On my days camping in Taroko National Park I was over the moon. This part of the world is breathtakingly stunning and full of day hikes to spend the days in nature. Hiking in Taroko Gorge is the best things to do in Hualien and the hike that I loved the most was the Lushui-Wenshan Trail.
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Ever since I arrived to Taiwan, most Taiwanese people that I met singled out Taroko National Park as their favourite part of the country. This is possibly due to its accessibility as surely most of the 100 Peaks over 3000m in Taiwan are stunning but hiking in Taroko allows almost everyone regardless of fitness to enjoy this magnificent scenery.
This incredible gorge is mainly made of marble which looks simply spectacular.
Did you know that the Taroko Gorge almost “disappeared” as we know it today?
Back in 1979 there were plans to build a Hydropower station on the Liwu river, up to 6 roads were even built to facilitate the construction.
Luckily, at the same time there were plans to upgrade the status of the area to “Taroko National Park” and a big debate happened across the Taiwanese society.
The dam would have reduced the flow of the river drastically and at the same time would have stopped the movement of the rocks that fall into the gorge and are pushed by the flow of the water hence changing the current natural scenery.
Fortunately common sense prevailed and the plans for the dam project were scrapped so we can still continue enjoying this wonderful creation of nature these days. Kepe this in mind when you’re hiking in Taroko and do not take it for granted!
I hope leaders of other countries could reflect on these decisions when considering their current “projects” that are a threat to our planet.
How to get to Taroko National Park?
The main point of entry to go hiking in Taroko Gorge is from Hualien city. There you can rent a scooter for the day (+400NT per day, make sure to get an international driving permit) or go by bus which is cheap and convenient.
If you search online, you will see some prices for the buses coming up to +200NT per journey and many people advise to get a one-day pass for as many trips as you wish that cost 250NT.
I recommend to just go with your Easycard and not buy the pass as I paid 56NT from Hualien to Lushui Bus Stop and viceversa. The few buses I took inside the Taroko Gorge were either 11NT or even free!
The bus 1133A goes from Hualien Train Station and takes almost an hour to arrive to the park. The departures from the station at the time of writing were at: 7:00, 8:30, 9:10, 10:00, 11:10, 12:00, 13:20, 14:10 and 15:10.
I walked to the train station after spending a couple of days at the Cave Hostel which was pretty cool and had a good breakfast included!
The last returning bus from the park is at around 17:00 from Tianxiang which is the final stop at the park (so it will pass a bit later on the subsequent stops)
Be flexible on these schedules as they change. If you check the official Taroko website they don’t even have the updated timetable.
MY CAMPING ESSENTIALS
Camping in Taroko
Although you can travel and return on the same day to go hiking in Taroko from Hualien, you can camp for free at Taroko Gorge.
A couple hundred meters from the entrance of the Lushui-Wenshan Trail you can find the Lushui Campsite.
Lushui campground is free of charge and there are toilets nearby. Make sure to bring your own food as the only restaurant nearby is pretty expensive as it’s just for tourists.
I enjoyed spending a couple of nights at Lushui campground and even made some small bonfires! as always, make sure to water them off before going to sleep!
The Lushui-Wenshan Trail
Among all the day hikes that you can do in the Taroko Gorge, the one I loved the most was the Lushui-Wenshan Trail.
This is what a trail is supposed to be! steep climbs, steep descents, flat areas, stream crossing, hanging bridges, gorgeous views….simply WOW!
Part of this trail was made over 100 years ago by the Japanese police to govern the Taroko tribe. After the battle of Taroko in 1914 it still took 16 years to stabilise the situation and the army to withdraw from the area.
If only this trail was longer it would definitely be one of my favourite hikes in the world!
You can start the hike from either Lushui, where there’s a bus stop, or from Wenshan which is about 30 min walking from Tianxiang (last stop on the bus)
I recommend starting at Lushui as if you finish early you could still go to the Wenshan Hot Springs.
The Wenshan Hot Springs trail have been closed for a while now. I have read that you could go at your own risk. Unfortunately I didn’t go as I started and finished my hike late in the day and still had to make it back to the Lushui Campsite where I was spending the night.
How long is the Lushui-Wenshan trail?
At 5.5Km long, this is not the most strenuous hike you can do. But it’s definitely a fun one! the official advice says that it takes 6 hours to complete. That’s overly generous as I did it in just 2 hours including the photo stops and general marvelling at the scenery.
Overall I randomly calculate the vertical climb at around 500 meters. The first 1.5Km is constant uphill with 300m of climbing, then you have a flattish sector of 2Km and finally and up and down final 2Km before arriving to the main road in Wenshan.
