Fri, Jul 06, 2018 - Page 13 News List

Off the Beaten Track: Jhueilu Old Trail: Taiwan’s finest day hike

Safer and a lot more popular than a couple of decades ago, this thrilling cliff-edge trail is the highlight of any visit to Taroko Gorge

By Richard Saunders  /  Contributing Reporter

The trail is in fact well made, if a tad monotonous, and the 500 meters of vertical ascent is achieved painlessly. It helps having a few spots of interest on the way.

Just after the one kilometer marker (the trail is marked with distance posts every 100 meters) is the site of the vanished settlement of Badagang (巴達岡), which in Japanese times boasted a clinic, a school and several inns for travelers passing through on foot. Two hundred meters after it is a rather innocuous-looking suspension bridge that actually spans a narrow but gaping chasm with a drop of nearly a 100 meters.

Few do this hike to enjoy the remains of old villages or suspension bridges, however, so most hikers just carry on upwards until, around the 2.5km point, it flattens out, the view opens up and the cliff section draws close.

Passing through a short tunnel, the path narrows, the ground on the left begins to fall away steeply and the great cliff (and the path cut into its prodigious face) appears ahead.

For the next 500 meters the path is squeezed between the vertical face of the cliff above, and a huge, similarly sheer drop below. It is an airy, exposed and thrilling ledge with astounding views over the central section of Taroko Gorge, nearly half a kilometer below and the high mountains rearing above and behind it.

The spectacle is mesmerizing, so take time to walk this 500 meter-long final stretch. At the far end is a small area of flat ground shaded by trees (the site of an old Japanese police post).

If the remainder of the trail ever reopens, it’s another seven rough kilometers (including a couple more magnificent cliff sections, almost but not quite as spectacular as this first) before the trail emerges at Zihmu Bridge. It’s no hardship retracing the outward route back to Swallow Grotto, however, as this allows hikers to experience the amazing cliff trail, and its incomparable views, for a second time.

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