The Golden Grotto (黃金峽谷)

The Golden Grotto (黃金峽谷) is a beautiful slot canyon up a remote river valley near Hualian, Taiwan.  Located a few kilometers south of the entrance to Taroko Gorge National Park (太魯閣國家公園) or a few Kilometers north of Hualian (花蓮), the entrance to the Pratan South River is in Pratan Village (aka SanJhan South River (三棧南溪) and SanJhan Village (三棧)).

Jumping off one of the waterfalls behind the Golden Grotto near Hualian, Taiwan.

We had a beautiful mid-November weekend on our hands and wanted to do something new.  Unfortunately, a few of us were getting over early winter colds and didn’t feel like a real hardcore hike like we usually do on these weekends.  So we decided to take a nice slow drive from Taipei to Hualian.

Now this was a stretch for us… going slow.  Usually, we drive as fast as we can so we can get to our destination and hike as fast as we can.  But this trip, we drove slowly.  So slowly in fact, that the usual 4 hour drive to Hualian took us 8 hours!  We stopped at a few beaches in Yilan (宜蘭), tried to find a waterfall in DongShan (冬山), had a motorcycle breakdown, and then stopped at another beach in Dong-Ao (東澳).

Stopping for a break from the drive at Dong-Ao Beach, just south of Yilan, Taiwan.

When we finally got to Pratan, there happened to be a music festival called the Peace Fest.  Good time.  Some good bands played.  Ate some good food (a rarity for a hiking trip).  Drank too much some beer.  Didn’t get much sleep that night listening to the damn hippies bang their damn bongo drums, but it’s cool, they were having fun.

On to the river trace…

The river that goes through Pratan forks just to the west of the town.  To get to the Golden Grotto, take the branch to the south and start walking.  For the first kilometer or two, there is a trail on the southern bank that’s a little faster than walking through the river.  It takes you up along an aqueduct that was built many years ago by the KMT and American governments to supply Pratan with irrigation and drinking water.

The first 2 hours of this river trace is OK, but it get a little monotonous.

As far as river tracing goes, this one wasn’t the most exciting.  You have to cross the river a few times and swim in a spot or two, but there weren’t many small waterfalls or places to climb. We all found the multiple colored and multiple textured rocks very interesting though.  It’s had to believe that blue, red, green and yellow stones can all be fount in the same small river.

One of the really cool rocks in the Pratan South River, near Hualian and Taroko Gorge, Taiwan.

A look at the variety of colors of rocks that can be found in the Pratan South River, on the way to the Golden Grotto.

A look at the variety of rocks we saw on our hike through the Pratan South River on our way to the Golden Grotto near Hualian, Taiwan.

The first 2 hours of this river trace is OK, but it get a little monotonous. There are a lot of big rocks to climb over.

Two and a half hours after leaving Pratan, we finally came to a stretch of the river where the sides of the valley became very steep.

Phil, myself, Stu and Ross as we near the Golden Grotto in the Pratan South River near Hualian and Taroko Gorge, Taiwan.

Walking through the Pratan South River (almost at the Golden Grotto).

And a few minutes after that we came to the Golden Grotto.  It’s a slightly difficult climb up some big boulders to get to the first grotto, but luckily this entire trace is slip-free.  I don’t know why, but most of the river traces in these mountains don’t have much algae growing and it makes climbs like this that much easier.

This is it, the Golden Grotto. You can swim across it and climb into a tight slot canyon with several waterfalls.

You can swim across the main grotto and climb up a few waterfalls to the beautiful caves.  They are not really caves though, they are 100 meter walls of rock that the small river flows through.

Inside the cavern behind the main pool of the Golden Grotto.

In the end, we had a great time and decided to go back someday.  The river upstream from the Golden Grotto seems interesting and might need to be explored when we have more time!
Interested in river tracing in Taiwan?  Check out Taiwan Adventures website and facebook page!

Thanks for reading,
-neil

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Categories: Hiking, PHOTOGRAPHY, TAIWAN, Taiwan Adventurers | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 35 Comments

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35 thoughts on “The Golden Grotto (黃金峽谷)

  1. That water looks very inviting.

    • The water was unbelievably clear, but a little cold. It amazing how the southern mountain streams often have water that is that clear.

  2. Pingback: Weekly Links – November 12, 2009 « The Daily Bubble Tea

  3. Cool pics mate! I’ve got to get a better camera for this kind of thing…. haven’t got the balls to take my SLR and my little camera is rubbish!

  4. What a beautiful lake in Taiwan..
    I’ve never been and heard of it, even I’m a Taiwanese.

  5. Great blog. I teach on a few Photography Holidays around the world and I’ll definitely be recommending this blog to my students who are always asking me about good travel photography websites!

  6. rantingcynic

    I want to go here.

  7. regan

    Very Cool. My brother and I were in Hualien a couple of years ago. We hiked up the river via the shakadong(?) trail I believe and there were many amazing pools. But I don’t think we were at the one in your blog. I’ll have to look into that next time I go.

    Peace.

