지리산 – Jirisan National Park is designated as the first and the largest National Park of South Korea. Located in the south, it spreads across three provinces – South-Gyeongsang (Gyeongsangnam-do), North-Jeolla (Jeollabuk-do) and South-Jeolla (Jeollanam-do). Many Korean and international visitors come to Jirisan to enjoy its wonderful sceneries, walk on the stunning hikes through a lot of valleys and mountains, as well as to reach the highest peak in Korea mainland – the Cheonwangbong (1915m).
I was there on Jirisan with my friends from Germany – Kerstin and Sven. After spending 3-day-2-night there, we‘ve not only seen the beautiful landscape of Korea, but also experienced the friendliness and warm hearts of the Korean people. What an unforgettable hiking tour!
Our plan for Jirisan
Kerstin and Sven came from Germany to Korea for the first time to visit me. We were climbing mates back then in Germany and all love mountains. That’s why, my first thought of what to do with them was: Let’s plan a cool hike!
But where to? Jirisan, Seokraksan, Bukhansan? All supposed to be wonderful. But the highest one is on Jirisan! Go for it!
For the preparation, we‘ve found a lot of useful information online, such as on the blog of Juno Kim (2017) or Elicia und Thomas (2014). The blog entries described everything in detailed with amazing photos. Reading and looking at the pictures we just wanted to be there immediately!
Based on the information we found we decided to hike for 3 days and 2 nights on the „Jirisan Ridge Hike“, which is also named as “Jongju (Traversing) Course“ on the Korea National Park Homepage.
Our final itinerary for the hike was as following:
Day 0 – Arrival
- Yongsan Station (Seoul) → Namwon Station by KTX; Duration: 2h
- Lodging: somewhere in Namwon
Day 1 – Hiking
- Namwon → Seongsamjae by Taxi; Duration: ~30 min
- Hiking from Seongsamjae → Nogodan Shelter → Banyabong Spitze → Yeonhacheon Shelter ~15km
- Lodging: Yeonhacheon-Shelter
Day 2 – Hiking
- Yeonhacheon Shelter → Byeoksoreong Shelter → Seseok Shelter → Jangtomeok Shelter – ~13km
- Lodging: Jangtomeok-Shelter
Day 3 – Sunrise at Cheonwangbong and descent& Abreise
- Jangtomeok Shelter → Cheonwangbong peak → Jangtomeok Shelter – ~3,5km;
- Jangtomeok Shelter → Jungsanri – ~5.5km;
- Jungsanri → Jinju Station by Taxi; Duration: ~1h
- Depart for Busan (Duration: ~2h) / Seoul (~3,5h) from Jinju Station
We chose to take KTX and Taxi, instead of Bus, to safe time and be more flexible.
Beside stuff that we were wearing, such as hiking boots with good grips, each of us had a M – L size hiking backpack with us. The backpacks were filled with:
- Clothes: few more layers to protect us from November‘s cold and wet weather
- Toiletries items, sun protection, headlamp, first aid set
- A sleeping bag each
- For drinks: full filled 1,5l water balloon and thermos
- Food: unfortunately our camping food and cooking gear didn’t arrive on time (Air France could not make it to deliver Kerstin‘s backpack to Seoul with her ?), so we could only quickly grab some fruit, porridge, a pot, some nut bars, instant coffee and tea from the convenience store before we left Seoul. No stove, no rice, no instant ramen… ?
Hoping that we may get some other food on the way, we packed everything and left Seoul at night to head to Namwon…
Our 1st hiking day – The first steps are always the hardest!
We arrived at Seongsamjae Parking lot (~1.100m) at around 7 am in the dawn. It was cloudy, cold and windy. There was almost no one at the parking lot, beside few photographers trying to catch the sunrise scene.
Around this spot we could see some cafés and Restaurants and really looked forward to have a proper breakfast before we started. But guess what… All stores were still closed! We were the unluckiest people… ?
And it was too cold to sit down there. Hence we decided to start our day with empty stomach to warm up.
