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)).
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,