Not only famous among hikers, Seoraksan is also a popular destination for locals and foreigners alike during Autumn. Fall Foliage in South Korea peaks around late October in the North to early November in the South, so families and tourists flock to mountainous national parks such as Seoraksan to enjoy the sight of beautiful golden/crimson leaves.
HOW TO GET THERE
Seoraksan National Park is located in the suburb of Sokcho City in Gangwon Province, Southeast of Seoul.
SEOUL TO SOKCHO: The most cost-efficient way to get there is by taking an Express Bus from Seoul Express Bus Terminal (서울고속버스터미널) to Sokcho. I booked mine on the official Express Bus website (foreigner guide can be found here) and the round-trip only costs less than $30. On the day of departure, you can print the tickets at ticket machines in the bus station using the credit cards you reserved them with. The ride is 2.5 - 3hrs depending on traffic, but the awesome fall scenery along the way will make any delay an enjoyable one.
SOKCHO TO SEORAKSAN: Bus 7 will take you from the Sokcho Express Bus Terminal to Seoraksan National Park main entrance, but I recommend taking a cab since the bus is almost always overcrowded. The cab ride should take around 30 minutes, costing anywhere from $15 to $20.
WHERE TO GET OFF: If the driver asks for more information about the drop-off location, I'd recommend Seoraksan National Park's main entrance in Sogongwon. This is where you can choose from up to 4 different trails on the outer part of Seoraksan National Park (plus the cable car).
Sogongwon has something to cater for every (hiking) appetite. Families who just want to enjoy the view can opt for the cable car, while those with more of an adventure spirit can choose from a Waterfall or Rock trail. I and my friend decided to take the Ulsanbawi/ Heundeulbawi Rock Course, which is one of the hardest courses to conquer at Seoraksan but also recommended for fall foliage viewing.
ABOUT THE HEUNDEULBAWI ROCK COURSE
I and my friend had absolutely no intention of making it all the way to the top (Ulsanbawi rock) due to physical constraints (read: not having been to gym for the past 8 months) so we decided to hike pass Sinheungsa Temple, up to Heundeulbawi and turn back upon reaching Heundeulbawi Rock.
The guide said this hike should take around 2 hrs. For us, the way up took almost 4 hours since we were caught up in a few spontaneous picnics/ photoshoots. However, the hike down can be achieved in just under an hour with a 40.5% chance of spraining your ankle. Directions wise, you don't really need to rely much on the map because there's already a well laid-out rock trail leading all the way to the top.
Do you need hiking utensils to finish this course? If you want to make it all the way to the Ulsanbawi Rock as one is expected to *cough*, hiking shoes would be very helpful. Otherwise, I had no problem finishing the Heundeulbawi course with just a hoodie + leggings and a normal pair of Nike. It does get quite cold up in the mountain so an outdoor jacket could come in handy.
Don't forget to bring lots of WATER and SNACKS! Having random picnics along the way up was one of the best fun we had during the entire hike. The warm tones of autumn leaves also makes our appetite kick in a lot faster.
This temple is an easy walk from the main entrance and is on the way to Heundeulbawi. The most popular sight here is a 10-meter tall bronze Buddhist statue that rests against a beautiful backdrop of fall colors. I would recommend spending less than 10 minutes here since the real beauty is yet to come.
I'm SO GLAD we chose this course because the fall foliage along the way was nothing short of AMAZING! Every moment of that hike felt as if we stepped into some short of Autumn Wonderland. Each part of the mountain has its own unique charm and we found ourselves stopping to take a photo almost every 5 minutes.
We bought some kimbab from the Express Bus Terminal in Seoul and stopped for a quick lunch 20 minutes into the hike. This is the absolute picnic experience!
And just when you think it couldn't get any prettier...
Not many were interested in getting their socks wet in the middle of a hike, but this stream was so beautiful (read: Instagram syndrome) we couldn't help but get down to take some I-conquered-nature-kind-of pics. It's times like these that I wish I'd brought an extra pair of socks.
THE FALL FOLIAGE
No words, just pics