Our trail for the first day:
Seongsamjae → Nogodan Shelter → Banyabong peak → Yeonhacheon Shelter ~15km
Our first destination was Nogodan-Shelter (1500m), which was „only“ 3km away from Seongsamjae. The hike supposed to be easy, but for us it was foggy, shady, cold, windy and felt like an endless walk.
But the endless walk ended suddenly after one hour. We reached the Nogodan-Shelter at around 8am with a short break for warm coffee and carrots for breakfast.
More and more people were on the trail from there on. It got a bit brighter but still cold because of the strong wind.
About 300m behind the Nogodan-Shelter was the Nogodan-Pass. As we passed by the gate we were greeted very friendly by the guard. He suggested us to go up to the Nogodan (1507m) before heading further to Banyabong. „Otherwise you’d reach the Yeonhacheon Shelter too early“, he said.
Ok… not sure how he can tell, but why not. We left our backpacks at the booth and took this 500m long stairway to Nogodan.
It was a very quick round, took us only approximately 30 min in total to go up and back. If the weather was better, I believe, the view must have been beautiful!
Returning to Nogadan pass, we picked up our stuff and headed forward to the next stop Banyabong peak (1732m).
The stunning landscape just appreared in front of our eyes along this 5,5km long trail.
Before starting the last and difficult 800m to Banyabong, we decided to leave our heavy backpacks at the junction. It was a very smart decision, because the way there was really steep, sometimes muddy and slippery. We needed two hands to climb, as well as to hold ourselves, so that we didn‘t fall.
We‘ve made it from Nogodan to Banyabong (5,5km) within 2,5h ?.
To Yeonhacheon Shelter
From Banyabong we had to pass three further peaks to reach Yeonhacheon Shelter – Samdobong (~1500m), Ttokkibong (~1534m) and Myeongseonbong (1585). Amazing view again on the way with the sun and clouds.
Finally, after 7 hours and 40 minutes hiking with some short breaks in between, we have reached the Yeonhacheon Shelter! ?
Our evening in Yeonhacheon Shelter
So we arrived at Yeonhacheon Shelter at 2:40pm. It’s really very early. Actually we also thought about hike further to the next shelter but luckily we didn’t do that. Because our legs felt tired, our stomachs were almost empty and the sun would go down soon.
After leaving all our luggage in the kitchen downstairs we went straight to the reception. They’ve found our reservation and informed us that we could only check in at 5 pm. While waiting, we could rest in one heated room in the shelter. So far so good!
We asked whether they sell anything to eat. Yes, plain rice and Choco-pie! ? And show us the instant rice bow, that “only” needed to be boiled in hot water. They didn’t sell camping stove, either, only small gas bottle for the stove. Great! What to do now before we starve?
We went back to the kitchen. Fee people were there cooking. The food smell made us mad, because we got even hungrier!
Looking around we saw a German guy, to whom we said hello on the way here. As we explained him our bad situation he was so kind and let us use his stove. „Our dinner is saved now!“ – so lucky! Even when it was only plain rice… (We were so pathetic ?. But thanks so much, Daniel, for helping us out)
We ran up as quickly as we can to the reception, bought a gas bottle and 8(!) rice bows, then boil water to make some tea, porridge and warm the instant rice.
“The porridge seems to be salty”, said Kerstin after she tastes it. How about mixing it with the plain rice?
A new gourmet dish was born ?.
At least after having meal and drinking tea, we felt warm and had enough power to rest.
Later, when it got darker and colder, more and more hikers arrived at the shelter. We queued in a long line to check in. By showing my ID card to confirm the reservation, we got 3 designated spots to sleep, 3 thin mattresses and 3 blankets. Kerstin and I shared a sleeping room with three other girls.
The room was simple, featured heating system, sleeping compartments made from wood and windows. It was big enough for about 20 people to stay at once.
Laying on the warm floor, we finally felt exhausted. It was a tough and long, but wonderful day!
Since we were at our 1st stop, there was no way back anymore ?. We rested early to refill our energy for the next day’s hike!
If you’re searching for a hiking guide for Korea, check my post Good things to know before go hiking in South-Korea.