Seeing as last weekend was the only one that we have free in July, we decided to take advantage and spend it exploring two places we have been eyeing from afar for some time: Juwangsan and Gyeongju. Friday night we caught a bus to Daegu and, after a bit of hunting, found ourselves a jjimjilbang to crash in. It is called the Nexus jjimjilbang and is just a few blocks south of the Dongbu intercity terminal. Sadly, Friday is apparently the night when large groups of kids terrorize this particular establishment so sleep was a challenge.
Nevertheless, we were up early for a quick coffee and bagel at Café Droptop (one of the only places open at that time) and then we caught the 7:30 bus to Juwangsan. This bus ride was a bit over two hours all told but was through some really pretty country. The route is well away from the main highways and cities so it is all agriculture, little villages, and mountains. If we had a car, there were a million cute little places we would have stopped. As it was, we enjoyed the sights through the bus window.
We arrived at the Juwangsan Park Office about at 10:15 and spent a bit of time getting oriented, figuring out bus schedules, and choosing routes before heading up the road. One of the first things we noticed, before we even got to the ticket booths, was that all the shops and restaurants had a bit more of a peaceful feeling compared to those at the entrances of other national parks we have visited. Everyone was friendly and there were simply far fewer hikers.
Once we reached Daejeonsa, which is the temple at the base, and paid our fee, we headed along the main path keeping right at all the branches. We had decided to start our day by climbing the park’s namesake: Juwangsan. Based on the level of development on the other trails, this is by far the road less travelled.
A quick photo in front of Daejeonsa and we were off.
The summit is only 722 metres, but you climb up to it pretty quickly so things get relatively steep early on. About three quarters of the way up you break onto the ridgeline and follow that to the summit, which is a really nice little walk. There are some great views from the ridge, but absolutely zero from the top. For those wanting lunch with a view, stop on the ridge before the final climb.
We had lunch on the summit and then dropped of the far side heading for the Hurimegi Samgeori (three forked road). It is also possible to continue on to the highest peak in the park (Gamebong), but we were running on very little sleep and waterfalls sounded way more appealing.
This little guy was hiding under the steps on our way down from Juwangsan.
The descent from Juwangsan is made up of ridgewalks and a lot of stairs, but once you get most of the way down, the trail joins a pretty little creek. There are relatively few people in this area so if you were inclined to soak in a pool this would be the place.
The bridges higher up were so quaint.
Tamara cooling her toes near where we first encountered the creeks.
A creekside rest on the way down. This area was really gorgeous and we spent almost as much time sitting and soaking it up as we did walking.
After a fair bit of zig-zagging down along this creek, we came to the three forked road where it joined another creek for more of the same on a slightly larger scale. These two creek were probably our favourite part of this hike because they were beautiful, relaxing, and there were very few few people.
Hurimegi Samgeori – we went right here, moving downstream.
One of the pools on the way downstream from Hurimegi Samgeori.
Eventually we joined the main trail between the second and third waterfall. Because it was so close, we decided to go a little further up the valley so we could see Yeongyeon waterfall as well as the others. Yeongyeon we had largely to ourselves aside from the camera which, coupled with the no swimming sign, put paid to our ambitions for a quick dip.
When they say no swimming, they will back it up with video surveillance. Big brother is watching.
From there, we doubled back then headed up a side trail to see Jeolgu Pokpo (waterfall) There were a lot more people at this smaller fall but it was still nicer as you could get right down to the water. Of course,there was still no swimming permitted, but we joined others soaking our feet in the stream while we munched on a snack.
The first fall, Yongchu, – closest to the trail head – is where we started to encounter more people. Still nothing like what we have seen at other parks, but more than the rest of our day. This fall is near the start of a narrow canyon that makes for a pretty awesome view as you walk through it. The river is compressed into narrow channels that have been cut from the rock and watching the water gush through them is pretty neat.
Sirubong rock — from the side it looks like a man’s profile.
Tamara at Yongchu falls.
