boulders in a light blue river

The Ultimate Guide to the Swallow Grotto Trail (Yanzikou)

Are you wondering what to expect from the Swallow Grotto Trail in Taroko Gorge? Then you’ve come to the right place.

The Swallow Grotto Trail is definitely worth exploring, as it’s very accessible and has some incredible views along the way.

Sights along the trail include the Indian Chieftain’s Profile Rock (印第安酋長石), potholes (壺穴) along the cliff face and swallows darting in and out the caves.

So what should you know before embarking on this trail? This article dives into everything you need to know, including how long it takes and when you should visit.

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 admiring gorge

Key takeaways

  • The Swallow Grotto Trail, also referred to as Yanzikou, is located within the spectacular Taroko National Park in Taiwan. It offers visitors a chance to experience breathtaking views of marble cliffs and light blue waters. The route that takes approximately 30 minutes to complete. The Swallow Grotto is suitable for a wide range of fitness levels.
  • Free helmets are provided at the start to protect against potential falling rocks.
  • Getting there can be done through various means. There’s parking available near the trailhead for those driving independently. You can also take one of several bus lines servicing the area or hire a private driver.
  • Unique natural features such as potholes along the trail showcase nature’s maginificence. These formations have been sculpted over thousands of years by the relentless flow of the Liwu River against marble cliffs.

Explore the Swallow Grotto Trail (Yanzikou)

Explore the impressive beauty of the Swallow Grotto Trail, also known as Yanzikou, where breathtaking views await at every turn. Admire the light blue waters and intriguing potholes that make this place a photographer’s paradise.

Overview of the trail

Located in the heart of Taroko National Park, the Swallow Grotto (Yanzikou) Trail showcases some of Taiwan’s most stunning natural landscapes. This trail dazzles visitors with its soaring marble cliffs and the mesmerizing hues of beautiful light blue waters below.

light blue waters during the Swallow Grotto Trail

The trail is very accessible and it is manageable for a wide range of fitness levels. The walk takes about 30 minutes, making it a perfect choice if you’re looking for an inspiring yet quick adventure.

Mountain views in the gorge

How to get there?

Accessing this trail is pretty straightforward, allowing you to immerse yourself in the breathtaking scenery without much hassle. Here’s your guide on how to reach this stunning location:

  1. Park your car or bike near the trailhead if driving independently. You can drive from Taroko via the Central Cross-Island Highway (Provincial Highway 8) for around 11 km/ 15 minutes by car. The trail is directly outside the tunnel. Parking is available at the west trailhead (at Zhuilu Cliff) of the trail.
  2. Several bus lines run through Taroko National Park, stopping close to the Swallow Grotto Trail entrance. Check the bus schedules in advance. From Hualien Station: take TaiwanTrip Ubus 310 or Hualien Bus 1133 bound for Tianxiang, or Luoshao-1126 (served one bus daily) or Lishan-1141 (served one bus daily), and get off at Swallow Grotto (Yanzikou).
  3. Consider hiring a private driver for the day. This option not only enhances comfort but also provides flexibility in exploring more of Taroko National Park at own your pace. This is what we did, which I highly recommend. A private driver for 8 hours cost us around 80 USD in total.
  4. Collect a helmet for safety before beginning your hike. The trail runs close to the road and through areas where falling rocks are possible, making helmets a necessary precaution provided free of charge.
  5. Plan your hike bearing in mind that it takes around 30 minutes depending on how long you stop for photos or rest periods along this stunning path.
gorge with river flowing

Potholes and their significance

As you wander through the marvels of the trail, prepare to be captivated by one of its most striking features: the potholes. These natural wonders aren’t just holes in the cliff faces; they are masterpieces sculpted by nature itself.

Carved out over millennia, these potholes owe their existence to the continuous battering of the Liwu River against marble cliffs. The relentless flow has etched hundreds of cavities into the rock, creating a visual spectacle that adds to the trail’s magnificence.

They embody both beauty and history, making this path a must-visit for anyone keen on experiencing Taroko National Park’s unique natural charm.

beautiful carved marble cliff with blue water flowing in the river

Tips for hiking the Swallow Grotto Trail

Here are some more tips to make your hike as unforgettable and smooth as possible.

