Chuseok is the long Korean Thanksgiving Holiday that prompts mass migrations across the country. We were lucky to get two bus tickets for Sokcho (from Dong Seoul Bus Terminal) last September. We spent the first two days at Seoraksan National Park and hiked to the peak of Ulsanbawi. We moved back to Sokcho City after the hike. We had barely spent 3 hours in Sokcho on our earlier visit. This time we wanted to explore Sokcho’s hidden trails and stunning lakes.
Rodeo Street & Sokcho Fishery (Sashimi) Town
Our Airbnb was sandwiched between Rodeo Street and Cheongchoho Lake. Rodeo Street is famous for shopping, eating, and its night markets. Transportation is pretty easy to figure out from here. It’s also the perfect location to catch a local bus to popular tourist spots. T-Money cards are accepted everywhere.
Sokcho Beach (속초해변)
The bus stopped at the main road and we had to walk to the beach. It can rain anytime in Korea. We hadn’t brought our umbrellas and hoped our windcheaters would protect us from a downpour.
Sokcho Beach is quite stunning. The Seorak Mountains are bang opposite and the sandy coastline extends right upto Oeongchi Beach. It can get pretty windy and chilly in September.
We found a photo-op placed on the beach and took turns posing and goofing around. We didn’t have a plan for the day and decided to slow down our pace for a change.
Jodo Island (Sokcho’s 5th Scenery)
The sky kept getting darker and the water turned grey. It was too beautiful to leave. The dark outline of Jodo Island was clearly visible from this side of the shore. Ferry services transfer tourists from Sokcho Beach to Jodo Island. The weather was too iffy for ferry rides.
The water is generally quite cold in Korea. Most beaches are officially opened between June and August (summer) — when the average temperature hits double digits. But we couldn’t resist getting our feet wet for a bit. There were a few Korean families chasing waves and soaking their feet in the water.
Some families had brought their tents along and struggled to pitch them on the sand. The wind was quite strong and it started to drizzle.
Coral & Love Story (Photo Zone)
We walked towards the breakwater and found interesting sculptures of fish. Everything looked quite dramatic — set across a backdrop of grey skies.
A group of cyclists took a break and enjoyed the sea breeze. We sat on a bench and took in the beauty around us.
There are many cosy beach hotels and it might be a nice place to visit in better weather or summer. We decided to leave before we got drenched.
We walked towards the main road and caught a bus to Yeongrangho Lake.
We had to walk for a bit to reach the walking trail around Yeongrangho Lake. It was confusing and we tried following the boards. We asked directions from a couple of Koreans (some were tourists themselves) and finally reached the park.
There were few people just before noon. Some were Korean tourists and others were probably locals getting their daily dose of exercise. The walking trail was well maintained and the dense tree cover shielded us from the heat. It was hard to believe how different the sky was at Sokho Beach. Going deeper into the trail could mean that we’d have to eventually walk around the whole lake.
We spotted a shy black squirrel. The trail was alive with creepy crawlies and noisy birds. It was just the kind of place we like.
We were genuinely surprised to find this stunning view of the lake and mountains. It didn’t look like anything that we’d seen before in Korea.
We could spot Ulsanbawi and just the day before we were somewhere up in the mountains. Few families came with their cars — prepared with a picnic lunch and table cloth. I was getting hungry and hoped to find food ahead.
Beombawi Rock (Sokcho’s 2nd Scenery)
We found an interesting rock structure — at a slight elevation from the ground. There are restrooms at the bottom and a couple of guest houses opposite the rock. We found a stony trail leading to the top. Basil had promised me that we wouldn’t do any climbing because my muscles were still sore. But I followed him along the trail that was fenced with rusted wires. I was worried we’d have to take a tetanus shot after this.
These views made the crawling — on all fours — totally worth it. We could spot Seorak Mountains and a lush green golf course. It was nearing noon and we were standing directly below the sun’s rays.
The central flat rock was smooth and curved at the edge. There weren’t any railings for support and it is pretty scary at the edge. It’s not easy to capture the depth from the top — although it’s perfect for mountain views. The rocks were neatly stacked. Some locals didn’t think twice before standing at the far edge of the flat rock.
