With fall in full swing in Korea there are a variety of places to go and see Korea’s spectacular autumn leaves. However, you would be hard pressed to find a place more spectacular to see the best fall colors Korea has to offer than at Songnisan National Park.
Songnisan is located near the center of South Korea in the rural province of Chungcheongbuk-do and is surrounded by lush farming land:
Korea may have historically produced little precious metal gold, but obviously the land is what produces the real gold of Korea:
On the way to the park you can’t help but not stopping to see this impressive looking tree:
This tree is known as the Chonyipumsong tree or “the Pinetree with second class government rank”. The tree is six hundred years old and was given its name when King Sejo, who ruled Korea between 1455-1468, was traveling to Songnisan and a branch from this tree blocked the path of his palanquin. King Sejo legend has it ordered the tree to move its branch from the front of his palanquin and the tree responded by moving its branch and letting the palanquin pass. King Sejo was so impressed by this loyal tree that he bestowed upon it official government rank.
A few years ago the tree was damaged by heavy snow fall thus requiring the bracing seen in the picture.
There are no cities near Songnisan National Park with Cheongju about an hour away being the closest. However, the national park does have a small tourist village at the base of the mountain that features plenty of the usual Korean hotels, bars, and restaurants:
The village has accommodations for any budget and my wife and I stayed in a nice hotel for 25,000 won a night with no issues. For those with bigger budgets there is the Lake Hills Hotel that is pretty posh for being located in a remote location like Songnisan:
With accommodations squared away it was time to experience the park. Songnisan means “the remote from ordinary mountains” and once I had the chance to hike through these mountains I had to whole heartedly agree. The best way I found to see the spectacular colors of Songnisan is by hiking up to the top of the historic Manjangdae peak.
Songnisan has a plethora of craggy peaks to climb but the 1033 meter Manjangdae peak is by far the most popular due to its impressive shape along with the popular belief has it that when King Sejo visited the mountain he and his officers sat up here and recited poetry to each other.
I decided to climb up to the peak using the same route that King Sejo used nearly 550 years ago:
The total trail length is about 15 kilometers and very steep in some sections. The trail begins at the impressive Bopchusa Temple and quickly enters into the dense forest:
The colors of the forest is really breath taking:
The trail eventually becomes quite steep as it ascends its way up a high hill on its way to the summit. On the hill there is an ajumma who runs a little coffee and snack shop where you can get a quick bite to eat and stock up on any supplies you might have forgot. From the coffee shop ask the ajumma for directions to a trail behind her shack to a lookout with some beautiful views of the surrounding peaks:
I hiked down from the lookout back down to the shack and continued up the trail which continued to be surrounded with beautifully colored leaves but the trees quickly began to thin out as I reached the higher altitudes of the mountain:
Once above the tree line the views of the various craggy summits of the national park were quite impressive:
The most impressive peak of all the summit of the 1033 meter Manjangdae loomed before me:
Climbing up to the summit of Manjangdae is much easier today with a metal stair case compared to when King Sejo climbed the mountain. Keep in mind the King really did not climb the mountain himself, he was carried all the way to the top in his palanquin. After climbing the mountain myself I found it hard to imagine climbing the mountain while also carrying a King on a palanquin.
The views from the top of the peak are worth the effort of climbing this mountain, even if you had to carry a palanquin:
With the climb to Manjangdae in the foot steps of King Sejo complete it was now time to hike back down this spectacular mountain.
Next Posting: The Climb Down