Best time to go

Choosing the right time for hiking the Swallow Grotto Trail can make all the difference in your experience. Early morning or late afternoon are perfect for cooler temperatures, which provides a more comfortable hike.

These times also tend to have fewer people on the trail, allowing you to enjoy the serenity of your surroundings.

What to wear and what to bring?

Heading out to the Swallow Grotto Trail (Yanzikou) promises an adventure you’ll want to be fully prepared for. Ensuring you’re properly dressed and packed is crucial for a comfortable hike.

  • Safety comes first: You need a helmet to protect yourself from any falling debris along the trail. Luckily, you can borrow one for free.
  • Comfortable clothing is key: Opt for breathable, lightweight layers that allow you to adjust easily to changing temperatures. The weather can shift unexpectedly, so having options helps maintain comfort throughout your journey.
  • Good footwear makes a difference: Wear hiking boots or shoes with good grip and support. Although the way is paved, you’ll probably do lots of walking during the day.
  • Pack light but smart: Bring a small backpack for essentials like water, snacks, and a basic first aid kit.
Canton with river and boulders
Danae with helmet during the trail

Difficulty level and length

The Swallow Grotto Trail holds a reputation for being beginner-friendly and manageable.

The trail doesn’t take long. The length is around 1372 meters. You can comfortably complete this scenic trail in about 30 minutes.

This of course depends on your own pace and how often you pause for pictures. Since it runs close to the road, accessibility isn’t an issue, making it even more appealing for those not accustomed to rugged terrains.

trees on the trail
red shrine in between trees
In the distance there was a beautiful shrine

Nearby places worth exploring

After you’ve explored the Swallow Grotto Trail, you’ll likely want to view more stunning landscapes. Here are some of the best places to visit in the area:

  • Qingshui Cliff is one of the most amazing sights in Taiwan. It’s not really a trail, more like a viewpoint. However, you just have to witness the combination of the blue ocean meeting the mountains. It almost looks surreal.
  • The beautiful Shakadang Trail invites you on an adventure along crystal-clear river waters framed by towering marble cliffs. This trail is known for its vibrant blue waters across the gorge walls. It takes around 3 to 3.5 hours to wander around (return).
  • If you want to see a couple of small waterfalls cascade into the river, then add the short trail at the Tunnel of Nine Turns to your itinerary as well. The trail only takes around 30 minutes (round trip) and has some impressive views.
Danae standing at Qingshui Cliff
The color of the water at Qingshui Cliff looks edited, but it’s not!
blue greenish waters surrounded by trees
Scenery during Shakadang Trail

Important information

Before you head out to the Swallow Grotto Trail, take note of some crucial details that will make your adventure easier.

Opening hours and fees

The park welcomes visitors from dawn till dusk, letting you choose the perfect time to explore without worrying about strict timetables. However, I would recommend exploring as early as possible to escape any crowds.

Luckily, entry to this magnificent trail comes at no cost.

river and cliff scenery in the gorge

Contact information

Having covered the opening hours and fees, let’s dive into how you can reach out for more details or assistance. You can contact the Taroko National Park office directly for up-to-date information on the Swallow Grotto Trail.

They provide guidance on safety, trail conditions, and any other enquiries you might have. The park’s official website also offers a wealth of information, including maps and must-see spots like Indian Chieftain Rock.

As mentioned before, helmets are recommended for safety due to falling rocks in some areas. Make sure you enquire about where to collect them free of charge when contacting the park office.

At the time of writing, the helmets can be borrowed free of charge at the Provincial Highway 8 (Central Cross-Island Highway) at Xipan check-in/out Helmet Service Station.

Our private driver collected the helmets for free on the way, which was very convenient.

Danae taking pictures of the gorge

In conclusion

Wander into the heart of Taroko Gorge and discover the unique beauty of Swallow Grotto Trail. Embrace the natural wonders, from majestic cliffs to serene swallow nests. Remember to grab a helmet for safety and consider hiring a private driver to make your trip easier.

This trail offers an unforgettable journey through one of Taiwan’s most stunning landscapes.

Away with Danae

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