SONGNISAN (속리산) Hiking Routes


HIKE 1: THE CHUNGBUK RIDGE LOOP – 17.9 km / 4.5 hours
Difficulty Rating: 3 - Intermediate

I chose to do a loop this time around, starting at Beopjusa, climbing to Cheonhwangbong, continuing across the ridge to Munjangdae, and returning to Beopjusa from there (see map in previous post). It’s a nice easy, half-day hike overall. The 7.0 km from the temple to Cheonhwangbong is not particularly steep or rugged. In fact, the first 4.2 km is a gravel road rather than a hiking path, which winds alongside a placid lake. The last 2.8 km to the peak follows a well-maintained footpath with stone steps. Views of the valley are scattered here and there once you break from the trees. Unfortunately, it rained for the first 2 hours of my hike, so I could see very little below me. It took me about 90 minutes to reach Cheonhwangbong at a steady pace.

From there it took another hour to do the 4 km along the ridge to Munjangdae. The ridge section, which is studded with interesting rock formations like Ipseokdae and Gyeongeopdae, has little in the way of elevation change, so you can move at quite a rapid pace.

Once at Munjangdae, the weather cleared a little and I was able to look north over an impressive collection of small mountains nestled in the clouds. Munjangdae is famous, because King Sejo supposedly recited a poem at the spot. Now a set of steel steps leads up the side of the rock to the top. The top of the rock is fairly small and can become crowded quickly. If I do this hike again, I’ll get there earlier in the morning before most of the pack gets going. There’s a small store just below Munjangdae that sells water and snacks and blares the Korean national anthem at an obnoxious volume from time to time (luckily you can’t hear it at the top).

Ideally, if you had more time than I did, you could continue west for 11.2 km and eventually end up at the end of the Chungbuk Alps in Shinjeong-ri. Getting an early start, it would be possible to do the entire thing in one day and head home from Shinjeong-ri.

The 7.1 km trek from Munjangdae back down to Beopjusa takes about 90 minutes, passing through lush forest areas and by small waterfalls. The entire route has good signage, both in Korean and English.


HIKE 2: BEOPJUSA-MUNJANGDAE LOOP - 15.5 km / 3.5 hours
Difficulty Rating: 3 - Intermediate

The route begins at Beopjusa, ascends to Munjangdae, via the (A) Trail, and returns to Beopjusa, via the (B) Trail.

Difficulty Rating: 3 - Intermediate

The route begins at Beopjusa, ascends to Munjangdae, via the (B) Trail, continues to Shinseondae, and then descends to Beopjusa, via the (C) Trail.

Difficulty Rating: 4 - Strenuous

The route begins at Beopjusa, ascends to Munjangdae, via the (B) Trail, crosses the ridge to Cheonhwangbong, and returns to Beopjusa, via the (D) Trail.


Difficulty Rating: 5 - Very Strenuous

The route begins at Beopjusa, ascends to Cheonhwangbong, crosses the entire ridge (past Munjangdae, Gwaneumbong, and Myobong), and finishes at Shinjeong Village.


Start early. The earlier, the better. Small national parks like this one are flooded with pushy, noisy local day-hikers from about 10 AM on-ward. If you want to enjoy nature with relative peace and quiet, time it so you can be on your way down by the time the crowd arrives.

(Contributed by Alex)

SONGNISAN (속리산) National Park: The Basics


CLICK here for high resolution printable trail map (1.16 MB).

Songnisan* became a national park in 1970. It’s the 6th largest of Korea’s mountain parks with an area of 275 km2. The name means “Remote from the Ordinary World”—a reference to its somewhat isolated position in the center of South Korea. The mountains belong to the southern arm of the greater Sobaek Range, and the park lies on the border between North Chungcheong and North Gyeongsong Provinces.

In 1999, someone decided to cash in on the name of a famous set of mountains in Europe by dubbing the ridge that connects Gubyeongsan, Songnisan, Gwaneumbong and Sanhakbong the Chungbuk Alps. The name is a little misleading, as the highest mountain here is only a humble 1,058 meters. On the English brochure available at the tourist center in the Songni-dong Bus Terminal building, it states: “A hiking path was opened and transformed into a commercial product.” This perhaps says something about how Koreans view their mountains and is a hint that hiking here might not always be peaceful and relaxing. The park gets about 1.5 million visitors a year.

*Don't be confused by the spelling. The Korean letters spell out "Sokrisan" but the name is actually pronounced "Songnisan."

Songnisan is very scenic. On wet days clouds often catch in the valleys between the mountains, creating a dramatic layered effect. In the spring, the area is known for the brilliant pink azaleas that bloom on the mountainsides. The mountains have a craggy look, with lots of interesting granite out-croppings and cliffs.

The park is great for beginning hikers with lots of nice easy-to-moderate day hikes. The mountain range is shaped like the back of an ampitheater, with the ridge curving around the valley from south to west. Along this boney semi-circle are 8 small peaks. Starting in the south and going northwest they are: Peak 1 (721 m), Hyeongjebong (803 m), Cheonhwangbong (1,058 m), Birobong (1,032 m), Munsubong (1,031 m), Gwaneumbong (985 m), Myobong (874 m), and Sanhakbong (861 m).


Take an express bus from Busan Nopo-dong Bus Terminal to Daejeon Dongbu Express Bus Terminal. Cross the street to Daejeon Intercity Bus Terminal and take a local bus to Songnisan National Park.

BUSAN Nopo-dong Terminal ► DAEJEON Express Bus Terminal
Fare: W20,000 / (W13,600)
Duration: 3 hours
07:30 09:00 12:00 14:00 (15:30) 17:30 19:00

To get to Daejeon Intercity Terminal from Daejeon Dongbu Express Bus Terminal, exit the building, turn left, cross the street and turn left again. Follow the sidewalk for about 5 minutes.

DAEJEON Intercity Terminal ► SONGNISAN NAT’L PARK Bus Terminal
Fare: W6,300
Duration: 90 minutes
07:00 ◄ Every 40-60 minutes ► 19:00

Get off the bus at Songni-dong tourist village at the entrance to the park.


SONGNISAN NAT'L PARK Bus Terminal ► DAEJEON Intercity Terminal
Fare: W6,300
Duration: 90 minutes
07:00 07:28 08:10 09:05 10:15 11:20 12:10 12:55 13:50 14:30 15:20 16:20 17:20 17:40 18:30 19:10 20:00

DAEJEON East Express Bus Terminal ► BUSAN Nopo-dong Terminal
Fare: W20,000
Duration: 3 hours
07:30 ◄ Every 30-50 minutes ► 19:00


Songni-dong, like most national park villages in Korea, is packed with hotels, yeogwon (inns), and minbak (guesthouses). You can find something without difficulty by wandering for a few minutes among the sidestreets. Clean, comfortable single rooms with a private bathroom, TV, and yeo (Korean floor mattress) are easy to find for W20,000/night. If you’re in a group, you can get a shared room and save even more money. The main street is lined with scores of restaurants that don’t seem to deviate much from a set menu of soups, barbeque, and bibimbap. There are dozens of bars. The area around the hotels and minbak is full of noraebang (singing rooms). For the tiny size of the village, it sure seems to be an active place a night, with plenty of drunks staggering around or passed out in the middle of the road (I witnessed both). There are also plenty of small mini-marts, but the range of products is limited. Bring your own snacks and trail food with you.

There’s a fake waterfall off the main street that is lit-up at night and attracts lots of attention. There’s also a nice grassy park, filled with modern art sculptures (the first time I visited Songnisan I spent the night under a bush in this park). That's about the extent of the little "town."


A large campground can be found to the east of the village, but it’s only open in July and August. The whole campground thing is quite undeveloped in Korea, and it has been explained to me that this is because the average Korean finds camping too inconvenient and uncomfortable.


Beopju Temple, at the entrance to the park, is one of the largest Buddhist complexes in Korea. It dates back to 553 A.D., but like most historical structures in Korea, the actual buildings were burned to the ground by the Japanese during the 1592 invasion. It was rebuilt in 1624. The highlights of this temple are the Daungbojeon prayer hall with three huge golden Buddhas; the 5-floor Palsangjeon, largest of the wooden pagodas in Korea; and the 33-meter bronze Buddha statue. Even though the latter was only constructed in 1990, it is impressive for its sheer size. There’s also a large Buddha image carved into a massive boulder on the grounds.


There are no trail closures in this park.



[Park Office] : 19-1 Sangpan-ri Naesongni-myeon Boeun Chungbuk
[Tel] : 82-43-542-5267


(Contributed by Alex)

ODAESAN (오대산) Hiking Routes


HIKE 1: SANGWONSA-BIROBONG LOOP - 6 km / 2-3 hours
Difficulty Rating: 3 - Intermediate

The trail begins at Sangwonsa and follows well-maintained steps for 1.5 km to the final temple location. From there, it’s a very steep 1.5 km to Birobong, the highest point in the park. Elevation gain is about 1,100 meters. During the winter, the first half of the route is well-shoveled, but the second part is very snowy and slick and requires at least basic crampons. From Sangwonsa, the hike to Birobong took us 90 minutes up and 1 hour down.


