Wolchulsan National Park
Length: 3 days
Overview: Day 1 takes you around Mudeung mountain and through the National Park, so the first half of the day is especially spectacular and challenging. Day 2 is a challenging, albeit short, hike to the summit of Wolchulsan and some of its best highlights (suspension bridge anyone?). Day 3 starts out on a few of the same roads that lead you into the park, but takes a detour through Gwangju city and the opposite side of Mudeung National Park to end the day on a high note.
Follow road 887 (take a left when exiting the village…towards Sosaewon) up through the valley until the 9km mark where you will see a small unnamed road on your right, just past the abandoned elementary school (update: this road has since been paved and is glorious!). This road winds up through another valley behind Mudeung Mountain. Around the 17km mark, just past the reservoir, you’ll take a right and head towards Hwasun. This 10km stretch of road is absolutely gorgeous. A couple good climbs, an 18% descent and plenty of sweeping views of the valley and Mudeung. Beware of goats in the road!
In Hwasun, you will pick up route 55 and follow that for about 35kms. You’ll briefly jump on a busier route 23, but quickly get off onto 819 which takes you into the park and campground. I opted not to stay in Yeongam City because quite frankly, there doesn’t seem to be much there. I stayed at the Cheonhwangsa Campsites, which is on the northeast side of the park (there are two visitor centers/campgrounds) and seemingly the more popular choice because it provides an easier access to the infamous cloud bridge.
Tent camping is 2000 won/night (not a typo). There are showers (lower those expectations!), a few restaurants, a couple of minbaks and not much else. You’d be wise to bring cash. The massive annex parking lot leads me to believe this is at times very popular. When I was there (June), this was not the case. Empty campground and even emptier trails.
Mudeung National Park
Day 2 (Hiking)
The hiking portion of this trip is tough at times, but not particularly long. The trail head is right at the entrance to the campground and takes you pretty much straight up the valley to the biggest crowd-pleaser in Jeolla-do: the cloud bridge. It’s a suspension bridge, and judging by the massive steel cables anchoring it down, is probably the safest stretch of trail anywhere on this mountain or perhaps in the world. Unfortunately logic doesn’t apply when you’re hovering 100 meters above the valley floor.
Once across you’ll head up the mountain a bit further, then back down a bit and finally all the way up to the summit. When it’s not covered in clouds the views of the surrounding valley are expansive and the mountain itself is a gnarly group of craggy rocks that’s easy to visually get lost in. From the summit, I headed back down around a small loop to check out the waterfall, which is worth it if for nothing else than to head back down on a portion of trail that offers some different views.
Time and/or transport permitting, I might suggest hiking through the mountain range and park to the other side coming out at Dogapsa Temple. I strongly recommend working out the logistics beforehand, otherwise it’s going to be a long hike back to your campsite.
Not much choice except to head back the way you came….road 819, a quick jump on the busy 23 and ultimately back on 55. Take this to NamPyeong. I stopped in this little “city” both days to enjoy the local mini-stop culture. Cheap snacks and an outlet to recharge my phone is always welcome. Also from here you can pick up route 1, which takes you into Gwangju city. Follow route 1 for a bit and generally head north working your way through the city towards route 29 (take a look at the above link for more details on how to navigate the city). This road puts you onto Mudeung Gil (Mudeung Street) and back into the National Park. There are a couple of climbs on this last 15km stretch, but again, it’s a beautiful forest and one of my favorite roads in Jeolla Province. This roads spits you out almost literally in front of the house.
Mudeung Mountain/Gwangju Lake
Mudeung National Park
Mudeung National Park
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