Day 3 – Taroko Gorge: One For The Ages

On April 11, 2012 by admin

Today’s ride was the ride you dream of when you dream of bike touring.

The morning started off with another hotel breakfast, before saying goodbye to our family who are returning to Taipei to continue their vacation. We wanted to take a train to somewhere near Taroko Gorge entryway.

The rule I am fast learning in Taiwan is that no one really knows the rules for bikes on trains, and the rules can change depending on who you talk to. At Jiaosi Station a nice volunteer helped translate, he figured we could get ON the train here at Yilan Station, but he doubted we could get off the train with our bikes at Chende or Xincheng Stations…meaning there’s no ramp? I didn’t know. Generally when taking the train I’ve had to run my bike down small rails along the stairwell edges praying my bike doesn’t get away from me.

Got the tickets $223 TWD ($7.55 USD) each but forgot to get the bike voucher (usually you have to buy an extra ticket for your bike). Once we got on the last car that carries bikes, we realized that we hadn’t been given a bike voucher. Bike car guy not happy with us. I suspect he shrugged it off though and just let us get on without it. Also, the ticket said we were going all the way to Hualien, when we had gone over it a few times that we wanted to only go to Xincheng.

We explained it to the bike car master who we think agreed we’d be ok and sure enough, when the train got to Xincheng Station we were offloaded without a problem. As it often goes in Asia, things just work out in the end and you have to have some faith.

From Xincheng we biked up about 6k to a 7-Eleven for some dumplings and lunch, then a few blocks up saw a hotel. It turned out to be a hostel, and the nice lady at the front gave us a good price only $1,400 TWD ($47.50 USD). Being able to check-in at noon was great mainly because we could unload our bags and bike up Taroko Gorge with a light bike finally!

The ride up Taroko Gorge will forever be in my Top 5. Absolutely stunning views along the ride up, cliffs up to one side and sheer drops down the other side of the road. The road occasionally narrows down to one lane, and the constant signage reminding us to not stop due to the very real danger of rock fall from above kept us moving. Further reminders of this were the shattered boulders we’d ride past here and there.

We first rode up through the gate entering Taroko, and soon after were looking at a beautiful blue lake where the gorge is dammed up. The sights on the road up are many, from Swallow Grotto to Tunnel of Nine Turns, it was amazing the entire way. Ophelia did amazing climbing today, especially in a few batman style pitch black tunnels. Our goal was to ride up to Tianxiang where there were some hot springs located. Figuring that after a long climb up we could soak then coast back down to the hotel.

The strong aboriginal heritage presence is very noticeable here with the building styles and even the people. Once we got to about 580m elevation in Tianxiang we couldn’t find the hot springs, until a guy in the shop told me to bike up a few minutes, about three km. That final 3k took us about 30 mins, incredibly steep roads switch-backing up until we saw a few cars parked on the side, and the same guy who gave me directions by chance. From here we had to actually hike down from up top to the canyon bottom, and also found out that this is a wild hot spring actually, right along the rivers edge! Having come this far we weren’t turning around now. It was quite a hike down but well worth the effort when we got there. A small cave with a natural rock pool inside of it on the left, and a rickety steel ladder hanging down the side of it down into the rivers edge. Once down on the river the overflowing hot spring water from above is cooled with some river water to make it the perfect relaxing hot spring, right in the base of Taroko Gorge.

Not wanting to stay too long we didn’t linger our usual 1-2 hours of hot spring soaking. The climb back up reminded our quads that today’s climb up was a tough one. The bike down was epic, to use a word that is thrown around too often but in this case fits perfectly. Riding through the natural tunnels blasted through the cliff sides for 18 wonderful kilometers was unreal.

We grabbed some dinner and a beer to celebrate an amazing day and ate at the hostel before crashing out fairly quickly. What a day.

Bike stats
Distance 60km
Riding time 3h 40min
Ascent 710m

One Response to “Day 3 – Taroko Gorge: One For The Ages”

  • jane

    Hi There,

    Thanks for the informative posting. I am going to Taroko in mid May, I am wondering if weather conditions will permit me to ride bike to Tianxiang then back again to the park entrance. I haven’t exercised for awhile, wondering also if it is doable to ride up and down the park in one day, or should i just ask the bike rental guy to take me to TianXiang, then ride downhill?

    Thanks in advance for your assistance,


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