Fall in Korea is a great time travel. The weather is cool, the sky is blue, and the scenery undergoes remarkable changes. In some places like Upo Marsh in the fall, it’s possible to see migrating birds. Most people try to get out and see the mountains covered with orange, red, and yellow trees. Especially famous for fall colors and stunning beauty is Seoraksan National Park.
Another way to enjoy the fall season in Korea is to visit the eulalia reed fields that grow on mountain tops. This is what my goal was when traveling to Sinbul Mountain (신불산/Sinbulsan). My trip was taken near the end of October, but I think any time during October would make for a nice experience.
Sinbulsan (1,208m) is part of a chain of seven mountains in Gyeongsang Province that is commonly referred to as the Yeongnam Alps. It is also the centerpiece of Sinbulsan County Park (신불산 군립공원), which includes the adjacent Gangwolsan (간월산) and Yeongchwisan (영치위산) Mountains. Limited buses running from Ulsan’s Taehwagang Train Station will take you there. See the notes at the end for more details.
The hike from the bus stop to the peak of Sinbulsan is about 2-2.5 hours. The hardest part is at the beginning when you have to climb up stairs for 30 minutes or so. After that, it’s pretty smooth sailing. The best of the scenery starts to appear when you get to the peak of Ganwolsan.
Ganwolsan and Sinbulsan are separated by a small flat ridge. Standing on top of either mountain allows you to look down at the ridge, which happens to also be where a good majority of the eulalia reeds are located. Right at the center of the ridge is a giant doltap (돌탑), a tower of stones.
In David Mason’s book Spirit Of The Mountains he says these towers are sacred objects that can be “seen as towers reaching up towards heaven, to channel it’s ki down to earth, or as crude tap [stone Buddhist pagodas], or as appeals to nature-spirits for good fortune, or as statues of famous or mythical beings – but they all retain some relation to San-shin (mountain spirits), however direct or vague.”
The biggest surprise for me on this trip was seeing paragliders. Several people launched from on top of Sinbulsan and then floated in the sky around both peaks for well over an hour. It looked like one of those fun but dangerous things in life that I would prefer to experience vicariously.
Sinbulsan made a great place to sit down and have a picnic. People claimed spots in the eulalia reeds with their family and friends to do just that. I highly recommend you do the same if you make this trip.
Sitting at my desk and looking back, visiting Sinbulsan in the fall was a worthwhile travel experience for me so I can easily recommend it to you. It’s this kind of positive experience that makes me look forward to another fall season here in Korea. I’ll be keeping my eyes open for new mountain eulalia fields to explore. You should too.
Tips On Getting There
Bus #807 departs from Taehwagang Train Station toward Baenae. Stay on the bus until you reach Baenae high in the mountain. It’s about an hour ride. Pay attention. Sit or stand near the bus driver and tell him “Baenae” when you board so he knows you want to get off there. It would suck if you missed the stop.
Weekdays (To Baenae) 09:45, 15:15
Weekdays (From Baenae) 07:15, 12:45, 17:25
Saturday/Sunday (To Baenae) 06:50, 07:50, 09:45, 11:35, 12:40, 15:15
Saturday/Sunday (From Baenae) 07:15, 09:45, 10:45, 12:45, 14:30, 15:30, 17:25
If you arrive to Ulsan by bus, then you can walk 5 minutes down the street to the Lotte Hotel. Across the street from the Lotte Hotel is the 3rd bus stop for bus #807 from Taehwagang Train Station.