Bike’n Hike (XII): Byeongsanbando National Park / Wido Island

Destination:  Byeonsanbando National Park / Wido Island
Cycling:  180km
Hiking:  2km
Days:  2.5

 

This trip to the Buan peninsula had been canceled twice previously, so even though I got rained out on the last day it was still labeled a success.  The entire area is beautiful and offers excellent coastal roads for cycling (didn’t do much hiking due to the incredible heat during mid-August).  Oddly enough the biggest challenge was finding food!
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Bike’n Hike Update and Summary

The “Bike’n Hike” concept 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 we got out our wall map of Jeolla-Do and started looking for alternatives.  Naejangsan National Park, the closest to Gwangju, was an obvious alternative choice.  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.
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Bike’n Hike (IV): Jirisan National Park / Hallyeohaesang National Park (Namhae-Do) / Suncheon Bay

Destination:  Jirisan National Park / Hallyeohaesang National Park (Namhae-Do) / Suncheon Bay 
Cycling:  370km
Hiking:  0km
Days:  4
 
 

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!).  I will present the route as I rode it, a four-day ride, but will make a note of different options at the end of each day.

 On the way to Jirisan
 
 Just outside Gurye

Day 1: Jirisan National Park
Click here for the cyclemeter link.

Pick up 887 right in front of the village and head towards Goseo (6km) where you’ll get on road 60.  Follow this to 13 and then to 27 and back to 60.  Not nearly as complicated as it sounds!  These roads are nothing special, but no major climbs or dangerous traffic either so not a bad start to the day.  In Gokseong you’ll pick up 17, which follows a gorgeous river and offers an option of a bike path (better than most bikes paths in Korea, but oddly confusing at times).  Lots of pensions along this ride and a nice end to the day.  Follow signs to Gurye, the town at the base of Jirisan National Park, where you have the option of staying in a motel (여일 motel was very friendly, let me keep my bike in the lobby and was only 30 bucks) or pressing on the extra few kilometers to the park where you have the option of tent camping. 
Note:  For a three-day Bike’n Hike, you would basically hike the park on day two and head back the way you came on day three.  
 
 Heading to Namhae
 Coastal views on Namhae Island
 
 Hallyeohaesang National Park

Day 2:  Hallyeohaesang National Park (Namhae-Do)

Click here for the cyclemeter link. 
This was by far the most challenging day.  It’s long at 98km and has some tough climbs.  The biggest one being at the very end of ride, just before you get to the beach.  The biggest problem though, is the construction on Namhae island.  It makes for a stressful ride, at least for now.  The park and beach are both incredible so if you’re still interested, please read on. 

Leaving Gurye is a fantastic ride along a scenic river with very few distractions.  You can either follow road 861, which follows the south side of the river, or road 19, which follows the north side of the river.  There seemed to be a bit less traffic on road 861, but you’ll eventually pick up road 19 a couple of hours later in Hadong anyway, so the choice is yours.  The next couple of hours along road 19 aren’t the greatest in terms of scenic beauty, but not exactly challenging either.  Things change dramatically when you cross the bridge onto Namhae island.  Road 19 takes you all the way to the beach, but there is a considerable amount of construction along the way and a fair amount of traffic as well.  Not the greatest combination.  The climbs towards the end of the ride are pretty tough, but the downhill into Sangju Beach makes it all worth it.  Plenty of minbaks around if you want to treat yourself.  Tent camping is available for about 7,000 won (?).  Showers cost 2,000.  Hallyeohaesang National Park is right behind the beach (follow 19 back up the mountain…trail head is about halfway up on the right).  The hike to the top is pretty easy and only about 2km.  Amazing views of the coast await!

Note:  A considerably easier option would be to head directly south to Suncheon/Suncheon Bay for the day.  The route in “Day 4” of this ride will take you back to Damyang making a nice loop and effectively cutting out Namhae-Do.  
Suncheon Bay
Suncheon Bay
Suncheon Bay

Day 3: Suncheon (Bay)
Click here for the cyclemeter link.

