Being dog owners ourselves, we’re constantly looking for dog-friendly hiking options. So, we’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite routes around the area to help take some of the guess work out of your weekend adventure in the countryside. As a rule of thumb, Eco-Parks and National Parks are typically NOT dog friendly (there are exceptions as you will see below). Also, please be respectful of other hikers that may not be comfortable around your “large” dog. Keep them leashed when necessary, clean up after them and don’t let them kill any of the wildlife 🙂
Chuwolsan is somewhat of a no-brainer in terms of hiking. It’s easy to find, has facilities, and as a provincial park it’s not too strict with dogs. All trails from the parking lot lead straight up the mountain and it can be steep so if stairs aren’t your thing, maybe give this one a pass. The views are killer though if you do make up to the top, or even part of the way!
Continue reading “Hiking: Chuwolsan Provincial Park – Dog Friendly”
As you get closer to Chuwolsan you’ll be met with a few different climbs, varying in length and difficulty, but nothing to worry about. Be thankful you’re heading north because it’s more challenging coming from the other direction. You’ll also get your first views of Damyang Lake, which like most lakes in Korea is a dammed river that fills in the valley creating a giant amoeba shape.
The park entrance will be on your left and is hard to miss. The roads leading into the park are scenic and during this time of the year, extremely quiet. Judging by the plethora of riverside restaurants along this road, I’m guessing this is not the case during the summer months.
At the end of this road you’ll find a parking lot and a park office. The park itself is small and you can see a lot of the highlights in less than an hour. Grab a map at the park office and explore!
After a quick look around we hopped back on our bikes and returned to 792, the main road that brought us here. Instead of backtracking the way we came, which is certainly an option, and a quicker one at that, we decided to continue on 792 and pick up 24 creating a loop back to Damyang. The ride along 792 is scenic and relatively traffic-free, however it also hosted our biggest climb of the day. You’ll eventually ride past another county park, Gangcheonsan, which we unfortunately didn’t have time to explore on this trip.
Near Sunchang, home of gojujang, you’ll pick up 24 which will take you back to downtown Damyang. This is by far the least fun 10km of the route. The gojujang village is over-the-top ridiculous and has nothing to offer outside of this one famous ingredient (i.e. no marts to restock on supplies) and this section of road is pretty miserable with narrow shoulders, fast cars and construction. Joy!
Daega is another popular “destination restaurant” for both domestic tourists and Gwangju day-trippers alike. It’s situated directly across from the Gwangju dam and it checks all the right boxes by being comparatively cheap, serving local specialties and having a somewhat quirky “traditional” interior design. Even during the winter months, when everything else is dead, this place is thriving on the weekends with a packed parking lot and a full restaurant.
Even if you don’t like grilled fish (looking at you dad), this place is just straight up fun to be in. Walking through the big wooden front doors, you’re greeted with a large open restaurant offering floor seating, table seating and a few private rooms in the back. There’s tons of traditional kitsch around to keep your eyes occupied while your stomach waits for your food to arrive. They even have a water-way built into the floor with goldfish swimming around!
The menu has a few options, depending on the size of your group, but it’s basically your choice of grilled fish with or without ddeok galbi. Don’t sleep on the ddeok galbi…it’s better than most (all) of the Damyang restaurants specializing in this tasty local treat. The set menus toward the top will give you a mix of different fish, ddeok galbi and the dolsot rice.
The banchan will arrive first, of course, and while it doesn’t look like much they are extremely friendly about refilling the dishes you like, especially if you catch them before the lunch/dinner rush. The kimche is at least a million years old and is phenomenal…refills are a must.
Next out is the dolsot bap. If you’ve never had it before, it’s basically two dishes in one: rice and 누룽지 (I’m not even going to try and spell that in English). Simply scoop out your rice into the separate rice bowl (not pictured). Don’t scrape too hard because the crispy burnt pieces stuck in the bowl is what makes your 누룽지. Next, fill the stone bowl with the barely tea from the pitcher on your table and put it aside until the end of the meal. During the time it takes you to eat everything else, this burnt rice and barely tea will turn into a delicious after dinner porridge.
Shortly after you’ve dealt with your dolsot bap, the fish and ddeok galbi will arrive. The type of fish will vary depending on which set menu you choose, but it’s all delicious! If you’ve been in Korea longer than five minutes you probably know the fish comes out whole…you’ve been warned.
Destination: Naejangsan National Park
The Bike’n Hike concept was born out of a failed backpacking trip to Jirisan National Park in February of 2014. For whatever reason the logistics of that trip weren’t coming together so we opted to ditch the car, grab some bikes and head to a closer National Park. That park was of course Naejangsan. Since February we have done six Bike’n Hike trips to five of the surrounding National Parks…three of those trips were to this little park to the north. It’s not by accident that we keep returning.
Traditionally these mini-bike tours have been a minimum of three days. This was our first attempt to squeeze it all in a weekend. Luckily we weren’t without willing participants. Gibby and Jay were the first two to arrive from Seoul and after a bit of drama with cranky taxi drivers and unwelcome rain storms, we headed to a local 고기 집 to fill up on BBQ and booze and wait for the others.
The next morning we scraped together a nice breakfast, got our gear in order and hit the road.