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Shakadang Trail and Xiaozhuilu Trail: Short and Easy Hike in Taroko, Hualien

Posted by:  Anusha Lee
Published date: February 16, 2021
Last update: December 29, 2023
Nestled near the Central Cross-Island Highway entrance in Hualien, the Shakadang and Xiaozhuilu Trails are great for a one-day adventure at the exquisite Taroko National Park. Moreover, you don't need permits to do those trails.
Shakadang Trail in Taroko Hualien
The turquoise blue in Shakadang River remains the same whether it's sunny or rainy.
The beautiful turquoise color of the Shakadang River and the magnificent boulders and cliffs are the highlights of this hike. While 1,050 meters long, the Xiaozhuilu Trail is an excellent starter with a beautiful view of the Liwu River before taking on the Shakadang Trail.
Before you go, please check whether Shakadang Trail is open. It may be closed even if the website says partially open. I learned this the hard way.
A shout-out to Jamie W. for letting me know the latest update of Xiaozhuilu Trailhead and a kind offer to let me use his photos.

Table of Contents:

About Shakadang

Shakadang Trail 砂卡礑步道 and Xiaozhuilu Trail are two of the famous trails in Taroko National Park, and very easy to hike. You don't need to apply for permits to enjoy the beautiful scenery to hike there.
Shakadang Trail in Taroko Hualien
A must visit trail in Taroko.
Shakadang Trail was built during Japanese Occupation and was meant for hydroelectric power. It is an out-and-back trial and goes along with winding Shakadang River and ends at Sanjianwu. The one-way length of Shakadang Trail is 4.1 km (2.54 miles). Shakadang River is a tributary of Liwu River, which helps create and shape the famous Taroko Gorge.
Shakadang Trail in Taroko Hualien
You'll see this sign at the entrance of Shakadang trails

Taroko Entrance Gate or The Central Cross-Island Highway Gate 太魯閣閣口 or 東西橫貫公路牌樓

If you get off the ubss one stop earlier, you'll see this famous landmark near Jinwen Bridge 錦文橋 above Liwu River. Central Cross-Island Highway (aka Provincial Highway 8) was built in July 1956 and was open to traffic in May 1960. This gate is located on the east side of this highway, and has become the landmark of Taroko ever since. Many tourists will take photos here. In 2005, Hualien County Government has listed this gate as the important historical building.
Shakadang Trail in Taroko Hualien
The Central Cross-Island Highway Gate

Wujianwu and Sanjianwu

After you hike 1.5 km on Shakadang Trail and see five shops selling sausages and drinks and toilets on the other side, you've reached Wujianwu. Wujianwu, aka 5D Cabin or Swiji, means five houses 五間屋 in Chinese. It's old name is Swiji, meaning Banyan Tree with big leaves in the Truku (Taroko) language. In the old days, there were five houses that belonged to Truku people. Therefore, this place is called Five Houses or Wujianwu. Trail terrain after Wujianwu becomes more natural and rugged if you decide to hike further to Sanjianwu.
Dali and Datong Villages and Trails: Place worth to visit every year to see the most epic mountains in the East Taiwan
Wujianwu has become a market place to take a break and buy local food.
As to Sanjianwu 三間屋, san means three in Chinese. As you guess it, there were three houses in the old days here. The old name of Sanjianwu is Brayaw 柏拉耀, meaning Giant Elephant's Ear in the Truku language. This is because there were many those plants around Sanjianwu. Please note that the leaves and stems of Giant Elephant's Ear are toxic, and DO NOT mix them with the edible taros.
Shakadang Trail in Taroko Hualien
You'll see this when you reach Sanjianwu.

Xiaozhuilu Trail

As to Xiaozhuilu Trail, it means little Zhuilu Trail in Chinese. It was built by Taroko National Park in 2014, and it earned this name because its scenery looks like mini version of Zhuilu Old Trail. This trail is very short, only 650 meters (213 feet) long, and is connected to Shakadang Trail. Therefore, it's highly recommended to take both Xiaozhuilu and Shakadang Trails.

How to Get There and Maps

  1. 1. You can take Ropo Bus 302 at Xincheng Train Station 新城火車站 and get off at Taroko Visitor Center.
  2. 2. Or take Hualien Bus 1133, 1126, or 1141 from Hualien Train Station and get off at Taroko Visitor Center. Please note that those buses will stop in downtown Hualien City, which will take longer to arrive at Taroko Visitor Center. Please note that you can also take Hualien Bus 1133A to Taroko Visitor Center, because it will not go to Hualien downtown and get to your destination at least 30 minutes faster depending on the traffic.
  3. 3. The faster bus to Taroko Visitor Center is Taiwan Tourist Shuttle Bus 台灣好行Taroko Route 310 at Hualien Train Station.
Zhuilu Old Trail in Taroko Gorge, Hualien
Taiwan Tourist Shuttle Bus taks you to the main tourist attractions in Taroko.
You actually don't need a GPX track to hike Xiaozhuilu and Shakadang trails. Just follow the signs. But you can check out the map to see other trails I've done in Taroko.

