woman posing for picture in front of canyon

How To Explore Shakadang Trail 太魯閣國家公園 in Taroko Gorge

Are you wondering how to explore the Shakadang Trail in Taroko Gorge? Then you’ve come to the right place. This trail is one of the best trails in the area, as it’s accessible and suitable for different levels of hikers.

This article will dive into what to expect when exploring this trail, what to bring and how to get here. With stunning turquoise waters and inviting trails, it promises to be a memorable journey.

Update April 2024: There has been an earthquake in Taiwan. The Taroko National Park has unfortunately been damaged due to this earthquake. It won’t be possible to visit Taroko Gorge at this time. Follow the recent news updates to know when it will reopen again. My heart goes out to Taiwan and its citizens.

man taking picture of startpoint of Shakadang Trail in Taroko Gorge

Key takeaways

  • The Shakadang Trail is an impressive hike in Taroko National Park, famous for its turquoise waters and serene walking paths.
  • Access the trail by local bus or opt for a private driver for more flexibility.
  • The trail’s mostly paved path makes it accessible to hikers of all levels, ensuring a safe yet adventurous exploration.
  • Essential tips for hiking include starting early, wearing comfortable shoes, bringing enough water and snacks and respecting the wildlife.
  • Several other places like Swallow Grotto Trail and Qingshui Cliff offer extended opportunities to explore Taiwan’s stunning natural landscapes.

About Shakadang Trail

Shakadang Trail unveils a path through a valley filled with crystal-clear turquoise waters. Its mostly paved path invites you to explore the serene beauty. The grandeur of the nature here feels healing.

It’s good to know that there’s no entrance fee and that you don’t need a hiking permit for this trail.

greenery of trees and mountains

Location and features

Located in the heart of Taroko National Park in Hualien, Taiwan, lies the Shakadang Trail. It’s also known as the Mysterious Valley Trail. The trail takes around three hours to explore.

This trail carves a path alongside the Shakadang River, known for its boulders and winding routes that reveal turquoise waters. It was built during Japanese Occupation and was meant for hydroelectric power.

the blue waters during the trail
man walking on paved pathway at Shakadang trail

You’ll find mostly paved paths with railings to guide you, making your walk both safe and enjoyable. The journey from the town at the entrance to Taroko Gorge leads you directly to this natural wonder.

After you hike 1.5 km on Shakadang Trail and see five shops selling food and drinks you’ve reached Wujianwu. This is also known as 5D Cabin or Swiji, which means five houses 五間屋 in Chinese.

Its old name is Swiji, meaning Banyan Tree with big leaves in the Truku (Taroko) language. In the old days, there were five houses that belonged to Truku people. As you venture deeper, after reaching the 5D point, it becomes more off-grid.

Keep an eye out for monkeys swinging in the trees and don’t feed them. Even though we were just walking, one of the monkeys actually threw something at us.

monkey in tree
One of the monkeys along the trail

Importance of the trail

The Shakadang Trail holds a special place in the heart of Taroko National Park. It’s celebrated for its accessibility and breathtaking scenery. With mostly paved paths guiding your way, it’s not a very challenging hike.

You’ll wander beside turquoise waters, marvel at imposing boulders, and possibly spot monkeys hiding in the treetops. This trail is not just a walk; it’s an introduction to the rich natural beauty that Taiwan has to offer.

view during the trail: mountains and boulders
stone wall with different colors

This path also marks significant cultural history as it runs along Taiwan’s first highway near Shakadang Trail.

Important: The trail passes through an Aborigine reserve land and some areas are still farmed by the people of the Taroko tribe. Please pay your respects to these people, keep the area clean and don’t trespass.

sign about aborigine land

How to get there and trail info

There are several ways to reach the Shakadang Trail in Taroko Gorge.

Transportation options

You can take a local bus from the town at the entrance to Taroko Gorge directly to the trailhead. Buses run frequently throughout the day, making it easy to plan your journey. Here you’ll find updated information about bus schedules.

The fastest bus to Taroko Visitor Center is the Taiwan Tourist Shuttle Bus 台灣好行 Taroko Route 310 from Hualien Train Station.

Bus at beginning of the trail
Beginning of the trail

For a more personalized experience, consider hiring a private driver for the day. This option allows you flexibility in your schedule and stops along the way. It’s perfect if you prefer exploring off-grid paths without worrying about missing a bus return time.

While it costs more, I highly recommend this, as you’ll be able to explore lots of places in one day.

We booked a driver for the day, which took us to around 5 places in total. You can ask the driver to include or exclude certain places. The duration of the trip was around 8 hours. The price of the trip was approximately 80 USD.

This may seem pricey, but if you split the cost it can still be affordable. Plus, the beautiful nature you’ll encounter makes up for this.

Entrance to the trail
Lion statue near the entrance

Maps and trail difficulty

Maps are easy to find both online and at the entrance of Taroko Gorge. The trail itself is mostly paved, making it accessible for a wide range of fitness levels.

You’ll walk alongside turquoise waters, with chances to spot monkeys in the trees.

The trail’s difficulty level is relatively low, suited perfectly for beginners or those looking for an enjoyable hike.

Beginning of the trail: handrail on the left
Surface of the trail at the beginning: doable
The ground at the beginning of the trail

It stretches about 4.1 km one way. A round trip is about 8.2 km in total to 3D Cabin (Sanjianwu) and back. This usually takes around 3 hours to complete, depending on your pace.

If your time is limited, you can hike 1.5 km 5D Cabin (Wujianwu). This round trip will be 3 km in total and will take about an hour and 15 minutes.

