For starters, it offers more “bang for your buck” than any trail in the area. It’s got a bamboo forest, a pine forest, giant boulders, ancient pagodas and a pretty amazing overlook just towards the end that acts as the cherry on top (it’s all downhill from there!).
Next, it’s extremely accessible. The trailhead is in the front yard (literally) and the trail ends just on the other side of the village. No need to walk along the busy main road, ride a bike or drive anywhere.
Lastly, it’s the perfect length; long, but not too long. At around 2 hours, it’s just long enough to make it feel like you accomplished something and earned that second helping of chicken pot pie. You can even cheat and head straight up to the overlook by doing the hike in reverse. From the front door you can be looking out over the entire valley and Mudeung National Park while enjoying a cup of makoli in less than 20 minutes (double that if you’re my wife).
In the front yard, to the left of the fence, you’ll find the trail. This trail runs behind the fence and out to the road in the village so it’s not uncommon to see hikers passing through.
At the top of the first climb, you’ll come to a small ridge and a trail marker. Here’s the secret to this hike: take a left EACH time you see one of these trail markers. That will loop you back around the valley to the other side of the village.
As I mentioned, after the first climb and at the first trail marker you’ll take a left (always a left) and continue up the mountain (if you take a right you’ll end up at Sosaewon). It’s a fair bit of uphill, but I promise it’s worth it. It gets rocky towards the top and you’ll start realizing how high up you are!
After a couple of left turns and a couple of climbs/descents, you’ll end up at the overlook. There are actually two overlooks. The one on the left overlooks the Jishil Valley and of course Mudeung National Park.
The overlook is a good place to relax and soak in the views. It’s all downhill from here back to the house so take a break and continue down the trail when you’re ready. When you reach the pine forest you’re very near the end of the trail and its ultimate destination: The National Heritage site of Shikyungjung.
As you exit the pine forest continue walking towards the pagoda and ultimately down the stone staircase.
This small park has four or five pagodas and is a popular tourist attraction for the bus loads of Korean tourists that visit during the summer. It also attracts a lot of photographers and can be very scenic with dramatic changes throughout the year. Here’s my best effort:
From Shikyungjung you will be able to see the poetry museum. Behind the museum you will find a small village road that will take you back to the house and offer one last glimpse of Mudeung National Park.
If you have a bit more time and energy, walk across to the Eco-Park and watch the sun set! Enjoy.
These little guys love the surrounding bamboo. My limited research tells me they are White-backed Woodpeckers (the local birding facebook page seems to agree). They’re gorgeous birds.
I hear them almost daily and have been trying ALL SUMMER to get a decent photo. The odds have been stacked against me. They’re not only fast birds, and bounce from tree to tree, but the bamboo forests around the house are thick. And I’m using a camera phone. I miss the days of early summer when that Ruddy Kingfisher was hanging around…he was much more willing to photographed!