The chase for autumn leaves peaks during October and November in Korea. It was our second autumn here and I was reasonably confident about figuring out the local transport network. And that’s how we decided to join the revelry of autumn chasers across the country. Now, it’s good to have a plan in place before travelling in Korea in the peak season. Hotels and trains/buses get booked pretty quickly. Names can sound very similar and you might reach the wrong destination — if you don’t do your research well.

Imagine your Korea (2017) forecasts the fall foliage trend for a given season. The changes in colour are first observed in the northern parts and gradually progress towards the south. Seoraksan National Park lies in Gangwon-do Province (northeast of Seoul) and was on my wish list for a long time. We only had weekends to spare and that made it difficult to escape the crowd of autumn pilgrims. But, it’s a small price to pay for the brilliant bursts of colour that we’d get to see.

Getting There

We planned our trip to coincide with the peak fall sighting — somewhere in the second or third weekend of last October. Basil, A (his colleague), and I caught the 6:30 am bus from Dong Seoul Bus Terminal for Sokcho City. The journey to Sokcho City should take about two and half hours, but during the peak season, you could add another two hours — with a 20 minute pit stop. We reached Sokcho at around 11:00 am.

There’s a small tourist information centre outside the terminal and it’s a good idea to pickup maps here. We walked for 5 minutes, away from the Bus Terminal, to catch a local bus (either 7 or 7-1) bound for Seorakdong Information Centre (the starting point for outer Seorak). Our bus got stuck in the long line of cars and after half an hour, we figured it would be faster to walk to the entrance of the national park. The entrance was teaming with people and cars.

Hiking Trails

There are many hiking trails in Sereoksan National Park. The mountains are divided into Oe-Seorak (outer), Nam-Seorak (inner), and Nae-Seorak (inner). The Ulsanbawi Rock Trail is popular for a day hike and was also the trail we had chosen to explore. It was nearing noon by the time we entered the park and had to change our plans. The afternoon heat and the tiredness of the trip had slowly crept in. The cable car had a waiting period till 4:00 pm. After buying tickets for the cable car, we had a quick lunch of pajeon (Korean pancake) and makkeoli. We had about 3 hours to explore Biryong Falls before our cable car ride.

The Route to Biryong Falls

Signboards are plastered at regular intervals in Seoraksan National Park. En route, we came across a long bridge that cut through the dry river bed. It was one of the best places (at ground level) to get a vantage view of the mountain ridge.

The Forest Trail

The route to Biryong Falls passes through a stunning forest pathway. The dry river bed runs parallel for most of the early part of the forest trail.

The first 15 minutes of the forest pathway was painted bright green and thick foliage hid us from the sharp rays of the afternoon sun. We saw the leaves change colour as we walked deeper into the forest trail.

Decay was making its presence felt in the forest and anything that was weak or old — didn’t stand a chance.

The path gradually turned upwards and was littered with big stony rocks that doubled as stairs. The leaves here were turning bright red and orange.

The trail got steeper and stared twisting as we climbed higher. The pathway of stony steps gave way to a contorted boardwalk. Water was trickling on the stony mountain face and my nerves started acting up.

This is the point where I let fear make a decision for me. A and Basil climbed further up onto the stairs that hugged the mountain face. I looked nervously as they reached the suspension bridge above. According to the map, this must be Yukdam Falls.

Yukdam Falls

The change in colour was more noticeable as they climbed higher. We had barely 45 minutes to make it back to the cable car centre. So, Basil and A couldn’t go right upto Biryong Falls.

Suspension Bridge

Looking at these pictures — I don’t regret my decision of sitting this one out.

We had to quicken our pace as we retraced our path down the stony steps that lead into the lush forest and back to the big bridge crossing.

Cable Car

The cable car centre was teaming with families with kids. It’s the best way to enjoy the fall views with kids. I was nervous about the ride and was happy to feel safe on my feet — once we reached the top. From there: Sokcho city, the endless blue sea, and the mountains melted into one picturesque image.

Gwongeumseong Section

Basil discovered a small hiking trail that continued upwards. A and I decided to stay back. After 10 minutes, I got an excited call from Basil coaxing us to take the short climb up. Reluctantly, we trudged up and were surprised to see the leaves burst into bright red flames — as we walked along the trail.

And soon enough, we saw a stunning view of the mountain ridge. I forgot how tired I was. I forgot my fear of heights. I forgot about the cold mountain breeze. Standing there, looking at the seemingly endless mountain ridge, I realised: life is beautiful — if you’re brave enough to take that extra step.

You can now download this post on GPSmyCity to follow our path. Click here to explore.

Posted by:twobrownfeet

Writer-Photographer Duo. Now in Seoul.

