My second day at the Seoraksan Nation Park dawned early, sunny and cold. Walking into the park, I admired the sun rising over the mountains. The rising sun painted the the rocks in a reddish-gold light and it reminded me a bit of Zion National Park.
This particular morning, I woke up a bit tired and sore, but pressed on nonetheless with my planned hiking itinerary. I was determined to see as much autumn foliage as possible, and everything I read about hiking in the Cheongbuldong Valley promised a steady stream of autumn colors.
The first part of the hiking trail was fairly easy. After the extremely steep hike of Ulsan Bawi, a trail with an initial 6% gradient felt like a piece of cake and a stroll in the park. The path was relatively even, and it was just enjoyable to walk along the trail and enjoy the view of the woods around me and not have to stare at the ground so I didn’t trip and fall.
The first major viewpoint on the trail, and a popular turnaround point, was the Bisondae Cliffs (Fairy Rock). The bridge traversed this very beautiful valley and natural pools of water formed in the rocks via erosion. I just had to stop, stare and take in the beauty around me.
The trail continued for another few more kilometers up to the Yangpok Shelter. Truthfully, the trail continued much farther and deeper into Seoraksan National Park, with the next major viewpoint Daecheong Peak, several kilometers away. However, I made the decision to turn back at the shelter after a nice break. The gradient more than doubled to around 14%, but the spectacular natural view more than made up for any muscle soreness in my legs. When I hike in Korea, I have to balance maintaining my footing on the trail, and maximizing the reason I go hiking- enjoying the colorful wonder of beautiful nature of me. Thankfully, there were plenty of man made stairs and boardwalks, so it wasn’t all just me stumbling over large, uneven rocks.
Sometimes the view was so soaring, that I kept having to remind myself that this was all real. This wasn’t some movie. This wasn’t some memory, but real life, happening all around me.
This particular hike is one of the most popular hikes in Seoraksan National Park, and it is easy to see why. The trail isn’t THAT difficult (by Korean hiking standards that is). You can hike as far out as you want and turn around when you want.
Because the elevation seemed to be greater, and the weather a bit cooler in this part of the park, I found plenty of autumn colors on today’s search.
Even though this trail was much easier than the Ulsan Bawi trail, I definitely felt it, particularly on the hike back. That was probably because I was still feeling it from the day prior. There were scores of people on this trail, because it was a Saturday and the busloads of Korean hikers descended on the park. Even though I’m reasonably fit, I was passed by nearly every one in sight, particularly while trying to negotiate the rocky descents. So many Korean hikers were light of foot and they walked confidently, hopped, or even a few cases, ran down the uneven rocky hills, while I gingerly picked my way down, afraid if I didn’t, my spindly ankles would give out and I’d fall down, down, down the rocks. I am absolutely not as sure-footed as most of the other hikers. And thanks to my sore muscles, I was passed by nearly every one on the trail, with the exception of the elderly and infirm. And when I say elderly and infirm, I mean so old and sick, they probably shouldn’t have been on the trail to begin with.
I did enjoy the hike, and it felt so sweet when I finished and I could just relax, eat lunch and then go back to my hotel for a nice, warm nap. In those two days, I saw all the main sights in Outer Seorak. That is the eastern part of the park, the one closest to the town of Sokcho. It is the most popular with the craggiest hills. A person can easily do this part of the park on the normal, two day weekend. Of course I highly recommend taking a bus out to the park on a Friday night to start hiking early Saturday morning. Even with my relatively slow hiking pace, I was still done by early afternoon. I could have been on a bus back to Seoul that early evening if I so desired.
Again, if you like beautiful nature, particularly in the fall, and you like hiking, I HIGHLY recommend Seoraksan National Park. Just don’t mind the crowds. And it’s probably best to bring some walking sticks to maintain your balance while hiking on the uneven pathways.