One of the things I liked more about solo backpacking in South Korea is that you can hike a lot! with 64% of the country being forest and 21 National Parks spread around, this is a nature lover’s paradise! Hiking in Sobaeksan is definitely one of those really cool playgrounds!
Halfway between Seoul and Daegu is located Sobaeksan National Park.
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As I went in spring time, I only saw photos that reference its beautiful name as Sobaek-san means “Little White Mountain” and it must surely be a stunning sight to hike this mountain in the winter season.
But my time there was also pretty special, as during spring time there are lots of azaleas in full bloom. They even have a festival in the town of Danyang for these ocassion which is celebrated in May.
Hiking in Sobaeksan National Park offers plenty of fun day trails, with several peaks and lots of trails that can be accessed from different towns.
How to go hiking in Sobaeksan?
As I was staying volunteering in a wonderful guesthouse in the town of Danyang, I had two main options to access the National Park, the Cheongdong and Eouigok entrances.
There are buses to get there, but make sure to time them well as there are no lots of them and their frequency varies, when I went the buses leaving Danyang were setting off every 60-90 minutes and the returning buses were departing once every two hours(!!)
MY HIKING ESSENTIALS
Make sure to check the times and schedule your climb up and down accordingly so you don’t waste a lot of time at the bus stop and instead enjoy the views at the mountain.
The best place to check the bus times is at the tourist office. There’s one as soon as you cross the bridge in Danyang in direction to Gosu Cave, they were super attentive and gave me details that I couldn’t find on the bus stop itself.
The bus costs 1300KRW each way.
Another option is to stay overnight by Cheongdong as there’s a guesthouse and camping in the area just before entering the trail.
Preparing for the day hiking in Sobaeksan
Although it’s not a difficult hike, it’s important to carry plenty of water and some snacks such as fruit and Gimbaps as there are no shops or stalls in the mountain.
I found the trails pretty well maintained and you could easily do the hike with trainers. Even that I had a glorious sunny day, I had to put on a jumper a couple of times at the summit as the wind was coming strong and a bit cold so make sure to pack something warm as well.
It’s almost certain you will spend more time in the mountain than what you’ll actually need for the hike, as you may spend an hour or even two at the summit contemplating the beauty of the region while killing off some minutes to time your hike down with the bus arrival.
The hiking route
While there are plenty of routes available. The easiest ones to arrive and depart from Danyang are by the Cheongdong and Eouigok entrances. Both trails are well marked on maps.me, although the Eouigok will appear on the app as “Saebat Trail Head”
My route was as follow:
Cheongdong Gate > Birobong Peak > Gukmangbong Peak > Eouigok Gate
In total was about 17 Km of pure mountain delight!
Hiking to Birobong Peak
The bus from Danyang took about 20 minutes or so, and from the bus stop you need to walk for about 5 minutes to the Cheongdong Trail entrance, before arriving you can take a small diversion to see the Darian Falls, this is a pretty sight but can easily be skipped as you will be following the river with some small falls as soon as you start the trail.
I didn’t see any places to buy water/food so make sure to bring everything from Danyang.
As most hikes in South Korea, this one is pretty civilised. The start is even a bit boring as you go on a paved path next to a small road. Is not until around 10 minutes later that the road ends and finally the trail starts.
The path is really well maintained and every few hundred meters there are posts indicating your position and altitude.
From the start of the trail to Birobong Peak the hike is 6.6Km long and about 1100m of vertical climb.
It’s always a constant ascent but never too steep.
Most of the time you walk on a sort of rug that they put in many Korean mountains which makes the walk even easier on your knees, I guess that’s one of the reasons why so many senior Koreans go hiking regularly.
There are also many wooden steps for the “rougher” sections and arriving to the summit is mostly all on a wooden platform which I understand was made as a reforestation and maintenance measure to keep everyone on the same place as it seems that many years ago the crowds were having picnics all over the place.
All the way up is mainly on a thick forest covered path with not many views of the surrounding areas or even the top of the mountain range, but getting closer to the summit, the landscape changes to lush green fields with lots of azaleas blossoming (if you go around May) and then you get rewarded with incredible views as soon as you get to the first viewpoint which is 600m before the Birobong Peak.
It takes about 2 hours to arrive to Birobong and most people enjoy here a good rest and stop for lunch so you can expect to see some crowds here. Although less than in Mount Hallasan in Jeju island.
At 1439.5m, Birobong Peak is the highest of all the peaks in the area and from here you’re presented with maps showing several options to continue your day hiking in Sobaeksan.
I didn’t prepare for it, but these mountains are definitely a really cool spot for some wild camping and long hikes. There are a few camping areas indicated on the maps as well but they’re all by the trail heads.
Hiking from Bironbong and back to Danyang
On the previous day to my climb, at the tourist office they recommended me to go up via Cheongdong and use the Eouigok Trail to go down.
As I didn’t want my hike to be too short I continued instead towards Gukmangbong Peak which is 3.1 Km away from Bironbong. maps.me was also showing a trail going down from this peak so I decided to head there.
This little stretch between the two peaks has some small ups and downs and in general is a little bit more wild as there are not so many wooden steps and looks a little bit more natural.
There’s also a lot less people and some really cool views.
I’d highly recommend to plan for a slightly longer day and include this peak on your hike!
Gukmangbong Peak sits at 1420m of altitude and I actually liked more the views from here than from Bironbong as there is a small group of boulders that when climbed give you a fantastic 360 view of the area. Stunning.
My surprise at Gukmangbong Peak came when I found that the trail shown on maps.me is abandoned/closed and vegetation took over it a while ago, so it’s not possible to go down at all from here and the only option is to go back to Bironbong retracing your steps on the same path.
From Bironbong Peak to the Eouigok gate the trail is similarly well marked and civilised, although I saw less people and it had some forest sections full of pines that I liked a lot.
The way down is almost 5Km and you can expect to be down in about one hour. Remember these timings for the bus departures from Eouigok.
Hiking in Sobaeksan National Park was one of the highlights of my trip backpacking in Korea and definitely the best thing to do if you visit the town of Danyang!
Feel free to drop any comments or questions if you’re planning to go to Danyang!