The Dolsan Coastal Trek (여수갯가길 – pronounced ‘Yo-su get-gah-geel’) is a newly established trail system that follows the beautiful coastline of Dolsan Island, which is just south of Yeosu in the rural South Korean province of Jeollanamdo. Currently there are two courses open, but I believe the goal is continue and add another course or two so the trail will run all the way to the southeast corner of Dolsan, terminating at Hyangiram.
There’s a comprehensive website complete with maps and information, but it’s all in Korean. You can check the site out here if you wish.
Below is a map I made that shows both courses:
Course #1 Specifics
Course #1 begins very close to Dolsan Bridge (돌산대교). It starts just south of the bridge where there’s a strip of seafood restaurants and a replica turtle ship. There is a little map with some information at the official starting point, but again it’s all in Korean (seems to be a common theme with this particular hiking course). Course #1 is approximately 22.5km and generally hugs the shoreline except for a few spots of walking inland and along roads for a few hundred meters. For most people, it will take 5-8 hours to complete depending on your pace and how many stops you take. Musulmok Beach(무술목해변) marks the end of Course #1 and the beginning of Course #2. Both courses are relatively flat, but they weave their way along the eastern coast of Dolsan Island, so naturally there’s some ups and downs. However, you won’t find any long and strenuous climbs, nor will you find anything very technical. In my opinion the trail is clearly marked throughout because of these little blue turtles (pictured below), which are scattered just about everywhere along the trail to keep you on track. There’s also trail posts and trail ribbons throughout both courses.
Below is a nice map of Course #1 taken from getga.org. I have labeled the start near Dolsan Bridge and the finish at Musulmok Beach. The different colors represent the 12 sections of Course #1.
A couple weekends ago, a group of five from Suncheon and three of us from Yeosu met at the turtle ship near Dolsan Bridge around 9:30am and began Course #1. The goal was to complete Course #1 on Saturday, camp at Musulmok Beach, and finish Course #2 on Sunday.
The first part of the trek goes up to Dolsan Park (where you can see a great view of Dolsan Bridge) and then winds under Geobukseon Bridge (거북선대교). From this section you’re able to see some nice views of Odongdo Island (오동도), Yeosu city, and several large ships in the harbor. Next, the trail goes through a small residential area, shipbuilding yard, and piers for boats.
The trail does a good job of hugging the coast – we were often walking within meters of the water, hopping over large rocks or maybe even walking on a service road next to where small, local fishing boats are docked.
Around every corner was a beautiful view of the coast, often with boats and islands in the distance. Sometimes we were hiking through the woods, but the sea was still in sight:
We didn’t see too many people, but when we did, it seemed like they were hard at work. Sometimes they were fishing like this guy:
And other times they were tending to the fields like this lady below.
The further we got from Yeosu city and the Dolsan Bridge, the quieter it seemed to get. The trail seemed to alternate between undulating terrain next to the rocky coast and flat sections that guided you around some housing communities. We weren’t near any main roads, so they were just quiet, sleepy little villages much like these two examples:
After about 10km of trekking, we arrived at Yongwolsa Temple (용월사) which is strategically located right next to the coast. Whether you’re a lover of Korean temples or you’re of the mindset ‘seen one – seen them all’, I think you could appreciate this quaint but beautiful temple because of it’s location.
Our group hung out here for a while, refilling our water bottles and enjoying the landscape.
We had been hiking approximately three hours so far, and everyone remained in good spirits and had plenty of energy left to continue. They had vending machines here that sold drinks, one of the very few opportunities on Course #1 to either refill your bottles or purchase something.
It should be noted here that there is a road that reaches this temple – so if you’d like to visit and don’t feel like hiking 10km, don’t worry! You can simply drive or take a taxi (Yeosu city buses don’t go here) to Yongwolsa Temple to check it out.
Collectively we decided it was time to push on towards Mulsulmok Beach, so we threw our heavy packs back onto our shoulders and reconnected with the trail. I was carrying my 70L backpack with tent, sleeping pads, hammock, a few clothes and some food/drinks for dinner because we would set up camp at Musulmok Beach. Usually my pack is a lot lighter, so this was a good test of fitness to lug all this gear along – – perhaps good training for future multi-day treks… right?
The trail had new surprises around just about every corner. Sometimes we walked through overgrown fields (like above) where we could see the blue sky above. Other times we found ourselves walking through natural tunnels made from either small bamboo forests or a variety of trees (like below).
Course #1 proved to have a lot of variety of vegetation and change of scenery, so the trekking never really became boring or redundant. I really enjoyed hiking through the dense woods next to the ocean, as it was often the most remote and secluded parts. However, I also enjoyed walking next to little inlets and bays much like this one:
We often hear about how important the fishing industry is for these coastal communities… and based on the number of houses we saw (often very few), I’d venture to guess that a large percentage of the local residents own some sort of boat for fishing.
After walking through a little village, the trail would often lead you into the woods and steer you around the next twists and turns of the island. Some of my favorite scenery is when little nearby islands dot the horizon like this:
For much of the trek on Course #1, the water quality was surprisingly good. It was, however, disheartening to see the litter and debris that build up along the shore. It’s a bummer to see and think about it and what impact it’s having on the beauty and natural environment, but it’s clearly a result of the amount of industrial fishing and farming that occurs in these waters. I just hope the presence of trash isn’t a result of carelessness or apathy. Dolsan Island (much like the rest of South Korea) has so much beauty, I’d hate for it to get ruined now during this time of rapid economic growth so future generations can’t fully enjoy it.
It really is quiet and peaceful out here on Dolsan Island.
We continued trekking deep into the afternoon and as we were about 1km from Mulsulmok Beach, we stumbled upon these older women who were clearly in the middle of a Saturday afternoon project. Exchanging hellos and smiles with them was a delight.
At around 4:00pm, after roughly six hours of hiking, we arrived at Mulsulmok Beach. This particular beach is long but pretty rocky, and there’s actually no sand here. Despite that fact, it has a wonderful setting with good bathroom facilities and a few places to set up a tent (or hammock) if you have one. There’s also a Maritime & Fisheries Science Museum located right at Mulsulmok Beach if you have some time and want to take a peek.
Because we did a little side-trip during one section of the trail, we ended up hiking about 25km, but Course #1 should be about 22.5km if you stick to the trail. Needless to say, our legs were a bit heavy from the 6+ hours of trekking and it felt great to get them up in our double-hammock for a quick nap.
After the short snooze we went to a little convenience store to grab some noodles and other snacks for dinner. Across the road from Mulsulmok Beach we happened to catch a pretty neat sunset:
In typical fashion, we made a beach campfire, roasted marshmallows for s’mores, passed a guitar around (to those who could play!) and exchanged interesting stories amongst the group. The celebratory beers tasted absolutely perfect after a day exploring Course #1 along the Dolsan Coastal Trek.