The ride from Namhae to Suncheon is honestly another argument in support of cutting out the Namhae portion of this ride and heading straight to Suncheon (Bay) from Jirisan.  Besides the construction I mentioned, this route also takes you through the bowels of Gwangyang’s industrial zone.  Namhae is absolutely gorgeous so if you have a couple of nights to stick around and enjoy the beach/hiking, it’s probably worth it.  If you’re going just for the night, probably not-so-much…

Head back the way you came on road 19 (nothing better than starting the day off with a nice climb up the mountain!).  Stay on 19 until well after you cross the bridge…look for 59 and take a left.  This will take you south through the ship building yards I mentioned and ultimately through Suncheon’s neighboring city of Gwangyang.  59 somehow turns into road 2 in the ship-building yards and the twists and turns through this area are a bit tricky.  Keep a map handy.  Road 2 takes you into Suncheon where you have the option of posting up for the night in a motel (the 프라자모텔 motel let me keep my bike in my room and only charged me 30 bucks for the night!) or pressing on to Suncheon Bay, which is about 10km south of the city and offers a surprising number of options in terms of pensions and restaurants.  The photos here are from Suncheon Bay, but I actually did this on Day 4 so click the link below for directions.  

Countryside outside of Suncheon

Heading to Damyang
Dongbok Lake

Day 4:  The Damyang House
Click here for the cyclemeter link.

Beers and fried chicken kept me in Suncheon city the night before so I opted to explore Suncheon Bay in the morning before heading back to Damyang.  This easily added an extra 20km to the day, but was well worth it to see the park…it’s stunning. Click on the link for directions to the Bay.

Out of Suncheon you have a few options depending on where you’re coming from, but you somehow need to find 17 and/or ultimately road 22 heading north out of the city.  Road 22 takes you through a gorgeous mountain pass and provides excellent cycling for the duration you’re on this road.  In Dongbok Myeon (74km marker) you’ll pick up road 15 which take you toward Dongbok Lake.  This is my stomping grounds so Naver maps and I had a disagreement about how to approach the last 20km or so.  Naver maps will take you a bit further on 15 and take you up a brutal mountain pass (it’s epic from the other direction!).  I suggest taking the road the follows the west side of the lake (not sure of the name!) until you pick up road 887 which takes you back to the house.  This road is not only more scenic, but the climbs are short and sweet making it a more fun road to ride.  Traffic is minimal as well, save for the occasional (massive) construction vehicles.

Looking for something a bit easier?  Plenty of other suggestions can be found here.

Bike’n Hike (II): Naejangsan National Park

Destination:  Naejangsan National Park
Cycling: 120km
Hiking:  15km
Days:  3


Overview:  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). Info about Bike’n Hike VI (the two day version of the is trip) can be found here.
Day 1 (Cycling)
Click here to access the Cyclemeter link
The first 18kms are spent on road 887 which is ideal for a number of reasons, first and foremost being that this road passes right in front of the village.  On top of that, it’s relatively flat and after navigating the jog in the road near the overpass (between km 10-12), it’s an easy hour of cycling with very little traffic to worry about.  Around the 18km mark you’ll pick up route 15, which is an underused four-lane road with at least one uphill climb through a small valley.  After that, it’s mostly downhill to Bukhamyeon, which is where you will pick up route 49 leading into the park (around the 35km mark).  The next 15km on route 49 are pretty amazing as you’ll find both the biggest climb and the biggest descent of the day (test your brakes!).
The last downhill of the day bombs into the park where you’ll find minbaks, a campground and exactly one street of restaurants serving the same menu.  Peak season here is very clearly advertised as fall, and visiting outside of that time frame you will find a very deserted Naejangsan.  The CU Mart is by far the most “happening” place to hangout.  Minbaks are about 30,000/night outside of peak season.
 
Day 2 (Hiking)

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.

Keep in mind 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! 

This hike isn’t easy and it’s not short (although there are at least three trails connecting with the rim trail that allow you to ‘opt out’ and head back down).  Plan for at least 7 or 8 hours if you want to do the whole thing. 


