Cycling

Please note:  General information/introduction at the top of the page, followed by some recommended routes varying in length/difficulty from just a few kilometers to upwards of a 100km. Multi-day tours and “Bike’n Hike” suggestions toward the bottom.

General Information

The cycling around this part of Jeolla-Do is phenomenal.  The balance of scenery, challenge, and options is just right.  There are plenty of routes that loop back through Gwangju (possibly of interest if you’re from out of town!?!) and just as many that don’t if you want to avoid city riding.  Either way you’ll end up back at the house in time for a BBQ, a bonfire and plenty of cold beers.

There are four bikes available for use with the house.  Two of them are in great condition and could (can/have) easily be used for any of the longer rides mentioned below.  The other two are probably better for just cruising around the neighborhood, doing some sightseeing or going on a beer run.  Locked storage is available if you bring your own bike.  Touring cyclists passing through the area are welcome to couch surf, pitch a tent in the yard, or use the kitchen/bathroom for the night free of charge.  24 hour notice is all that’s requested.

If you’re into cycling and live in Korea I’m going to assume you have a smart phone, are familiar with Naver maps or one of the many cycling apps available (cyclemeter, mapmyride, strava, etc…), and have somewhat of an adventurous spirit.  Exploring the area with these tools is a no-brainer and also makes it nearly impossible to get lost.

Having said that, I’ll recommend some of my favorite routes to at least get you started.  There are loads of unexplored roads so don’t be shy about heading off into uncharted waters.

Recommended One-Day Routes

1.  Neighborhood Loop

Length:  6km

Difficulty:  Doesn’t get any easier than this.

Time:  20 minutes

Cyclemeter Link:  Neighborhood Loop 

Notes:  This is the route you want to do if you haven’t been on a bike since elementary school and are more interested in just seeing the neighborhood and checking out the local tourist attractions.  There is one climb just after you pass the Eco-Park, but after that it’s all downhill back to the house (take the first left after you start down the hill).  This ride could take an afternoon if you stop at each of the attractions along the way:  (in order) Gasamunhakwan, Shikyeongjeong, Eco-Park, Soswaewon.

2.  Gwangju Lake Loop

Length:  22km

Difficulty:  Intermediate (two climbs)

Time:  2-3 hours

Cyclemeter Link:  Gwangju Lake Loop

Notes:  The Gwangju Lake Loop is a classic for anyone living and riding around Gwangju.  It has a lot to offer in such a relatively short ride and can easily be extended to offer a longer more challenging ride.  This is one of my favorites and the one I’m always first to recommend!  Lots of detailed information on this route can be found here.

3.  Damyang Course

Length:  55km

Difficulty:  High Intermediate (unless you cut out the one big climb)

Time:  2.5 hours

Cyclemeter Link:  Damyang Course 1

Notes:  This ride is scenic start to finish, with only one tough climb to worry about…and it’s worth it.  The views from the top of the climb are amazing and it’s all down hill back to the house once you make it to the top!  More detailed information can be found here.

4.  The Mudeungsan (Beast) Route

Length:  67km

Difficulty:  Advanced

Time:  6 hours

Cyclemeter Link:  The Beast Route

Notes:  Dubbed the ‘beast route’ for good reason, this route takes you all the way around Mudeung Mountain and offers more than a few good climbs.  Don’t let the advanced rating throw you off, I’ve taken loads of friends on this ride and everyone survived and ultimately had a blast.  This loop requires quite a bit of city riding, however there are options to avoid the city and circle back via country roads (heading south at Hwasun).  This would up the mileage a fair amount and justify that advanced rating.

5.  The Hanjae Valley

Length:  70ish km

Difficulty:  High Intermediate (one massive climb)

Time:  6 hours

Cyclemeter Link:  Hanjae Valley 

Notes:  This ride effectively cuts out Gwangju altogether.  It’s possible to use this route to explore Damyang, either before or after the valley, but even that’s not necessary if you want to stick to country roads.  It also puts you within striking distance of Naejangsan National Park, which is worth checking out if you have more time (see below for information about that ride).

6.  DongBok Lake Loop

Length:  45 km

Difficulty:  High Intermediate

Time:  4 hours

Cyclemeter Link:   DongBok Lake Loop

Notes:  It took all my strength not to give this ride an advanced rating because there are a few climbs that are absolutely brutal!  Particularly the one that starts around the 28th km.  Head south on 887, which is right outside the front door of the house, and continue on towards DongBok Lake.  There are a few options to go around the lake, but we chose to head around back north on 897 past the south end of Mudueng National Park (it was winter and cold!).  This make a nice loop and puts you back on 887 and thus familiar roads.