Keep in mind that after reaching the 5D marker, the path becomes more off-grid, inviting a bit more adventure.

man walking the trail
map of the area

Exploring Shakadang Trail

It’s good to know that you don’t need a hiking permit for exploring this trail. Here are some more tips to make sure you’ll have a great hiking adventure on the Shakadang trail:

Tips for a successful hike

Exploring Shakadang Trail in Taiwan’s Taroko Gorge offers an unforgettable adventure through surreal landscapes. To ensure a great experience, here are some key tips to follow.

  1. Start early in the morning: Aim to hit the trail no later than 09.00 o’clock. This strategy helps you avoid the crowds and enjoy a more peaceful hike.
  2. Wear appropriate footwear: Given that Shakadang Trail is mostly paved, comfortable walking shoes or trainers will suffice. However, ensure they have good grip for safety.
  3. Bring enough water and snacks: Although the hike takes about 2 hours back and forth, staying hydrated is crucial. Little shops near the beginning offer refreshments, but it’s wise to bring your own supplies.
  4. Pack light but essential gear: The altitude change is minimal, so heavy gear isn’t necessary. Nevertheless, pack sunscreen, hats, and perhaps a light raincoat just in case.
  5. Use the public toilets at the start: Facilities are available near the entrance; options further along are limited.
  6. Respect wildlife: If lucky, you might spot monkeys in their natural habitat. Enjoy these moments from a distance without feeding or disturbing them.
  7. Consider hiring a private driver: Having a private driver can make your day easier when exploring Taroko National Park.
  8. Taroko National Park Visitor Centre: Here you’ll find maps and advice on your visit to Taroko Gorge. Friendly staff offer insights into the area’s historical significance and tips for safe exploration.
blue greenish waters surrounded by trees
boulder surrounded by greenery and blue waters
Danae exploring the Shakadang Trail

Recommended gear and supplies

Pack comfortable walking shoes for the mostly paved trail, ensuring a safe and enjoyable hike along Shakadang Trail. Bring water and snacks to keep you energized, as there are only a few small shops near the 5D point.

Carrying any necessary medication is also wise, as it allows you to handle unexpected situations promptly.

Prepare for changes in weather by bringing a lightweight, waterproof jacket. The gorge’s beauty shines rain or shine, but being prepared means you can explore comfortably whatever the conditions.

After gearing up properly, you’re all set to uncover more fascinating spots around Taroko Gorge.

Danae admiring the views on the trail
large boulders surrounded by blue waters
green leaves with blue waters in the background

More places worth exploring

Explore beyond Shakadang Trail to discover hidden gems scattered throughout Taroko Gorge, promising adventures that will take your breath away.

Beyond this trail, you’ll find that there are several more beautiful spots that will enrich your adventure.

Xiaozhuilu Trail

A less trodden path but equally enchanting, the Xiaozhuilu Trail offers a different perspective of Taroko’s natural elegance. It’s an excellent alternative for those seeking quieter hikes.

It’s not a long hike and is connected to the Shakadang Trail, hence it’s easy to combine the two. This trail is also known as Little Zhuilu Trail, because it’s shorter but has similar scenery.

Swallow Grotto Trail (Yanzikou Trail)

Known for its marble cliffs and tunnels, this trail captivates with views of rapid rivers carving through the gorge. Safety helmets are available due to occasional falling rocks.

Prepare to see breathtaking sceneries as you walk along the Swallow Grotto Trail. You get to experience towering marble cliffs and deep gorges carved by the river over millions of years. It only takes around 30 minutes to complete this trail, hence it’s great to combine with the Shakadang Trail.

If you fancy extending your adventure, consider exploring Zhuilu Old Road Trail at the east end of Swallow Grotto. For Zhuilu Old Trail, you’ll need to secure a hiking permit.

Applications can typically be made online, ensuring you adhere to park regulations and safety guidelines. Make sure to research the hiking permit for the Zhuilu Old Trail beforehand.

Canyon with blue waters at Swallow Grotto Trail

Tunnel of Nine Turns (Jiuqudong)

This historical route offers an experience into the geological and cultural heart of Taroko. It offers a remarkable journey through tall mountains and deep gorges, giving you a glimpse of nature’s grandeur.

Elevated 300 meters above ground level, the experience here feels surreal as it combines easy access with breathtaking scenery. It’s a short path, but definitely worth visiting.

Personally, I especially liked the small waterfalls you can spot on this short trail.

small waterfall in canyon

Qingshui Cliff

Stretching along the coast where mountains meet the sea, Qingshui Cliff dazzles with its sheer drop and panoramic ocean views.

When you’re staring at the views here, you’ll really understand why Taiwan is worth visiting. Its nature, especially on the East Coast, is surprisingly beautiful.

guy with rugsack overlooking Qingshui Cliff

In conclusion

The Shakadang Trail is one of the best trails to explore in Taroko Gorge. It’s accessible, mostly paved and is not super challenging. If you’re looking for a trail that’s not too long, then this promises to be an unforgettable adventure.

In around two hours, you’ll admire crystal-clear waters, majestic rocky vistas, and possibly even spot monkeys in the trees.

Remember to pack snacks, water, and start your journey early to avoid crowds. With each step on this path, you immerse yourself deeper into Taiwan’s breathtaking natural beauty and rich cultural heritage. You’ll also understand why Taroko Gorge is really worth visiting.

The trail not only offers a peaceful hike but also a unique opportunity to connect with nature in surreal surroundings.

Away with Danae

clear waters during the trail

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