HIKE 2: SANGWONSA TO DONGDAESAN - 17.3 km / 6.5 hours
Difficulty Rating: Not rated -

This trek begins at Sangwonsa and hits Birobong (3.5 km) and Durobong (5.4 km) before coming down to Dongdaesan (6.7 km), where the trail currently terminates.

We're looking for someone to write a description of this hike. If you've personally hiked this route and would like to contribute an account of your experience, email me at:

Difficulty Rating: not rated -

This hike begins at the Sogeum Service Complex gate, passes a number of waterfalls and climbs over Noinbong, before finishing at Jingogae.

We're looking for someone to write a description of this hike. If you've personally hiked this route and would like to contribute an account of your experience, email me at:

(Contributed by Alex)

ODAESAN (오대산) National Park: The Basics


CLICK here for high resolution printable trail map (1.5 MB).

Odaesan was designated a national park in 1975 and lies at the intersection of the Taebaek and Charyeongsan mountain ranges, connecting Taebaeksan, Seoraksan, Sobaeksan, and Chiaksan. It's one of the larger national parks in Korea with 303.9 km2, split between Pyeongchang and Hongcheon Counties in the west and Gangneung in the east. The mountain was apparently named after a sacred peak in China, but Koreans have often referred to it by the nickname Sogeumgang ("little Geumgang"), because its scenery compares to the Geumgang Mountains in the North. The mountain topography is said to resemble a crane with wings outstretched, as if about to take flight. About 1 million people visit Odaesan every year.

Major peaks at Odaesan include Birobong (1,563m), Horyeongbong (1,560m), Noinbong (1,338m), Maebong (1,173m), Durobong (1,422m), and Dongdaesan (1,434m). Hikers revere the park for its stunning Mureunggye Valley, waterfalls, and forests, which are made up of fir trees, yews, and Mongolian oaks and sustain populations of roe deer and wild boars. In the spring, royal azaleas bloom on the slopes. During the winter, when snow lies heavy on the ground, Odaesan has a lonely, remote feel to it and a stark, cold beauty worth experiencing. Two beautiful Buddhist temples--Sangwonsa and Woljeongsa--are found near the southwest entrance to the park.

Most of the routes at Odaesan are day hikes. Normally it would be possible to start at Sangwonsa, hike to Birobong (3.5 km), continue to Durobong (5.4 km), head back down to Dongdaesan (6.7 km), and keep going all the way to the Sogeum Service Complex gate (15 km), but currently the segment of trail between Dongdaesan and Jingogae is closed for ecological restoration. This closure effectively separates the eastern and western sections of the park.


Gangneung is the primary access point for Odaesan and can be reached from Busan and Seoul via train or express bus. Gangneung Bus Terminal is a 5 minute taxi ride from Gangneung Train Station. From the terminal, take a bus to Jinbu (W3,400). The ride takes about 45 minutes. At Jinbu Terminal, local buses can be found at the back of the complex (pay on the bus). Buses to Woljeongsa stop at the Minbak Village, which has all the lodging options for the southwest entrance. The ride takes about 20 minutes. If you want to go straight to the trailhead, take a bus to Sangwonsa, located about 8.3 km beyond Woljeongsa (50 min).

Fare: W1,500
06:20 07:40 10:50 14:20 18:30 19:40

08:30 09:40 11:50 12:50 15:30 16:40


Buses to Sangwonsa and the trailhead return to Jinbu about 50 minutes to 1 hour after their original departure time (see "Getting There"). Exact times are posted in the Sangwonsa parking lot next to the bus stop. From Jinbu, intercity buses go to Dong Seoul (every hour from 07:55 to 20:45), Wonju, and Gangneung. Regular buses run from both Wonju and Gangneung to Busan and Seoul. Wonju is a useful access point if you plan to continue on to Sobaeksan National Park.

JINBU Bus Terminal ► WONJU Bus Terminal
Duration: 2 hours
07:15 08:25 09:15 10:25 10:45 11:55 12:55 14:10 14:25 15:20 15:35 15:55 16:35 17:05 17:25 18:05 19:20 20:05


The minbak village about 0.5 km south of the southwest ticket office has a small selection of nice places to stay, including some newer buildings with spacious, spotless rooms, great showers, and cable TV. A room for two should cost between W25,000 and W35,000. There are a few restaurant choices a short walk from the lodgings (an especially good one is not far down the road toward Jinbu) and a scattering of tiny, family-owned stores with very basic inventories.


There are two campgrounds at Odaesan:

(1) Across from Odaesan Shelter, about half-way between Woljeongsa and Sangwonsa
(2) At Sogeum Service Complex in the northeastern part of the park.

Call ahead for reservations.


The trail from Jingogae to Dongdaesan is closed to hikers until 2011, to allow regrowth of surrounding habitats.



[Park Office] : 75-6 Ganpyeong-ri Jinbu-myeon Pyeongchang Gangwon
[Tel] : 82-33-332-6417


(Contributed by Alex)

JIRISAN (지리산) Hiking Routes


Difficulty Rating: 4 - Strenuous

This route starts at Ssanggyesa (temple), winds up past Buril Falls 폭포, and ascends to the Samshin Peaks. From there it's either down to Cheonghakdong or back the way you came.

It's a steep trail in places and a dry one (there aren't any springs in this vicinity beyond the temple), but one of the positives is that it seems to be less frequented than some of the other trails. From the temple, the trail leads 2.3 km up to Buril Falls, which can be impressive after heavy rains and underwhelming at other times. Beyond the falls, the hike has nice coverage, snaking through shaded forest areas and along a small stream. About two thirds of the way up, the tree cover opens up and nice views of the valley can be seen. It's possible to reach Samshinbong, the furthest but not the highest of the two peaks, in 3 1/2 to 4 hours (6.9 km from the Buril Falls junction). The hike down to Cheonghakdong takes about 1 to 1.5 hours, while a return hike back to Ssanggyesa can be completed in 2.5 hours.

(Contributed by Alex)


HIKE 2: EAST RIDGE HIKE (Daewonsa to Georim) - 27 km / 9-11 hours
Difficulty Rating: 5 - Very Strenuous

This monster hike begins at Yupyeong Village (just beyond Daewonsa), ascends to Chibanmok Shelter, crosses the ridge--including Sseoribong (1,642 m), Jungbong (1,875 m), Cheonwangbong (1,915 m), Jeseokbong (1,806 m), Chotaebong (1,704 m), and Yeongshinbong (1,652 m)--and descends from Seseok to the Georim Valley exit.

The hike from Yupyeong Village to Chibanmok Shelter is steep and rocky for the first 2 km or so. Then it levels off for awhile, passing through amazingly lush forest and above a deep river valley. There are gentle ups and downs and some nice views when the clouds lift. The trail is rough, but well-marked most of the time (look for pink ribbons in the trees or periodic cell service markers if you aren't sure). During or after heavy rain, temporary streams form that cross the path or completely replace it (I was here once during a typhoon). The rivers can become swollen and dangerous, in which case it's best to avoid them. The last 2 km again regain a steep incline and include a series of metal steps. The park service estimates hike time to Chibanmok at 3.5 hours, but I was able to do this stretch in 2 hours and 10 minutes at a brisk pace. This ascent is less difficult than the Hwaeomsa trail on the other end of the range.


From Chibanmok to Jungbong, the path goes up and down quite a lot, but there’s nothing terribly steep. There are tiny granite markers at Sseoribong and Jungbong, but not much else to let you know you reached a point of signficance. Cheonwangbong--the highest peak in Jirisan and 2nd highest in Korea--is only another 0.9 km beyond Jungbong (3rd highest). The 4 km from Chibanmok to Cheonwangbong can be accomplished in under 2 hours in good weather. Note that much of the ridge is exposed to brutal northerlies. Even in late September, it was nippy. Two months later, the trails were icy and dangerous, there was a dusting of snow on the ground and trees, and strong freezing winds blasted us from the north whenever we came out into an open place. Appropriate windproof clothing is suggested. A complete white-out is not uncommon on the ridge. Out of three recent trips, there was clear weather on only one, where we got great views from the top of Cheonwangbong. I'm told you're very, very lucky if you get any good views from the top at any time of year. At Cheonwangbong, a 9.7 km trail leads off north through Chilseon Valley to Chuseong Village, but a large portion of this trail is currently off-limits for nature restoration.

From Cheonwangbong, it took only 30 minutes to cross the relatively easy 3.4 km to Jangteomok Shelter (about 1 hour going the other way). There’s quite a lot of downhill along this section going west. Jangteomok is a large, ample shelter that requires reservations, except in cases of emergency. From the shelter, trails go north to Baengmudong Village and south to the Rotari Shelter and Jungsan-ni Village.

