Seoraksan: getting to Dinosaur Ridge

Dinosaur Ridge, the name alone tells me that Seoraksan’s main ridge will likely be my favorite hike in Korea.  After a 3 am start I found myself at the first of MANY peaks just before lunchtime and suddenly wasn’t so sure.  But there I go, getting ahead of myself again.


Getting to Seoraksan National Park from Seoul
Go to Dong Seoul Bus Terminal (Gangbyeon Station of Seoul Subway Line No.2, Exit 4)
 Take a bus bound for Sokcho
First bus at 06:25, last bus at 23:00 ~ Runs 49 times daily
~3 hour busride
Take a taxi or local bus 7 or 7-1 to Seoraksan National Park


A few weeks ago I hopped another midnight bus with Seoul Hiking Group (Thanks Warren, Breanne, Tom, Ashley and the other helpers!).  A few short hours later we awoke at 2:30 in Seoraksan National Park; gates opened at 3:00am sharp so we got in the line with 100’s of Koreans.

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Yes, you read that right.  At 3am there were literally 100’s of Koreans lined up to hike this amazing trail.  The moon shone nearly full above and when the figurative bell tolled we “sprinted” up the steps.  Okay, so maybe 100’s of people clamoring along rocky steps with an absurd incline isn’t exactly sprinting.  It wasn’t too bad in the pitch black outside of the occasional ajusshi”forgetting” that their headlamp was on when they blinded you.


Where to stay in Seoraksan National Park
The National Park has dozens of hotels, hostels & pensions by the entrance.
Reservations should be made ahead of time during high season.
You can also stay anywhere in Sokcho
I recommend booking a tour from Seoul with one of the many meetups (Bangawoyo & Seoul Hiking Group are my favorite)


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3am start in Seoraksan

After a few hours of darkness we found ourselves on what we could only assume was the first ridge.  The view below eerily brought images of the River Styx with dark clouds floating through shadowy valleys to my mind.  Suddenly the moon came out from hiding behind the clouds.  A little illumination was all we needed to begin making out the stunning greenery below.  The muted colors pushed us onward promising a better view in the coming hours._DSC2949 _DSC2924

Stars and a magnificent moon provided enough light that we began switching off our headlamps.  Or was that the sun creeping over the ridge ahead?  Either way the scene kept growing around us as the climb settled down.   The first push upward was rough but along the ridgeline the elevation changes were minimal.

 

 

 

 

Reds, and oranges crept over the Eastern horizon mixing with the deep blue above Donghae (동해.)  The sun began illuminating what Koreans refer to it as Donghae (East Sea) while most maps label the beautiful body of water as the Sea of Japan.

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Dusk in Seoraksan

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1 ajusshi, 2 ajusshi, red ajusshi, blue ajusshi

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We continued our trek as that orange glow spread through the mountains and trees before us.  The trail shone wonderfully as a few small climbs created a small bottleneck.  We welcomed the respite happy for a water break and a moment to enjoy the growing scene beneath us.

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Sunrise in Seoraksan

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Dusk in Seoraksan

The sun now climbing above its first hand we soon found ourselves at the first rest stop.  This lodge lay just beneath Daecheongbong, the tallest peak in Seoraksan.  Gauging our time my group decided to save Daecheongbong for another day, we took a quick pit stop to refill our water before taking the fork back towards Dinosaur Ridge.

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Korean Sunrise over Donghae 동해, the East Sea (or the Sea of Japan) in Seoraksan National Park

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Hiking one of Seoraksan’s ridgelines

Back on the trail we caught our first glimpe of Dinosaur Ridge!  Well, we thought it must be Dinosaur Ridge anyway.  Now well into the morning hours the true beauty of Seoraksan presented itself for us to take in.  Breathtaking views were all around us with endless mountains to the west, spectacular ridges, the East Sea and Ulsanbawi in the distance!

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Our first glimpse at Dinosaur Ridge!

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Endless mountains of Seoraksan

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Ulsanbawi in the distance!

The trail now followed a downward slope along the ridge.  We passed many hikers on their way to Daecheongbong.  A suprising number practiced their English stopping to say “hello, where are you from?”  and occasionally “Herro, where you flom?”  The trail continued to promise breathtaking views while we inched closer to our goal.

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Is this Dinosaur Ridge too? Oh man, I can’t wait to get up there!

