Zhuilu Old Trail (aka Jhueilu/Zhuilu Old Road) is known as "the best day hike in Taiwan" and has a trail on "the No. 1 cliff in east Asia." It is for sure one of the most beautiful and exciting hiking trails in Taiwan. It features a vertical cliff section with amazing views 500 meters above the world's deepest marble gorge (Taroko Gorge).
The Zhuilu Old Trail was created hundreds of years ago by the Truku indigenous people to connect their villages in Taroko Gorge and the central mountain range. Originally the cliff sections of the trail were just 30 cm wide!
These indigenous people remained basically autonomous and undisturbed until the Japanese occupation of Taiwan. However after conflicts such as the Xincheng incident in 1896 and the Weili Incident in 1906, where combined more than 50 Japanese people were killed by indigenous warriors, the Japanese decided to tighten control of the mountain aborigines and natural resources in the area, and started the Truku War. The war lasted from May-August 1914, and in the process the Japanese forced indigenous men to widen the Zhuilu Trail to 1.5 meters so that they could transport artillery through the mountainous terrain. 37 people died during this widening process during and after the war, which included using dynamite to blast open the rock while only using ropes.
The Truku lost the war, which included 3,000-5,000 indigenous warriors with modern weapons pitted against a Japanese fighting force of over 10,000. The Japanese lost over 300 men in the fight. After the war, the Japanese tried to dismantle their culture by scattering the people, preventing them from hunting, and forcing the children to attend Japanese schools.
The Japanese then built the Old Cross-Hehuan Mountain Road which stretched 145 KM from Taroko Gorge to Wushe in Nantou from 1914 to 1933, with the Zhuilu Old Trail as part of it. They set up police stations/outposts along the trail as well, including Badagang Village which had a school, hospital, and inns for travelers.
After the ROC took control of Taiwan, the trail was disused except for some expert hikers, and the Japanese police outposts were abandoned.
After the 921 earthquake in 1999, the trail was closed for nine years until 2008. At around 2016 (probably after a typhoon), the 7KM after the Zhuilu Cliffs were closed off, so now the only walk-able part of the trail is 3.1 KM long from Swallow Grotto to the Zhuilu Cliff Outpost. It doesn't seem like this part of the trail will reopen soon.
The cliff section of the trail is 750 meters above sea level, and nearly 500 meters above the valley floor. The distance between these cliffs and the cliffs on the opposite side of the gorge is only about 200 meters. The mountain that the cliffs are part of rises 1600 meters above sea level, and over 1000 meters above the valley floor, and is made completely of marble.
Must enter between 7 AM and 10 AM the day of the permit (unless the gorge is closed due to typhoon/natural disaster)
Only a park access permit is required. You can apply for a permit in English here.
Only 96 people are allowed on weekdays and 156 people on weekends and holidays.
Police permits are no longer required for this trail.
Drones: Please note that if you want to fly a drone in Taroko National Park, you need to apply for a permit at least seven days in advance. You can apply to fly a drone (Chinese only) here.
200 NT per person
6.2 Km round trip
500 meter elevation gain
About 6 hours
The trail is 3.1 KM one way to the Zhuilu Cliff Outpost, and gains 500 meters in elevation. It took me (one person with only one 30 minute break to fly a drone) three hours there and back (I was told this is a very fast pace).
Some people say that it takes an average of six hours there and back. If you are taking people that are not in shape, expect to take most of the day hiking.
When to go:
On a sunny dry day. The rocks can get slippery and a fall on some of the trails could kill you. But if you are careful and bring proper hiking boots and gear, hiking on a wet day should be fine.
Avoid typhoons and heavy rains at all costs. There gorge will close during typhoons anyway.
Typhoon season lasts from May to October. Other than that, this hike is great year round.
How to get there:
By Train/Bus: Take the TRA to Hualien Station, and then switch to the Hualien Bus 1133A. Get off at Swallow Grotto (Yanzikou 燕子口). Also you can take the TRA to Xincheng Station and take Taroko Bus 302.
By Car/Scooter: Go west on the Central Cross Island Highway until you reach swallow grotto after Xipan Tunnel. There is only parking near Jinheng Park (靳珩公園) 500 meters down the road from the trail entrance.
For the location of the start of the trail, please see below:
If you only have a few days in Taiwan and you want to go somewhere outside of Taipei, you should definitely go to Taroko Gorge. On an island full of mountains, rain forests, beaches, and abounding natural beauty, Taroko Gorge might just take the top spot as the most beautiful scenic area in Taiwan.
Taroko National Park is well known for its amazing marble cliffs and canyons carved out by the Liwu River. It is also a popular spot for hiking, rafting, and river tracing. If you have the time, come to the East coast and see it. If you don't have time, then make some time!
History and Background:
Taroko National Park is well known for its marble cliffs and canyons, and is also known as "The Marble Gorge." Millions of years ago, the rock we see today was sediment at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, but oceanic and tectonic pressure turned it into limestone, and later into marble. Later the Eurasian plate was uplifted where Taiwan is today, and a gorge was cut out of the limestone thanks to the Liwu River.
Taroko means "human being," from the Truku tribal language. Originally the Tupido Tribe settled in the area of what is now Tianxiang Taiti mesa. They built the Tupido Tribe Trail which was only 30 cm wide, and resided there until they were massacred by the Japanese in 1914. In 1917, the Japanese expanded the original trail made by the Tupido Tribe to 1.5 M and forced aboriginal tribesmen to carry goods along the trail to the east coast. This is now the Zhuilu Old Trail. Currently only 3km of the trail is open to the public. The Japanese created a national park in the Area in 1937, which was disestablished by the ROC in 1945, and then reenstated in as a national park in 1986.
How to get there:
By Car: From Taipei, Take National Highway 5 to Yilan and then drive on the Suhua Highway 9 to Hualien. A few miles before Hualien City, the gorge will be on your right.
By Train: Take the train to Hualien station, and from there you can rent a scooter or car, or take a tour bus to the gorge.
For more travel information see here.
Hours: 8:30AM-5PM (Zhuilu old trail is open from 7AM to 10PM).
Flying a Drone?
Apply for a drone permit here.
Price: Free! (Except Zhuilu old trail, which is 200 NT per adult. See below for more info.)
Map: Please see below:
We are US Expats that have extensive experience living, working, and travelling in Taiwan. In our day, we had to learn many things about Taiwan the hard way. But we have come to learn that Taiwan is one of the best places in the world for Foreigners to live. Our blog does not represent the opinions of every foreigner in Taiwan. We are just trying to help others learn more about this beautiful country.