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Hiking and Hot Baths in Taiwan

Zhuilu Old Road-Taroko National Park

When we were planning our October trip to Taiwan, the toughest choice was choosing between a multi-day backpacking trip and a hotel based day hiking trip. We were considering between a visit to Yushan National Park and hiking to the peak of Jade Mountain (multi-day opportunities galore), and visiting Taiwan’s famous Taroko Gorge and hiking the Zhuilu Old Road Trail (spectacular day hiking).

We decided to put together two draft itineraries and submit permit applications for both Jade Mountain and Zhuilu Old Road Trail. When our Zhuilu Old Road Trail permit came through first, we withdrew our Jade Mountain application and began to plan our trip based on day hikes.

We wanted to make sure that we hit three main hikes:

  1. Takoro National Park – Zhuilu Old Road Trail (requires permit)
  2. Yushan National Park – Walami Trail
  3. Wuliaojian

Our itinerary was simply:

  1. Take the train from Taipei down to Hualien, rent a car, and explore Taroko Gorge in-depth. Hike as many of the trails as possible, with the highlight being the Zhuilu Old Road Trail.
  2. Still based in Hualien, drive south to the east side of Yushan National Park and hike the Walami Trail.
  3. Return our rental car and take the train back to Tapei to hike Wuliaojian.

Pre-Trip

Zhuilu Old Road Permit – The National Park Headquarters Park Entry Permit can be applied for 1 to 30 days in advance. Foreigners (must be ALL members of the team), can apply 4 months to 35 days before date of intended entry for weekday hikes (Monday to Thursday, excluding public holidays). Entrance is limited to 96 people on weekdays and 156 people on weekends and holidays. While it is free to apply, successful applicants must pay NT$200 / 6.5 USD each at the trailhead on the day of entry.

Hotel Reservations – Excluding our first night’s hotel in Taipei near Taipei Main Station, the main consideration for our hotels was that they have a great bathtub! We wanted to have a nice, hot soak after our hikes.

Train Tickets – Tickets can be purchased no sooner than 14 days in advance on the Taiwan Railways Administration website. It is important to pre-book because tickets to/from Hualien sell out quickly.

Rental Car – We booked our rental car through Chailease Car Rental. They are conveniently located within walking distance of Hualien Train Station. An International Driving Permit is required for US drivers – check for your country.

GPS – We used Google Earth to locate the GPS coordinates of important landmarks, waypoints, and destinations. We imported the coordinates into MapFactor.

Day 1 – Taipei

After clearing immigration at Taoyuan International Airport:

  • We recharged our EasyCard at the Airport Electronic Ticketing Joint Service Counter. In addition to the ease and time savings of using the EasyCard for transportation, there is a 20% discount when taking the metro compared to single trip ticket fares. You can also use EasyCard in designated stores for purchases.
  • We purchased a Chunghwa Telecom SIMs Card at the Chunghwa Telecom counter for safety and communication during our hikes. We selected the 7 day pass package for NT$500 / 16.5 USD. This package includes unlimited data and NT$150 / 5 USD credit for voice calls.

To get into Taipei from the airport, we took the Taoyuan Airport MRT to Taipei Main Station (NT$160 / 5.25 USD), simply tapping our EasyCard for payment. The Express train takes about 40 minutes; the Commuter takes about 50 minutes.

From Taipei Main Station we took Exit Z10, turned right, and walked to Hedo Hotel Kaifeng (NT$2500 / 82 USD). The hotel from our previous trip, Sunrise Business Hotel, was fully booked. The hotels are very close to one another and are within easy walking distance to the train station and many outstanding restaurants. We were very happy with Hedo Hotel Kaifeng, it was not as quiet as Sunrise Business Hotel, but the breakfast was terrific and started at 6:30 AM.

Before turning in to bed, we went to a 7/11 convenience store and printed our train tickets at an ibon machine (NT$8 / .25 USD per ticket). It is nice to have the tickets in-hand and to avoid the long lines at Taipei Main Station on the morning of departure. With the pre-printed ticket, you simply scan your ticket and enter the train platform.

Day 2 – Taipei to Hualien

We took the 9:20 AM Taroko Express 278 train (NT$440 / 14.5 USD each) to Hualien, arriving at 11:30 AM. Upon arrival, we walked the short distance to Chailease Car Rental (NT$1560 / 51 USD per day) and within 15 minutes had our car and were driving to our hotel.