Board walk through the canyons.
Just after crossing a bridge after the lower fall, there is a choice to continuing down the main path along the river and out of the park, or to veer off to the left and head up to see a hermitage and a couple of caves on your way out. We chose this latter option and headed away from the crowds once more. After a relatively short hike we came to Juwangnam hermitage. You must pass through the hermitage to reach Juwanggul cave. The trail to the cave is really easy to locate. Just look for the massive set of metal stairs covered in chain-link fence. There was something about how quiet it was as we walked along the obviously new man-made structure surrounded by high rock cliffs that was a little bit eerie. Juwanggul cave itself was pretty cool though.
Nothing like a cooling shower – Juwanggul.
Pathway to Juwanggul cave.
A little dip at Juwanggul .
Afterwards, we took a short 400 metre detour off up to Mujang cave. Apparently Mujang means “armed” in Korean. The cave got its name from a legend that claims King Zhou’s warriors hid their weapons here. Given how damp it was, those weapons must have been a pile of rust in no time flat. Of the two caves, Mujang was the least interesting and if hikers are already tired it may not be worth the effort.
In Mujanggul cave.
We retraced our steps partway, then cut across a creek to the trail down from Juwangnam. Shortly thereafter we rejoined the main trail funnelling people towards the park entrance. Once we had exited and were walking alongside the various shops and restaurants, we opted to stop at one with a seating area over a little artificial pond to have some post-hike pajeon.
Post-hike pajeon (what were once described to us as “Korean pancakes”). This particular one had lots of green onion and squid. Our other dish of choice was kimchi jeon.
A little R-and-R.
Our pajeon restaurant.
From there we caught a bus to Cheongsong, the main access point for the park, where we wandered for nearly and hour before catching our bus to Yeongcheon. Cheongsong is a really gorgeous little town and everyone we met went out of their way to be helpful and friendly. If we had more time we would have stayed overnight here. Something worth considering for those planning on heading that way.
A view of Cheongsong.
Cheongsong parking lot.
Juwangsan is one of our top two favourite hikes in Korea thus far. It is not as busy as most of the others, has lots of hiking options, offers great views, and provides opportunities for lots of wandering along streams, waterfalls, gorges, and caves. Amazing day!
Next up, Gyeongju. Onward into history!
The buses getting through all of this were a bit of a nightmare and by far the most expensive part of our weekend. From Gwangju there is no direct way to get to Juwangsan.
The best option is to take a bus to Daegu and then catch a bus from the Dongbu Daegu terminal (near the Goseok terminal) to Juwangsan. However, the Daegu – Juwangsan bus only runs at 7:30 and 13:30. Alternatively, you can catch a bus to Cheongsong and then take a local bus (which stops at the terminal) into Juwangsan.
Buses from Juwangsan to Gyeongju are also non existent. To get from Juwangsan to Gyeongju we first took a local bus from Juwangsan to Cheongsong. From there we took a bus to Yeongcheon. Our bus was actually destined for Busan, but stopped in Yeongcheon, which seems to serve as a sort of hub just northeast of Daegu. In Yeongcheon we were able to catch the relatively frequent bus to Gyeongju.
Bus times (at least in our case): Gwangju –> Daegu 3:30; Daegu –>Juwangsan 2:45; Juwangsan –> Cheongsong 0:20; Cheongsong –> Yeongcheon 1:40; Yeongcheon –> Gyeongju 0:45; Gyeongju –> Gwangju 3:45
Accommodations wise, there are jjimjilbangs and motels near the Daegu station, motels in Cheongseong (we saw a jjimjilbang but it looked a bit dodgy), and there are pensions and minbak strung out in the valley leading up to the Juwangsan parking lot.
Here are some photos of the bus schedules – at least those that we were able to/remembered to photograph.
Gyeongju Goseok bus schedule.
Bus schedule at Juwangsan.
Bus schedule at Yeongcheon – the lighting made for a horrible photo.