A Hike to Stroll without the Need to Plan in Advance

Distance: 9.5 km (5.9 miles)
Brief itinerary: Taroko Visitor Center (Height 60 meters) ➔ Shakadang Tunnel ➔ Xiaozhuilu Trail (Height 60 meters) ➔ Shakadang Bridge and entrance of Shakadang Trail (Height 60 meters) ➔ Wujianwu ➔ Sanjianwu and return ➔ Shakadang Bridge ➔ Taroko Visitor Center
As I mentioned in my hike to Dali and Datong Villages in July 2020, this is my second time to do Shakadang Trail in 2020. I didn't plan to hike Shakadang Trail again, but I stayed at a hotel near Taroko Visitor Center for my hike on Zhuilu Old Trail on the following day. Since I was there and got some time, I decided to enjoy this beautiful trail again.
Zhuilu Old Trail in Taroko Gorge, Hualien
Zhui Old Trail: a slightly more challenging but also a must-do trail if you visit Taroko Gorge.
When I arrived at Hualien Train Station, it was raining, and I was worried that it would still be raining on the day when I started to hike on Zhuilu Old Trail.
Shakadang Trail in Taroko Hualien
It rained a lot when I arriaved at Hualien Train Station
One thing to remember about the weather in Hualien is it changes all the time. By the time I arrived at my hotel in Taroko in the early afternoon, the rain had stopped, which was wonderful.
It took me less than 1 km from my hotel to Taroko Visitor Center. When I saw Central Cross-island Highway Gate, I took right to Jinwen Bridge to the visitor center. When I passed the entrance gate, many tourists lined up taking photos with the gate. This was indeed a significant monument to be remembered.
Zhuilu Old Trail in Taroko Gorge, Hualien
Turn right when you see Central Cross-island Highway Gate.

An Unexpected but Pleasant Short Trail: Xiaozhuilu Trail

Before heading to Shakadang Tunnel, you will see Xiaozhuilu Trail. Xiaozhuilu Trail was built in 2014 and and it underwent several constructions later.
xiaozhuilu-update-1-Jamie-Webb
The new trailhead to Xiaozhuilu Trail. Photo credit: Jamie W.
Xiaozhuilu Trail was built along the side of Shakadang Tunnel in 2014 and and and it underwent several constructions later. When I did this trail, it was under construction and I went inside Shakadang Tunnel and took turn to Xiaozuilu Trail.
Jamie did the hike in late 2023, and according to Jamie, it feels longer than 1,050 meters, and the first section is steeper and narrower than the rest of the section.
Shakadang Trail in Taroko Hualien
The new trailhead to Xiaozhuilu Trail. Photo credit: Jamie W.
You can follow the footpath to continue.
Shakadang Trail in Taroko Hualien
A mesh net to stop the falling rocks on the trail.
xiaozhuilu-update-2-Jamie-Webb
Beautiful view from Xiaozhuilu Trail. Photo credit: Jamie W.
Take the stairs up and you will see something interesting.
Shakadang Trail in Taroko Hualien
Two choices: taking the flat trail or the stairs.
It was a suspension bridge! Of course, I wanted to take this one. As you can see, it wasn't scary at all.
Shakadang Trail in Taroko Hualien
This bridge didn't wobble much if you are not used to too much motion.
The trail terrain was in a good condition and children should have no problem walking here. Within a few minutes, the Shakadang Bridge showed up. This is also the start of Shakadang Trail.
Zhuilu Old Trail in Taroko Gorge, Hualien

Turned to Shakadang Trail and Found Something New

If you don't take Xiaozhuilu Trail, the entrance of Shakadang Trail is underneath the bridge and you have to take the staircase to get there.
shakadang-staircase near Shakadang Trail
There are staircases on both sides of Shakadang Bridge.
Basically, you don't need a GPX or map to hike Shakadang Trail. This is an out-and-back trail, and you just follow the well-maintained trail. If you are a tall person, please watch out your head.
Shakadang Trail in Taroko Hualien
It's very easy to hit your head against rock wall if you are tall. Please watch out.
If you take the whole trail, the round trip is 8.2 km. I only brought a small bag and some water, and I started the hike late. So, I didn't plan to get to Sanjianwu, the end of the trail.
Shakadang Trail in Taroko Hualien
The estimated time you need to finish the whole trail.
This trail went along with Shakadang River, which is 16 km (10 miles) long, and the color of the river was beautiful turquoise.
Shakadang Trail in Taroko Hualien
Beautiful Shakadang River with the lush trees.
The rocks on the other side of the river were amazing as well, like abstract paintings.
Shakadang Trail in Taroko Hualien
The barren cliffs are like abstract paintings.
I walked as quick as I could because I was hoping to hike as much as I could before it was too dark. Suddenly, I saw something in peripheral vision. I stopped and squatted down to take a closer look.
At a first glance, they looked like lilies. There were some purple buds and some white flowers with tiny purple dots all over the flower paddles and the sticking out stamens. Those were gorgeous.
Shakadang Trail in Taroko Hualien
Then I saw those beautiful flowers, Taiwan Toadlily.
Later, I know those were 台灣油點草 Taiwan Toadlily. Those are endemic species and seem to be very popular in Hualien. I saw Taiwan Toadlily again on my hike to Mt. Liushun and Qicai Lake.

