Taroko Gorge National Park

Can I take the Train to Taroko National Park?

I am in Taipei, Taiwan. Can I take the train to Taroko National Park? That was the first question I researched after booking my trip to Taiwan. I learned that Getting to Taroko National Park from Taipei should be relatively easy. There were two main methods of transportation I found online, bus and train.

The bus sounded miserable, so I booked a train ticket in advance. All of the faster express trains were already booked, so I had to take a local train. It was unfortunate because the local trains make many more stops and turn a two-hour journey into a three-and-a-half-hour journey. It would take closer to four hours before I arrived at Hualien Station, which was the closest station to Taroko National Park.

I began my journey with a 4:30 am wake-up and was at the Taipei Train Station by 5:30 am. To save time, I had retrieved my ticket the day before from a “Chinese Language Only” Vending Machine with some assistance from a nice lady. Accessing my ticket was difficult as I kept entering my ticket number when it wanted my passport number to verify my identity. Thankfully, finding my train was very easy, and I learned that I did not need to arrive at 5:30 am for a 6:25 train. I believe arriving fifteen minutes before my train’s departure would have been plenty of time.

Boarding the train from Taipei to Hualien was easy as the seats were assigned. I was assigned car 8, seat 51. On the trains in Taiwan, odd numbers are aisle seats and even numbers window seats. Boarding locations were marked in both Chinese and English, and everyone was lined up when the train arrived. Boarding only took about 60 seconds, and the train was moving before I was even able to sit down in my seat.

Waiting for the Train from Taipei, Taiwan to Taroko National Park
It was Easy to Find the Train as the Signs Switched from Manderin to English

How to Visit Taroko National Park from Taipei - Table of Contents

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How Comfortable is the Train Ride from Taipei to Taroko National Park?

The search I should have typed in Google before purchasing a train ticket is how comfortable is the train ride from Taipei to Taroko National Park. Now I am not afraid to admit that I am a spoiled traveler. I usually have extra legroom seats on planes, nice hotel rooms, and rarely take a train any type of distance. Within a few minutes of finding my seat, I realized that I was already pretty miserable on the train. I felt sick due to the constant side-to-side movement of the train. While there was enough legroom, I felt sick for almost the entire journey from Taipei to Hualien Station.

During my ride, I spent most of my time researching how to get to Taroko National Park from Hualien Station. There were two options, hiring a taxi driver as a local guide or taking the Hop-On/Hop-Off Bus. It would cost around NT$250 (USD$9) for the Hop-On/Hop-Off Bus or NT$3,000 (USD$105) for a taxi driver.

I decided to save money and go with the Hop-On/Hop-Off Bus. If I could survive the bumpy train ride, I could certainly survive a 30 to the 45-minute bus ride from the Hualien train station to Taroko National Park.

The Local Train from Taipei to Hualien Station
Local Train from Taipei Main to Hualien Station

As the train continued to sway from side to side, I decided to do a little more research on Taroko National Park. I typed into my phone, “can you fly from Taipei to Taroko National Park?” I was surprised to see that there was an airport in Hualien and that it was only about ten minutes from the entrance to the park. I then checked to see how much it would cost to fly back to Taipei instead of taking the train. To my surprise, it was only NT$990 (USD$35) to fly back to Taipei on Uni Air. I booked the flight right away and received an instant confirmation via email. As my train journey continued, I was even able to check-in for my flight using Uni’s Mobile App.

I now had two ways home: a train ticket and a plane ticket. The most significant advantage to the plane was that I could spend extra time at Taroko National Park as the flight departed two hours later than the scheduled departure time of the train.

How to Get to Taroko National Park from Hualien Station?

I arrived at Hualien Train Station with my return plans finalized and set out to purchase the Hop-On/Hop-Off Bus Pass. The bus terminal was a short walk from the train station and was easily found. The bus agent spoke very little English, but I was able to communicate that I wanted a one-day pass. There was a QR Code on the pass that allowed me to access an English Version digitally.

I waited about 20 minutes for the bus to arrive and befriended a Taiwanese University Student. He was in his 3rd year at National Taiwan University (Taiwan’s Top College) and spoke perfect English. My new friend was also visiting the park alone and would be meeting a friend later in the evening at the beach. We talked about Taiwan, education/work, and his favorite subject: the NBA.

It took 35 minutes to get from Hualien Station to the entrance of Taroko National Park. The bus stopped at the visitor’s center and me and my new friend decided we would stick together.

The Main Entrance to Taroko National Park
The Main Entrance to Taroko National Park

What Should I See at Taroko National Park?

After a quick stop at the Taroko National Park Visitors’ Center, my new friend and I set out to tour the park. Taroko National Park is huge, and it would be impossible to see everything in six hours. We decided to focus on three main areas of the park, which will be featured below. Each of the three areas would be accessible via the Hop-On/Hop-Off Bus. I must say that despite the conveniences of the busses, they were still a little confusing. Two companies serve the park, and the tickets are not transferrable between companies.

