Byeonsanbando National Park (변산반도) is in central Korea, butted right up against the western coast. This national park is a blend of coastlines and mountains, and it’s officially designated as a Marine & Coastal National Park and not one of the 16 mountainous national parks in South Korea. Regardless of its classification, Byeonsanbando caught our attention because it does have plenty of mountainous trails to explore, even though the highest peak is a mere 459m. After spending Saturday in the beautiful & historic city of Jeonju to do some Christmas shopping with friends, we cruised over to the nearby Byeonsanbando to do some hiking.
The plan: Leave Jeonju on Sunday morning, cruise west to the coast and embark upon a nice, relaxing sight-seeing drive along the ‘bridge’ just north of Byeonsanbando (you can see it on the map ^above). Finish the drive, enter the national park and do some hiking for a few hours before heading back home to Yeosu. Sounds solid, right?
What really happened: While driving along the massively long and seemingly pointless & excessive ‘bridge’ (although very beautiful!) we suffered a flat tire. Elicia and I were with Kenny & Alison, our faithful hiking team-mates. Hmmm. We were literally out in the middle of no-where with the closest cities of Buan or Gunsan a solid 30 minute drive away. No problem, so we’ll just throw the spare on quick and be on our way. Lug nuts were seized and we couldn’t get one to budge. Fabulous. Enter amazing AIG car insurance. After the call, a service truck arrived after about 25 minutes, fixed it in no more than three minutes, and we were on our way. The kind man wouldn’t accept cash but accepted cookies and other snacks with a huge smile on his face.
Sunday seemed to be slipping away from us a bit between the late-morning start in Jeonju, the cruise along the sea, the flat tire, and the seemingly shorter-and-shorter winter days of mid-December. The sun wasn’t hanging too high any more, and instead of eating lunch on top of a mountain, we were hungry and chowed while waiting for the service truck to arrive. Despite being 2+ hours away from Yeosu and just a couple hours of daylight left, we didn’t let that rain on our parade. So we adjusted our expectations for our hike, found a nice place to park Kenny & Alison’s car, and planned an out-and-back to Wolmyeongam Temple. Sometimes you just gotta adjust and roll with the punches! Here’s a map of our strategic attack and the trail we tramped along:
Or if you’re a map junkie (in case you didn’t notice I’d qualify as one for sure) here’s a picture of the trails within the park:
The trail from that secluded car-park we found was quite nice. Nice and gradual incline up towards the Naebyeonsan Mountain and although we didn’t go to the exact peak, it was still down-right beautiful and peaceful in the woods there. I could be wrong here, but I believe some family still must own this plot of land within the park and still actively farms it:
Once we got a little higher in the mountain, the cooler air allowed a few flakes of snow to stick around long enough for us to enjoy it.
The lowering sun beamed through the bare trees, creating a pretty neat atmosphere as we walked along.
To our left (east) we caught glimpses of Buan Lake. I hope you get the idea from this picture, and keep in mind that in real life, the lake had a much larger and spectacular presence.
The 1.7km hike from our car to Wolmyeongam Temple took approximately 45 minutes, but alas, we arrived at our turn-around spot. We were greeted not only by a friendly, under-dressed-for-how-cold-it-was monk but two huge temple dogs that made us feel right at home.
The haircut-deprived dogs were highly skilled guard dogs, closely (kind of) keeping watch over us visitors to ensure we weren’t up to any shenanigans:
Besides the dogs, our attention was also drawn towards the free tea they shared at the temple. We sipped tea to warm up and chatted with a small group of Koreans who were the only other people we saw in the park on this Sunday. They were kind enough to share some of their home-made mulberry tea which was most excellent.
The panoramic view from Wolmyeongam Temple was top-notch:
And quick group shot before we had to scamper back to our car:
The 40 minute hike back to the car was relatively uneventful, but we made it safely and fortunately didn’t encounter any more flat tires on the way back home to Yeosu. I believe Byeonsanbando National Marine Park would be a fantastic place to visit in the summer months. The ocean breeze can keep you a bit cooler, there’s at least three beaches on this little peninsula, and there’s a nice, flat walking trail that goes right along the coast. Clearly there’s way more mountainous trails to explore within the park also. I’m almost embarrassed we only hiked 3.4km in this park, but given the day’s events and time constraints we did the darn best we could! Byeonsanbando is begging for us to go back and visit again. We barely scratched the surface of what this park has to offer, and we’ll be back again someday soon to camp, hike and swim.