The Turquoise Blue That Never Changes

You can also turn back whenever you want, but at least try to get pass Wujianwu. There were some food venders and toilets for you to take a break. You can see About Wujianwu and Sanjianwu to know more about those places.
Shakadang Trail in Taroko Hualien
There were indeed five houses at Wujianwu, whihch means five hourses in Chinese.
You can take a break at Wujianwu and try Maqaw sausage 馬告香腸. Maqaw is the Atayal name of May Chang or mountain pepper in Mandarin.
Shakadang Trail in Taroko Hualien
I took this one when I hiked there in July 2020 when it was raining. You can try Maqaw sausages if you eat meat.
After Wujianwu, Shakadang River looked more impressive with huge boulders scattering in the water. The trail terrain became more rugged, but still manageable.
Shakadang Trail in Taroko Hualien
How huge and beautiful the boulder was in the middle of the river.
The turquoise bule remained the same even when the weather wasn't good. I took this one when it was raining in July 2020.
Shakadang Trail in Taroko Hualien
You can see the rain drops in the photo.

End the Day with A Wonderful Indigenous Meal

I didn't get to Sanjianwu because I didn't bring enough gear, so I decided to turn back after reaching Aqueduct 大水管. There were some people dipping their toes in the water. It must be great to enjoy the river in summer.
Shakadang Trail in Taroko Hualien
You can see a footpath that can lead you to the river.
It took me much less time to get back to my hotel. After taking a short rest, I went to a restaurant that served Truku food near my hotel, called Huhus Restaurant.
Huhus Restaurant in Taroko Hualien
I did some research about this restaurant before I headed to Hualien.
In Truku, huhus means the sounds made by snakes, and it was also the old name of Dali Village. I ordered BBQ Pork served with side dishes and bamboo rice 火烤鹹豬肉套餐, and it was so delicious, and the potion was so big that I was so full.
Huhus Restaurant in Taroko Hualien
The food was delicious and there was a dessert served later.
This was Truku rice wine, and it tasted so smooth. I usually don't dare to try rice wine, because of its pungent smell, but this one was different. But if I drank this too much, I probably wouldn't be able to do my Zhuilu Old Trail on the next day. It was a great meal to end the day.
Huhus Restaurant in Taroko Hualien
My favorite rice wine so far. I got an urge to buy a bottle home but I was afraid I'd finish it before I went home.

Other Trails Nearby to Enjoy

There are so many things you can do and see in Taroko, and Shakadang Trail and Xiaozhuilu Trail are one of them. Those trails are short and easy to hike and you can totally do it without a guide.
If you can stay in Taroko Gorge for several days, you can spend one day on Shakadang Trail and Xiaozhuilu Trail, and Taroko Visitor Center for one day, and Zhuilu Old Trail, Yanzikou, and Tunnel of Nine Turns for the second day, and the rest of Taroko Gore on the third day. Shanyue Suspension Bridge is also a good option.
Zhuilu Old Trail in Taroko Gorge, Hualien
Zhuilu Suspension Bridge and Shanyue Suspension Bridge over Liwu River.
If you opt for challenging trail and get inside the local people's life, you should take the trail to Dali and Datong villages, and stay there for one night. I promise you this is a trail that you will want to do it again.
Dali and Datong Villages and Trails: Place worth to visit every year to see the most epic mountains in the East Taiwan
Dali Church, another one of my favorite places to hike in Hualien.
Just take your time to enjoy amazing Taroko Gorge without a rush and discover the beauty of the nature wonder.
Zhuilu Old Trail in Taroko Gorge, Hualien
You can't miss Tunnel of Nine Turns in Taroko Gorge.
Taroko map from Taroko National Park website
There are so many wonderful trails in Taroko.
Have you been to Taroko? What trails did you go when you were there? Please leave comments below. Don't forget to subscribe to newsletters to know more about the exciting trails in Taiwan.

How to Apply for Hiking Permits in Taiwan, Or Hire Me!

A Handy Guide to Applying for Hiking Permits in Taiwan

You don't need to apply for permits to hike Shakadang or Xiaozhuilu Trail, but you might do more trails later. You can download my guide "How to Plan and Apply for Hiking Permits in Taiwan" by clicking the image below for details.

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Zhuilu Old Trail
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