Zhuilu Old Road: The Complete Trail Guide

The Zhuilu Old Road is one of Taiwan’s most iconic hiking trails, known for its slender path that slices along the steep cliffside. The trail is a thrilling adventure, offering unparalleled views of Taroko Gorge.

Zhuilu Old Road Trail

Imagine a trail etched into the side of Taroko Gorge‘s towering cliffs – that’s the Zhuilu Old Road.

The trail hugs the mountainside as it traverses the gorge’s sheer walls, over 300 meters above the canyon floor. The trail offers the most thrilling hiking adventure anywhere in Taiwan.

Zhuilu Old Road Trail Details

What to Expect When Hiking the Zhuilu Old Road Trail

The Zhuilu Old Road Trail mainly consists of steep climbs with only a small part being flat. It ascends 300 meters up Taroko Gorge’s side, leading to the infamous cliff section. This cliff section runs along the gorge’s edge for 500 meters, ending at the cliff settlement.

The hike is 3.1 kilometers in one direction, making it a total of 6.2 kilometers for the round trip.

🎥 Check out our video of our adventure hiking the Zhuilu Old Road Trail to see what our experience was like!

On the day of your hike, you need to arrive at the trail entrance between 7 am and 10 am. The cost to hike the Zhuilu Old Road trail is $200 NT per adult, paid in cash at the trail entrance booth.

Once you’ve paid the fee and received your entry ticket, cross the road to the gate at the bridge. This is the start of the trail. A staff member will check you in, take your name, and then open the gate to let you onto the trail.

The trail starts with a walk across the Liwu River on a suspension bridge.

Once you’ve crossed the river, the trail begins to ascend the side of the gorge and becomes quite steep for the next 2.5 kilometers – nearly the entire length of the trail. We recommend bringing lots of water and snacks, since you’ll burn tons of energy climbing up the mountain.

One key thing to know about the Zhuilu Old Road is that the weather can change unexpectedly. It’s rare to have a sunny day with clear views down into the gorge. More often, the weather in Taroko Gorge is a bit rainy and foggy.

This rain can make the trails slippery. Since Taroko Gorge is composed of marble, the rocks and boulders on the trail become very slick when wet. Wearing proper hiking shoes is crucial, but it’s even more important to be cautious and watch your step to avoid slipping on the rocks while hiking.

Around 1 kilometer into the trail, you will reach Badagang Village, where you can find a restroom. This is a convenient place to take a break, as there are some concrete remains of old buildings where you can sit down.

After the restrooms, the trail continues up the mountain, and you’ll cross another suspension bridge.

Once the trail stops ascending the mountain, it eventually emerges from the trees, leading you onto the trail’s famous exposed cliffside.

The original trail used to be about 1 foot wide, but it has been widened to 3 or 4 feet in most areas, making it easier for people to pass each other.

The trail skirts along the narrow cliffside for about 500 meters. This is the highlight of the trail.

At the trail’s end, there’s a comfortable and safe flat spot known as the Cliff Settlement. The settlement is a cozy area nestled under the trees, where you can rest. This area also marks the point where you turn around to head back on the trail.

At the Cliff Settlement, there is a gate that leads to the second half of the trail. In the past, it was possible to hike from this other direction, but due to frequent rockfalls, the government has closed this section of the trail.

After taking a break at the Cliff Settlement, you will need to retrace your steps back the same way you came, which means crossing the cliff section again, but this time from the opposite direction.

As you descend the trail, be careful with your steps and how fast you go. The trail is quite steep, and the smooth marble rocks can be slippery, especially after rain.

After you return to the start of the trail, you’ll cross the Liwu River suspension bridge again. When you exit the trail, a staff member will sign you out to ensure that you have safely finished your hike.

How to Get a Permit for Zhuilu Old Road Trail

The Zhuilu Old Road is a highly popular trail in Taroko Gorge. To avoid overcrowding and preserve the trail, the Taiwanese Government has implemented a permit system to regulate access.

If you want to hike the Zhuilu Old Road, you need to apply for a permit on the Taiwan CPAMI website. This process is quite detailed and requires you to provide a lot of information.

For foreigners, there’s an extended period to apply for a hiking permit. You can apply between 4 months and 35 days before your planned hike. If you miss this period, you still have the regular application window, which is from 2 months to 1 day in advance.

In our experience, it took about 2 weeks to receive our permit for the Zhuilu Old Road after we submitted our application, so we suggest applying well ahead of time.

On the day you hike the trail, make sure to bring a printed copy of your permit and the passports of everyone who is hiking in your group. You need to also bring some cash to pay a fee at the trail booth:

  • Adults: NT$ 200
  • Children (6-12 years): NT$ 100
  • Children (0-5 years): Free

How to Get to the Zhuilu Old Road Trail

There are three options for getting to the trail:

  1. Drive yourself by car or ride a motorbike
  2. Take the bus
  3. Hire a taxi

The most convenient way to reach the Zhuilu Old Road Trail is by renting a car or motorbike. This is especially recommended for exploring the other parts of Taroko Gorge, as it’s a vast area with attractions scattered throughout the national park.

