What: Juwangsan National Park (주왕산)
Where: Herein lies a potential detterent to many Koreans and foreigners alike… Juwangsan’s remote location. Although it’d be a hike from Seoul, Busan, and even our port city of Yeosu, the longer-than-normal travel times are certainly worth it. I’ll go out on a limb and say this is the most difficult national park in Korea to visit in terms of transportation. But it’s certainly not impossible! From Yeosu it was a 4.5 hour drive, and here’s a map showing it’s location tucked in between no-where-ville and I suppose, a little southeast of Andong, a famous place where there’s a traditional village and even a masked-dance festival.
Elicia and I love getting off the beaten path, but in order to complete our quest of visiting all 16 mountainous national parks, we had no choice! We picked a weekend back in September and pinned it as a Juwangsan weekend. Fortunately for us, we were graced with the company of some like-minded friends who also live in Yeosu – riding together the 4.5 hours meant the air was filled with inspiring, reflective conversation and laughter. We left Yeosu on Saturday morning and therefore arrived at Juwangsan around noon… after making a quick pit stop to pick up a basket of apples since our drive took us right through apple country, and by golly, it was apple-picking season! Check out Duke’s amazing post about Juwangsan & the apples here, you won’t regret you clicked.
(Please excuse the powerline in the above picture). The entrance to Juwangsan is arguably small compared to other parks, but it’s not short on character. There’s the normal shops with a few trinkets and hand-made goods, and of course plenty of restaurants ready to serve hungry hikers and temple-seekers tradtional Korean eats with some local specialties thrown in, of course. First order of business for us was to find our camping spot, which turned out to be a non-issue as Sangui Campground was a perfect match for us. With tents set up, we loaded up on some snacks and drinks and set out to the trails along with our friends. We were at the park entrance next to Daejeonsa Temple (대전사), and boy, it was a pretty cool neat setting with the rocky peaks in the background.
Since it was now around 1:00pm we had somewhat limited time before the sun set, so we headed out, as we often do, with the highest peak (722m) in our sights. Here’s a Juwangsan National Park trail map showing our route, beginning and ending at Daejeonsa Temple:
The trail up wasn’t particularly difficult for us – it got the heart rate going like they all do, but there wasn’t anything technical nor super steep. Instead, the path meandered upwards towards the peak, sometimes with gravel and rocks and other times with a winding staircase like this:
As we arrived at a few clearings we could quickly see the park’s mountainous beauty. Gifted with a lovely day in terms of weather, smiles quickly arrived at our faces.
After snacking a bit, we continued upwards towards the peak, and more spectacular views ensued.
One of the finer things of living in Korea has been staring out at the green ripples of mountainous peaks… I simply can’t get enough of the Korean landscape from an elevated viewpoint. As we were nearing the 722m peak, we came to a bit of a ridge and walked across, often stopping and admiring the views ahead, behind, to the left, and to the right. This next shot came by looking behind us:
Shortly after we made it to the peak… but it was a bit anti-climactic. Unfortunately no views were offered from this particular peak, but there was still a rock with the elevation, indicating we had made it to the tippy top. A group photo serves as proof:
We carried on and made our way to the Hurimegi 3-way Junction. But, along the way, the sun was lowering and provided us with some beautiful light – such a peaceful and beautiful afternoon to be spent in the woods!
Having now arrived back down off the mountain, we were in the heart of Juwangsan’s action. In my opinion, the main draw to this park is not the peaks and mountainous hiking trails. Allow me to explain in a series of pictures. We walked along this babbling stream for a little while, crossing romantic little bridges like this one:
Several other streams would merge in, and the stream turned into a slightly bigger stream, increasing in size as we headed down-stream. Little waterfalls were there, creating some small pools.
With plenty of spots to sit down and relax, we couldn’t help ourselves wanting to relax and soak in this lovely atmosphere – so that’s exactly what we did. That is, until this little critter nearly crawled up on Elicia!
Thankfully she didn’t get bitten as we hear these little fellas’ bites can pack quite a punch and leave you pretty swollen and infected for a while. Phew. Anyways, we came to another junction and turned right, seeing Yongyeon Waterfalls first. Woah, what a site! First is a picture from the first viewpoint:
Now this national park begin to make sense to me. Indeed, it wasn’t necessarily the mountains… the focal point was going to be these beautiful waterfalls, river, and pools that would be the highlights. The river had successfully carved through the rocky terrain, creating a beautiful gorge-like area… and the trails allow visitors to meander right through the heart of all the beauty. Lucky for us!
Here’s another picture of Yongyeon Waterfall from just a bit below the previous picture’s location:
It was a double-waterfall! Almost as cool as a double-rainbow… I know! Honestly, this area was one of the most beautiful areas we have been in Korea. Worth the 4.5 hour drive? You bet! Just a few minutes walk from Yongyeon Waterfall we came to Jeolgu Waterfalls. Again, no disappointment here. Again, much to our liking, it was a double waterfall.
This was a smaller area, but it didn’t lack beauty. We followed the path right through the gorge, and standing on the walk-way looking up and around at the canyon we were in… boy it made us feel small!
I digress. Pictures are worth a thousand words, but they surely don’t due this area’s beauty any justice at all. Saying it was serene and gorgeous are understatements… so I’ll cut it short and just say this: it’s worth checking out for yourself!
Alas, we came to the final of the three advertised waterfalls, Guryongso Waterfall. Again, beautiful and majestic.
And lastly (but not least) there was this interesting rock with what looked like a man’s face. There was a corresponding story/tale with how it came to be, but please forgive me, I’ve since forgotten it! Not much imagination is needed to see the man’s face… which is kinda cool in my opinion. It’s like a naturally-occuring Mt. Rushmore.
After completing the hike we treated ourselves to some famous Andong jim-dak, a delectable dish of spicy chicken, noodles and potatoes (among other things), complete with some celebratory and apple-infused dongdong-ju drinks (like makkoli). A perfect meal after a perfect day spent in Juwangsan with our friends.
And so, there you have it. Juwangsan National Park is in the books as our 13th national park visited. Only three more to go!