What: Byeonsanbando National Marine Park (변산반도) is technically considered one of the four marine parks, not one of the 16 mountainous national parks. It does, however, offer several nice courses for hiking, mostly centered around Naesosa Temple (내소사). We previously visited this marine national park in February 2014, but we didn’t have much time so we simply parked our car and hiked in towards Wolmyeongam Temple on the northern end of the park (check out that post here). In February, it was quite cold and windy, but looking at the long and sandy beaches we all agreed it’d be a fantastic place to spend a weekend camping and hiking in the summer months. Now that it’s July, we made a return trip to Byeonsanbando last weekend. Early Saturday morning, we drove the 2.5 hours from Yeosu along with our friends The Hedgers and arrived at Gosapo Beach (고사보해변) to set up camp. Also joining us were our friends from Gurye. This beach was excellent, and we had a prime camping spot just meters from the sand and underneath a nice patch of trees. On Saturday we spent time on the beach and eating delicious food off the grill while the sun set into the sea, but Sunday all six of us would pack up camp and head to Naesosa Temple to get a nice hike in before heading back to Yeosu and Gurye.
Where: Byeonsanbando is located along the western coast in Jeollabukdo Province, offering a perfect blend of sandy shorelines and rugged mountains.
After cleaning up our camping spots, we drove inland 10-15 minutes and arrived at the Naesosa Temple parking and information area. There were plenty of spots for parking, stores and restaurants in the foreground with the mountains in the back-drop. It was a pretty neat little area.
The goal was to go up the 2.3km trail, turn left and go across the 1.7km ridge crossing Sebong and Gwaneumbong Peaks, then finish at Naesosa Temple (1.2km). Here’s a trail map of Byeonsanbando with our route highlighted in green arrows:
The trail was moderately steep to begin, and we quickly got up above the parking and information area.
It wasn’t long before we were up high enough to see the ridge and Gwaneumbong Peak… we’d be walking up and along the ridge on the right of this picture:
The trail wasn’t without it’s challenges. Most of the trail leading to the first peak, Sebong Peak, wasn’t too tricky. However, sometimes we traversed spots that contained weathered rocks like this:
Looking back, we were able to see the ridge we had just come from. We were making pretty good progress!
Here’s a better view of the ridge between Sebong and Gwaneumbong Peaks:
Now that we were a lot higher up (about 400m at this point), the view looking out became better and better. As you can see in the picture below, we were able to see the parking area and the nearby Naesosa Temple – this is where we’d be finishing the hike!
The group of six of us soldiered on… going up and down, up and down along the ridge. Sometimes we were deep in the trees (the shade felt nice) while other times we were exposed in the sun, doing some serious work up the steep inclines with cliffs on both sides.
But we carried on at a comfortable pace, determined to finish the route – the views just kept getting sweeter (while we were getting sweatier).
The ridge turned out to be quite enjoyable – the twists and turns, ups and downs presented lots of opportunities to look in both the northern and southern directions.
As we began descending from Gwaneumbong Peak, there was a nice-sized lake or river beneath us. We all looked at that and agreed we simply wanted to jump in it! It was pretty warm, and we kept thinking about ice-cold water at the finish.
We had some fun descending – there were some pretty steep parts, big boulders and ridges to carefully make our way through.
We even got to climb some more beautiful stairs…
Here’s the wife out on one of the final photo-op ledges before arriving at Naesosa Temple. She’s always a trooper, always with a smile on her face.
After a little over three hours of hiking to cover the 5.2km loop, we arrived at Naesosa Temple. The way down itself became pretty easy towards the end, so we were able to make pretty good time.
Naesosa Temple had several buildings, and it housed a nice atmosphere tucked below the mountains we had just climbed:
There were very few people up on the trail while we were hiking, but upon arriving at Naesosa Temple, it was apparent it’s a pretty popular place!
The chilled temple water came as a bit of relief on this hot day. The six of us stuck around the watering hole for a good amount of time…
After drinking water till our heart’s content, we explored Naesosa Temple a bit more and then walked back to the car… the path was pretty gorgeous as it was lined with tall trees.
Overall, this weekend was world-class! Seeing as it was filled with camping and hiking, I knew we couldn’t really go wrong. But, location and scenery (and weather!) does often make or break the weekend… this weekend, hands-down, was fabulous. The group of friends we were with were top-notch, the beach was excellent, and the hiking trails were adventurous and provided great views. What more could a group of expats ask for on a Saturday/Sunday at the end of June? I’d definitely recommend Gosapo Beach for camping along with these hiking trails around Naesosa Temple.