However, if you drive yourself, keep in mind that parking at the trailhead is limited. There are a few parking spaces across the street from the trail entrance, but they’re often full. The nearest alternative parking we know is near Jinheng Park.

If you decide to take the bus, it’s important to pay attention to the bus timetables. Road work is common in Taroko Gorge, so it’s a good idea to check the government’s website for road work schedules. This will help you avoid getting caught in traffic and missing the 10 am deadline to start the trail.

We chose to take a taxi because we were able to book it the night before, ensuring it would be ready for us at the correct time in the morning. The taxi costs us 700 NT ($22 USD).

Keep in mind that there is no rideshare service like Uber in Hualien, so it’s not an option there.

Hiking the Zhuilu Old Road Trail – Our Experience

We got up early in Hualien and took a taxi to the trailhead, arriving at 7:30 am. At the trailhead, we joined a line at the booth to pay for our tickets. After that, we crossed the road to the trail entrance to sign in and gain access to the trail.

The first part of our hike involved crossing a bridge over the Liwu River. The view was stunning, so we paused to take a few photos before continuing over the bridge.

Once we crossed, the trail immediately began to ascend the mountain. We noticed that the path was rockier than we had anticipated. But these weren’t just any rocks; they were marble, smooth on the surface and a bit slippery when wet.

As we climbed the hill, the trail wasn’t very scenic at first, mainly surrounded by vegetation, so we couldn’t see much.

It took us about 45 minutes to reach the first rest area, the Badagang Village Ruins. After a short break there, we continued our ascent. Crossing a few bridges along the way, we soon started to enjoy some views.

Eventually, we reached a height where we entered into the fog, which obscured our views. As we got to the cliff section, the fog was still thick, making it hard to see the bottom of the gorge below us.

The trail can be dangerous and steep in places, but there are sections wide enough for two people to pass each other comfortably.

After skirting along the cliff section, we arrived at the Cliff Settlement and took a break under the shade of the trees. This spot is a common resting place for hikers and marks the point where you turn back.

We then retraced our steps, heading back down the same way we came, which meant crossing the cliff section once more.

The trail is quite steep on the way down, which makes it easy to accidentally walk too fast and slip. So, we made sure to hike slowly and carefully.

As we continued our descent, the fog began to lift. By the time we got back to the trail entrance, the fog that had surrounded us at the cliff section had completely cleared.

We had anticipated this, as we were informed that the morning fog usually clears up as the day progresses. It was a bit disappointing not to get clear photos on the cliffs due to the fog, but sometimes that’s just how it is!

Tips for Hiking Zhuilu Old Trail

When planning a hike on the Zhuilu Old Trail, it’s essential to be well-prepared and informed about some unique aspects of the hike. The trail poses specific challenges and requirements that differ from other hiking trails.

To ensure a safe and enjoyable trek, here are five key aspects to keep in mind before you hike the Zhuilu Old Trail:

Get Your Permit Well in Advance

The Zhuilu Old Trail is the only trail in Taroko National Park that requires a permit. This is a unique regulation in place to control the number of hikers and protect the environment. It’s important to apply for this permit well in advance, as there are a limited number available each day.

Start Your Hike Early

Although the national park requires that you begin the trail between 7 am and 10 am, it’s a good idea to start as early as you can. An early start helps you enjoy your hike more and avoid the likelihood of afternoon weather shifts.

This also helps to ensure you complete the hike before 5 pm, within the allowed time frame.

Wear Shoes with Lots of Grip

Due to the trail’s steep and often slippery nature, especially if it rains or is foggy, it’s vital to wear hiking shoes with excellent grip.

Proper footwear will provide stability and safety on the uneven, rocky, and slick marble surfaces of the Zhuilu Old Trail.

Be Prepared for Bad Weather

The weather on the Zhuilu Old Trail can be extremely unpredictable at all times of the year. Be prepared for conditions like fog, rain, and slippery paths, especially since the trail includes steep and exposed sections.

The Zhuilu Old Trail requires more careful planning in terms of gear and clothing compared to other trails that might have more predictable or stable weather conditions.

Best Time to Hike Zhuilu Old Road Trail

The best time to hike the Zhuilu Old Road Trail is from October through April. During these months, you’ll experience more comfortable temperatures and less rainfall, making it ideal for hiking.

It’s advisable to avoid the summer months of June, July, August, and September for the Zhuilu Old Road Trail. These months tend to be hot and humid, with higher chances of rain, which can make the hike more challenging due to slippery conditions and reduced visibility.

While May offers relatively good temperatures, it’s one of the rainiest months. For a hiking trail like Zhuilu Old Road, where terrain and safety are significant concerns, the increasing likelihood of rain throughout May is not ideal for hiking.

Watch Our Experience Hiking the Zhuilu Old Road Trail on YouTube

Heading to Zhuilu Old Road Trail? Pin Our Guide on Pinterest!

Trey Lewis is an outdoor enthusiast. Whether its hiking knife-edge ridges or just fishing by the river, Trey isn't afraid to get dirty in search of the next adventure.

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