Lakeshore Hotel Hualien

We checked into Lakeshore Hotel Hualien (NT$2588 / 85 USD per night). It is in a quiet location that is away from the busy and congested downtown and strategically situated for a quick exit toward Taroko National Park. The hotel has a fantastic restaurant and a variety nice restaurants within walking distance. By far, our favorite amenity was the bathtub with a view of the ocean. We enjoyed post-hike hot baths, while watching the ships come and go into the Port of Hualien.

After dropping our bags in our room, we headed to Taroko National Park. We started our visit at the Taroko Visitors Center, before setting off on a hike on Xiaozhuilu Trail (“Little Zhuilu”). It is a nice, short hike that begins at the visitors center. After our hike we continued exploring the park by car. There are many quick hikes and viewpoints in the park. Some are quick photo spots, some a short walk, and others a challenging hike. There are lots of in-depth resources on the website, so I will not go into detail on all of our secondary hikes and scenic stops – there are many!

Taroko National Park

Just before Swallow Grotto (Yanzikou) Trail, we stopped at the Free Helmet Borrow station and picked up helmets to wear in areas prone to rockfall (including the Zhuilu Old Road Trail). A form is filled out and you keep a copy to hand in when you return the helmet. Because we were planning to start our trips very early, before the station is open, we requested to keep the helmets overnight.

Day 3 – Hualien

This was a day to explore Taroko National Park in-depth, to enjoy the beauty of the gorge and mountains, and to get in some hiking!

Changchun (Eternal Spring) Shrine - Taroko National Park

On the previous day, the parking lot was too full at the Changchun (Eternal Spring) Shrine in the afternoon to make a stop. Arriving early allowed us to enjoy the splendid view without the crowds.

Taroko National Park

Having transportation makes it easy to design a flexible itinerary that suits your style of adventure, access areas of the park that are not serviced by bus, and to time your visit to beat the large tour groups that arrive later in the morning!

Day 4 – Hualien

We rose early and headed to Taroko National Park, excited for our hike on Zhuilu Old Road Trail. Entrance to the trail is only allowed from 7 AM to 10 AM. We aimed to enter as early as possible to maximize our time, enjoy the cool morning temperatures, and take advantage the clearer morning weather for better views.

Zhuilu Old Road-Taroko National Park

We parked our car and walked to the toll station, arriving at 6:45 AM. The ranger was already there opening up, so we submitted copies of our permit, paid NT$200 / 6.5 USD each, and were on the trail before 7AM!

Zhuilu Old Road-Taroko National Park

The trail starts by crossing the Liwu River on the Zhuilu Suspension Bridge. 3.1 km of the trail is open, the rest of trail remains closed due to rockfall. This makes the hike an in-and-out hike of just over 6 km. Not very long, but it is steep.

Zhuilu Old Road-Taroko National Park

Views of the gorge and river are fantastic from the bridge!

Zhuilu Old Road-Taroko National Park

The highlight of the hike is the 500 m long Zhuilu Cliff section. The views are spectacular and, by arriving early, we had it all to ourselves. The first people that we met arrived while we were relaxing and eating a snack at the Cliff Outpost, the end of the trail where you turn around.

Zhuilu Old Road-Taroko National Park

The historic trail was only 30 cm wide until widened in 1917 by Japanese conscripted indigenous workers. The trail is now 150 cm wide.

We really enjoyed Zhuilu Old Road Trail. I would highly recommend helmets while along the cliff face. There were small rocks falling and we could hear sand running down the side. I would also recommend starting as early as possible. Since it was still early, we only passed 3 people on the cliff face on our return trip, which is tedious and potentially dangerous. We were surprised by how many people were just 1 km in (and sitting down resting) by 11 AM. It was starting to get hot by then and clouds were starting to roll in.

Qingshui Cliff - Taroko National Park

After the hike we explored more of the gorge before driving to the famous Qingshui Cliff. Qingshui Cliff is the only coastal road in Taroko National Park and is one of Taiwan’s “Eight Wonders.”