From Jangteomok going west, it's more of the same with some ups and downs and fairly good trails for a distance of 3.4 km. It took me about 1 hour and 10 minutes to reach the third and largest of Jirisan’s shelters, Seseok.

Seseok Shelter is at the junction of several trails. Going west, follows the ridge route 6.3 km to Byeoksoryeong Shelter and eventually to the end of the range at Hwa-eomsa (Temple). Going north takes you 6.5 km to Baengmudong Village. Going south, you can exit the park through Daeseong-ni (9.1 km), Cheonghakdong, or Ssanggyesa (19 km). The latter two trails are very long, following the southern arm of the mountain away from the ridge. Another trail leads southeast 6 km to Georim Village. The Georim trail is extremely steep, rocky, and brutal. There are large sections of jumbled rocks and boulders that hikers must pick their way through. Coming down was hell after already doing 21 km, and I can imagine heading up this trail is pure torture.

The park service estimates this hike at 11.5 hours. I did it in late summer in 9 hours, but without any breaks longer than 10-15 minutes. I packed light and moved quickly--a slower pace would be safer, especially on the downhill sections. The same section of the ridge was hiked in much colder weather going the other direction and it took a couple of hours longer.

(Contributed by Alex)

HIKE 3: WEST RIDGE HIKE (Hwa-eomsa to Byeoksoryeong Shelter) - 10 hours
Difficulty Rating: 5 - Very Strenuous

This route starts at Hwa-eomsa (temple) and ascends steeply to the main ridge near Nogodon Shelter. From there, the trail follows the mountains east.

Hwaeomsa Service Complex is a good 30-minute walk (about 1.5 to 2 km) from the temple up the road. The trailhead is to the right when facing the temple entrance. It starts out with a short walk through a grove of trees and then quickly begins to climb. From that point on expect a steep 7 km slog to the top. This particular approach seemed brutally steep and endless in contrast to the climb from the east, starting at Daewonsa. But maybe I was just carrying more weight. It took us about 2.5 hours to get to the Nogodon Shelter area. Don't be disconcerted by the crowds around Nogodon--many people just do the easy walk from Seongsamjae and then turn around. Everything thins out as you move east.

The 3.2 km from Nogodan to Imgeolryeong (ridge) was characterized by ups and downs, but nothing terribly difficult. At Imgeolryeong, a trail leads south 6 km past Piagol Shelter and out of the park at Jikjeon. Another 1.3 km beyond that, we came to the turn-off for Banyabong. According to the KNPS website, Banyabong is closed to hikers. But not seeing any signs on the trail, we decided to try. We opted to dump our packs for the short 2 km hike to the peak (about 45 minutes round-trip), which turned out to be a great idea. Banyabong is famous for its views, especially around sunset, but we encountered heavy fog and could see nothing below. The peak is marked with a small, inconspicuous granite pillar. There were no signs to indicate that the area was restricted and we saw quite a few other hikers there.

After Banyabong, we moved on to Baemsagol Shelter, which we were surprised to find was closed. People were still using the area for cooking and the drinking water was flowing, but nobody seemed to know why the shelter was closed and if it would be open again in the future. It's located at the bottom of a long series of stairs. From Baemsagol, a trail leads north 9 km to Banseon Service Complex in Namwon County. Not far beyond this, another trail leads south through the Moktong Valley to Chilbuam and eventually the Hadong park exit.

We hurried on past the rather insignificant Tokkibong and Myeongseonbong, stopped briefly to stock up on water at Yeonhacheon Shelter, and finally made it to Byeonksoryeong Shelter by late afternoon (about 7.2 km from Tokkibong). The last little bit before the shelter is quite rough and rocky.

(Contributed by Alex)


HIKE 4: HWA-EOMSA TO DAEWONSA (the entire ridge)- 45 km / 19 hours
Difficulty Rating: 5 - Very Strenuous

Take two monster day hikes and put them together and you have...well, pain. But also a lot of fun! We just completed this hike in mid-November over a period of two days (10 hours from Hwa-eomsa to Byeoksoryeong Shelter and 9 hours from Byeoksoryeong to Daewonsa). It's more typical for people to cross the ridge in three or four days, but a weekend sprint is definately possible from May through November. The rest of the year it's too cold and icy to risk moving that quickly.

We started with a 30-minute walk up the road from Hwa-eomsa to the service complex early in the morning. The trailhead is to the right of the temple entrance. The 7 km to the ridge was the steepest and most challenging part of the whole experience for us, maybe because we weren't warmed up. We got to Nogodon in 2.5 hours, but it was painful.

The next 4.5 km to the Banyabong turn-off was relatively easy, with alternating ups and downs. At this point we stashed our packs in the forest and did a quick sidetrip to Banyabong, which took 45 minutes round-trip. After returning to the main ridge trail, we moved on past Baemsagol Shelter (down stairs north of the trail), Tokkibong, and Myeongseonbong.

We took a short water break at Yeonhacheon Shelter and moved on to Byeonksoryeong Shelter in the late afternoon. The last hour was a bit rough. We were feeling pretty worn out and the trail seemed unusually rocky and uneven. In all, the hike from Hwa-eomsa to Byeonksoryeong took us 10 hours. We stopped there for the night. We didn't have reservations, but they grudgingly put us up anyway. The night was very long and very hot with lots of people snoring loudly all around us. There are no pads or mats on the sleeping platforms, which makes for a sleepless night if you not have your own padding.

In the morning we got up early and were on the trail by 4:30 AM. It took us about 90 minutes to do the 6 km to Seseok, where we took a bathroom break, before sprinting on to Jangteomok. Strong, cold winds were blowing a light snow on the northern side of the ridge. When the trail snaked over to that side we had to bundle up, but the south side was quite comfortable and without wind. The section from Seseok to Jangteomok seemed to be gradually uphill the whole way, so this part took us as long as the former portion even though the distance was much shorter. We reached Jangteomok about 7:45, took a breather, and struggled toward Cheonwang Peak. We got to the summit about 8:30 and spent about a half hour there. Again, the north side of the summit was cold and blustery with a thin layer of ice and snow, while the south side was mild and dry.

Once beyond Cheonwangbong, the trail was more or less downhill, which was less of a cardio workout but really hammered at the knees and ankles. We only took a couple of 5 minute breaks between there and Daewonsa, reaching the end around 1:30 PM--a total of 9 hours. The last section from Chibanmok to Daewonsa was pretty brutal downhill stuff, especially on tired legs. We both would have preferred a little more climbing to the high impact slamming you get from moving downward.

(Contributed by Alex)

HIKE 5: Jungsan-ni Village → Cheonwangbong - 5.7 km / 3-5 hours up
Difficulty Rating: 4 - Strenuous

This hike begins at Jungsan-ni Tourist Village, passes Kalbawi, and continues steeply for 4 km to Jangteomok Shelter. From there it's another 1.7 km eastward along the ridge to Cheonwang Peak.

We set out on the trail around 1 PM, which we discovered was much too late to be starting a hike like this. We were in reasonable shape but not athletic really. It took those of us in our 20s and 30s about 5.5 hours to reach the summit, while those in their 40s took about 6.5 hours. The sun went down about thirty minutes before we got to the top (a good reason to start earlier). Hiking in the dark was not especially fun. The one person in our group who had done the hike before made it up to the top in 3 hours. The trail is quite steep--it's like climbing stairs for the whole way. I'd recommend leaving in the morning to better enjoy this hike, rather than trying to race the sun. Note that we did this hike in April, and there was still some snow and ice near the summit. The air was very cold. Some warm clothes are advised.

(Contributed by Kathleen)

HIKE 10: Daesong-ni → Seseok Shelter - 9.1 km
Difficulty Rating: 4 - Strenuous

I recently hiked from Daeseong-ni to Cheonwangbong and back the way I came. The hike was beautiful and we were on the trail for 6 hours without seeing another person. However, unlike the main ridge, the Daeseong-ni trail has no place to refill your waterbottles. There is a little village about an hour from the start of the hike. Be aware that this the last place to get water before you get to Seseok Shelter. Make sure you pack enough H20.

(Contributed by Val)


There are plenty of potable springs 분수대 along the ridge for refilling water bottles, so it's not necessary to carry large amounts of water. You should plan to drink 4-5 liters during a full-day hike (more in hot weather).

The shelters 대피소 don't sell enough food to make a full meal. They have things like ramen, canned meat, pre-cooked rice, canned coffee, cookies, and crackers. There's also no way to cook anything unless you bring your own stove. Packing in plenty of food is important (3,000-4,000 calories a day during the warmer seasons / 4,000-5,000 calories for winter). About 75% of your calories should come from carbohydrates.

Camping on the mountain is illegal, but possible in extreme emergency situations. I've encountered Koreans tenting it in various places on the ridge. In such a case, you'd need a tarp or tent to keep you dry and a good sleeping bag to stay warm.