7.  Chuwolsan Provincial Park and Eco-Park (Bike’n Hike)

Cycling:  95 km

Hiking:  7km

Difficulty:  High Intermediate

Time:  1 day

Cyclemeter Link:   Chuwolsan Provinical Park

Notes:  This is a gorgeous ride through some of the more scenic parts of Damyang and could easily be made more challenging by attempting a summit of Chuwolsan!  A hike around the nearby Eco-Park is certainly the easier option and arguably as rewarding.  Plenty of photos and information can be found here.

8.  Geumseongsanseong Fortress Wall (Bike’n Hike)

Cycling:  62 km (one day)

Hiking:  9km

Time:  1 day

Cyclemter Link:  Geumseongsanseong (one way)

Notes:  This is a very manageable one-day adventure.  The cycling is roughly 30km each way, but without any climbs to speak of it’s pretty quick.  The hiking is spectacular and is definitely the more challenging part of the day.  Lots of photos and details can be found here.

Bike’n Hike / Multi-Day Tours

The “Bike’n Hike” project was born out of a failed backpacking trip to Jirisan National Park in February of 2014.  The logistics of that trip, for whatever reason, weren’t coming together and out of frustration I got out my wall map of Jeolla-Do (!!!) and started looking for alternatives.  Within minutes I had located a small park just to our north called Naejangsan National Park.  Having lived in Gwangju for longer than I care to admit, I was shocked to realize I had not only never been to this park, I had actually never heard of it!  Within about 15 minutes Jirisan was long forgotten, our bikes had replaced our car, and our first Bike’n Hike tour was organized and ready to go.

Since then we have revisited Naejangsan in friendlier weather (June/September), gone to Wolchulsan National Park, Jirisan National Park, Hallyeohaesang National Park on Namhae Island and Suncheon Bay and Yulpo Beach/Boseong Green Tea Fields.  These are all between two and four day tours.

Shorter rides (one day) include Mudeung National Park, Chuwolsan Provincial Park, and Geumsungsansung Fortress wall (information on these rides is posted above).

Yulpo Beach (via Boseong Green Tea Fields)

Length:  2 Days

Cycling:  170km

Hiking:  ?

Notes: The title, and therefore destination, is a bit misleading.  Don’t go on this ride looking for an iconic southern Californian beach waiting for you on the other end.  You won’t find it.  Instead go on this ride looking to enjoy the time and effort of getting there.  After 85kms, and a full afternoon of riding through scenic valleys, you won’t really notice the missing surf and the sandy beach will be more than adequate to accommodate you and your friends for the night.  All the necessary details can be found in this post.

Naejangsan National Park

Length: 3 days (or 2 days!)

Cycling: 120km

Hiking:  15km

Notes:  Day 1 is a pretty easy ride (50km) with only one notable climb and the most epic downhill imaginable bringing you into the park.  Day 2 is a ball busting hike (15km) around the ridge of the National Park.  Day 3 starts of with a nice climb (45 min of nothing but up) out of the valley and a fairly tiring ride back to The Damyang House (70km). More details about this ride can be found here.  Info about Bike’n Hike VI (the two day version of the trip) can be found here.

Wolchulsan National Park

Length: 3 days

Cycling: 170km

Hiking:  6km

Notes: Day 1 takes you around Mudeung Mountain and through the National Park, so the first half of the day is especially spectacular and challenging.  Day 2 is a challenging, albeit short, hike to the summit of Wolchulsan and some of its best highlights (suspension bridge anyone?).  Day 3 starts out of on a few of the same roads that lead you into the park, but takes a detour through Gwangju city and the opposite side of Mudeung National Park to end the day on a high note. More details can be found here.

Jirisan National Park / Hallyeohaesang National Park (Namhae-Do) / Suncheon Bay

Length: 4 days

Cycling:370km

Hiking:

Notes:  I skipped hiking these parks during this ride only because I wanted use my time to establish a cycling route.  If you combined hiking all of these parks, it would be upwards of an eight or nine day trip (and grueling!).  If you focused on just one park and rode there and back, it would be more of a traditional three-day Bike’n Hike.  And of course there are multiple variations in between that allow quite a bit of flexibility.  Jirisan is the toughest in terms of hiking.  Hallyeohaesang (Namhae-Do) is toughest in terms of cycling (new roads currently under construction will make this ride much easier in the future!).  More details, photos and suggestions about this route can be found here.  Information on a Jirisan-specific trip can be found here.