Camping & Hiking Seoraksan National Park
A few weeks ago, the Two Crabs took our second camping trip in South Korea. This time, we went to Seoraksan National Park to take in the autumn colors. Having learned our lesson the hard way, this time we left Seoul on Sunday morning, camped overnight, and returned to Seoul on Monday afternoon, which happened to be an American holiday. What a difference a day makes. There was ZERO traffic...Seoul to Seoraksan was barely 2 hours, 15 minutes drive...our last coast-to-coast trip on a Sunday afternoon took 6 hours!
We arrived at Seoraksan campground about 10am. Everyone was packing up and leaving for the weekend, so we had our pick of campsites. Most of the folks who remained Sunday night were other Americans enjoying the U.S. holiday. (You can always spot the Americans; they are the ones with REI tents!) The campground here was much nicer than the place we stayed in Odaesan NP. The sites were larger, many with shade and grassy spots, and plenty of restrooms and camp kitchens. The campsite was about 3x larger than Odaesan so no shortage of space for tent campers.
Directly across the street from the campground entrance is a bus stop. Hop on any bus for the 3 mile journey to the park entrance. The bus stops at a Minbak village that is lined with restaurants, hotels, and shops selling very basic camping gear. Good thing too, because Mr. Crab FORGET HIS HIKING SHOES! All I had were flip-flops! So I had to shell out $30 to buy a cheap pair of hikers.
With our kit ready, we headed into the park. Our goal was to hike 800+ meters straight up to Ulan Bawi (Ulan Rock), one of Korea's most famous mountain peaks. This hike is not for the faint of heart, especially if you have any fear of heights. You'll see why in a minute.
The first half of the hike is relatively tame, passing by a giant Buddha statue, some temples, and a few mom & pop restaurants serving snacks and cold beer.
When you reach the steps, get ready. Here comes the hard part! Nearly 1km straight up, and the last .4km is a real killer.
The path is a feat of marvel engineering, with staircases built straight into the rock face. Hard to imagine somebody had to haul all this equipment up here!
The reward: Ulan Bawi (Ulan Rock), with its 360-degree views of the surrounding countryside. Face east, and you can see straight out to the coastline and the Sea of Japan.
It was about a 2 hour hike to the top. After only a brief stop to enjoy the views, it was time to head back to make sure we got to the bottom before dark. It was quite dusk by the time we got to the bottom, then caught the bus back to our campsite for a nice campfire and dinner on the grill.
Incidentally, there are two things you should know about camping in Korea: there are NO HOT SHOWERS. Only ice-cold, military barrack-style communal shower rooms. So unless it's the middle of summer or you truly enjoy taking ice baths with 20 other strangers, you might want to think twice. The other complaint about camping is the sites never have picnic tables. We ended up placing our camp stove on the ground. Cooking on your knees is not easy, so we may have to invest in a little REI folding table.
WARNING: Rated PG-13 photo below.
Although we enjoy taking the train, sometimes driving is just easier. By driving, you get exposed (pun intended) to some very interesting Korean roadside attractions. Case in point: Penis Park Rest Stop. Yes, you read that correctly. Actually, it's called Chungjung Sculpture Park. It's located on the road to Seoraksan, about two miles east of where Expressway 60 becomes Route 44. It's part sculpture garden, part highway rest stop. Along with the usual rest stop trinkets, you can also buy green ceramic celedon sculptures, coffee mugs, desk ornaments, and much more!
Ok, here's the rated PG-13 photos. You've been warned!