Do you need a permit?
The informative board at the start of the trail mentions that you need to get a permit. I didn’t know about it and didn’t have any. There was no one checking either.
Later on, I recommended the trail to a few friends that went on the following days on separate occasions and also didn’t have any issues at all.
On the official site for the Taroko Gorge where you can apply for trail permits there’s also no mention at all or not even an option to obtain a permit for the Lushui-Wenshan hike, so feel free to ignore that board!
What to take for the Lushui-Wenshan Hike
This trail can be technical so if it has rained on the previous couple of days you will do much better with proper hiking shoes/boots. On dry weather is ok to do it on sneakers.
The trail is not too long so you will not need much food, but some snacks such as an apple or cookies are never a bad option to replenish some energy while you rest.
One thing you do need is water. Plenty of water.
As I was hiking in Taroko in the hot humid Taiwanese summer I drank pretty much all the 2.5L from my camelback reservoir! I also drank a bit of cool water on a stream crossing but that was mainly because I always love to drink directly from nature!
Hiking the Lushui-Wenshan Trail
Starting at Lushui, you will find signs only for the “Lushui Trail”, this is a trail going east and it’s currently closed after just 500 meters. There’s even a big sign mentioning that it’s closed and you cannot continue.
BUT, you want to hike the Lushui-Wenshan Trail! this one goes west! why are there no signs mentioning the existence of this trail!? I can only think it’s because you “require” a permit.
So, to find the entrance of the trail, just keep following the signs and the path of the Lushui Trail and after a couple of minutes you will find an intersection which is the official start for the Lushui-Wenshan Hike.
At this point you do find an information board for this trail and distance markers every 100 meters.
As with any hike in Taiwan, there are warnings of poisonous snakes and even bees. I didn’t see any apart from a big monkey that couldn’t identify its kind, I don’t think it was one of the sheepishly looking Formosa Macaques as this one was pretty big!
The Lushui-Wenshan Trail is lined by dense forest which helps against the scorching sun and it passes the sites of a few old villages. Although difficult to spot, it goes by the ruins of Doyon, Maheyang and Iboho villages.
The trail is very easy to follow. It’s well marked and has been taken care of in the places where a tree has fallen or there has been a landslide. Even so, what I liked the most of this trail is that it’s still pretty wild!
The first 1.5Km are a constant climb, at times steady and at times steep. Most of it aided by wooden steps, support ropes and chains on the rocky areas.
This first climb took me just 25 minutes to get through going at a good pace. Once at the top of this eastern section you will have the reward of a magnificent view of the Lushui and Heliu area.
The next 2Km section is mainly flat, it feels more like a nice walk in the forest and you can see some of the old villages’ ruins on this part of the hike.
There are many narrow areas which on a wet day you may need to be careful as you’re walking next to unstable cliffs. I try to show those narrow paths on some of the photos of this post, although it’s hard to show it properly 🙁
The final 2Km hiking on the Lushui-Wenshan trail are ups and downs, at times steep on both vertical directions, that’s when good footwear comes handy!
The end of the trail is on a big bridge which sadly symbolises the return to civilisation. At this point you can only walk to Tianxiang for 3Km or try to hitchhike your way back.
Before arriving to Tianxiang you will walk through a tunnel where the start of the Baiyang Trail is located.
If it’s still early, you could also add this hike on your Taroko Gorge day and check out the Water Curtain Cave. It will only take you some 60-90 minutes to walk it all. I wrote more in detail about it on my post about hiking the Baiyang Trail.
I ended up walking all the way back to the Lushui campsite where I was going to spent the next couple of nights Camping in Taroko.
In Tianxiang you can find accommodation (way out of budget for a backpacker), restaurants and even a 7Eleven. The last bus to Hualien will depart at 17:00. Make sure to be there earlier than that!
I didn’t find this hike too extreme though and I think anyone could do it with a minimum level of fitness. It may take you a bit longer and use the support ropes and chains but this is definitely a doable hike for most people.
If there has been a recent typhoon you should be careful though, as landslides are a common threat at the Taroko National Park and there’s a big one just about 1Km before the end of this hike that looks fairly recent. I guess on wet weather there may be more controls in terms of getting a permission when planning to hike in Taroko.
If you’re planning to go hiking in Taroko Gorge you should definitely go for the Lushui-Wenshan Trail! it’s for sure the wildest and less transited of all the trails I tried at the park.
Feel free to reach out with any questions about hiking in Taroko or share your experiences with other readers! check out the other posts I wrote about backpacking in Taiwan for more inspiration!
Happy adventures! 🙂