COVERING JUST 920 square kilometres on the Central Mountains Ranges, Taroko Gorge packs in a lot. Half the park is mountains over 2000m, and there are several over 3000. 27 peaks listed in “Taiwan’s One Hundred Peaks” are in Taroko National Park. The widest river, the Liwu cuts its way through spell-binding gorges in the lower reaches of the park.
Easiest access is via the coastal city of Hualien. Jaw-dropping access from the mountainous inland section takes some deft changes of bus. If Sun Moon Lake is on your plans, strap yourself in. This is the road that made me want to visit Taiwan.
Somewhere between two of Taiwan's best known destinations - Sun Moon Lake and Taroko Gorge - we found ourselves in an old shop watching oolong tea being served.
This was the road I had watched Charlie Bourman ride on TV, and made me want to visit this stunning island.
The nearest medium sized city is on the coast at Hualien, but there are a few reasonably priced accommodation choices inside the park. It's cold and quiet overnight, with misty mornings too.
Keep your eye out for Taiwanese macaques around the park service centre at Tianxiang.
When the clouds clear, the views around Tianxiang are reward for staying in the park.
Various forest walking trails are dotted around the park, some easy, some more strenous. Buses run between Tianxiang and the coast. Bussing from Sun Moon involves a few hours and well times changes of bus.
The stars of the show are the gorges and river views.
Public buses stop at all the popular viewing spots, walking trails and other sights.
Tunnels take you right into the guts of the gorges.
There are plenty of opportunities for walking and viewing the rock faces and rivers below.
Lunch options were a bit limited. Sticky rice in bamboo with an egg was it. No, just kidding. There was more than that. One of the hotels in Tianxiang did a buffet dinner too.
Some of the engineering is almost as impressive as the views. About 10 motorcyclists passed along this road, making an awesome racket.
At several spots, official advice is to wear a safety helmet. Unofficial advice is that if you see small rocks falling, run before the big ones follow.
Besides bloody macaques, not much wildlife to report.
Taroko is not a birding hot spot. We saw a few smaller birds, and a few Chinese egrets.
Some of the flora is quite spectacular though, like this wild ground cover along one of the walks.
This bridge marks the beginning of the Shakandang Trail.
Along the 4km trail are several spots for safe but cold swimming.
The colour and clarity of the water along the trail is at time ridiculous.
Although you may come across more people here than anywhere else in the park, it won't feel that busy.
And if you have stayed in the park, you'll have a head-start on the day trippers anyway.
The forest trails are all yours though. Some of them were a bit challenging, especially after a week of eating Taiwanese food.
Grab a bento at the station, and Taiwan's first class raail system can have you up in Taipei in a couple of hours.