It was a cool, crisp morning. The alarm woke us at 5:30AM sharp. We groggily awoke from our ondol-heated pension floor bed and packed our things. We knew we were going on a hike today. What we didn’t know was that we were about to scale the second tallest mountain in Korea…
A few weeks ago, our friends invited us to check out Jirisan National Park and we soon began planning a full day hike. They picked the trail and we were quite content with just going with the flow (weren’t going to pass up the opportunity to have our day planned for us!). As it turns out, we ended up doing the Georim Course which consisted of a distance of about 16.5km and an estimated time of about 11 hours. The culmination of the hike was to hike to the Cheonwangbong Peak which rests atop the Mt. Jiri at a staggering height of 1915 meters!
The climb to reach the top was quite the experience. The course started out following a mountain stream with beautiful rock and water views but quickly began to pick up in difficulty. At times, we could have had a harness on and would have been legitimately rock climbing! On our way to the peak we traversed towering inclines, natural rock stairways and a gorgeous mountain ridge walk. As long and as tough as the hike was, we have to say the ridge walk and mountain top were well worth the effort! We couldn’t help but feel a little proud of the accomplishment 😀
Many others crowded the peak but when we stepped out on to one of the many rock faces and took in the awe inspiring views with the wind rushing past, it was unbelievable. Truly a feeling of being on top of the world.
Yet hiking to the top turned out to be the easiest part of the day… The walk back down the mountain was admittedly even steeper than the climb up! We had chosen the other side of the mountain to start the course for this reason. Finishing the hike in about 9 hours we were all exhausted, hungry and happy. It was time to board the bus for home, and we all looked forward to spending the next day relaxing in bed!
Tips for hiking in Jirisan National Park:
- Bring lots of food and water. As this is quite a large national park, you won’t find anywhere nearby that sells food. That being said, there are pensions along the way that have water fountains, but they are few and far between so be sure to have plenty of water with you at all times. The trail is also quite long so we would recommend bringing at least 2 meals and lots of snacks.
- Wear breathable clothing (and layers!) and hiking boots. We really wouldn’t recommend wearing running shoes to hike this trail as it is quite steep and rocky (which means you could easily roll your ankle!). Likewise, because you’ll be hiking for so long the temperature is likely to change so be sure to wear lots of layers!
- Wear sunscreen! This is something we completely overlooked and deeply regretted the next day. We thought ‘hey it’s autumn, the sun won’t be so bad’ but boy were we wrong. Our faces were total lobsters the next day.
- Bring a camera. Or a phone with a camera. Heck even a tablet with a camera will do. Just bring something because you will really regret not having something to capture the views of this breathtaking national park.
- Have a plan! We aren’t kidding when we tell you this park is HUGE and the trail is hard. We saw countless people starting their hike to the top with only 2 hours of daylight left and there is no way they would make it on time. Do yourself a favour and plan out your course ahead of time and where you plan on sleeping if you’re doing a multi-day trek.
How to get there:
From Gwangju we took a bus to Jinju (approx. 2 hours and 10 200 won). From there, we took a 1 hour taxi ride to Georim Village for approx. 60 000 won.
To come back we took a bus from the Jungsalli Hiking Information Centre to Jinju (apprx. 1 hour and 12 000 won), and then a bus from Jinju to Gwangju after that (approx. 2 hours and 10 200 won).
For more information on the trail we completed, click here.
Where to stay:
We opted to arrive late on a Friday night so that we could get up early the next day for our hike. This is definitely recommended so that you aren’t racing the clock to get to the course since it is a bit hard to get to without a car. Our pension was really basic, but it accommodated 4 people per room for the low price of 50 000 won per night. Below you’ll find the name and phone number of the pension (note that the owner does not speak very good English so it would be best to have a Korean friend/coworker call for you in advance to make a reservation on your behalf):
산청군 사천면 내대리 977-5
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