The first bus that arrived was from the other company. Rather than wait for a bus from our company we jumped on the other company’s bus. There was a cost of NT$40 to board. The bus would wind through Taroko National Park on a very narrow road making various stops along the way. We chose the Swallow Grotto Trail as our first site to visit.

The Beginning of the Swallow Grotto Trail at Taroko National Park
The Beginning of the Swallow Grotto Trail at Taroko National Park

The Swallow Grotto Trail at Taroko Gorge

The Swallow Grotto Trail takes about 30 minutes each direction and provides beautifully stunning views of Taroko Gorge.  After departing the bus, we walked nearly half a mile or so up a winding path along the main road.  There were many spots to stop and take pictures, and even when we had to go through a tunnel, there were areas cut out of the rocks to be able to look and take pictures.

The trail passed a suspension bridge that was closed to tourists unless they applied for a special permit and a terrifying zip line.  Towards the end of the walking path, there were restrooms and a snack area.  We took this opportunity to fill up on drinks as it was sweltering.  The air temperature was around 90 degrees Fahrenheit, and the heat index was easily 110.  Lucky for us, the trail was in the shade, and it was very windy.  The wind made the conditions still uncomfortably hot but bearable.

At the end of the trail, we noticed the one flaw in this beautiful park.  Instead of having another bus stop nearby, we had to turn around and walk back to where we had been dropped off.  It was at this point that we met another solo traveler and our group of two became three.  We made it back just in time to catch the bus and went off to our second stop. 

The Suspension Bridge at Taroko Gorge was Closed to Visitors Without a Permit
The Suspension Bridge was Closed to Visitors Without a Permit
Taroko Gorge and the Suspension Bridge Seen from the Swallow Grotto Trail
Taroko Gorge and the Suspension Bridge Seen from the Swallow Grotto Trail

Taiwanese Monkeys at Taroko Gorge National Park

The next part of our visit to Taroko National Park took us to the very end of the long windy road.  We had decided to view Baiyang Waterfall through the Baiyang Waterfall Trail.  Unfortunately, we were unable to do so due to road construction.  Road crews have been working on the Taroko National Park main highway all summer, and due to the narrowness of the road, they had to continually close it down for an hour at a time to work.  

After a 45 minute ride to the viewing point, we learned that we would have to wait 1 hour before we could pass to get down to the trail.  We decided to skip the waterfall trail as we were already running short on time.  I was pretty disappointed as I would now only see two of my three chosen sites, but then I saw something move in a nearby tree.

Right above us, there was an entire group of Formosan Rock Macaques or Taiwanese Monkeys.  I was amazed to be able to be so close to them and quickly took out my zoom lens and began taking pictures.  My two friends that I had made were not as impressed.  I was disappointed to miss the waterfall but super excited to see the monkeys chasing each other and jumping from tree to tree at such a close vantage point.  

Taiwanese Monkey Seen at Taroko Gorge National Park
Taiwanese Macaque Seen at Taroko Gorge National Park
Taiwanese Macaque Seen at Taroko Gorge National Park
Taiwanese Macaque at Taroko Gorge National Park
Baby Taiwanese Macaque at Taroko Gorge National Park
Baby Taiwanese Macaque at Taroko Gorge National Park

Eternal Spring Shrine at Taroko Gorge National Park

After viewing the monkeys for some time, we decided to go back towards the beginning of the park.  The highlight of the park is the Eternal Spring Shrine which is dedicated to the 200+ brave workers who died building the road that travels through the gorge.  The bus stops a bit away from the shrine allowing tourists to get a good view from the distance.  Also visible is the Old Changchun Bridge.  After taking a few pictures from far away, we walked towards the bridge where there is a path that leads up to the shrine. 

We took some more pictures at the base of the shrine and then worked our through a small tunnel to get to the top.  Inside the shrine is the name of every worker that died to construct the road.  The memorial is an active place of worship, so it was important to be respectful and not get in the way of any of the worshippers.

Eternal Springs Shrine at Taroko Gorge National Park
Eternal Springs Shrine
Taroko National Park Memorial
Inside the Shrine are the Names of All the Workers Who Died Building the Road
Old Changchun Bridge at Taroko Gorge National Park
Old Changchun Bridge

Visiting Qixingtan Beach After a Tour of Taroko Gorge

Qixingtan Beach Panoramic View

At this point, it was getting late, and if I were going to make my flight, it would be time to exit the park.  My friend had an idea that we should stop at Qixingtan Beach on the way back where he was meeting his friend.  It was closer to the airport than the main bus station, and a taxi ride would only take a few minutes. Qixingtan Beach was on the Pacific Ocean and seemed like a popular place for casual walking, beach activities, and working out.  Even a local basketball team was doing some conditioning on the beach.  The waves were at least 3-5 footers, so there was not much swimming going on.  The waves may have been high as a result of a Typhoon out in the open Pacific.  I walked around the beach for about an hour, said goodbye to my new friend, and took the taxi to Hualien Airport.

