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South Korea: Naejangsan Mountain

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Naejangsan Mountain > South Korea > Asia

[Visited: November 2019]

When bus 171 fills up near Jeongeup station, I am not alarmed. Even though this is supposed to be the busiest time of the year to visit Naejangsan National Park, it is a Monday morning and I assume that the crowds will be there on weekends. But when we approach the small village at the foot of the mountains, I see that i am completely wrong. There is a traffic jam, and after i get off the bus, I walk through a thick crowd which continues even once I have entered the park. I have decided to hike the trail around the amphitheatre-like mountain range, and when I take a left to Janggunbong, I suddenly find myself alone. Apparently, everyone takes the cablecar up. I now hear birds instead of people talking, I hear water trickling down rocks instead of ringing cell phones, I hear the squeaking of stones under the soles of my shoes instead of guides commanding their tourists to move on. I am delighted.

Picture of Naejangsan Mountain (South Korea): Uhwajeong Pavilion in pond, surrounded by trees in autumn colours

Initially, the path is wide and hardly climbs, but soon enough, I am on a narrow trail that zigzags its way up the tree-covered mountain slope. When I reach Yugunchi pass, I finally see others. This is where, in the late 16th century, Buddhist Master monk Huimuk lured the Japanese to a battle. From the pass, I continue hiking up to Janggunbong Peak, which actually has a small cleared area with views. At 696m, it is right on the ridge, which I can now see ahead of me, all covered in trees in green, yellow, red, and some already brown. An old Korean couple is sitting on a cover and having something to eat, and they insist that I join them. They give me peanuts, a boiled egg, warm water, and the lady peels an apple and cuts a kaki for me. Hospitality Korean-style. From here, I hike down the rocky ridge towards Yeonjabong. While the sky was a brilliant blue when I left Seoul that morning, it is cloudy here, with only few openings through which the sun shines on mountain tops and temples below.

Picture of Naejangsan Mountain (South Korea): View from Bulchulbong Peak (622m) towards Seoraebong Peak

After Yeonjabong, I continue hiking the ridge until I reach Naejangsan Mountain itself, at 763m the highest point of the park. For some reason, the placard calls it Sinseonbong, named after a divine spirit who descended from heaven to enjoy the views of the nine peaks. I hike up and down over rocks, descending and climbing on stairs and sometimes with the help of a rope, often stopping to take in the views, sweating in my shirt (to my surprise, the Korean hikers are all in much warmer clothes) even though it is early November. The views only get better when I come to Kkachibong, Yeonjibong, Manghaebong and Bulchulbong Peaks. A dark layer of clouds hangs low over the yellow-green-red mountain slopes. After Bulchulbong, the trail goes down before I reach the start of yet another metal staircase which brings me to the most dramatic peak of Seoraebong at 624m. From here, I look directly on the temple complexes of Naejangsa and Byeongnyeonam below. Seroraebong is the last peak of the circuit, so it is time to hike down, back to the crowds below. After a quick look at the Naejangsa temple complex, I enjoy the changing colours of the trees once more on my way back to the village. The Uhwajeong pavilion stands out as particularly photogenic, on an islet in a pond surrounded by trees in bright yellow and red. There are far less people now, and it turns out to be easy to catch a bus back to Jeongeup station where I have a quick dinner with a Norwegian girl and two Malaysian guys before taking the KTX, the high-speed train of South Korea, back to Seoul. A perfect day trip from the capital!

Picture of Naejangsan Mountain (South Korea): Much of the circuit is visible from Manghaebong Peak (679m)
Picture of Naejangsan Mountain (South Korea): The northern range of Naejangsan National Park seen from Manghaebong Peak
Picture of Naejangsan Mountain (South Korea): View from Manghaebong Peak at 679m
Picture of Naejangsan Mountain (South Korea): Mountains of Naejangsan National Park
Picture of Naejangsan Mountain (South Korea): Janggunbong Peak with trees in autumn colours
Picture of Naejangsan Mountain (South Korea): Landscape near Kkachibong Peak
Picture of Naejangsan Mountain (South Korea): Rocky outcrop on a mountain near Yeonjibong Peak
Picture of Naejangsan Mountain (South Korea): Naejangsan landscape near Bulchulbong Peak
Picture of Naejangsan Mountain (South Korea): Naejangsan mountain landscape between Manghaebong and Bulchulbong Peaks
Picture of Naejangsan Mountain (South Korea): Looking down on Naejangsa temple complex from Seoraebong Peak
Picture of Naejangsan Mountain (South Korea): Naejangsa temple complex with Seoraebong mountain in the background
Picture of Naejangsan Mountain (South Korea): View from Bulchulbong Peak towards Seoraebong in the east
Picture of Naejangsan Mountain (South Korea): View from Seoraebong towards Kkachibong in the distance

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