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The presently easy trail was wonderful on our legs.  We made great time along this trail enjoying the fresh mountain air stopping occasionally for some trail mix or fruit.  Thankfully everyone in Seoul Hiking Group loves to share and we had a great variety of energy foods among our small group of adventurers gearing for Dinosaur Ridge.

“Wait, if we keep going down, doesn’t that mean we have to go up again later?” tweet

The views became obscured as the trail lowered us into the forest with an occasional clearing showing the pinnacle ahead.

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Beautiful White Birch Trees of Seoraksan National Park

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Dinosaur Ridge, getting closer!

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Sometimes the trail disappears for some fun bouldering!

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Our downward climb began to worry me.  My legs were a little sore already (even though it was roughly 10AM).  Wait a minute, is that a peak I can climb?  Second wind  here you come!  I gave my camera to my hiking buddy Darren and scampered up the rock to pose in front of Dinosaur Ridge.

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Posing with Dinosaur Ridge in the background, Photo Credit: Darren Peets

Posing with Dinosaur Ridge in the background, Photo Credit: Darren Peets

Continuing downward we caught sight of our lunchstop.  The lodge ahead is the last chance to veer away from Dinosaur Ridge.  Perhaps it was just hunger but I was pretty certain that feeling growing in my stomach was excitement about climbing that stunning ridge.  Hiking into a small valley we broke for lunch and decided who’s legs would prefer to continue downward into the valley.

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Darren climbing down like a pro

_DSC3089 _DSC3096 _DSC3107After a quick snack and a our 12 man party shrunk to 8 as we ventured forth.  Dinosaur Ridge in our minds and in our sights was soon to be beneath our legs!

Dinosaur Ridge: Seoraksan National Park

Dinosaur Ridge: Seoraksan National Park

Stay tuned for part 2 where I realize just how much this monstrous ridge will take!

 

 

Mr Mike

12 thoughts on “Seoraksan: getting to Dinosaur Ridge

  1. Hi! Thanks for the very informative post! I am also planning to go to Seoraksan and see the dinosaur ridge but I am only planning to photograph it from a distance and not to actually climb it. Can you suggest what would be the best trail to undertake so that I can have the best view of dinosaur ridge?
    Thanks

    1. Mark,

      Its hard to get a good view of Dino ridge but the best places are daecheongbong peak and in Cheonbuldong valley you begin to get a good view. The easiest way is to start at the main entrance and head up through the valley. You’ll pass 2 lodges. First one is just after the fork to Dino Ridge. Head left at the fork to find the lodge and keep going up. Along that route you get a decent view. Keep giong to the 2nd lodge and you’ll find another view. A few hundred meters past that is Daecheongbong peak. Let me know how it goes! If you want to join Seoul Hiking Group on Facebook we are heading there at the end of May (not announced yet though)

      Mike

  2. Hello, thanks for the informative post! I’m planning to do a sunrise route only, do you have any recommendations. Was also wondering if it’s fine to hike on our own without a guide for sunrise. Thanks!

    1. Hi Yingsane,

      You can definitely do it without a guide but I’d only do that if you’re experienced hikers. Bring plenty of water and snacks because there’s nowhere to buy food and few places to refill water along the way. You will come across a few shelters along the way but they only sell emergency food like choco pies and ramen. Enjoy the hike and let me know how it goes!

      Mike

        1. If you are looking to do Dinosaur Ridge (the same hike in this post) then you should start at the main entrance and turn RIGHT at Bisondae. That will take you up to the first ridge. From there just go straight or turn left if its an option. It’ll take you about 14 hours to complete the loop.

          If you don’t have that kind of time (or want an easier hike) check out Ulsanbawi which you can read about and see photos of here along with the cable car ride to the top of Gwongeumseong
          and a shot hike to Yukdam Biryeong waterfalls
          https://livetravelteach.com/2014/10/15/seoraksan-3-germans-a-finn-and-me/

          Another option is to just head LEFT at Bisondae and follow the Cheonbuldong valley. which is in the 2nd half of this post
          https://livetravelteach.com/2014/07/20/hiking-seoraksans-spring-valley-with-seoul-hiking-group/

          The last hike that you could do is Daecheongbang, the highest peak but I think its no as scenic as the others. We head there at the beginning of the last post.

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