Day 3 (Cycling)
Click here to access the Cyclemeter link.
Grab some breakfast or a snack and head towards Jeong-eup and out of the park.  This starts your 70km ride home.  Pick up 21 about five kilometers outside of the park (this is not clearly marked!  Look for the tall red love motel) and start your climb through the valley.  This is the biggest climb of the day, but not the only one.  This road will bring you south passed Chuwolsan Park, Damyang Lake and into Damyang City.  Stop in town at 승일식당 to try some of Damyang’s famous kalbi, or simply pass through town, pick up road 887 and head back to the house for a well deserved cold beverage. 

Bike’n Hike (III): Wolchulsan National Park

 

Wolchulsan National Park

Length: 3 days
Cycling: 170km
Hiking:  6km

Overview: 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 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. 

Day 1
Click here for the Cyclemeter link.

Follow road 887 (take a left when exiting the village…towards Sosaewon) up through the valley until the 9km mark where you will see a small unnamed road on your right, just past the abandoned elementary school (update:  this road has since been paved and is glorious!).  This road winds up through another valley behind Mudeung Mountain.  Around the 17km mark, just past the reservoir, you’ll take a right and head towards Hwasun.  This 10km stretch of road is absolutely gorgeous.  A couple good climbs, an 18% descent and plenty of sweeping views of the valley and Mudeung.  Beware of goats in the road!  

In Hwasun, you will pick up route 55 and follow that for about 35kms.  You’ll briefly jump on a busier route 23, but quickly get off onto 819 which takes you into the park and campground.  I opted not to stay in Yeongam City because quite frankly, there doesn’t seem to be much there.  I stayed at the Cheonhwangsa Campsites, which is on the northeast side of the park (there are two visitor centers/campgrounds) and seemingly the more popular choice because it provides an easier access to the infamous cloud bridge.  
Tent camping is 2000 won/night (not a typo).  There are showers (lower those expectations!), a few restaurants, a couple of minbaks and not much else.  You’d be wise to bring cash.  The massive annex parking lot leads me to believe this is at times very popular.  When I was there (June), this was not the case.  Empty campground and even emptier trails.
 
Wolchulsan
Cheonhwangsa Campground
Mudeung National Park
Day 2 (Hiking)

The hiking portion of this trip is tough at times, but not particularly long.  The trail head is right at the entrance to the campground and takes you pretty much straight up the valley to the biggest crowd-pleaser in Jeolla-do: the cloud bridge.  It’s a suspension bridge, and judging by the massive steel cables anchoring it down, is probably the safest stretch of trail anywhere on this mountain or perhaps in the world.  Unfortunately logic doesn’t apply when you’re hovering 100 meters above the valley floor. 
Once across you’ll head up the mountain a bit further, then back down a bit and finally all the way up to the summit.  When it’s not covered in clouds the views of the surrounding valley are expansive and the mountain itself is a gnarly group of craggy rocks that’s easy to visually get lost in.  From the summit, I headed back down around a small loop to check out the waterfall, which is worth it if for nothing else than to head back down on a portion of trail that offers some different views.
Time and/or transport permitting, I might suggest hiking through the mountain range and park to the other side coming out at Dogapsa Temple.  I strongly recommend working out the logistics beforehand, otherwise it’s going to be a long hike back to your campsite.
Wolchulsan
Wolchulsan
Cloud Bridge
Local treats
Day 3
Click here for the Cyclemeter link.
Not much choice except to head back the way you came….road 819, a quick jump on the busy 23 and ultimately back on 55.  Take this to NamPyeong.  I stopped in this little “city” both days to enjoy the local mini-stop culture.  Cheap snacks and an outlet to recharge my phone is always welcome.  Also from here you can pick up route 1, which takes you into Gwangju city.  Follow route 1 for a bit and generally head north working your way through the city towards route 29 (take a look at the above link for more details on how to navigate the city).  This road puts you onto Mudeung Gil (Mudeung Street) and back into the National Park.  There are a couple of climbs on this last 15km stretch, but again, it’s a beautiful forest and one of my favorite roads in Jeolla Province.  This roads spits you out almost literally in front of the house.  
Mudeung Mountain/Gwangju Lake
Mudeung National Park
Mudeung National Park
Victory beers
Already been to Wolchusan?  More Bike’n Hike options can be found here.