Qingshui Cliff - Taroko National Park

There is a nice viewing platform for photography. Notice the low clouds – there would not be afternoon views at Zhuilu Cliff…

Day 5 – Hualien

While we would not get to hike Taiwan’s highest peak, Yushan (Jade Mountain), on this visit, we were excited to take a 2 hour road trip south and hike Walami Trail on the eastern side of Taiwan’s largest, highest, and least accessible national park – Yushan National Park. The park is home to over thirty peaks higher than 3,000 meters in elevation and contains 1/3 of all the mountains in Taiwan!

We began our visit by stopping at Nanan Visitor Center and picking up a very informative free map before heading to the trailhead. Since we were only doing the 9 km round-trip hike to Jiasin, we did not need a permit. If you want to continue to Walami, you will need to apply for a permit. Day passes for the 27 km round-trip hike to Walami are available at the Nanan Visitor Center if you arrive before 9 AM. To reserve a spot at Walami Cabin, you will need to apply in advance for a permit from both Yushan National Park and the National Police Agency.

Walami Trail - Yushan National Park

The trail starts with a high suspension bridge. The tired bridge in this photo has been retired since our visit. The bridge visible on the left is the new bridge built to replace it. They were actively working on it when we passed.

Walami Trail - Yushan National Park

The views of the surrounding mountains are stunning.

Walami Trail - Yushan National Park

We encountered some monkeys along the trail at the beginning. The monkeys are Formosan rock macaques, the only native monkeys found in Taiwan.

Shanfong Waterfall - Yushan National Park

Two kilometers in, a side trail leads down (steeply down) to Shanfong Waterfall. It is worth the effort. The waterfall is beautiful and there is a nice viewing platform where we were able to relax and take in the view.

Walami Trail - Yushan National Park

We loved both the trail and the views along the Walami Trail. The trail has dense tropical jungle, steep cliffs overlooking raging mountain rivers, and some of the most amazing waterfalls that we have seen – this is a great hike! We look forward to exploring more of Yushan National Park.

Nanan Falls - Yushan National Park

On our drive out, we stopped at the beautiful roadside Nanan Falls before making our way leisurely back toward Hualien and our bathtub.

Day 6 – Hualien to Taipei

We checked out of our hotel, returned our car, left our baggage at the railway station luggage room (NT$30 / 1 USD per bag), and spent the morning exploring Hualien by foot.

We took the 1:26 PM Puyuma Express 273 train to Taipei (NT$440 / 14.5 USD each). From Taipei Main Station, we took the MRT to Xinbeitou MRT Station, just a couple of minutes walk from our hotel – Chyuan Du Spring Resort (NT$3200 / 105 USD per night).

Chyuan Du Spring Resort - Beitou District, Taipei

Since both of our previous Taipei visits ended with a therapeutic hot spring soak in Beitou, we decided to book a hotel there with a hot spring tub in the room. We loved this tub!

Day 7 – Taipei

On our first visit to Taipei in 2016, we had wanted to hike Wuliaojian, considered by many to be Taipei’s best and most challenging day hike. We simply ran out of time and energy and had to leave it for another trip. We were very excited to finally return and hike to Wuliao Peak.

To reach the trail, we took the MRT to Dingpu Station and went out exit 4 to the taxi line. To communicate with the driver, I had printed some directions I found on-line: Wuliaojian Trailhead. He glanced at it and knew exactly where we wanted to go! The taxi ride took about 15 minutes to reach the trailhead (NT$350 / 11.5 USD).

The store at the trailhead sells gloves for the ropes and ladders (NT$30 / 1 USD). It is a good idea to purchase them if you do not have the calloused hands of a lumberjack.

Wuliaojian Day Hike - Taipei, Taiwan

The trail is fantastic! The fun starts right away and it does not let up. There were no boring sections. This hike is a full body workout.

Wuliaojian Day Hike - Taipei, Taiwan

The scenery was spectacular and we were very lucky to have a beautiful day.

Wuliaojian Day Hike - Taipei, Taiwan

There is a famous cliff section where you lower yourself hand-over-hand by rope. It is fun, but tiring!

Wuliaojian Day Hike - Taipei, Taiwan

This hike was just about perfect in every way – long enough (but not too long), hard enough (but not too hard), and very scenic!

Wuliaojian Day Hike - Taipei, Taiwan

There are multiple routes that you can choose. We made our hike into a loop. There are a few signs in English, but many are in Chinese only. Since they have a number corresponding to the map, it is not difficult to determine your location.

