This is a part of 8 days trip around South Korea.
Seoraksan National Park was a gem of our trip to South Korea. This park is one of the most beautiful and iconic on the entire Korean Peninsula. It has an incredible rocky landscape, with jagged peaks rising up out of pine forests. Seoraksan is an amazing place for hiking with over a dozen of different hiking trails.
It is pretty much easy to get to the park. There are two different bus terminals in Seoul to start from — Dong Seoul bus terminal and Gangnam Express bus terminal. From either of them you can take a bus to Sokcho city. The buses run roughly each 30 minutes and the trip takes about 2.5 hours. From Sokcho you have to take bus 7 or 7-1 which goes directly to the park entrance.
There are numerous hotels located before the entrance to the park. The selection is pretty wide starting from some 50-60 USD per room and going up for more major options. At the same time many buildings look abandoned. Like soviet pioneer camps… I do not know why, but it created strange feeling…
We arrived to so called “Block C” before the park entrance in the late afternoon. Our hotel, Goodstay Smile Resort, seemed to be one of the few open hotels in the area. Nevertheless, we successfully checked in and went out looking for some food. About 200 meters down the road we found a store, but the only our option there were instant noodles ;)
On the next day we started early, took a bus to the entrance and went to the cable car station. For another 8 USD per person we bought tickets up to the top of Gwongeumseong. It is better to go there as early as possible if you do not want to be surrounded by hundreds and thousands of tourists. The day was amazingly hot, reaching probably about +30-34ºC in the shadows. So next we went to Biryeong Falls. The trail takes about hour or hour and a half in relaxed pace roundtrip. The waterfalls were weak as we were visiting out of rainy season. Still it was good to moisten feet during this hot day.
After waterfalls and lunch we departed to the main part of our trip — a trail to Huiungak Shelter and then to Gongryong Ridge. There are number of shelters and campsites within the park. Each of them should be booked in advance. Unfortunately it is pretty difficult to book them if you are foreigner. After some e-mail to support I got an address for reservation for foreigners — Korea National Parks Service. After I made a booking it wasn’t clear how to pay, so based on information I found I decided that it will be possible to pay at the shelter. What a disappointment was when we came to the shelter and were told that our booking is not on the list probably because we didn’t pay it…The shelter was fully booked, but luckily for us there were two cancellations and we got the places to sleep.
All the way to the shelter took about 5-6 hours. First 40-60 minutes were almost flat and relaxing. Next two hours it was a gentle climb to Yangpok Shelter. And the next hour or hour and a half it was pretty steep climb to Huiungak Shelter with a lots of stairs. All the way was spectacular. Many parts of the way were covered in shadows, so it was enjoyable even during shinny hot day.
We’ve reached Huiungak Shelter around 18:00. After some paperwork we got places to sleep. The shelter itself is pretty much typical — one big shared room for about 32 persons, wind protected area for cooking, two small changing rooms and a few toilets a few meters away. A good point about this and other shelters in the park is that they sell food — pre-cooked rice, tuna cans, some snacks, water.
On the next day we woke up pretty early, around 4:00 am. Yet were not the only waking up at this time. After a quick breakfast we’ve started our way further to Gongryong Ridge. And in about 30-40 minutes we were met by pretty much vertical wall with some metal ropes to hold while climbing. And again unfortunately it wasn’t possible to find gradation of the trail difficulty before you actually reach the park. Neither on the Korea National Parks Service web site, nor on other sites about the park I didn’t find any classifications and timing for the trails. So was just measuring them approximately.
We’ve checked the wall and considered it being too risky for climbing for an unprepared person. So sadly, but we had to turn back and walk all the way to the start of the trail. It is pretty much difficult to recommend something here. It might make sense to choose the route when you are already in the park, but at the same time all the shelters might be booked by that time… So try to look for as more information about the trail as you can!