44 replies on “Exploring Seoraksan National Park in Autumn

  1. The National Parks are so well managed aren’t they, and easy to explore. I suppose to us they seem almost too well managed, but it makes it possible to see quite a lot in a limited time, and they are magnificent. We were too early for Autumn colour, but loved what we saw anyway.

    1. I agree. It might seem too well managed and the trails are pretty easy for beginners and young kids. That’s how they encourage everyone to appreciate nature and preserve nature. Autumn is fantastic here!

  2. Wow, wow, wow! The views just got more spectacular the higher you trekked. What an incredible walk. That suspension bridge would have unnerved me but so worth it. The views were out of this world. Thanks for taking me along Cheryl, what adventurers you both are! xo 🙂

    1. Thanks, Miriam! Actually, these two trails are pretty easy. I saw kids climbing here. 🙂 The tougher trails are longer and take 2 or more days to complete with halts at shelters or campsites. I don’t think I am ready for that yet! 🙂

  3. The views from the top looking stunning. I recently had the pleasure of taking cable car up a mountain the US and thoroughly enjoyed the ‘snow’ all across.

    1. Mountain views are the best! Cable cars are generally not our first choice, but it’s the best we could do at that time. We thought of hiking the next day and had to skip it because of the rain. 😦

  4. That suspension bridge looks awesome! Fall is definitely the best time to enjoy nature although I can’t help but think these mountains would look awesome in winter with all the snow all around too! Hehehe..:)

    1. You’re correct! Sereoksan is pretty popular in winter too. Korean mountains look stunning in winter. But hiking in snow isn’t easy with temperatures below 0 and cold mountain winds. We froze in Taebaeksan last year! lol.

      1. Hahaha oh I can imagine how hard it would be, watched too many variety shows where climbing seoraksan seemed more a punishment than an enjoyable activity 😂😂

      2. You have? 🙂 The longer trails (ones we haven’t thought of attempting yet) require some level of preparedness. 🙂 Maybe, maybe…

      3. Hahaha well, it was just for fun for the shows I think…it did look hard but i think you can give it a try at least once as a challenge….hehehe…I wish there’s mountains around me to do the same but alas, no snow around me…hahaha 😂

  5. lovely hiking trail. In one of the pictures, it seems to similar to one of the trails here in Jaipur but then trails over there are so much organized and marked. In stark contrast, we do some wild ones since it’s not marked at all. Make your own!

    1. Thanks, Arvind. The trails are pretty well marked here. The easier trails have boardwalks to encourage kids and elderly to enjoy nature. But there are many trails that are reasonably wild (cannot be compared to the Indian wilderness because it’s very different terrain). Most national parks (including Sereoksan) are protected sites. Going off trail is discouraged to protect the natural habitat.

      1. That’s great, Cheryl. I like the fact that they have developed trails and encourage people to hike. 😃

  6. The autumn colours in this national park are simply gorgeous, and so is the scenery. Believe it or not, my favourite image in this post is the one with the red and purple leaves, photographed close up from a low angle. If I had that picture, I would blow it up and frame it. What a beautiful hike!

    1. Sereoksan is a local favourite for autumn colours. Jirisan and Naejangsan (next on our list)are also quite popular. I wish we had more time to explore the other trails. I love the red leaves shot! Basil really did a fantastic job with the pictures. 🙂

  7. So often I’ve had that conversation with myself to go a bit further on the trail despite tiredness or bad weather, just to discover what’s around the next corner. Glad you went that extra step to give us those incredible views.

    1. I know exactly what you mean. Taking that extra step is pretty hard (second only to the first step). 🙂 I’ve got to keep talking to my feet and coaxing them to keep going. In the end, it’s worth every muscle pulled. 🙂

  8. What incredible beauty! I loved taking those steps with you in the virtual realm. There is nothing like being in nature, surrounded by such beauty, even when one has to contend with the weather, and one’s own physical limitations.

  9. It certainly all appears to have been worth it, but I fear I might get frustrated dealing with the crowds and the very orchestrated way you have to travel around there. Then again, I’ve never lived in a metropolis with that kind of huge population! The great thing is that it seems to be a priority to get out and be active there, which is admirable.

    1. I hear you! It’s a tough call to make because I don’t like too many people on a trail. The off-season attracts fewer people, but the visuals might not be as stunning or the weather could be severe (heat/cold). Sometimes you just need to get out of Seoul (as much as I love it). We’re fortunate to have so many places to explore. 🙂

    1. Sereoksan is known for its hiking trails and rocky ridge. The ridge features on most tourist brochures or books. I know we have to go back. There’s so much to discover here. And since we have no trips (outside Korea) planned for couple of months, I think we will spend summer exploring places off the tourist grid. 🙂

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