A couple weekends ago, I finally was able to go on the Baraebong Peak Royal Azalea hike in Jirisan National Park. I read about this hike last year, but wasn’t able to do the hike. Since this year is my last spring in Korea, I knew I really needed to do this, because the pictures I’ve seen of this hike are absolutely beautiful. Luckily for me, in my online searches about this hike, I discovered the Seoul Meetup group that was planning to do this hike, and I eagerly signed up.
After signing up, I realized that the hike the meetup group does, is only a short version of the hike. The true hike is the Jeongnyeonchi Hill Baraebong Peak Course. It starts at the Jeongnyeonchi service area and ends at Undong village. That hike is about 12.6 kilometers, and most of it traverses a ridgeline and passes through numerous passes that are covered in colorful azaleas. Unlike most hikes I have done in Korea, that hike has very little in the way of steep inclines, and the one steep decline is at the end of the hike.
The shorter hike we did started at Undong village and continued up the hill to Baraebong Peak with a diversion to Pallangchi Pass, with a return to Undong village. The hike we did was around 8 kilometers. This hike was also the steepest part of the whole hike. The hike starts at Undong village and ascends sharply to Baraebong Samgeori. The altitude gain on this hike was over 400 meters in a brief period of time.
I was definitely feeling the hike in my legs. It was in the middle of the day, and the sun was bright and overhead. There was only minimal shade on this hike, but I took advantage of it whenever I could. Surprisingly, all of these spring hikes I’ve done this year have felt easier than the fall hikes I did. I’ve actually been passing Korean hikers on the paths. My knees certainly feel better. I would like to think that I am simply fitter now than I was in the fall. Or maybe I am just missing all the fitter Korean hikers. But the more likely answer is that I’ve been hiking on easier paths. Sure, the trails are steep, but the trails are wide and surprisingly well-benched. At times I even felt like I was hiking in New Zealand.
This hike is very popular, particularly this time of the year. There were scores of tour buses at Undong village, and even more groups hiking in from Jeongnyeonchi pass. This popularity is probably why the trail is so well benched, but it also means it is VERY crowded.
For most of the trail, that is not really that big of a deal, but parts of the trail around Pallangchi pass are rather narrow, so there were times a long line formed on the trail. Sure that make the walking slower, but this also allowed a greater opportunity to take in the beautiful azaleas.
The azaleas at lower altitudes already passed their blooming season, but as I ascended in altitude, there were more and more azaleas on the path.
Once I reached Baraebong Samegori, I ascended to the top of the peak. Most of the trail was relatively flat, but the last 250 meters before hitting the peak were so steep, but the view from the top was worth it. I could see all the surrounding mountains, and I could see further down the trail, where the patches of azaleas were abundant around Pallangchi pass. I had plenty of time before having to return to the bus, so it was a pretty easy walk out to the pass.
Pallangchi pass was definitely worth the walk. All around the areas were thousands of bright purple azalea flowers. The hills were fields of pink, and I had never seen anything quite like it.
Independent travel for this hike is not exceptionally easy or cheap, but it is doable. The quickest way is probably to take a train from Yongsan to Namwon station, and then a taxi to Jeongnyeonchi service area. At the end of the hike at Undong village, there were plenty of taxis waiting, to get a ride back to Namwon station. There really aren’t any buses in the area, so you really have to take a taxi or be part of a tour group.
If you have the opportunity to do this hike, I highly recommend it. I have never run into the opportunity to do a hike that afforded an opportunity to see so many wild, colorful azaleas in one place. Parts of the hills were all pink, and even the parts that aren’t, offer up so many beautiful views of the surrounding Jirisan National Park.
A couple of tips for this hike. If possible, I would highly recommend you start this hike early, particularly if you are doing the full 12.6 kilometers. This will hopefully allow you to get out in front of the bulk of the Koren hiking groups, though there will be the really dedicated hikers out there. Definitely take plenty of water, sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses, because the bulk of the hike is very much exposed, and the sun will beat down on your head during a sunny and bright day.