ZhuiLu Old Trail, located inside Taroko National Park, is supposedly the ‘most extreme hike in Taiwan’ so naturally, I worked my butt off to get the permits to be able to do this hike. You will need to apply for both the Mountain Permit and Park Permit since this is an ecologically protected area and the park likes to restrict the number of visitors to this area per day. (Also I think because this hike is very strenuous and keeping a roster of visitors in this way will allow them to better keep track of people in case anything happens to anyone.) You can find the permit applications here.
The permit application process is daunting and slightly discouraging, and I came across multiple online services where you can pay someone to complete the application for you. My mom said I should’ve gone this route but why pay for something you can do perfectly well yourself? I’m cheap like that. Here’s what you need to do:
1. Complete the Park Entry and Mountain Entry application forms. You will need the names, birth dates and passport numbers for everyone in your group. You will also need the local address of where you’ll be staying in Taiwan (I put our hotel address in Taipei) and a local cell phone number where you can be reached along with information for an emergency contact living in Taiwan. Daunting ain’t it? But don’t worry because I left most of the areas blank – for now.
2. Email both applications to firstname.lastname@example.org AT LEAST 7 days in advance of your anticipated arrival date. I’ve heard that you actually only need to email in the Park Entry form but I emailed both just to be safe.
3. The park will email you back that they’ve received your application and create an online form for you to complete here: http://permits2.taroko.gov.tw. It’s basically the same application, but I wasn’t able to register online to do it initially because they ask for your Taiwanese national ID or something which I didn’t have. If you can register online to begin with, you can skip the whole filling out the doc and emailing part and go straight to submitting the application online.
4. Make sure you check your spam for this return email from the national park because my first one went into my spam and got deleted. I ended up calling the national park office 2 days before our hike to email me again.
UPDATE: It looks like they’ve updated the online application to this page: http://npm.cpami.gov.tw/en/apply_1_5.aspx which seems much more internationally user friendly.
5. Of course, I couldn’t finish the online application because I didn’t have a local emergency contact or a Taiwanese cell phone number… so 2 days before our hike we had to run to the cell phone store and buy a temporary SIM card for Alvin’s phone and use that new number for the application. (I highly recommend getting a SIM card anyway as it’s super helpful) I was able to use my Taiwanese friend’s brother as an emergency contact since he was living in Taipei at the time. You’ll need their National ID number along with their name, phone number and birthdate. The park will actually call this person to make sure they’re real so make sure you find a legit person.
6. Submit online application and wait in agony for the park to accept your application. You can check your application status through your account or through here: http://npm.cpami.gov.tw/en/apply_3.aspx.
7. Once you’ve been accepted via email, you will need to go to the police station (located at the Headquarters just inside the entrance to the park) the day before or the day of your hike to pick up your permits. They made me complete the Mountain Entry form again so be sure to bring copies of all of your forms with you so you don’t have to fill them out again.
8. The police will give you 2 copies of each permit, one for entry and one for when you exit the trail. We didn’t have to give back the second permit copy when we left, though, I think because it was covered in sweat by that time.
I highly recommend picking up the permit the day before your hike or earlier, if possible. You don’t know how long it will take at the police station (I think I spent close to 1 hour there) and you don’t want to be rushing in the morning.
Quick recap of what you’ll need for the application:
- Names of you, your group members, and Taiwanese emergency contact
- Birthdates of you, your group members, and Taiwanese emergency contact
- Passport numbers of you and your group members
- National ID of your Taiwanese emergency contact
- Address of your hotel in Taiwan
- Phone number of your Taiwanese emergency contact
- Your local Taiwanese cell phone number (this cannot be a hotel phone number)
Once you have all of the information, the application process will be easy peasy. The only real set back is obtaining a Taiwanese cell number, which you can only do once you’re in the country, so get that done right when you land. Finding a local to be your emergency contact is the only other thing that might be tricky, but you can find someone in advance or make friends in Taiwan!
Do NOT wait until the last minute to do this application or you will regret it.