Bike’n Hike (VIII): Geumseongsanseong Fortress Wall (담양 금성산성)

Destination:  Geumseongsanseong Fortress Wall (담양 금성산성)
Cycling:  62km
Hiking:  9km

Days: 1

 

 


The original Bike’n Hike trip to the Damyang Fortress Wall was scheduled during a weekend back in January, but it was actually snowed out.   Fast forward a couple seasons and it was finally time to pull the trigger on this one day adventure.  Glad I did because not only was the weather perfect, but the fortress wall itself is way more impressive than I anticipated (or remembered).  To top it off, we stopped at DamJu Brewery (bamboo beer!) on the way home and the owner gave us a private tour of the place and free beers!  Win.Getting to the fortress wall from the house is fairly painless and only takes about 90 minutes.  Disregard what Naver Maps will tell you and avoid road 29 until after you reach “downtown” Damyang.  Instead take road 887…that’s the road our village is on and it’s a much more scenic ride (and considerably less traffic…in fact road 29 south of Damyang is borderline dangerous).  Here’s the cyclemeter link to help with directions.

 

Leaving the village.

 Damyang countryside.

887 will take you into Damyang where you will pick-up 29.  Follow the signs.

Once through Damyang you’ll have Chuwolsan to keep you company (the big rocky mountain).

Chuwolsan.

This is the small farming road you’ll need to turn right onto.  It’s unmarked so check the map.  This will bring you out just north of The Damyang Resort, where the park entrance is.

Just past The Damyang Resort (or just before if you arrive from the other direction) you’ll see this sign pointing to Geumseongsanseong.

Head up the road 2km to the park entrance.

Once you reach the parking lot, you can lock up your bike and get a look at the map.  It’s a pretty simple park, but you still have options.  Basically you will hike up to the “South Gate” and from there you will either take the trail hiking the perimeter of the park, essentially walking along the fortress wall and hitting all the “Gates”, or you will cut through the park via the valley trail and then hike back to the South Gate by using either the east or west mountain fortress wall trails.

I chose to hike down through the valley and back around via the eastern fortress wall trails, only because I had seen a bit of the western half of the park in the past.  Here was my route: 보국문 – 충용문 – 보국사터 – 서문 – 북문 – 운대봉 – 동문 – 내성 – 충용문 – 보국문.  This particular route was 9km in total (~4 hours).

The park isn’t labeled very well in certain areas, at least compared with your average National Park, but it’s difficult to get truly lost because it’s simply not a very big park.  At times we thought we had lost the trail because: A) we were hiking on the fortress wall which just seems wrong considering it’s a billion years old (seriously it was reconstructed in the 1400’s) and B) it was at times pretty dangerous with rocky trails, and steep drop-offs (“This can’t be the trail!”).  Having said that, we were never “lost” for more than a few minutes.

 Hiking into the park.

 First entrance into the fortress wall.  보국문.

Approaching 보국문 from the other side.

The second entrance.  충용문.

충용문.

충용문 from further up the western fortress wall trail.

The view from this second entrance, 충용문, is where you can really start to see how high up you already are.  It was a bit hazy this day, but the views of the valley and surrounding mountains are pretty impressive…and this is only the first kilometer of the hike.  From here you can also see the iconic views of the first entrance, 보국문.  This is pretty much what pops up if you google image search Geumseongsanseong.  Wish I had a better camera!

 보국문.

 보국문.

 보국문.

From here I headed down into the valley and followed the signs toward 서문.   The valley is a quick easy hike, which is good because the next section from 서문 to 복문 was by far the most difficult.  You have to hike back up to the ridge line which is pretty steep.  It’s amazing to see how much of the wall remains intact and hard not to imagine what led them to build and maintain such a massive structure.  Luckily you’ll have plenty of time to think it over because from here you follow the wall all the way up to the ridge line and then all the way back around to where you started.

Damyang Lake.

복문 is a great place to stop, relax and enjoy some makoli because most the climbing is out of the way.  It’s not exactly an easy hike back to your bike, but there aren’t any stairs either.  The views are incredible at this gate as well so it’s a good place to catch your breath and grab a few photos.

복문.

Jojo made it.

This next part of the hike is where it gets a bit dodgy.  It’s rocky with steep drop offs and it’s not always clear where to go.  Seems most of the trails eventually link up whenever they split, but it does help to pay attention during this stretch.  Maybe save the makoli for the end of the hike!  The views are pretty much 360 degrees during this stretch and you can actually climb up to one of the peaks.  It’s pretty intense.

From here you hike back down and pass through the two main gates that brought you into the park.  It’s all downhill back to your bike so it’s quick and painless.  Normally we’d call it a day at this point, but as luck would have it, the DamJu Brewery was on the way home.  I’ve raved about this place in the past and have been anxious to get back there during the warmer months to enjoy that outdoor seating…I couldn’t imagine a better time or circumstance.

Needless to say, this rooftop beer garden is amazing.  The views are extensive and look out over the surrounding rice paddies and mountains.  There were even a bunch of paragliders cruising around over the open countryside right in front of the Brewery.  With all of these healthy distractions it’s easy to forget you still have another 20km to ride!

Two of the three paragliders.

The owners are really friendly and because it was before the dinner service, they joined us for a beer and even showed us around the brewery.

Pretty incredible end to an already fun day.  The ride home from the Brewery is just one road, the 887, so it’s not only difficult to get lost, but it’s also flat.  And it always guarantees nice views!

Tired of fortress walls?  Plenty of other options here.