Posted by: Matt Kelley | 6 October 2008

Gangwon Province Road Trip: Outer Seorak Mountain

The cable car takes “hikers” from the base of Outer Seoraksan Mountain  to Gwongeumseong (권금송).

Today, we indulge in a summer ritual: the road trip, by starting a three-part exploration of Gangwon Province on Korea’s eastern shore. 

If I sound a little bit tired today, it’s because I just got back from a three-day, 800-kilometer road trip in Korea’s Gangwon Province. Gangwon-do is a big, beautiful place, so there was a lot of ground to cover. But thankfully, my two travel buddies, KBS World’s very own Abby Rhodes and our friend Do-hoon, were also along for the ride.

One of the many paintings that decorate the sides of buildings at Shinheung Temple.

We departed Seoul before sunrise on Saturday morning, eager to escape the throngs of city folks who head east each summer to enjoy Gangwon Province’s scenic mountains and the white sand beaches along the Donghae (동해), or East Sea.

On the way, we watched the sun rise over the Taebaek Mountains and followed winding roads that mimick the paths of some of Korea’s largest rivers. And although we were just 90 minutes away from downtown Seoul, I could see how Asiatic Black Bears still roam Gangwondo’s seemingly endless hills of Korean pine.

Imagine these rocky crags when the leaves turn this autumn.

Although we weren’t lucky enough to see a real bear, a statue of one greeted us at the entrance of Outer Seorak, the most popular access point to majestic Seoraksan Mountain (설악산).

Rising 1,708 meters but within eyeshot of the beach, Seoraksan, as it’s called in Korean, is one of the country’s most popular national parks and its only UNESCO conservation area, thanks to its variety of plants and animals. Each year, millions of visitors view the mountain’s famous craggy peaks and spectacular fall foliage. During the summer, the mountain is still breathtaking and it’s easier to beat the crowds.

After riding the cable car, it was just a short hike up to this mini-peak. The reward was stunning views!

Although Seoraksan’s trails can take days to trek, my friends and I were pressed for time. So, we took the 1.1-kilometer cable car to Gwongeumseong (권금송). From there you can take a short hike to a rocky summit. A few couples and one tour group were inching their way up the windy final stretch and were rewarded with a rainbow and 360-degree views.

But it’s the rush of pushing your body to its limit that makes hiking fun, right? So, Abby, Do-hoon and I took another hike to Geumganggul (금강굴), a small cave and active Buddhist shrine that’s etched into a wall of rock.

Biseondae is a large rocky valley filled with jade pools and streams. According to a legend, a spirit from heaven who came here was fascinated by its scenic beauty.

On the way down we stopped to soak our feet at Biseondae (비선대), a valley filled with rushing water and cool jade-colored pools that’s surrounded by jagged rock formations. A restaurant was tucked into the hillside, so we snacked on a big plate of delicious dotoreemuk (도토리묵) or seasoned acorn jelly salad. Back at the park’s entrance, we visited the colorful buildings and a large statue of Buddha at Shinheungsa Temple (신흥사).

Shinheungsa Temple’s Bell pavilion with one of Seoraksan Mountain’s many peaks in the background. The temple was established in 1770 (sorry for the white-out sky!).

With a lot left on our Day 1 itinerary, we couldn’t see Seoraksan’s many other natural treasures, like its waterfalls, a huge “tottering” boulder and, of course, the summit. Instead, we considered soaking our feet in a mineral hot spring. Osaek hot springs are easily accessed via Seoraksan’s south entrance. The springs’ iron, carbonic acid and sodium are said to be good for the skin and stomach problems.

This large bronze Buddha is located next to Shinheungsa Temple at the base of the entrance to Outer Seoraksan Mountain.

Speaking of stomachs, for lunch our trio shared two Gangwon-do specialties: a soft seafood tofu soup and grilled hwangtae (황태), or dried pollock. Afterwards, our legs were a bit achy but our tummies happy, so, we headed for the beach! … check back soon for that post!

Getting There:
→ Over 90 buses shuttle between several Seoul bus terminals and Sokcho every day. Trip duration is between 3-5 hours. cost: 14,900-22,000 won. 06:25-23:00. Once in Sokcho, buses 7 and 7-1 run frequently to Seorak-dong. Admission is 1,600 won (youth: 600). open 2 hours before sunrise.

(A version of this text aired on KBS World Radio on July 12, 2008.)



  1. Nice :)) wanna visit there
    thx for good infomation MATT kk

  2. Thanks, Lee. Let me know if you want to go together some time! ^^

  3. Beautiful! I was able to visit Seoraksan while visiting my family. It was amazing!

  4. Hi Melissa,
    It’s a spectacular place. It’s interesting just how close the peaks are to the city of Sokcho and Gangwon Province’s beautiful beaches. But it’s such a massive mountain… I need to go back this spring to explore more of it.

    Happy New Year!


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