Seoraksan: getting to Dinosaur Ridge

by Mr Mike
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.  Gongryong Ridge Seorak Mountain is how the locals refer to Dinosaur Ridge since Gongryong directly translates to “dinosaur.”


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.

Gongryong Ridge Seorak Mountain


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

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14 comments

Mom June 5, 2014 - 1:12 am

Hope you enjoyed your trIAl, not trail, mix!
Tell us about visit with Peter and Sandy

Reply
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[…] A 3am Seoraksan hike warranted a long lunch break, unfortunately we were on a tight schedule and left for Dinosaur Ridge after refilling water and a few quick bites.  Shortly after departing the shelter the real climb began.  There was one small forested valley before we found ourselves pulling ourselves up the first of many crazy cliffs. […]

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mark April 4, 2015 - 6:25 pm

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

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Mr Mike April 8, 2015 - 11:07 am

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

Reply
Hiking Dinosaur Ridge, Seoraksan National Park – Seoul Hiking Group | Live, Travel, Teach June 3, 2015 - 2:13 pm

[…] the previous spring’s excursion on Dinosaur Ridge and remembered promising myself never again.  This 3am hike broke my body last year; I was sore from the grueling trek and I could barely walk the flight of stairs to my classroom […]

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Yingsane August 22, 2017 - 11:22 am

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!

Reply
Mike Still August 22, 2017 - 11:07 pm

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

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Yingsane August 25, 2017 - 4:49 pm

Hi Mike, wondering if you have a route to recommend? Thanks!

Reply
Mike Still August 25, 2017 - 9:23 pm

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.

Reply
Phyllis June 15, 2018 - 7:26 pm

Hi!

Thank you for the post coupled with beautiful pictures! I am planning to hike to the Dragon Ridge as well. Seeing your photographs, my crazy photographer instincts are kicking in and I absolutely have to stop at some of those places in your photos to shoot them for myself. That being said, I am looking to arrive at around dusk and capture the sunrise at the spot where you took this photo : Posing With Dinosaur Ridge in the Background. Do you have any advice on what time I should start my hike? I will take some time to shoot my photographs, hence I do not think it is very courteous of me to join a hiking group as I will definitely hold the rest of the hikers back and delay their hike. I’m a solo female hiker/photographer, do you think it is safe for me start hiking in the wee hours and reach that spot just to take my photograph?

I am trying to identify the route you took, but I am not too sure. In your reply to another commentor, “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.” When you say turn RIGHT at Bisondae, I am assuming it is in the direction of Geumganggul Cave? From there one, is there only one route, the same route that you took? And what do you mean by completing the loop, relative to the hiking map?

I hope my questions aren’t too ridiculous for you. I am literally dying to go to Seoraksan right now.

Thanks and have a great day!

Reply
Mike Still June 19, 2018 - 9:47 am

Phyllis,

I’m excited for you to go hike in Seoraksan! It’s such a beautiful park and I know you will love it. I really should put together a specific guide for Dinosaur Ridge but alas I’ve just got my write-ups from all the You’ll find a small map and some other day hike suggestions in this post about day trips to Seoraksan National Park

As far as that specific photo I THINK it was actually on the way back down into the Cheondulbong Valley from Hiungak Shelter but it might have been from closer to Daecheongbong. But if you want to be at that spot for sunrise you’ll need to spend the night before in the shelter.

Along my recommended route the right at Bisondae is in fact towards Geumganggul Cave and that is the real start to your climb. Expect 2-3 hours of stone cut stairs and you can get a decent view of the East Sea for sunrise from that spot. I’ll update this post with the directions info, I didn’t realize it was ambiguous and Geumganggul is a good landmark to look for.

I wouldn’t worry about holding up a group because group trips through Seoul Hiking Group or Bangawoyo Tours stay together on the bus but then split up in the parks. I’m sure you’ll find at least one other photographer on the trip who will hike at your pace but if you prefer to head there solo I think you will be absolutely fine as a solo female hiker.

I recommend 2-3L of water for this trek. There is a long stretch along the ridgeline where you are exposed to the elements and don’t have any water sources.

Thank you for reading, have fun and please come back to let me know how the hike went!

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