Taiwan's Qixingtan Beach
Qixingtan Beach
Palm Trees at Taiwan's Qixingtan Beach
View from the Parking Lot
Taiwan's Qixingtan Beach
Qixingtan Beach
Walking Path at Taiwan's Qixingtan Beach
Walking Path
Walking Path at Taiwan's Qixingtan Beach
Walking Path
Qixingtan Beach Sign
Qixingtan Beach Sign

Taroko National Park - Should I Take a Tour?

There are numerous tour options of Taroko National Park. I didn’t realize how massive the park was, and I may have been able to see more of it had I booked a tour. That being said, a lot of the fun, in my opinion, is exploring the park without a guide.

If you are interested in a tour, I have linked a few options below. I am an affiliate partner of Viator. If you book a tour using one of the links below, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. I would greatly appreciate it if you would consider booking using one of my links.

Prices are accurate as of May 2023.

Taroko Gorge Tour by Air
Full-Day Taroko Gorge Group Tour by Air - $226.00

Taroko in a Day is specifically designed for visitors pressed for time wanting to experience the majesty of one of Taiwan's most iconic, scenic spots. You'll fly out of Taipei at 7, meet your guide 50 minutes later and be stretching your legs beneath the towering Qing Shui Cliffs by 9 before heading into Taroko Gorge!

As you wind your way through the gorge's scenic road you'll learn the area's history, legends and more before stopping for a brief hike along Shakadang trail. After lunch, you'll spend the afternoon visiting Swallow Grotto, Lushui Trail and Buluowan, three scenic areas offering different vantage points of the raging river below and majestic cliffs above. Finally, it's back to Hualien for dinner at the Dongmen night market before catching your flight back to Taipei in time for a nightcap. Valid passport required and comfortable shoes recommended.

Taroko Tour by Train
Taroko From Taipei In A Day by Train - $178.72

Taroko in a Day is specifically designed for visitors wanting to optimize their time at Taiwan's must-see attractions. A convenient train ride assisted by MyTaiwanTour staff will take you from Taipei to Taiwan's most iconic, scenic spots featuring the largest marble canyon in the world. As you wind your way through the gorge's scenic road you'll learn the area's history, legends and more before stopping for a brief hike along Shakadang trail. After lunch, you'll spend the afternoon visiting Swallow Grotto, Lushui Trail and Buluowan, three scenic areas offering different vantage points of the raging river below and majestic cliffs above. Finally, it's back to Hualien for dinner at the Dongdamen night market before heading back to lively Taipei. Valid passport required and comfortable shoes recommended.

Two Day Taroko Tour
Two-day Taroko NP Tour Package - $615.39

Taroko NP is the crown jewelry of Taiwan national park system. Named after the local Truku aboriginal tribe, Taroko National Park is one of Taiwan’s most beautiful sights. Created by the continual rising of the mountains combined with the erosive power of the Liwu River, Taroko Gorge with its tall, almost flat walls are a true marvel to view. Besides the marble gorge, other attractions include aboriginal settlements, temples, museums, and numerous hiking trails for visitors to experience the true beauty of mountainous of eastern Taiwan. Many mountain trails from challenge level to the beginning level are established by the park administration.

Flying Back to Taipei from Taroko Gorge National Park

It was finally time to end my visit to Taroko National Park and the surrounding area and depart for the airport.  A taxi ride cost $TWD200 ($6.50) and took about 10 minutes.  I arrived 90 minutes before my flight and was the only one at the airport.  Hualien Airport only has four flights a day:  two inbounds from Taipei and two outbound to Taipei.  I checked in, walked around the very nice airport, and purchased ice cream and a drink.  Our flight was slightly delayed due to a late arriving aircraft.  

About 30 minutes before boarding the security checkpoint opened.  I had not planned on flying so I had to sacrifice my expensive sunscreen as it was in too big of a bottle to carry on.  I quickly made it through security and was told “thank you for your cooperation” by a very friendly security agent.  

Within a few minutes, our Uni Air ATR72 Turbo Prop plane arrived.  Boarding was quick, and within 15 minutes we were in the air.  The flying time for the 71 miles from Hualien to Taipei was only 25 minutes.  This flight was the second shortest flight I’d ever been on.  Still, despite the short flight time, everyone received a tea juice box.  

The plane landed at Taipei City Airport (Songshan Airport), and I hopped on the metro to return to my hotel.  It was a much more pleasant journey than 3 hours on the bumpy train.  Many people are scared of propeller planes, but I find them to be a smooth ride, sometimes even smoother than a jet.  I was thrilled I had thought about checking to see if there were flights.

Hualien Airport - Taiwan
Hualien Airport
Uni Air ATR-72
Uni Air ATR72

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