Ben and I decided that our last big excursion would be to Bukhansan National Park. He had visited earlier in the week doing the same hike I did on my first time in Bukhansan. We were excited to see if any of the fall foliage was popping its head and planned on heading to Songchu Falls. I hadn’t heard anything about them other than seeing them on the trail map so we picked a route that led us to Obong peak after Songchu Falls.
We got up bright and early having packed our bags and picked out lunch already. I was bringing Gimbap that I made in cooking class and Ben grabbed a meal at 7-11; we had plenty of trail mix and grabbed our camelbacks out of the fridge before jumping on the subway. Just over an hour later we arrived at Hoeryong Station. You could immediately see the mountain range and we started out for Hoeryong Crossing.
The hike started along a paved path; we were quiet surprised to share the road with a few vehicles, stepping aside as it grew more vertical. Before long we came across a Buddhist temple at the end of the road. There was a small celebration for what appeared to be a new monk with paintings and plenty of Koreans. Ben and I focused on the gorgeous view in the background and were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a hummingbird in the garden.
Exiting the temple we realized that our real hike was about to begin. There were intermittent stairs on the hilly path as we started the climb. The path was crowded and we had occasional views of Seoul below us. The trees were starting to turn and offered a beautiful array of colors while maintaining a green base for the landscape.
After a few more turns the path became even steeper; we were glad to have ropes to help pull us up the massive stones as we followed the line of hikers to the ridge. Before we knew it we were standing on the ridge and looking for a peaceful location to have our picnic. Taking a few moments to eat and relax we saw a vivacious view of Seoul through the leaves. With careful footing we were able to make our way down to a cliff for a scarce break in the trees and captured a few shots; Ben’s Travelocity Gnome even made an appearance.
After snapping our photos we cleaned up from lunch and went back to the path. The trail we wanted led straight down the mountain; unfortunately that didn’t bode well for our return trip. On this side of Bukhansan we passed much fewer travelers. The path was rockier as it wound in and around the trees following a trickling river.
We came upon a fork with a number of picnicking Koreans and took the Western path to head towards Songchu Falls. Now in the valley which I had only glimpsed from the peaks on previous hikes it was incredibly peaceful down here. There wasn’t much animal life but the trail here was well groomed.
Before long we found ourselves bouldering towards the sound of rushing water. Climbing over each stone the sound grew a little louder before we saw the falls. Songchu wasn’t as impressive of a waterfall as I had hoped but still provided a serene scene along the trail. It is worth visiting if you are up for the hike but shouldn’t be your main attraction. I’ll have to come back after the snow melts in the Spring to see if it really gets going.
We took a few pictures and enjoyed the scene for a moment before heading back up the mountain. This time our trail brought us westward but was just as steep. We passed groups of Koreans picnicking along the trail. A few invited us to share their gimbap & fruit; we politely declined but I think next time I’ll have to oblige. Hopefully by then I’ll have a better grasp of the Korean language.
From stony steps to big boulders we continued to climb. The trail wound around lightly colored trees with Fall beginning to show its colors. Pausing for a moment I looked back on the landscape behind us. A beautiful panorama with shades of green, yellow, orange and red lay before me. I snapped a few pictures before continuing the upward climb.
A few moments later we reached the ridge line; a signpost stoically showed how far we had come from the falls. We opted to hike further into the park towards Obong peak. The path was well shaded with a few glimpses into the valley below. Before long we came to a massive rock with a stunning view. Unsure if we had reached our destination yet we posed for a few pictures anyway and Ben took out his trusty gnome.
Surveying the scene we found a peak in the distance; I asked a few Koreans if we had reached Obong. The distance seemed about right and there appeared to be a steep valley between us and that peak. Unable to decipher the Korean responses we decided to go for it.
Luckily the trees had deceived us; the path turned out to be another flat dirt road with excellent foliage surrounding us. We came upon a clearing with a massive “H” declaring this place a helicopter landing before climbing a few more meters to Obong peak.
Lingering a moment longer Ben and I took a few more photographs before turning around. We decided to hike back along a different path staying on the ridgeline. Luckily we put most of the upward climbs behind us and were quickly back at our sign. Only 3.6 km back to the entrance!
One last staircase brought us to the main ridge line. Initially we were planning on heading straight down but we still had a few hours of daylight. Juanbong peak was only a few hundred meters off and looked like an exciting climb.
I opted to use the railings to pull myself up while Ben adeptly found handholds in the rock. A little more bouldering and a rope climb brought us to one of my favorite views in Bukhansan.
The fall colors were just starting to show their face with a few reds and yellows mixed into the predominantly green landscape. Enjoying the fresh mountain air Ben and I relaxed for a while up here. He would fly home tomorrow while I was at work so we began talking about the next time we’d see each other. Perhaps next year in New Zealand or Australia? It was too far to plan right away so we decided to start our decent.
We took a wrong turn on the way down extending our hike a little longer but giving us another chance at a great view. Now late in the day we passed 2 temples with closed doors; a massive golden Buddha guarding the vicinity while the monks rested for the evening. By the time we reached the bottom we had decided on bulgogi for dinner. On the subway I texted a Korean friend who suggested Bulgogi Brothers near my apartment. A great meal followed this wonderful day in Bukhansan National Park.