  8. Great stuff, man. Always nice to see the work of a peer. You should add buttons to the bottom of your posts to digg, stumble, etc your content.-Tom

    • Thanks Tom. You just inspired me to figure out how to add that button. I tried to do it a few months ago but couldn’t figure it out!

  9. 吉雷米

    我以前住在花蓮兩年,我知道這個地方,我去過好幾次,花東是台灣最美的地點之一,我很喜歡你們的照片,很好看喔!我也很驚訝,我以為佬美只是喜歡去PUB喝酒,很高興看到這麼喜歡台灣的外國人,keep on the good work,加油!!!

  10. Tess

    I want go!!! Gorgeous! Can’t wait to go to Taiwan next year. Thanks for the great pics (and travel ideas!)
    谢谢!

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  12. jasonlu

    awesome place , the water looks so clear , what a shame , as a native taiwaness , I do’nt even know this place, I might visit there someday in the future , brilliant !

  13. lu shan

    Hi Niel
    Really beautiful place, and lots of fun. Thank you for sharing it. I plan to go back too.

    Lu Shan 祿山

  14. alex

    Hi Neil
    any ideas where can i rent river tracing gears? booties etc…
    i’ll be heading there next month =)

    • Hi Alex. If you’re going to the Golden Grotto, there is a small village called Pratan at the start with a visitors center. All the gear you need can be rented there.

  15. Rex

    hey man! I’m heading to Taiwan real soon and this seems awesome!

    I have a few questions though. Where exactly is pratan? And are there maps at the visitors centre that will lead me to the golden grotto?

    lastly, is this cliff advisable for amateurs like myself? It does seem pretty tough to climb to the top.

    Thanks a lot man!

    • Hi Rex,
      Pratan (AKA Sanzhan 三棧) is a small village in between Hualian and the entrance to Taroko Gorge. The coordinates are: 24° 6’7.99″N, 121°36’20.36″E (copy that into Google Earth or Google Maps). The grotto itself is up the small river to the left, behind the village (Trust me, the river is easy to find). Walk up the river for 2-3 hours and the grotto will be on the right after the river banks turn into near cliff walls. ( 24° 5’35.81″N, 121°34’17.90″E). As far as whether I recommend you going or not… Probably if you have to ask, the answer is no, you’re probably not ready. (Please don’t take that too harshly) If you are the kind of person who is always out hiking, climbing, swimming and generally doing dangerous things, then it shouldn’t be too hard. The walk up the river to the grotto is easy enough, but as soon as you get there, you will have to climb some dangerous, slippery cliffs.
      A good idea for you might be to join our facebook group. We often run hikes and we might go back the The Golden Grotto sometime.
      Cheers,
      -Neil

  16. kirsty

    I did this hike last week (and stayed at Pratan for a couple of nights) was an amazing place. Also did a second shorter trek up the South river. Pictures can never do this place justice – though I think it should be kept a secret :)

    I am most definitely not a regular at treking but it wasn’t too hard. We had a guide from the visitors center who was a massive help at getting up the final bit. Currents were pretty strong when we were there due to the recent rain.

  17. dominic

    any places similar to this that are closer to taipei?

    • Hi Dominic,
      I can’t think of any cave like this around Taipei, but there are a few rivers that are good for river tracing. The most popular one is on the road from Xindian to Wulai. It’s called Jiajiuliao and can be gotten to by public transportation. (Although, I’d wait for the weather to get warmer!!!)
      Cheers.

  18. Bela

    Your blog is great. Thanks for the ideas! I’m going to Taiwan for 5 weeks and was looking for some inspiration. I never did river tracing before, would you recommend to try it the first time by oneself or should i look for an organised group-trip?

    Greetings from Germany,
    Bela

  19. Cory

    Hey guys, love your pics and your informative blog. My question comes from this: I called a company in hauling that does organized trips and it seems that this hike has suffered from a landslide and has been and currently is inaccesable. Is this true or are they just not taking groups in anymore?

  20. Did it yesterday. No signs of landslides. Absolutely great hike, one of the best I ever did, really memorable. But be advised that you shouldn’t do it on your own, you’ll need some gear: a helmet (!!!), booties and maybe a life vest, even if you can swim perfectly; it prevents you from drowning when you should have a accident and fall inconscious. There is the inherent danger of falling rocks (we had a near miss which probably had been lethal despite wearing a helmet). In the village, there are several ‘hiking companies’ offering you the gear and guides and technical help (you might need some technical aids or at least ropes to climb the waterfalls in the GoldCanyon, somebody to to fix them for you and probably also to lend you a helpng hand sometimes.

    -> You might check with TaiwanAdventures or get more information on the Webpage of SanJhan village: http://www.sanjhan.com/index_en.shtml

  21. andy crosthwaite

    Hi Neil,
    A friend of mine is talking about doing this. Would we need permits? And what do you reckon about equipment like helmets and life vests?

    • Hi Andy,
      You don’t need permits, but I’d definitely recommend safety gear, at least a helmet. You used to be able to rent the gear at the little visitors center at the beginning of the village near the river, but I’m not sure if you can any more.
      Cheers

  22. That’s great. Cheers, Neil.

  23. Pingback: Hualien – a weekend away in taiwan

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