Below you’ll find information (in order) about:
Mudeung National Park
The Mountains behind the House
The Rice Paddies in front of the House
Naejangsan National Park
Guemseong Fortress Hike.
***Bringing your dog? Dog friendly hiking options can be found here.***
Mudeung National Park
When it comes to hiking, Mudeung (무등산) is the obvious choice. It was made a national park at the tail end of 2012 for good reason. The best way to access the park is through the entrance at Wonhyosa temple (원효사), where you’ll find parking, a ranger station with maps, and restaurants and marts to stock up on makoli before you set out on one of the many trails that start there. (Please note: there are at least six Mudeung National Park trailheads within 5 kilometers of the house so don’t be afraid to explore some of the lesser known trails! This suggestion, for example, takes you to a hidden lake just behind the Gwangju Lake/Eco Park or this one that takes you to Shinseondae via lesser known tails.
Wonhyosa is only 8km away and is a quick 12 minute drive from the house. Alternatively, If you don’t have a car, grab a bike and head towards the Pungam trailhead (4km) and hike up through the valley (another 4km). It’s easier than is sounds and less than 90 minutes total! (click here for more detailed instructions).
You’ll probably chose your hiking route based on how much time you have. The options are plentiful and you can easily map out a hike that fits both your schedule and ability. If you’re looking to avoid the nine million other hikers that are exploring the park, head to Shinseondae (신선대). It has those iconic rock formations that Mudeung is known for, yet isn’t nearly as crowded as Seosukdae (서석대) or Ibsukdae (입석대). This hike can be done in a few hours and isn’t too extreme. If you have time, you can press on towards the Gyubongam temple (규봉암) and loop around past Seosukdae/Ibsukdae before you head back to Wonhyosa.
MudeungSan National Park
The Mountains Behind the House
The not-so-obvious choice for hiking are the mountains right behind the house. They’re just outside the national park boundary, but still have a lot to offer in terms of scenic beauty and challenge. There are quite a few advantages to using these trails over the ones in Mudeung National Park. First, they’re less crowded. It’s still Korea, so less crowded than Mudeung doesn’t exactly mean you’re going to be alone up there, but you’re dealing with a fraction of the crowds. Second, they’re dog friendly. This is obviously a huge plus if you have a dog with you! Lastly, they’re convenient. There is a trailhead literally at your door step. Literally. It’s in the front yard.
A detailed description of this hike (and loads of photos) can be found here. Here’s a sample of what’s in store:
The Rice Paddies in Front of the House
If you’re less into hiking and more into walking, the rice paddies across the street offer spectacular views of Mudeung National Park without a change in elevation. It’s also a great place to walk your dog or can be used as the “long way” to the Eco-Park. The best part is the hordes of tourists at Eco-Park don’t have a clue these service roads exist. Just you and the farmers.
A more detailed explanation on how to get there and a map can be found here.
Naejangsan National Park
Naejangsan National Park isn’t nearly as close as Mudeung National Park, but it certainly isn’t far. At 50km it’s less than an hour drive or a four hour bike ride (info about cycling here) from the house. A day trip like this could easily tie in some sightseeing in Damyang or dinner at one of the famous Damyang Kalbi restaurants you’ll pass by on your way home. In fact, it could be argued that the “isolation” of this park works to its advantage…it’s largely empty most of the year! Both mid-February and mid-June found this park almost entirely deserted. It’s essentially marketed as a “fall destination” so during the other three seasons it’s generally ignored. Shocking considering how stunning this park is.
A few tips:
First, there is a shuttle bus from the initial entrance of the park (near the main street of restaurants) to the visitor center, trailheads and cable cars. It’s only 1,000 won and if you have a car probably not of much use, but the walk along this road is very easy and beautiful (follows a mountain stream) so if your car ends up at one end you have this as an option.
Next, there are essentially two ways to hike the rim trail. Clockwise or counterclockwise. They both entail a brutal climb to reach the rim (over an hour of straight up), but after that there isn’t too much difference. My suggestion is to take the cable car halfway up the mountain and head directly to sinseonbong, the highest peak. From there hike the rim clockwise. You’ll miss the first peak, but honestly this will make things much easier by the end of the hike when you’re feeling exhausted. Besides there is a scenic overlook every five seconds so it’s not like you’d be missing out on much!
Last, this is a fairly technical hike. There are some steep cliffs, ladders, ropes and boulders to navigate. It’s certainly not a stroll through the forest. There are at least three trails around the rim loop that give you the option to head back to the visitor center if you feel in over your head. Having said that, at least 90% of the people we saw up there were over the age of 60 and clearly enjoying the local dudeok makoli! Take this warning with a large grain of salt.
Information about Chuwolsan Park can be found here.
Information about Guemseong Fortress Hike can be found here.