How to drive the dangerous Taroko Gorge Road in Taiwan- WanderLawyer

Driving Taroko Gorge can be a harrowing experience if you're unprepared.
Traffic In Taroko National Park, Taiwan

Taroko Gorge Park is, no doubt, one of the most beautiful places in Taiwan. Less than 3 hours from Taipei, it’s easily accessible and also a perfect way to cap off an epic road trip along Taiwan’s East Coast. From marble canyons to jagged mountains, this 920-square-kilometer national park features majestic mountains and rock formations.

But driving through the park can also be dangerous. 

Taroko Gorge Road is winding and narrow, with several sharp turns, blind curves, and small paths leading through the cliffs and mountains. Furthermore, the area is prone to rock falls and landslides due to seismic activity, rain, and steep terrain. 

While the park’s rugged road adds thrill to its enticing landscape, driving this road isn’t recommended for newbie drivers. 

Overview of Taroko Gorge Park

The park was named after its iconic landmark gorge, Taroko Gorge.

It’s a rocky, deep, 19-kilometer-long, tree-lined canyon with the green-blue Liwu River at the bottom.

With its stunning scenery, this gorge is perfect for hiking and offers visitors a range of trails, from leisurely and flat to heart-pumping and strenuous.

The park is situated in Xiulin Township, Hualien County, and spans Hualien County, Nantou County, and Taichung.

People visit this park to hike its scenic trails, spot unique flora and fauna, gaze at gorgeous temples, and admire extraordinary landscapes.

Plus, it’s home to many notable sites, such as the Liufang Bridge, the Hill of Yu the Great, Jinheng Park, and the Tunnel of Nine Turns.

About Taroko Gorge Road

The only road through the gorge is the Central Cross-Island Highway, also known as Taroko Gorge Road.

The highway is 118 kilometers (73.32 miles) long and runs east-west to Ren’ai from Xincheng Township.

In recent years, more tunnels in the area have been dug to make this route safer and provide visitors with stunning views.

History of Taroko Gorge Road 

Before the road was built, only a small trail ran through Taroko Gorge.

In the 1950s, the former President of the Republic of China, Chiang Kai-shek, built a road to cross Taiwan through the Central Range from west to east.

The road was constructed between 1956 and 1960 by Nationalist Army soldiers, and the construction took over 400 lives.

On May 9, 1960, the road was officially opened to the public.

Driving Taroko Gorge Road: An Overview

Driving Taroko Gorge Road is not easy and definitely not for the faint of heart.

Since it’s winding and narrow, barely one bus can pass at a time. In fact, many stretches of the road require cars to literally reverse when encountering a bus heading the opposite direction. 

Additionally, there are many large tour buses, cars, scooters, and pedestrians vying for a spot on the road’s tight space.

In fact, many stretches of the road require cars to literally reverse when encountering a bus heading the opposite direction. 

Even though it’s an engineering marvel, it’s still a treacherous and narrow road made more dangerous by the numerous vehicles using the road.

Also, heavy rains during Taiwan’s monsoon season (May to September) can make this road extremely dangerous.

Constant heavy downpours may lead to falling rocks and landslides, making this thoroughfare impassable.

Then, there’s another thing you have to worry about: seismic activity.

The walls of the gorge are made of schist, broken marble, and gneiss that might collapse during an intense earthquake or any other seismic activity.

We also found the road poorly maintained. 

Along the way, you’ll find several poorly-lit-single-lane tunnels, rockfalls, and cliffside hairpin turns.

You have to be an experienced, quick-witted driver with strong nerves to drive and survive the less-than-ideal conditions that surround the road.

Tips for driving Taroko Gorge

Although the road is challenging and treacherous, it’s still a tourist magnet. 

As one of Taiwan’s main highways, it’s also used daily by trucks that deliver supplies and crops.

With common sense, patience, and top-notch driving skills, it’s possible to drive Taroko Gorge Road without any problems.

Don’t drive Taroko Gorge Road during the rainy season

Portions of Taroko Gorge Road may be closed temporarily due to inclement weather or road work.

Remember, this highway runs through unstable and rugged terrain.

Heavy typhoon rain sometimes dislodges rocks and soil onto the road, making some of its sections impassable.

Another thing to note is that the area experiences an average of three tropical typhoons a year.

Each typhoon brings an average of 1,200 millimeters of rainfall.

Besides landslides and rockfalls along the gorge, heavy rain may also cause flooding.

This flooding occurs as the river swells or when water cascades onto the highway from the cliffs.

Give your car or truck a tune-up

Before you drive any mountain road, you must tune up your vehicle.

Everything should be in tip-top shape, including the battery’s performance, exhaust systems, windshield wipers, and brakes.

Your car should be in excellent condition because the unexpected events, weather, and terrain along the way can be tough to handle.

Be mindful 

Keep an eye out for loose rocks on the highway, and be extra careful when driving around blind corners.

Some drivers, especially those driving the small blue trucks, whip around these corners in the wrong lane.

Prepare for any emergency 

An accident or sudden heavy rain may leave you stranded on the highway for hours.

Also, it’s not uncommon for construction crews to spontaneously shut down portions of the road for hours on end. In fact, when we drove the road, we unexpectedly encountered a construction crew digging out a side of the road and were delayed for three hours.

Before you embark on your trip, inform someone where you’re going.

And don’t forget to tell them about your time or date of arrival.

We also recommend packing extra clothing, first aid, food, water, and car repair tools to fix any trouble.

Takeaways

Although driving Taroko Gorge road may sound daunting, it was also one of the most exciting and thrilling experiences of the trip. We encountered incredible views and were able to visit a really unique mountain town, Lishan, because we took the Taroko Gorge route. Just be sure you know what you’re getting into before attempting it, because the dangerous conditions were a shock to us!

Be safe, and keep wandering! 

-WL

Authors

Anthony Shallat

Anthony Shallat

Anthony Shallat is a digital nomad attorney and WanderLawyer co-founder. Anthony believes travel unlocks potential and opens minds. He’s been wandering and lawyering since 2014.