Some of the rocks had a script carved on the surface. We found the route to the pavilion and discovered a better walking trail — the one taken by the Koreans.
We continued walking around Beombawi Rock and admired it from below.
This is also the starting point to rent a pedicab (Story Bicycle). We couldn’t find much information in English and decided to continue walking around Yeongrangho Lake. We spotted some burnt guest houses on this part of the trail. In April 2019, wildfires (news report) spread across Gangwon Province and affected Sokcho as well. We didn’t connect the dots until we saw a pattern emerging.
Clouds were up above and on the surface of the blue lake. The peaks of Seoraksan rose and faded in the background. I tried to ignore those hunger pangs and take in the beauty of this view.
Honestly, we didn’t know where were going at this point. We didn’t know how long this trail was and if we’d get transport at the exit. There was no one on the trail and no place to buy lunch. We were tired and hungry. We should have stuck to slow-travel.
We finally reached the ‘Tale of Yeongrangho Lake Symbol Sculpture’. I was hoping to find something to eat here. There’s a parking lot and restrooms. An access road leads to another part of the city. We considered walking along that road, but we couldn’t find a clear way back to our Airbnb. It made more sense to stick to the lake trail.
The lake is also a good place for bird watching. We spotted gulls, ducks, and some other varieties of birds. The tiny fish in the water were quite agile.
These flowers were growing in the wild and looked very pretty.
Eventually, we found a spot to sit and rummaged through our bag. We found some energy bars, water, and chocolate. That would be good for a while. At this point, the mountains were hidden and we spotted pockets of reeds at the shallow end of the lake. We ate in silence. Chirping birds and buzzing insects provided the background score.
In September, the leaves start turning yellow in Gangwon Province and we could spot some bright yellows on the trail. Cars would break the silence. They’d be a runner or cyclist and then we were on our own.
The circumference of the lake is about 8 km. I’m not sure how much we covered before we found a cafe at an upscale location. Korean families (with expensive cars) had already finished their lunch. We ordered sandwiches and smoothies.
We found a detour (uphill) leading to the main road and from there we took a taxi to our Airbnb. We passed the main entrance to the lake on our way back. It wasn’t very far from where we had stopped.
Cheongchoho Lake (Sokcho’s 4th Scenery)
Our Airbnb was just across Cheongchoho Lake (청초호) and we got a bird’s-eye view of the lake and mountains. We rested for an hour before exploring the walking trail around the lake.
It took us about 20 minutes to walk to Cheongchojeong Pavilion. The sky was cloudy and the sun was ready to set behind the mountains. On Chuseok, most Korean families spend time together and even travel together. The pavilion was reasonably empty and only a few families clicked family pictures.
We spotted our Airbnb apartment (grey building) from the pavilion. Sokcho Expo Tower was clearly visible. It didn’t look very far away and we decided to make it our last sight for the day.
There’s a monument dedicated to the ‘Legend of the Dragon in Cheongchoho Lake’. The Seokbong Ceramic Museum is a couple of minutes away from this monument. The museum was probably closed for Chuseok — a very important Korean public holiday.
We walked to Cheongchoho Lake Park and took a detour to the main street. It was getting dark and we didn’t want to spend a lot of time out on the road.
Sokcho Expo Tower (속초 엑스포타워)
The area around Sokcho Expo Tower was buzzing with activity. There are Segway and bicycle rental shops here. Sokcho Expo Tower looked deserted and was also shut for Chuseok . The tower is 73.4m and is famous for its panoramic views of the mountains and East Sea.
Sokcho Night Views
The city looked stunning after sunset. Lights cast mirror images on the surface of the lake. We could spot our Airbnb just across us.
Abai Village Fishery & Sashimi Center
We wanted to pick up some cooking ingredients from EMart and continued walking along the trail. We had to walk away from the trail and entered a narrow road that opened into a parking lot. There were many seafood stalls on the side. Abai Village is famous for a KDrama and its elderly population who came from North Korea during the Korean War. It was too late to explore the village and we took a taxi to our Airbnb.