Hands down, one of the best things to do in Korea is go hiking. Filled with mountain ranges and beautiful scenery, the country is perfect for a beautiful hike during the spring or fall. Spanning three provinces in southern Korea, hiking Jirisan will allow you to hike a part of Korea's largest mountain range. With Hallsan and Geumgangsan, it's also considered a legendary mountain in Korea's history. Living in one of the cities closest to the mountain range, I decided it was time to stop being lazy and take advantage of my proximity to hike one of the courses.
Pretty much by accident, my friend and I wound up hiking the Baemsagol Valley Course. We meant to hike to Banyabong Peak, but instead of getting off at Unbong, we got off at Baemsagol (뱀사골) /Banseon Village (반선 마을), and so decided to just follow the other Korean hikers and some signs and see how far we could go. While we aimed for Tokkibong, we only had a day and were pretty much pooped when we reached Hwagaejae Pass (화개재) (well, I was anyway). It was 9.2 k.m. to the pass (a little less than 6 miles), and the difficulty increased from easy to intermediate after the first 2 k.m.
While the trail was anything but easy or even intermediate, the hike was absolutely stunning and the weather was perfect. Not too hot, not too cold, mostly shaded, and comfortable in a pair of shorts and a T-shirt. We learned the hard way why we should probably invest in a pair of hiking boots, and I'm pretty sure every ahjussi and ahjumma that saw us was concerned for our safety. We must have looked worse than we thought because we were constantly being told that maybe we should turn around.
After the first 2 or so kilometers, the path pretty much turns to rock, and you'll be happy when you reach a set of stairs or a bridge to relax a little on. The whole hike up took a little over 4 hours, and the way down a little less. All in all, we were probably at it from 10 a.m. to 5:45 p.m, resting up at Hwagaejae Pass to eat lunch and recharge. And hey, neither of us broke or twisted anything even in our ill-equipped running sneakers and lack of hiking gear!
WHAT TO BRING
- Comfortable shoes, hiking shoes if you've got 'em
- Sandwiches and snacks
- At least two water bottles
- A camera for photographs because it'll be beautiful!
WHEN TO GO
Spring or Fall. It'll frankly be too humid to go in the summer, and too dangerous to go in winter.
HOW TO GET THERE
- (From Seoul) Take a bus from the Express Bus Terminal (Lines 3, 7, 9) or a train from Yongsan Station (Line 1, G-J, ITX) to Namwon (남원).
- From Namwon take a bus from the Intercity Bus Terminal (시외 버스 터미널) to Baemsangol (뱀사골). It'll take about an hour.
- From the Baemsangol Bus Terminal walk along the river until you come to the information center. Turn left along the river and you'll see the signs. Head for Hwagaejae Pass (화재개).
MORE ABOUT BAEMSAGOL VALLEY
How do you feel about hiking? While I've enjoy it so far, I don't know that I could pull a hardcore hike off!
Photographs and Words by Samantha