Jeollanam-do’s Wolchulsan National Park (월출산 국립공원), at 809m, is a gem. It has some of the most fascinating scenery I’ve seen on Korean mountains. I have made two trips there and climbed its peak three times. The first time I visited was in the early spring when the still bare and brown trees blended in with the stone grey color that seems to be everywhere and the second visit was in mid fall, just as colors were turning golden brown. Both times were great.
Wolchulsan rises up out of the earth next to a small plain, giving it center stage to show us its many interesting rocky faces. The first time I saw Wolchulsan from a distance, I was immediately impressed with how magnificent it looks, and I was thrilled to know that I was about to climb it.
Korea National Park suggests three possible starting points for the hike: Cheonhwang Parking Lot, Entrance to Dogapsa Temple, and Gyeongpodae Parking Lot. I’ve done the first and third. I believe there may be a bus to Cheonhwang Parking Lot, but the others may require a taxi. I used a taxi each time. I was told by a taxi driver that the easiest course is to start from Gyeongpodae (경포대), about a 10,000 won taxi ride from the bus terminal.
I’m not completely certain, but I think the course from Gyeongpodae to Cheonhwang Parking Lot or vice versa is at least 7km. The ascent from Gyeongpodae is much gentler than from Cheonhwang Parking Lot. The latter being essentially a stair climb. Actually, there are two routes that go up from Cheonhwang Parking Lot which provide different views.
At any rate, once you’ve reached the top of the mountain, you essentially stay at the top and walk across while taking in breathtaking landscapes. It is relatively easy hiking and there are plenty of places to stop and rest or have a picnic. The main peak is called Cheonhwangbong (천황봉), and seems to be the place you ought to aim to reach before you have your meal.
According to the Korea Tourism Organization’s information about Wolchulsan, azaleas can be seen on top during mid spring. I don’t know if they are as brilliant as the Illimsan Royal Azaleas, another Jeollanam-do mountain, but they might, nonetheless, make for a cheerful springtime hike.
Sitting at my desk and looking back, recommending Wolchulsan National Park is a no-brainer. It’s definitely worth going out of your way to experience. I’m pretty certain that I’ll return there again, possibly in the spring to see the azaleas.
Wolchulsan National Park (Korea Tourism Organization)
Wolchulsan National Park (Korea National Park)
Wolchulsan National Park (Wikipedia)
43 Lesser Sacred Mountains of South Korea (Sanshin.net)