Baemsagol Shelter was closed to overnight hikers, as of November 2007, though you could still cook outside the shelter structure and get water at the spring.

The use of gas backpacking stoves is limited to the shelter grounds and illegal in all other areas.

Pack out ALL your trash, rather than make it a burden for the shelter caretakers.

(Contributed by Alex)

WESTERN JIRISAN (지리산) National Park: The Basics


CLICK here for high resolution printable trail map (1.27 MB).

The western half of Jirisan National Park, which lies mostly in Gurye and Namwon Counties, is lower in elevation than the eastern half and less rugged, but no less beautiful. The major peaks along the western ridge include: Nogodan (1,507 m), Banyabong (1,733 m), Tokkibong (1,534 m), Myeongseonbong (1,586 m), and Samgakbong (1,462 m).

Nogodan and Banyabong are the big local attractions on the ridge, while the Piagol Valley hike is extremely popular in autumn.


The western half of Jirisan National Park currently has five entry points:

(1) Hwa-eomsa (temple) in the southwest
(2) Seongsamjae Village in the northwest
(3) Jikjeon / Yeongoksa (temple)in the south
(4) Moktong / Chilbuam in the south
(5) Banseon Village in the north


The same is true of the west as of the east--there are plenty of lodgings and places to eat at most of the major entry points, including Hwa-eomsa Service Complex, Seongsamjae Village, Yeongoksa Service Complex, and Banseon Service Complex. Expect to pay between W20,000 and W30,000 for a single room and W6,000-8,000 for a decent meal. Gurye has shops near the bus terminal with basic hiking equipment, stoves, maps, gas, and some food items.

Campgrounds are located at four locations in Western Jirisan:

(1) Near Hwa-eomsa Service Complex
(2) Near Banseon Service Complex
(3) In the Hwajom Valley
(4) In the Waun Valley

Campgrounds cost W3,000-7,000 per night. Facilities vary. Call the park office to make reservations.


Going east from Hwa-eomsa, there are four mountain shelters (3 on the ridge):

(1) Nogodan Shelter
(2) Piagol
(3) Baemsagol Shelter
(4) Yeonhacheon Shelter

With the exception of Nogodan, the western shelters are quite small and simple. When we were there in mid-November, Baemsagol Shelter was closed to hikers and there was no information about when it would be re-opened. With the exception of Piagol and Baemsagol, the rest of the shelters require reservations. Bring your own food, cook stove, and sleeping pad. Blankets can be rented for overnight use.

Simply click on the link below and follow the directions on the page to make reservations at any of the shelters at Jirisan. The park service will confirm your reservation by email within 1-2 days. Reservations can be made 2 weeks in advance.


W7,000 pp (June, September, December-March) / W8,000 (all other months)

The largest of the western shelters, Nogodan accommodates about 100 people. This shelter is located not far from civilization (Seongsamjae Village), so expect plenty of company. Make your reservations early.

W5,000 pp

This small shelter is about 2 kilometers down the Piagol Valley trail from the ridge and does not require reservations. At peak times of the year, you'd have to get there early to get a spot to sleep. This shelter was deserted and appeared to be not operational in August 2008. Call before you start your trip.

W5,000 pp

Baemsagol is another small, simple shelter, located at the bottom of a long series of steep stairs, leading north from the ridge. As mentioned above, it was closed when we passed by in mid-November 2008. Call the park service before making any plans to stay there. Even when closed, you can cook in the area around the shelter and there's a freshwater spring right outside the building.

W5,000 pp

Yeonhacheon accommodates about 35 people. There's a freshwater spring not far from the building.


Despite what it says on the KNPS website, both Nogodan and Banyabong peaks were open to hikers as of November 10, 2007. There are no other closures that I know of that would affect people on the western trails.


From Busan, buses depart for Gurye and the Hwa-eomsa entrance:

BUSAN Seobu Sasang Terminal ► GURYE Bus Terminal / HWAEOMSA Temple
Fare: W12,200
07:00 08:00 10:00 11:00 12:00 14:00 15:00 17:00 18:00
Duration: 3 hours / 3 hours 20 minutes

For the Seongsamjae entrance, take a bus from Gurye. Buses are marked with the final destination "Nogodon," but you still have a short walk up to the peak from the village where they stop:

GURYE Bus Terminal ► SEONGSAMJAE Village
04:00 06:00 08:20 10:20 11:40 13:40 15:40 17:40



[Park Office] : 922-18 Sari Sicheon-myeon Sancheong Gyeongnam 666-934
[Tel] : 82-55-972-7771


JIRISAN (지리산) - South Entrances (Ssanggyesa / Daeseong-ni / Cheonghakdong)

This is the access point if you’re interested in climbing the Samshin Peaks---9.2 km from Ssanggyesa. You can also go up from the Cheonghakdong Village side. The nice thing about this trail is that you don't meet many people. It's not the best way to get to the main ridge, however, as it lies so far south. Seseok Shelter is 8 km beyond Samshinbong. The area near Ssanggyesa is crowded with minbak (민박), motels (모텔) and restraurants, some quite decent. You should be able to get a single room for W20,000.


From Busan, there are several options for reaching Ssanggyesa, via Hadong and Jinju:

(1) Take an intercity bus to Hadong Bus Terminal and then transfer to a local bus for Ssanggyesa.

BUSAN Seobu Sasang Terminal ► HADONG Bus Terminal
Fare: W9,900
Duration: 2 hours 2 minutes
07:00 ◄ Every hour ► 19:00

Fare: W2,200
Duration: 50 minutes
08:00 09:50 10:50 11:40 12:40 13:50 14:50 15:30 16:45 17:30 18:20 20:40

(2) Take the direct bus from Busan Seobu Terminal to Ssanggyesa (there are only 2 buses per day).

BUSAN Seobu Sasang Terminal ► SSANGGYESA
Fare: W11,400
Duration: 2 hours 40 minutes
13:00 16:00

(3) Take an intercity bus from Jinju Bus Terminal to Hadong or directly to Ssanggyesa.

06:35 06:57 08:35 09:25 11:05 12:20 13:25 15:29 16:05 17:30

JINJU Bus Terminal ► HADONG Bus Terminal
Fare: W4,300
06:35 ◄ Every 30 minutes ► 21:00


At the Ssanggyesa Bus Stop, you can hop on a local bus that continues up the road and stops before and after Daeseong. Either way, you have to walk some distance to the ticket office and trailhead, but this is perhaps preferable to hiking the 17 km from Ssanggyesa to Seseok. From the Daeseong trailhead, it's 9.2 km to Seseok Shelter.


Cheonghakdong Tourist Village can be accessed directly from Jinju Bus Terminal. There are only 2 buses per day.

JINJU Bus Terminal ► CHEONGHAKDONG Village
Fare: W7,100
07:10 15:50

You can also get to Cheonghakdong via Hadong Bus Terminal.

08:30 11:00 13:00 15:20 19:00


You can buy tickets back to Hadong Bus Terminal, Jinju, Busan, or Daegu from the restaurant next to the stone bridge, leading to Ssanggyesa (temple).

Fare: W2,200
Duration: 50 minutes
07:20 07:45 08:40 09:10 10:00 11:10 12:10 12:40 13:35 14:10 15:20 16:10 17:35

HADONG Bus Terminal ► BUSAN Seobu Terminal
Fare: W9,900
Duration: 2 hours 2 minutes
07:30 ◄ Every hour ► 19:30

JINJU Bus Terminal ► BUSAN Seobu Terminal
Fare: W6,900
05:50 ◄ every 10-20 minutes ► 21:10

JIRISAN (지리산) - Southeast Entrance 2 (Georim)

This is a small, lonely access point, reached via Jinju, Sancheong, or Deoksan. There are plenty of guesthouses (민박) and motels (모텔) along the road. The bus stop (버스 정류장) in Naedae-ri, however, is quite a ways from the trailhead (at least 2 km). Seseok Shelter, almost exactly in the middle of the ridge, is 6 steep and rocky kilometers from Georim trailhead.


Take a bus to Jinju (90 min) and then transfer to a local bus for Georim (about 90 min). Get off at the last stop and hike up the road 30 minutes to the ticket booth (매표소) and trailhead.

BUSAN Seobu Terminal ► JINJU Express Bus Terminal
Fare: W6,900
Duration: 70-80 minutes
05:40 ◄ Every 10-15 minutes ► 20:20 21:05 21:30

Fare: W5,000 (Naedae-ri) / W5,800 (Georim)
06:20 09:20 12:00 17:00


Hike down the road from the trailhead to the first bus stop in Naedae-ri. Catch a local bus to Jinju and then transfer to a bus for Busan.

I forgot to get return bus times from Georim to Jinju when I was there in September. If anyone goes out there, let me know the schedule so I can post it here.