We loved our hike and agree – it may be the best one in Taipei!

Exiting the trail on the opposite side of the store than we entered, I was contemplating our return trip to Taipei. I had some ideas about how we would get back and I was eager to see which one would work – this is the part I really enjoy! My first choice was to try to catch a bus back to the MRT for variety. It was my understanding that they pass by the store infrequently – I just needed to check the time and see if it was an option. Alternatively, when we were in the taxi, I had taken one of the business cards on the back of the seat. I figured I could hand the card and my phone to the woman in the store – she would know what I wanted.

I never got to test any of my ideas. As I was peeling off my gloves and walking toward the store to buy a cold drink, a taxi (available sign lit) came flying around the bend, headed toward Taipei! Both our hands signaled at the same time and the taxi pulled over. Less than one minute after exiting the trail, we were in a taxi headed back to Dingpu Station (NT$345 / 11.3 USD). My mini-adventure was spoiled by good fortune…

Day 8 – Taipei

We checked out of Chyuan Du Spring Resort and took the MRT to Taipei Main Station.

Taipei Main Station In-Town Check-In Service

Since we wanted to enjoy some more time in Taipei without the burden of our luggage, we checked it at the Taipei Main Station In-Town Check-In Service. This free service is great, but is limited to certain airlines. Check the website for details.

Once it was time for us to head to the airport, we took the Taoyuan Airport MRT to Terminal 1.

We had another fantastic trip to Taiwan, where the hiking never disappoints. We loved that the three main hikes chosen for this trip were all vastly different and unique experiences. It never felt like we were recycling the same terrain. While we often love roughing it, it was very nice to end each days hiking with a nice hot soak!

Trip Details

  • Time of Year: October 2019
  • Length of Stay: 8 Days, 7 Nights
  • Total Trip Cost – 2 People:  1240 USD*
  • Cost Per Day / Per Person:  77.5 USD*
  • Visa Information: U.S. citizens are granted 90 days visa-free entry, Bureau of Consular Affairs

*Excluded from the cost analysis:

  • International Airfare – International airfare is not included because fares vary depending on your starting location.
  • Travel Health Insurance – Travel health insurance is not included because we have an international policy.

GPS Coordinates:Click to expand

Day 1
Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport (Terminal 1) @ 25.081006,121.236674
Taipei Main Station Exit Z10 @ 25.046993,121.513225
Hedo Hotel Kaifeng @ 25.046128,121.512766

Day 2
Taipei Railway Station (Main Station) @ 25.047749,121.517049
Hualien Station @ 23.992493,121.601299
Chailease Rental Car @ 23.99308,121.60372
Lakeshore Hotel Hualien @ 23.987034,121.622151
Taroko National Park – Taroko National Park Headquarters @ 24.158002,121.622306
Taroko National Park – Xiaozhuilu Trail @ 24.159508,121.620057
Taroko National Park – Helmet Borrow Station @ 24.172341,121.577125
Taroko National Park – Swallow Grotto Trail (Yanzikou Trail) @ 24.173573,121.563653

Day 3
Taroko National Park – Changchun (Eternal Spring) Shrine @ 24.160505,121.602193

Day 4
Taroko National Park – Zhuilu Old Road Trail @ 24.172950,121.566422
Taroko National Park – Qingshui Cliff Viewing Platform @ 24.206876,121.666375

Day 5
Yushan National Park – Nanan Visitor Center @ 23.302526,121.258843
Yushan National Park – Walami Trail – Parking @ 23.329219,121.236158
Yushan National Park – Nanan Waterfall @ 23.311121,121.248292

Day 6
Xinbeitou MRT Station @ 25.136931,121.503473
Chyuan Du Spring Resort @ 25.136330,121.504620

Day 7
Dingpu MRT Station @ 24.959359,121.419818
Wuliaojian Trailhead @ 24.8841363,121.377147
click here to collapse

You can copy and paste the latitude and longitude into Google Earth, your browser, or into your GPS.

*Disclaimer- ALWAYS verify locations, transportation routes, GPS coordinates, etc. Errors are made, routes changed, sometimes we are just plain wrong. No one knows what you like more than you. If the trip is worth doing, it is worth doing right! Do your homework.