The original inhabitants of the park area were the Atayal people, known for their fine weaving skills, facial tattoos and headhunting. Most of the Atayal have now moved out of the park but a few families remain, supporting themselves by selling woven products to tourists. Many of the trails in the gorge now used by tourists were once Atayal hunting and trading routes. For example, the old Hohuan Trail (Héhuān Yuèlǐng Gǔdào), the precursor of the Central Cross-Island Hwy, was once used for crossing the island.
In 1914 the Japanese entered the gorge hoping to gain access to the forestry and mineral resources. The Atayal resisted but the Japanese crushed all opposition with brutal military force. They then began to cut roads and widen existing trails. A road was built as far as Tienhsiang, and Taroko became a popular hiking spot for Japanese tourists in the 1930s. Later, in the 1950s, the KMT extended the road as part of the first Cross-Central Hwy; not surprisingly, much of it followed the old Hohuan Trail.
Taroko National Park was officially established on 28 November 1986.