JINJU Bus Terminal ► BUSAN Seobu Terminal
Fare: W6,900
05:50 – every 10-20 minutes - 21:10

JIRISAN (지리산) - Southeast Entrance 1 (Jungsan-ni)

A huge thank you to our friend Carina for providing most of the following information!

This entrance provides the quickest access to Jirisan’s highest peak, Cheonwangbong. From the bus stop(버스 정류장) and parking lot, it's a 40-60 minute walk to the campground and Kalbawi (Rock). Guesthouses (민박) and restaurants (식당) abound in the vicinity not too far from the parking lot. From Kalbawi, a steep, but scenic, 4.1 km trail leads north past the Rotari Shelter to Cheonwangbong. This is a very popular trail with Koreans who want to conquer the top without exerting themselves too much. Expect plenty of company. Another trail goes northwest 4 km to Jangteomok Shelter.


From Busan there are two options:

(1) Take an intercity bus directly to Jungsan-ni Village from Busan (3 hours). There are only 4 buses a day.

BUSAN Seobu Sasang Terminal ► JUNGSAN-NI Tourist Village
Fare: W11,600
08:15 11:16 12:15 16:00

(2) Take an intercity bus to Jinju Bus Terminal from Busan and then transfer to a bus for Jungsan-ni.

BUSAN Seobu Sasang Terminal ► JINJU Express Bus Terminal
Fare: W6,900
Duration: 70-80 minutes
05:40 ◄ Every 10-15 minutes ► 20:20 21:05 21:30

JINJU Bus Terminal ► JUNGSAN-NI Tourist Village
Fare: W4,700
06:20 07:05 08:05 09:20 10:00 11:00 12:00 13:00 14:00 15:00 16:00 17:00 18:00 19:00 20:00 21:10

From Seoul, take a bus from the Nambu Bus Terminal to Wonji and then transfer to a bus for Jungsan-ni:

SEOUL Nambu Bus Terminal ► JUNGSAN-NI Tourist Village
Fare: W18,400 (W20,000 after 10 PM)
Duration: 3 hours 15 minutes
06:00 06:30 07:00 07:30 08:30 09:30 10:00 10:30 11:30 12:30 13:00 14:00 14:20 14:40 15:00 16:00 17:00 18:00 19:00 20:00 20:30 21:00 22:10 23:00 00:00

From Incheon Terminal, buses depart twice daily for Wonji, stopping in Jinju:

INCHEON Bus Terminal ► WONJI Bus Terminal
Fare: W15,400
Duration: 3 hours 40 minutes
10:20 16:30


Buses run from Jungsan-ni to Wonji, Georim, Jinju, and Busan:

JUNGSAN-NI Tourist Village ► BUSAN Seobu Sasang Bus Terminal
06:15 10:05 13:05 18:00 19:40
These buses stop in Wonji (W3,000) and Jinju en route to Busan.

JUNGSAN-NI Tourist Village ► JINJU Bus Terminal
06:15 06:55 07:25 09:05 10:05 11:05 12:05 13:05 14:05 15:05 16:05 17:05 18:00 19:10 19:40
These buses stop in Wonji (W3,000) en route to Jinju

JUNGSAN-NI Tourist Village ► GEORIM Village

From Wonji, there are buses to Seoul Nambu Terminal and Incheon Bus Terminal:

WONJI Bus Terminal ► SEOUL Nambu Bus Terminal
05:50 06:20 06:50 07:50 08:50 09:40 10:20 10:40 11:20 12:20 12:50 13:20 14:20 15:20 16:20 16:50 17:50 18:50 19:20 20:00 20:40 21:20 22:50 24:20

WONJI Bus Terminal ► INCHEON Bus Terminal
Fare: W15,400
Duration: 3 hours 40 minutes
10:20 10:40 16:30 16:50

NOTE: If you can't read Korean, be prepared for unpredictable English spellings on bus timetables, such as Chungsanli and Jungsanri.

JIRISAN (지리산) - East Entrance (Daewonsa)

CLICK image for high resolution printable trail map (1.79 MB).

This is the primary entrance to Jirisan in the east, providing access to the main ridge. The Yupyeong Village trailhead begins 45 minutes walk from the bus stop and parking lot. The Saejae Village trailhead begins 3.6 km further up the same road. Both trails lead to Chibanmok Shelter and the rest of the ridge.

The bus drops passengers in a large, lonely parking lot next to a small convenience store. If you're planning to arrive after dark, bring a flashlight---it's absolutely pitch dark when there's no moon. There isn't much in the way of lodgings or food (or anything) in the vicinity, just a single shabby minbak 민박 and shikdang 식당 (restaurant) a minute up the road, offering small, filthy rooms; unwashed bedding; wet moldy walls; and mosquitos for a ridiculous W20,000. Don’t waste your time.

Continue up the road. After a 15 minute walk there's a fork. The left route slopes down, while the right one heads uphill. Take the left route, marked “Daewonsa.” It's a 10 minute walk to the temple. Another 15 minutes beyond that (1.8 km) will bring you to Yupyeong Village, a small collection of run-of-the-mill minbak and restaurants, ranging in price from W20,000 to 30,000 per night. There's nothing special here, but at least you can find places with clean rooms and decent food. It's also right next to the trailhead, which is convenient. Note that the last bus from Busan arrives at the parking lot around 8:30 PM. You can make it to Yupyeong Village by 9:00 if you hustle, but the restaurants will probably be closed by then, making it necessary to find a minbak owner that will be willing to cook you up some dinner on the spot.

There's also a small tourist village with minbak and restaurants at Saejae Village another 3.6 km up the road. Public buses do not run to Saejae.


Take an intercity bus from Busan to Daewonsa (3 hours). All buses to and from Busan stop briefly at Jinju Express Bus Terminal. You can also catch a bus to Jinju and then transfer to a different bus for Daewonsa.

BUSAN Seobu Sasang Terminal ► DAEWONSA Bus Stop
Fare: W11,100
06:40 09:40 10:25 13:20 17:50

It's also easy to reach Daewonsa from Jinju (90 min).

JINJU Bus Terminal ► DAEWONSA Bus Stop
Fare: W4,300
Duration: 70-80 minutes
07:30 09:40 11:30 13:30 15:30 17:30


Intercity buses depart from the Daewonsa Bus Stop (parking lot) for Busan and Jinju.

DAEWONSA Bus Stop ► JINJU / BUSAN Seobu Sasang Terminal
Duration: 70-80 minutes (to Jinju) / 90 minutes (Jinju to Busan)
06:35 07:20* 08:00* 08:40* 09:45 10:40* 11:35* 12:40 14:40* 15:30 16:40 17:30 18:35 19:05*

Only buses marked with (*) continue on to Busan Seobu Sasang Terminal. The rest terminate in Jinju and you have to transfer to another bus to go on to Busan.

EASTERN JIRISAN (지리산) National Park: The Basics


CLICK here for high resolution printable trail map (1.38 MB).

Jirisan is the largest and oldest of Korea's national parks. Founded in 1967, the park has an area of 440 km2. The mountains of Jirisan are part of the Great Baekdusan Mountain Range which extends all the way into North Korea. The primary ridge in the park runs East-West from Sancheong County in South Gyeongsang Province to Gurye County in South Jeolla Province. Traditionally, the mountain was thought to be one of the three places in which God dwelled. Fourteen of the highest peaks in Korea are located along the ridge at Jirisan. Cheonwangbong (1,915 m) is the highest peak in the park and the second highest in South Korea. Other major peaks in the eastern area of the park include Sseoribong (1,642 m), Jungbong (1,875 m), Jeseokbong (1,806 m), Chotaebong (1,704 m), Yeongshinbong (1,652 m), and Deokpyeongbong (1,522 m). The eastern half of the ridge is higher on average than the western half.

Jirisan's large area accommodates a lot of hikers without it feeling as cramped as the smaller parks. Even so, you will probably never get a peak to yourself for longer than a few minutes. The park is a popular destination with serious hikers and those who wish to do multi-day treks. It's possible to hike the entire ridge in 2-3 days, spending one or two nights in shelters on the mountain. The weather on the ridge is unpredictable and the area is frequently enveloped in low clouds. Since it's nearly impossible to predict if there will be good views from the top, the only way to find out is to climb up and take a look. Korea's winters are drier than the rest of the year, so there's a greater chance of clear skies during that season.

The park is famous for its blooming royal azaleas in the spring, best seen on the hillsides around Seseok Shelter. The Daeseong Valley and the road to Ssanggyesa (temple) are both known for their cherry blossoms. Jirisan is also a popular winter hiking destination.


The eastern half of Jirisan National Park currently has seven entry points:

(1) Daewonsa (temple) in the east
(2) Jungsan-ni Village in the southeast
(3) Georim Village in the southeast
(4) Cheonghakdong Village in the south
(5) Ssanggyesa (temple) in the south
(6) Daeseong-ni in the south
(7) Baengmudong Village in the north.

