What: Within Seoraksan National Park, Biseondae (비선대) is a nice 3.0km walking trail that follows a river tucked within the steep and rocky slopes of the Seoraksan mountain range. At the end of the wide, gentle, and well-groomed walking path there is a place to eat, some bridges, and beautiful scenery. There’s also a fork in the road in which hikers can continue their journey if they choose, ascending quickly up the rocky and difficult terrain to further explore Seoraksan’s beauty.
Where: After hiking Ulsanbawi (you can see that post here) we came back down to the main Seorak-dong area and checked out the trail map again. We were full of energy and ready for some more hiking since it was just a little after noon on Friday. Originally, we wanted to do a 4.6km loop and see Yukdampokpo Falls and Biryongpokpo Falls; however, upon arriving at the trail-head we found out the trail was closed for some maintenance and to allow nature to restore itself a bit (Seoraksan gets lots of visitors). Although I was slightly bummed as I wanted to see the waterfalls, it was satisfying to see some trail closures to (hopefully) ensure conservation so people can enjoy the park’s beauty for years to come.
The 3.0km Biseondae course from the main entrance follows a babbling river filled with huge boulders. Since you’re in a valley, you’re often treated to beautiful views of the steep mountains and other surroundings.
It was a Friday afternoon, and it was a holiday, so there were quite a few people in the park. Because this trail is super-easy, it tends to be a little busier than others, however, it really wasn’t that bad! There were a few bridges we were able to cross:
And there were even several places like this to stop and grab a quick snack or ice-cold drink. Pretty convenient if you forgot to pack something and needed some energy!
Around every corner was something beautiful to look at. We could have passed time just sitting by the river (many people do!) and relaxed away the afternoon. Scenery like this picture below dotted this entire trail:
Eventually we came to Biseondae, which is where the easy but beautiful 3.0km trail terminates. Here you’ll find a rather large restaurant, brightly-colored people with cameras, and lots of laughter. Sometimes things get a bit busy in Korea… especially if there’s a tour group like this in front of you!
With energy still left in our legs (the day before we were in Odaesan, and earlier in the morning we did Ulsanbawi) we decided we wanted to hike up the steep trail for a while to a) get away from the crowds for a bit and b) see a cave (Geumganggul Cave – 금강굴) that was supposed to be worth a visit, according to some of our newly-made expat friends who happen to teach in a town right next to Seoraksan. Given the surroundings, I was really itching to go up for a while so I could look out and see the valleys and peaks of Seoraksan from this vantage point.
So… the trail turned out to be pretty darn steep. The first 800m or so was very rocky and very steep, making it pretty challenging. All the hiking was catching up with us, and we contemplated turning around… for about a second. We just had to keep going. The views were incredible! The rocks turned into stairs, and we were alongside some steep cliffs. I was hanging onto my bamboo walking stick, keeping one eye on my footing, and the other out in the valley… soaking it all in.
It was truly incredible.
Looking up, there were often sheer cliffs perfectly suitable for rock-climbing. And there were a few groups making use of that. Can you spot them?
We made it to a little platform-type area that served as a good resting spot for a couple of minutes. We were able to see lots of the valley. What a great way to spend Friday afternoon…
To help paint a better picture about the views… this picture shows the valley, surrounding mountains, and if you look closely you can even see the riverbed down below.
While looking down was a bit dizzying, looking out was extremely gratifying.
We made our way up the steep, sturdy steps and found ourselves at our desired destination: Geumganggul Cave (금강굴)
This cave was actually quite small. There was a worker inside selling a few things (for fundraising) and also a small well with some natural spring water, so we dipped our bottles in and topped them off. Inside, it was nice and cool and the views looking out were second-to-none. It was really quiet as there were few people. Time seemed to stand still, and I no longer knew if it was 2pm or 5pm… we sat down and soaked it all in for a while.
Eventually though, we had to head back down the somewhat-terrifying stairs to make our way back to the Biseondae trail (maybe this picture doesn’t have a good perspective on just how steep they were):
After hopping down all the stairs, it was a little bit of a relief to hit the flatter terrain on the Biseondae trail. From where the Biseondae trail ends and creates a fork-in-the-road, I would say it was about a one-hour climb up to Geumganggul Cave, including a couple of stops. The trail wasn’t marked for distance, but I would say it’s about 1.0km beyond the ending point of Biseondae. In total, I’d say this hike to Biseondae and continuing on to Geumganggul Cave was about 4.0km, so 8.0km round trip.
Overall: First of all, I’ll lead off by saying Seoraksan became my favorite National Park. It is our 11th National Park we’ve visited out of the 16 mountainous parks in South Korea, and while each park before Seoraksan has been really awesome… Seoraksan takes the cake. If you find yourself going to Seoraksan, you’ll likely be heading to Seorak-dong as it’s the easiest to access with public transportation (buses/trains). If you have a full day (highly recommended), start early and do both Ulsanbawi and this Biseondae course (or the waterfalls if the trail is open). But, if you only have half a day and want to do one hike, I’d give the nod to Ulsanbawi because it’s so unique.
For us, the adventures would continue. It was only Friday evening and the weekend was just beginning, so we’d continue our journey and drive to the southern part of Seoraksan National Park near a tiny town called Oseak, which is famous for its mineral springs. It’s from here you can most quickly access Daecheongbong Peak, the highest peak in Seoraksan at 1708m. We wanted to position ourselves closely to this action, so using Naver Maps I’d search for camping (캠핑) and unfortunately not much came up directly in the park nor in Oseak. I called a camping place (it’s always fun calling in Korea when you can’t speak the language too well!) that was just 5km from our next trail-head, and he said we could camp there that night. Phew!
We arrived around 6:00pm, and it turned out to be a make-shift campsite. The man that owned the land introduced himself, and said we could camp anywhere on his property, which happened to be beautifully situated away from the road and in the thick of the valleys’ forests. He charged a nominal amount, and we set up camp just meters away from the river. There were about 4 other tents here, and it was so gratifying to feel like we had the place to ourselves. The rest of the evening was spent cooking some grub and talking with our camping neighbors, who turned out to be some of the coolest people we’ve met in Korea. We’d hit the pillow hard after sun-down… it’s been two great days of hiking so far, but the next day would be the most challenging!
The first day of Seoraksan was great… but I found myself (as I often do) looking up at the higher peaks and thinking about the views from the tippy-top. Tomorrow we were set to tackle the largest peak Seoraksan has to offer, Daecheongbong.