taroko National Park tour.

Western Side of Taroko National Park

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.

Taroko National Park Road
Mother nature is always trying to reclaim the road in Taroko National Park 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!

Taroko National Park Mountains
The views are excellent looking back into the Taroko Gorge from the mountain pass in Taroko National Park.
Mountains Taroko National park
The valleys are very steep and hiking in the Taroko Gorge is a very challenging experience.