A trailhead also exists at Chuseong Village in the north, leading south to the ridge via the Chilseon Valley, but a portion of this trail is currently off-limits to allow restoration of the natural environment, making it impossible to reach the ridge.


All of the tourist villages at the entrances listed above have minbak 민박 and shikdang 식당 (restaurants). Some have small motels (모텔), inns (여권) or hotels (호텔). The Hadong area around Ssanggyesa is probably the most developed, but it's also the farthest from the main ridge. Rooms (방) in minbak typically run between W20,000 and W30,000. Don't just accept the first offer. Try to bargain down the price, especially if the room looks shabby. Insist on clean bedding. Many minbak owners don't bother to wash the quilts and blankets between guests.

The food in most national park villages in Korea is nothing to write home about. Often a locale is famous for a particular dish and that dish will be the focal point of every single restaurant in the vicinity with little or no variation. It's not uncommon for a string of restaurants all to offer exactly the same menu. In general, though, one should be able to get a decent meal for W6,000-8,000.


Campgrounds are located at five locations in Eastern Jirisan:

(1) Near Daewonsa
(2) Near the Jungsan-ni Ticket Office
(3) Near Buril Falls (beyond Ssangyesa)
(4) Opposite the turn-off to Daesong-ni
(5) Near Baengmudong Service Complex

Campgrounds vary from a rough patch of dirt with an outhouse to nicer spots with picnic tables, cooking areas, and rest rooms. Campgrounds at Jirisan cost W3,000-7,000 per night. Call the park office to make reservations.


Camping anywhere inside the national park, other than in designated campgrounds, is illegal, punishable by fines of up to W500,000. As an alternative, the Korean National Park Service retains a number of mountain shelters where hikers can stay the night. There are 5 shelters in the eastern half of Jirisan. Going west from Daewonsa, they are:

(1) Chibanmok Shelter
(2) Rotari Shelter
(3) Jangteomok Shelter
(4) Seseok Shelter
(5) Byeonksoryeong Shelter

Shelters vary in comfort level and the services they provide. You must pack in your own food and bring your own backpacking stove and fuel if you plan to cook. A Thermarest or sleeping pad is definately nice to have, but a sleeping bag isn't necessary. Ear plugs are advisable if you are bothered by snoring (which can be absolutely horrible). With the exception of Chibanmok--the smallest and simplest of the shelters--reservations are required 2 days to 2 weeks in advance. The park service is trying to crack down on people who show up unnannounced and request sleeping space. Foreigners can get away with it, but it's not really fair to the shelters who have to find places for you to sleep on the spot. The on-line reservation system has recently been updated to accommodate English-speaking foreigners. Simply click on the link below and follow the directions on the page. The park service will confirm your reservation by email within 1-2 days. Some of the large shelters, such as Jangteomok, often have space even at fairly busy times, so it may be possible to stay there without making reservations.


W5,000 pp

Chibanmok is a small, simple shelter with a sleeping room that accommodates about 20 people comfortably and perhaps up to 40, if necessary. It has simple wooden bunks without mattresses or pads. Blankets are available for rent for W1,000 each. There is an enclosed porch area for cooking and eating (bring your own stove). Three outhouses and a compost disposal area for food waste are nearby. Fresh drinking water is available at a tank about 100 meters from the shelter. There is no phone at this shelter, but the caretaker has a walkie-talkie that he uses to communicate with the park service below. Chibanmok runs on solar electricity, so during long periods of cloudy weather, the shelter is without power. This shelter is first-come, first-serve. No reservations are required.

W7,000 pp (June, September, December-March) / W8,000 (all other months)

Rotari is a small, basic place with room for only about 35 people.

W7,000 pp (June, September, December-March) / W8,000 (all other months)

Jangteomok is a large facility, accommodating as many as 135 people. The shelter sells basic snack foods, rice, canned meat, coffee, stove fuel, and other necessities, and rents bedding. Blankets are not washed very often due to the cost of taking them down the mountain for laundering. The shelter is heated--often excessively so. It's useful to have a change of really light clothing to sleep in, otherwise you will bake. Drinking water is located at a spring on the slope below the shelter. Most people, who want to see the sunrise from Cheonwang Peak, stay overnight at Jangteomok. Most lodgers awake early to make it up to the peak before dawn, so taking an alarm clock is probably unnecessary. The commotion will wake you up.

W7,000 pp (June, September, December-March) / W8,000 (all other months)

Seseok is the largest and nicest shelter in the park and looks like a mountain lodge. The facility sleeps as many as 190 people. There are substantial bathroom facilities and a store. Drinking water is located at a spring down some steps below the shelter.

W7,000 pp (June, September, December-March) / W8,000 (all other months)

This shelter is slightly smaller than the previous two, accomodating about 120 people in three sleeping rooms. There's a small lobby area where additional people can crash if no beds are available. Guests sleep on wooden bunks without mattresses or pads. Blankets can be rented for W1,000 each. Drinking water is located at a spring around the right side, just down the slope from the shelter.


The Chilseon Valley Trail from Biseondam to Cheonwangbong is closed until 2015 to allow the "last virgin forest" in Korea to recover from the environmental impact of careless hikers.



[Park Office] : 922-18 Sari Sicheon-myeon Sancheong Gyeongnam 666-934
[Tel] : 82-55-972-7771


HALLASAN (한라산) Hiking Routes

HIKE 1: EORIMOK TO WITAE OREUM SHELTER - 4.7 km / 2.5 hours round-trip
Difficulty Rating:
2 - Moderate

The Eorimok Trail runs from the ticket booth at 970 m to Witae Oreum Shelter at about 1,700 m. This trail does not continue to the summit. The final 1.3 km stretch has been closed for environmental reasons since 1994. There’s no word on whether it will be opened again in the future.

The park service estimates this hike at 2 hours one-way, but it’s possible to hike up and down again in that time (not including time at the top). It begins with a series of steep, stone steps, but then evens out near the end on a length of wooden boardwalks. There’s a freshwater spring for drinking 2.4 km from the trailhead near Sajebi Hill. This route is famous for the Japanese oaks found in the Eorimok Valley and for the Sajebi grasslands.

HIKE 2: YEONGSHIL TO WITAE OREUM SHELTER - 3.7 km / 2 hours round-trip
Difficulty Rating:
2 - Moderate

The Yeongshil Trail runs from the ticket booth at 980 m to Witae Oreum Shelter at about 1,700 m. This trail does not continue to the summit. The final 1.3 km stretch has been closed for environmental reasons since 1994.

The park service estimates the hike at 2 hours, but a fit person can cover the distance in 90 minutes without difficulty. The trail is well-tended. The Noru spring is located just after Seonjakjiwat. The route is known for the majestic Korean fir trees found above 1,600 m and the grassy uplands that are covered with blooming azaleas in spring.

HIKE 3: SEONGPANAK TO BAEKNOKDAM / SUMMIT - 9.6 km / 4.5 hours one-way
Difficulty Rating:
3 - Intermediate

The Seongpanak Trail runs from the trailhead at 750 m all the way to the summit at 1,950 m. The is the primary trail used to summit Hallasan. The trail ascends gradually for the first two-thirds of the way, making for a moderate climb. There is one freshwater spring at Sara about half-way up. The area is notable for its beautiful cedars, for azaleas around Jindarraebal in the spring, and for fir trees at higher altitudes. Beyond Jindarraebal (snacks, drinks, and hot ramen are for sale at the shelter) the trail becomes very steep and quite strenuous with stone or wooden steps leading to Baeknokdam. Note that the park service sets cut-off times for hiking to the summit. If you reach a point in the hike after the designated cut-off time, they will tell you to turn around. Start early in the morning.

HIKE 4: GWANEUMSA TO BAEKNOKDAM / SUMMIT - 8.7 km / 5 hours one-way
Difficulty Rating:
3 - Intermediate

The Gwaneumsa Trail leads 8.7 km from the campground at 620 m to the summit at 1,950 m. The park service estimates the hike takes 4-5 hours one-way. The trail follows a ridge, believed to resemble the back of an ant. There is one freshwater spring for drinking, located by the trail near the Yongjingak Valley.

HALLASAN (한라산) National Park: The Basics

CLICK here for high resolution printable trail map (1.0 MB).

The 149 km2 of Hallasan National Park are centered around the dormant shield volcano that brought Jeju Island into being. The summit (1,950 m) of the mountain is the highest point in South Korea, though not by much (it's only 35 meters higher than Jirisan's Cheonwang Peak). The mountain is located exactly in the middle of the island and can be accessed from all sides fairly easily. Hallasan is one of the most popular mountains for hiking in Korea, particularly with all the local vacationers who come to Jeju Island on holidays and for honeymoons. It is, indeed, a beautiful setting with its gentle, grassy slopes, misty coniferous forests, meadows, and semi-wild horses roaming about. One of the great things about Hallasan, after having lived on the Korean mainland awhile, is that most of the area around the mountain is yet undeveloped and quite peaceful. The rural terrain of the foothills looks very similar to Mauna Kea on The Big Island of Hawaii and Haleakala on Maui (both shield volcanoes). Further up on the slopes, the trails wind through stands of Japanese oak, cedars, and Korean firs. Tree-cover is sparse at the highest elevations, where open grassland is more common. Many people come to Hallasan to see the azaleas bloom in June.

