How to get a Zhuilu Old Trail Permit
Zhuilu Old Trail (also known as Jheilu or Zhuilu Old Road) is my favorite hiking trail in Taroko National Park. Narrowly carved 700m above the canyon floor, the track features an absolutely magnificent (and hair-raising) view of marble gorges from a soaring cliff. A hiker or not, anyone visiting Taroko Gorge near Hualien, Taiwan, should not miss out on this hiking experience like no other.
The exciting hiking trail is open to only a limited number of hikers daily. You will need to jump a few hoops to get a Zhuilu Old Trail Permit. I will explain how to apply for a permit.
This article also outlines all you need to know and do before/during your hike to Zhuiilu Old Trail.
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Zhuilu Old Trail
Length: 6.2km roundtrip
Duration: 4-6 hours
Admission: NT$200 (NT$100 for age 6-12)
Permit: Park permit is required. See below for more details.
Location: Trail entrance near Swallow Grotto [Open Google Map]
The Zhuilu Old Trail was originally created by the Truku people – one of 16 recognized indigenous tribes in Taiwan who used to reside in Taroko.
The original trail sits 300-400m above Zhuilu Cliff. It is 10.3km long, connecting between Swallow Grotto East Trailhead and Helliu Cimu Bridge. However, only 3.1km between the Swallow Grotto East Trailhead and the Duanyai outpost is currently open.
Zhuilu Old Trail Hours: 7 am – 4:30 pm
You must enter between 7-10 am and report back by 4:30 pm.
Bring your permit and photo ID to report at the checkpoint near Zuilu Suspension Bridge(錐麓吊橋)/Swallow Grotto Trail. Pay the entry fee here. Accept cash only.
Zhuilu Old Trail Permit Required
Application: Apply for a permit here (English)
Phone: +886 (0)3-862-1576
A hiking permit is required. (No longer need a police permit.) Entrance is limited to 96 people per day on weekdays and 156 people on weekends and holidays.
The permit application opens 30 days in advance for everyone, or 4 months to 35 days before for foreign passport holders. For the advance application for foreigners, all group members must possess a foreign nationality with proof of ID.
This daily quota fills up pretty quickly. So set the alarm and stand by online. The system opens up at 7 am local time. To give you an idea of how popular this trail is, I logged on around 8:30 am, 30 days before entry. Only about 15 seats were left by then.
Be prepared with the following questions to speed up the application submission:
- A team leader. Each application represents a team with 12 people max.
- Photo of everyone’s ID (i.e., valid passport or Taiwan resident ID card)
- Emergency contact (full name and phone number)
- Your e-signature
Fill out your application form. You will be asked to sign a document: Zhuilu Old Road Application Regulations. Instead of printing out the word document to sign, you can add an e-signature directly and upload it.
Once your application is successfully submitted, you can download a receipt with your application number and other details. (Note: This is NOT your permit. You will need this information later to print your permit.) Your application status will say “Process Pending.”
Although the instruction stated that the park would notify me, I did not receive any notification. And my status on the website stayed pending. I ended up calling the park to confirm as the date approaches closer. But I later learned that the permit is available for download/print only 5 days before your hiking day.
>> If all fails or you rather not go through the process, I recommend joining this Zhuilu hiking tour. They take care of permit applications for you. And an experience hiking guide will accompany.
What Else to Bring
This is absolutely not an easy-breezy hike to wear sandals or flip-flop. Be well-prepared and adequately equipped for your safety. Depending on the weather and season, be prepared for sun, wind, light rain, or even snow. (It rarely but does snow in the mountains of Taiwan!)
- Hat (UV protective, breathable, and adjustable safari cap like this)
- Sunscreen (weightless & invisible sunscreen like this)
- Trekking poles and hiking staffs (super-light, foldable one like this)
- Non-slip hiking boots like this (Insulated snow hiking boots for winter: this or this)
- Light rain jacket (this) or windbreaker (this)
- Quick-drying towel to wipe your sweat (this)
- Bug spray (all-natural repellent like this)
- Water (I recommend a 1L bottle per person.)
- Snack (this) or a lunch box (to eat at a rest area at the end of the trail)
How to Get to Zhuilu Old Road
By Car or Scooter (my recommendation)
Head west on the Central Cross-Island Highway. Find the trail entrance near Swallow Grotto. Park on the side of the highway if there are spots. Otherwise, you may find more parking at the Xipan Service station 500 meters away from the trail entrance.
From Hualien Station: Take Ubus 310, Hualien Bus 1133, or Luoshao 1126. Get off at Swallow Grotto (燕子口).
From Xincheng Station: Take Taroko Bus 302, Ubus 310 or Hualien Bus 1133.
Some hotels like Silks Place Taroko [Check the latest rates] offer a shuttle to popular hiking sites such as Swallow Grotto.
