Zhuilu Old Trail – a hike that offers the greatest possible view over Taroko Gorge
This path was once a popular multi-day hiking trail among the public until 1945 when the Japanese were defeated. Since the establishment of Taroko National Park in 1986, this part of the path was named Zhuilu Old Trail because the cliff is part of Zhuilu Mountain. In order to make Zhuilu Old Trail more accessible to visitors, infrastructure like suspension bridges and staircases were set up by national park. For people who are visiting this place, the breathtaking path is definitely going to make you wonder how it was built more than 100 years ago.
Zhuilu Old Trail is easily accessible by bus from Hualien railway station. The earliest bus from Hualien leaves at 7 am, and the last one from Tienxiang departs at 5.00 pm. This schedule is likely to change, so it’s important to get a copy of the timetable from the bus station before you leave. 1-Day Pass cost NT$ 250 then you can hop on and off at any bus stops along Toroko Line. Purchase the ticket at the bus station, Family-Mart, or 7-11 before you get onto the bus. The journey to Yanzikou (Swallow Grotto) stop takes approximately 60 minutes.
Remember that to access the trail, two permits are needed: the first is to enter this specific trail and has to be obtained at least two days in advance, and the second one is a mountain permit which can be obtained either online or on the spot at the police post just outside the Taroko Visitor Center. It’s suggested to apply online in advance so you don’t waste time getting off at the visitor center and waiting for the next bus.
After reaching Yanzikou, you need to register at the trail entrance before entering the trail. Show both park and mountain entry permits, your passport at a small shaded stall on the side of the road opposite the suspension bridge. You can also pay the entrance fee here too. For safety purposes, the permit system keeps track of who enters and leaves the trail.
The hike starts with crossing a long green suspension bridge, which offers you a great view over the marble gorge. After that the trail goes into the forest and you can start hiking up the mountain. Zhuilu Old Trail doesn’t require any technical skills. All you need to have is decent level of fitness to climb up the slope until you reach the cliff. On the way there are remains of an old Japanese outpost called Badagang. It was an important settlement on the way to Zhuilu Old Road in the Japanese Colonial Period.
After climbing up all the stairs and reaching the cliff outpost, the views become amazing! The cliff is over 500 meters above the valley, which is taller than Taipei 101. The last half kilometer of the trail is a narrow and overlooks the gorge. It’s a narrow jaw-dropping trail, with a cliff edge on one side and marble mountain face on the other. It will make you feel so small!
Try your best not to use your camera when you are walking to make sure every footstep you take is secure. Most of the trail on the cliff has enough room to fit two people, but however, you need to be extremely careful when the trail narrows. If you are not confident about your balance, grab the rope that is attached on the wall. Another thing that most of the travellers forget is the safety helmet. Falling rocks are rarely an issue, but it’s always better to have extra protection for your head.