Baeknokdam Crater lies at the summit and hosts a spectacular, blue lake (except in winter, when it freezes over). There are also dozens of picturesque parasitic cones, called oreum, on the mountainside. If you're looking for subtle beauty, Hallasan has it. On the other hand, if you want a rough, challenging hike, this isn't the place. Shield volcanoes are distinct for their large bases and very gradual incline. None of the trails up Hallasan are particularly steep or difficult, but possibly it's the distance that gets to people. Currently there are only two trails that go to the summit and they're both over 18 kilometers round-trip. Still, you're looking at a half-day hike from bottom to top and down again. Start early, because the park service won't allow people to start up the longer trails after about 10:00 AM.


Hallasan National Park has five entry points (only four of which are currently open):

(1) Northwest Entrance: Eorimok
(2) Southwest Entrance: Yeongshil
(3) South Entrance: Donnaeko (closed since 1994)
(4) East Entrance: Seongpanak
(5) North Entrance: Gwaneumsa Campground

NOTE: Currently the Seongpanak and Gwaneumsa trails are the only ones that lead all the way to the summit.



Take a bus from Jeju City Bus Terminal to Eorimok Bus Stop on Highway 99. Walk 20 minutes up the road to the ticket booth, parking lot, and trailhead.

JEJU CITY Bus Terminal ► EORIMOK Bus Stop
Duration: 40 minutes
07:50 ◄ Every 80 minutes ► 15:00 (Nov-March)
06:30 ◄ Every 80 minutes ► 16:50 (Apr-Oct)


Take a bus from Jeju City Bus Terminal to Yeongshil Bus Stop at the trailhead.

JEJU CITY Bus Terminal ► YEONGSHIL Bus Stop
Duration: 1 hour
07:50 ◄ Every 80 minutes ► 15:50 (Nov-Mar)
06:30 ◄ Every 80 minutes ► 16:50 (Apr-Oct)

Note that the same buses stop at Eorimok and Yeongshil.


This trail is off-limits to hikers until further notice.


Take a bus from Jeju City Bus Terminal to Seongpanak Bus Stop near the trailhead.

Duration: 30 minutes
06:00 ◄ Every 12 minutes ► 21:30

Regular buses also depart from Seogwipo Terminal for Seongpanak (it takes 40 min).


There are no buses to Gwaneumsa (neither the temple nor the campground and trailhead). If you don’t have your own vehicle, one option is to take a bus or taxi to the Jeju Country Club on Slope Road (Hwy. 1117). From there, walk west on the road for about 50 minutes until you come to the turn-off for Gwaneumsa campground (there’s a sign).

Another possibility is to hop on a bus for Eorimok at Jeju Bus Terminal and then ask the driver to drop you where Highways 99 and 1117 meet. From there you’d have to walk east on the road for about an hour.


Though there are snack shops and small ranger stations at some of the trailheads, there are no tourist villages on Hallasan, which means you’ll need to find food and lodging in the nearest city or town. Jeju City in the north and Seogwipo in the south are both less than an hour by bus from any of the park entrance points.


Gwaneumsa Campground is found 10 km from Jeju City near Slope Road (Hwy. 1117), about 1 km west of Gwaneumsa (temple). The complex, which is said to accommodate as many as a 1,000 people, includes tent sites, cooking areas, showers, restrooms, and campfire pits. Contact the park service for more information about reservations and facilities.


Hallasan has a number of day shelters, where hikers can buy water, snacks, and maps, but there are no overnight shelters.


[Tel] : 064-713-9950-3

GAYASAN (가야산) Hiking Routes


HIKE 1: Haeinsa to Sangwang / Chilbul Peak - 8 km roundtrip / 3 hours
Difficulty Rating: 2 - Moderate

This hike starts at Haeinsa (temple) and winds through the lowland forests to the top of the mountain. Maps show two peaks--Sangwangbong (1,430 m) and Chilbulbong (1,433 m), but they are nearly identical in height and only 5 minutes hike from each other. Sangwangbong is more famous and usually listed as the highest point on Gayasan even though Chilbulbong is actually a tiny bit higher (by 3 meters). Total elevation gain is 833 meters with an average of 207 meters gained per kilometer of trail. The elevation gain is very even until the last 200 meters, where the terrain grows slightly steeper.

This is a perfect hike both for beginners, who don’t want a long, strenuous climb, and experienced hikers who keep coming back for more of Gayasan's raw beauty. The hike is easy-to-moderate, climbing gradually at the beginning, going up some wide wooden steps, and then following a rocky trail for most of the rest of the way. The lush forest beyond Haeinsa is magical early in the morning when rays of sunlight angle down in the mist.


Most of the hike has good tree cover. After about 90 minutes things open up and you begin to see sky above. The trial briefly breaks out onto a huge mass of rock (Bongcheondae) with great views of the valley. The remainder of the mountain towers up above this. The last kilometer is the steepest, ending below an exposed, rocky slope. From that point, it’s only another half kilometer to Sangwangbong. Views from the top are fantastic in clear weather. You can see in every direction. To the south, the sharp, dramatic ridges rise up like the dorsal fin of some strange sea creature rolling in the clouds. To the north, the mountain falls steeply to the hilly terrain, villages, and towns of Seongju County.

It took us about two hours to reach Sangwangbong at a nice, gentle pace, and an hour to get down. Another trail runs directly from Chilbulbong, past Yonggi Falls, and out the eastern park entrance at Baengundong (2.9 km).



Try to get to the peak for sunrise. You won't regret getting up early. Technically, Gayasan is open to climbers from two hours before sunrise to sunset. The hike is one that's quite easy to do in the dark with a flashlight or headlamp. Locate the starting point the day before so you don't have to search around in the dark.

GAYASAN (가야산) National Park: The Basics


CLICK here for high resolution printable trail map (929 KB).

Gayasan was designated a national park in 1972. One of the smaller parks, it covers 80km2 on a branch of the Sobaek Range. Supposedly shaped like the head of a cow, Gayasan is also sometimes called Udusan ('Cow head'). The main ridgeline of the mountain forms the border between North and South Gyeongsang Provinces. The highest point is split into two peaks, named Sangwangbong (1,430 m) and Chilbulbong (1,433 m). Though Chilbulbong is slightly higher (by 3 meters), Sangwangbong is more well-known and usually listed as the primary peak. For all purposes, they can be considered a single peak.

The lower part of the park is dominated by pines, especially around Haeinsa and on the road leading up to the temple. Deciduous trees are also common. In Autumn, the bright crimson of the maples and the yellow of the gingko trees sets the mountain ablaze, making Gayasan one of the top parks for visits during the fall season. The park also contains the beautiful Hongnyudong Valley, Yongmun Falls, and two impressive standing images of the Buddha on the mountain. The hikes in this park are quite easy and can each be accomplished in a few hours.

Gayasan is most famous for its primary temple, Haeinsa, which houses the entire Buddhist scriptures on 80,000 wooden printing blocks. There are a score of smaller temples and shrines clustered in the vicinity.


From Busan, there are several options for reaching Haeinsa and Gayasan National Park.

(1) The easiest choice is to take an inter-city bus from either Busan's Seobu-Sasang Terminal or Nopo-dong Terminal to Daegu (East) Inter-city Bus Terminal. At Daegu, transfer to a bus bound for Haeinsa (temple).

BUSAN Seobu-Sasang Terminal ► DAEGU East Inter-city Bus Terminal
Fare: W8,500
07:00 08:30 10:00 11:30 13:00 14:30 16:00 18:10
Duration: 2 hours

BUSAN Nopo-dong Terminal ► DAEGU East Inter-city Bus Terminal
Fare: W8,400 / (W5,800)
(06:25) 07:00 07:30 08:00 08:30 09:00 09:40 10:20 ◄ Every 30-40 minutes ► 17:40 18:20 (19:00) 19:40 (20:20) 21:00 (21:30) 22:30
Duration: 1½ hours – 1 hour 50 minutes

DAEGU East Inter-city Bus Terminal ► HAEINSA (Temple)
Fare: W4,200
06:40 07:00 08:00 08:40 09:20 10:00 10:40 11:20 12:00 12:40 13:20 14:00 14:40 15:20 16:00 16:40 17:20 18:00 18:40 19:20 20:00
Duration: 2 hours

(2) Another option is to take an inter-city bus from Seobu-Sasang Terminal to Jinju Bus Terminal. From Jinju, 3 buses a day depart for Haeinsa.