Although parking is not convenient, I highly recommend driving a scooter or car. Taroko buses are unreliable and infrequent (one per hour on average). Due to the rockfalls, it is prevalent that the traffic is stopped for an hour or longer.
Our hotel Silks Place Taroko offered a shuttle bus inside the park. With some concerns about parking, we took the shuttle bus to Swallow Grotto. On our way back, we missed the shuttle by 5 minutes. Unfortunately, all traffic was blocked for two hours right before Swallow Grotto towards our direction that day. We wasted two hours waiting for the next bus while other hikers drove out of the park. We could have gone to another nearby trail, but at that time, no one – not even the park office – knew how long it would take for the road work to complete!
Best Time to Visit Zhuilu Old Trail
The best time to hike Zhuilu Old Trail is on a sunny, dry day, any time of the year. When it rains, you are still allowed to enter (at your own risk). Be aware of the slippery ground and proceed with extra caution. One misstep can lead to a fatal accident in some parts.
Once you set your date, unfortunately, it hugely depends on your luck. The weather here is unpredictable, to say the least.
When a typhoon or earthquake occurs, the trail will be closed. And your permit will be canceled. Generally speaking, the typhoon season is July to October, although it has become harder and harder to predict seasonal weather in recent years.
As my hiking day was approaching, I nervously checked the forecast because it was supposed to rain all day. I got lucky not to get rained. (It kept getting pushed back until it finally poured in the evening.) However, the weather kept changing like a dozen times during my 4-hour hike!!!
Know Before You Go
- Follow the Leave No Trace Principles. Prepare to bring all your trash back. No marking on the boulder or posts.
- Must stay in the trail path.
- Make sure to use a bathroom before you get there. There is no bathroom on the trail nor near the entrance.
- Check the weather. But be aware the weather can frequently change, even on the same day.
- You may rent a helmet for free here if you are worried about falling rocks.
- Any pets or animals are not allowed.
- Don’t disturb any animals, insects, or plants. Big O was carelessly swinging in the air practicing his golf swing. (Why??) He came back with some skin rashes, which were apparently caused by caterpillar hairs according to a demonologist. (Karma!)
Best Taroko Gorge Trails for Beginners
Zhuilu Old Trail might be the crown jewel of Taroko Gorge. But you are in for a leisurely hike or on a time crunch. I get it. Fortunately, Taroko National Park has many easy trails with spectacular views of the marble canyons.
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Hiking Zhuilu Old Trail
This is only at the 0.8km mark. Although it was on an overcast day in April, we were profusely sweating by then.
The 1km post has a fabulous photo spot with a stunning gorge view as a backdrop.
Following the Turuku War, the Japanese established the Badagang Police Station to patrol the area. Today, only two posts remain.
Crossing the Badagang Suspension Bridge
Around the 2km point, pass this cave and a metal bridge.
This looks cozy before the path reveals the hair-raising cliff section. But be on the lookout for falling rocks. A piece of marble stone? Ouch! That must hurt.
2.6km post: Finally, we arrived at the cliff section!
Holy cow! Look at this view!
It can get foggy up there. We are so close to the cloud.
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The true beauty of the Zhuilu Old Trail lies in the cliff section, which is 750 meters above sea level and about 500 meters in length at the trail end.
The original path of this section was only 30cm wide! But thank God, it has been widened ever since. Even then, it could get scary. Some parts have a rope fence, but other parts have nothing to protect you from falling off.
To make things worse, rocks from the marble cliff often fall. It happens more frequently than you would think. You will see the evidence all over the path.
You will undoubtedly want to take photos and videos on this footpath. The fabulous view and stunning landscape make it impossible not to do so. But you really have to be careful and stay alert. One misstep can lead to a fatal accident.
Please no selfie on the cliff edge unless you want to be on the news as another careless Instagram-hungry hiker. I’m pretty sure fellow hikers are willing to help take photos of you. Taiwanese are super friendly. Just ask.
Is Zhuilu Old Trail Child Friendly?
It depends on the kid. And you, as parents, will have to make the judgment call as you know your kiddo the best. The park does not seem to have an age restriction, although I did not see any children on the course. If your kids are well-behaved and have a long-hike experience, it might be ok for you to take them. But you will still have to keep your eyes on them all the time to avoid any unfortunate (fatal) accidents.
Where to Go Next in Taiwan for Nature Lovers
>> East Coast of Taiwan (Part 1): Taitung, the Garden of Taiwan
>> East Coast of Taiwan (Part 2): Hualien, lush mountains and stunning coastline
>> Sun Moon Lake: A Picturesque Alpine Lake near Taichung
>> Xiaoliuqiu Island: Swim with Sea Turtles
>> Juming Museum: A mountaintop sculpture park with the famed Juming’s artworks
>> Wulai Hot Springs: A secluded aboriginal village tucked in a mountain famous for hot spring
>> Beitou Hot Springs: An urban retreat only a stone’s throw away from Taipei