BUSAN Seobu-Sasang Terminal ► JINJU Bus Terminal
Fare: W6,900
05:40 ◄ Every 10-15 minutes ► 20:20 21:05 21:30
Duration: 1 hour 20 minutes

JINJU Bus Terminal ► HAEINSA (Temple)
09:30 13:10 17:40
Duration: 2 hours

(3) The third and least desireable route involves taking an inter-city bus from Seobu-Sasang Terminal to Hapcheon Bus Terminal and there transferring to a bus for Haeinsa. Hapcheon, like Jinju, is a small town and has rather infrequent bus times. You may need to wait 1-2 hours for the next Haeinsa bus.


(1) While Daegu is the best route for getting TO Gayasan, the reverse is not true. For being the third largest city in Korea, Daegu seems to have surprisingly infrequent buses to Busan. The best return option is to route through Jinju. At Jinju, transfer to a bus for Busan.

HAEINSA (Temple) ► JINJU Bus Terminal
Fare: W9,700
07:40 13:00 17:00
Duration: 2 hours

JINJU Bus Terminal ► BUSAN Seobu Terminal
Fare: W6,900
05:50 ◄ every 10-20 minutes ► 21:10
Duration: 1 hour 20 minutes

(2) The second route takes you to Daegu, where you transfer to a bus for Busan.

HAEINSA (Temple) ► DAEGU East Inter-city Bus Terminal
Fare: W4,200
06:40 07:20 08:00 08:40 09:20 10:00 10:40 11:20 12:00 12:40 13:20 14:00 14:40 15:20 16:00 16:40 17:20 18:00 18:40 19:20 19:50
Duration: 2 hours

DAEGU East Inter-city Bus Terminal ► BUSAN Seobu Terminal
Fare: W8,500
07:00 08:30 10:00 11:30 13:00 15:10 16:40 18:00

(3) From Haeinsa, there are also buses to Daejeon and towns or districts in the local area, including Hapcheon (W4,300), Goryeong (W3,300), Yaro (W1,500), and Gaya (W1,000).

HAEINSA (Temple) ► DAEJEON Inter-city Bus Terminal
Fare: W12,000
07:00 10:10 11:30 15:30 17:20


As with most national park entrances in Korea, the area just below Haeinsa near the bus (Chi-in Village) has plenty of minbak 민박 and a few motels 모텔. Prices are typical of the parks--W20,000-30,000 per night. Restaurants and street vendors are scattered here and there, especially on the hill opposite the bus stop.

One of the best options for an overnight stay is Haeinsa itself. The temple provides room and board for W20,000 per night. Reservations are suggested, but unnecessary most of the time. Reservations can be made by following the directions at the Temple-Stay website. Your fee gets you a place in one of the communal sleeping rooms (floor mattress, blankets, and pillows provided), dinner, breakfast, and lunch the following morning. Lockers are provided for personal belongings. All the temple asks is that you follow the rules:

(1) Go to bed at 9:00 PM.
(2) Get up at 3:00 AM and attend the 3:30 AM prayer service in the main Buddha hall.
(3) Be quiet and respectful on temple grounds.
(4) Be on-time for meals.

18:10 - Dinner
19:00 - Evening Prayer Service
03:30 - Morning Prayer Service
06:10 - Breakfast
11:15 - Lunch


There are three campgrounds just beyond Yongmun Falls and Chi-in Village at the main entrance to the park. A fourth campground is located at the east entrance near Baengundong Village ticket office. Fees range between W3,000 and W7,000 per night.


The trail running from Haeinsa to Maeburipsang Buddha statue is restricted on the authority of the park service until 2010.


[Park Office] : 123-1 Guwon-ri Gaya-myeon Hapcheon Gyeongnam
[Tel] : 82-55-932-7810


GAJISAN (가지산) Hiking Routes


HIKE 1: Gajisan Ridge Loop - 5 hours
Difficulty Rating: 3 - Intermediate

This hike begins at Seongnamsa (temple) and climbs steeply up the hillside to the main ridge. From there, the path goes west past Ssalbawi, and continues to Gajisan (1,240 m).

The trailhead starts just before you walk into the temple grounds. There’s a road to the right marked with a metal sign and basic trail map (in Korean). Follow this road past a hilltop monument on the left (you’ll be going away from Seongnamsa and the mountains, which seems wrong--but it isn’t) until it meets with the trail. There the trail doubles back toward the mountains. The early part of the trail does not have signs, but it’s fairly easy to stay on the right track as the trail is well-defined most of the time. As always, look for red, pink, or yellow ribbons tied to trees if you're unsure. At places, the trail crosses a river bed (sometimes dry, sometimes not). It climbs quite steeply for about 1 hour, at which time you come out onto a dirt utility road near Gwibawi (1,117 m). Go left (west). The rocky outcropping of Ssalbawi (1,109 m) is an easy 30 minutes further and offers stunning views of the Eonyang Valley and surrounding peaks. From there it’s gentle 30-40 minute climb to the peak of Gajisan. All of the ridge hiking is quite easy and can be covered quickly, if necessary. Keep an eye out for colorful snakes (look, don't touch) and mountain toads. Unmunsan (1,118 m) is about 2 hours further west from Gajisan.


On the return trip, a heavily-eroded path leads south toward Seongnam Tunnel for about one hour. At the fork, one trail continues south to the tunnel and on to the Southern Yeongnam Alps. It's possible to hike all the way from this point and come out far south at Pyochungsa (temple) in Miryang, but it's a full-day trek. Take the eastern option instead. Another 50 minutes on the trail brings you to the paved road, just above the parking lot and Seongnamsa bus stop. This route is popular with Koreans heading up to Gajisan. It’s well-marked with non-English signs. The entire hike can be accomplished in 4 hours.

HIKE 2: Seongnamsa to Unmunsa - 5-6 hours
Difficulty Rating: not rated -

This hike follows the route of Hike 1 to Gajisan peak. From there it continues west to Araetjae Pass and on to Unmunsan (about 2 hours). Unmunsa (temple) is another 2 hours hike north.

We're looking for someone to write a description of this hike. If you've personally hiked this route and would like to contribute an account of your experience, email me at:


GAJISAN (가지산) Provincial Park: The Basics


CLICK here for high resolution printable trail map (999 KB).

Gajisan Provincial Park is located between Miryang, Ulsan, Cheongdo, and Gyeongju, about 90 minutes north of Busan by bus. The mountains are part of the Baekdu-Daegan Mountain System and are popularly referred to as the Yeongnam Alps. A Korean tourist website for the park boasts that the “balanced beauty and heroic feature (sic) are greater than the Alps in Europe.” Though it’s probably hard to take such a strong claim seriously, these mountains are very beautiful and definitely worth some exploration.

gajisan-topoAt the top of Gajisan--the highest peak--you can look north over a tumbled landscape of mountains reaching into the distance. The northern portion of the region includes Gajisan (1,240 m) and Unmunsan (1,188 m) peaks, as well as the famous rocky points, Ssalbawi and Gwibawi. There’s nothing here that warrants multi-day hikes, but there are lots of options for half or full-day excursions.


The primary entrances to Gajisan Provincial Park are at its four major Buddhist temples:

(1) Seongnamsa (Temple) in the southeast near Eonyang and Ulsan
(2) Unmunsa in the north near Cheongdo
(3) Daebisa in the northwest
(4) Seokgolsa in the west near Miryang


From Busan, there are two options:

(1) Take an intercity bus from Nopodong Terminal to Eonyang Terminal and tranfer to a local bus for Seongnamsa (25 min).

BUSAN Nopo-dong Terminal ► EONYANG Bus Terminal
Fare: W3,200
06:30 ◄ 20 buses per day ► 21:00
Duration: 40 minutes

(2) Take Busan City Bus #12 from Beomosa Subway Station, Yangsan City Hall, or Dongnae Lotte Department Store. It runs all the way to Eonyang Terminal, but because it makes frequent stops, it takes longer to get there. Once in Eonyang, you still have to transfer to a local bus for Seongnamsa.
Fare: W2,300
Duration: 90 minutes


There is a good selection of motels and minbak not far from the Seongnamsa parking lot, where the bus drops hikers. Head down the main road back towards Eonyang. It’s a 10 minute walk. As usual, bargain with the proprietors. A typical minbak should have clean, simple rooms for a single person for around W20,000 (W30,000 for two people). There are a few ratty restaurants and a row of identical convenience stores in the Seongnamsa parking lot, but not many other choices for food.


Seongnamsa stands just below the main ridge at Gajisan. Though small, I found the temple complex to be one of the most visually satisfying, perhaps because of the influence of its residents. The temple is occupied entirely by nuns. Important relics include a round stone tower, which contains the remains of the temple’s founder, and a 3-tier stone pagoda. If you go there in the evening, you can witness the prayer ceremony, where dozens of nuns sit together facing the primary prayer hall and chant together as the light fades from the sky. It happens around 6 PM.