Travel Review & Tips: Fall Foliage Trip to Naejangsan National Park
Greetings, travelers! I’m a member of Trazy Crew, back with a review, this time about my experience on my fall foliage trip to Naejangsan National Park!
Since South Korea is well known for the beautiful fall colors, I wanted to venture out. So last week, I signed up for our own tour package which was the ‘Korea Fall Foliage Small Group Tour‘.
What/Where is Naejangsan National Park?
In case this is your first time hearing about the park, Naejangsan is a famous mountain located in Jeolla-do Province, which is not too far from Jeong-eup City.
It’s one of the best destinations for viewing a gorgeous color palette of autumn leaves (mainly maple leaves) and breathing in the fresh air in South Korea. Plus, there are also waterfalls and temples to explore.
Naejang means ‘many secrets’, implying that there are many beautiful things to discover in the park. Though fall is definitely the park’s peak season, it’s also gorgeous during the spring when azaleas and cherry blossoms bloom, summer when the mountain turns greener and in winter when the rock cliffs are blanketed in snow.
The Best Way to Get to Naejangsan National Park
By Train: You can take the KTX from Yongsan Station to get to Jeong-eup Station, then take a local bus to get there. This method can be quite confusing for first-time travelers and the train ticket price may be a little bit expensive as it costs around 40,000 KRW (around 39 USD). And fall is a high season in Korea, which means the train tickets may run out real fast.
By car: It takes around 4 hours from Seoul, but during weekends or peak season, it may take even more. Also, during the peak season, access to the mountain can become quite difficult, especially if you arrive late. The parking lots fill up before noon and the roads get packed. It’s best to arrive early in the morning and leisurely explore.
For those who merely need a transport and do not want to go through the hassle, signing up for a tour package can be a great option as it provides a round-trip transportation and an admission fee.
Trazy’s fall foliage tour package also provides a round-trip transportation, which was a van along with a friendly tour staff member who spoke English. The admission fee is also included. I was picked up at Hongik University Station at 6:00am, but departure locations also include Myeongdong Station and Dongdaemun History & Culture Park Station.
*Note that for a larger group of people, a bus may be used instead of a van. On the day of the tour, my tour group consisted of 6 people including myself.
By any means, if you would like to get there by yourself, click here for directions!
There was one rest stop halfway where we could use the bathroom and buy some food. We arrived at the park at around 10:30am ready to explore!
The Top 4 Hiking Trails We Recommend!
In Naejangsan National Park, there is a total of 10 hiking courses in the park. But here are the top 4 hiking trails and courses you should try.
1. Seoraebong Course – The most visited course that starts from the Hiking Information Center and passes through Seoraebong Peak (624m) and Bulchulbong Peak (622m) before ending at the Information Center again. It’s not too challenging, but there is a steep steel staircase that can be a little tiring to climb. 2. Nature Observation Course – Also an easy one composed of mainly gravel roads and dirt that’s great for families, children or the elderly. The entire course can be completed in about an hour and 20 minutes. 3. Baekyangsa Walking Trail – For those who want more of a challenge and really want to get in some exercise, these two trails are recommended. This trail contains several steep slopes and has lots of steps.
Here’s How Trazy’s Fall Foliage Tour Goes…
We took one of the easier courses that involved barely any steep inclines or difficulty. From the parking lot, we took a free shuttle bus to the ticket area, which took less than 5 mins. By walking, it would take around 15~20 mins.There the tour staff member bought us tickets for the second shuttle to the entrance of the National Park. All courses start and finish from this entrance where the ticket booths are.
The bus fee is part of the tour so we didn’t need to pay but it is normally 1,000 KRW. The first shuttle was big, but this one was smaller and more cramped but it didn’t matter since the journey was short. We passed lots of hikers and tourists despite it only being 11am. On the way, you can find this sign in the picture below. If you are the left was the cable car, which people could ride at an additional cost. 0.5 km to the right was Naejangsa Temple, which was where we were headed and further ahead was Byeongnyeonam Temple.The walk to the temple takes around 5 minutes, and is so enthralling and beautiful that you’ll be stopping for photos constantly! There were also many restaurants and vendors selling vegetables, herbs, teas, kimchi, meat, makgeolli (rice-based alcohol) and acorn jelly as well as various trinkets.
3 Attractions You Should Not Miss!
1. Naejangsa Temple
After a leisurely 5 minute walk from the entrance of the park, we arrived at Naejangsa Temple.The temples had people praying inside them and outside pretty much every spot was a photo zone. The trees and floor were coated with leaves and there was a pond with statues spurting out water.Korean temples also have wells called ‘Yaksuto.’ These wells pour out water that is fresh and drinkable, which you can do with the plastic cups provided. The highlight was hands down a singing performance by one of the monks. He was singing a pop song with a voice that you would expect to hear from someone like Pavarotti or Bocelli. He was amazing.
Recommended photo spots:
*Illjumun Gate: It is symbolic because it is the entrance to the Buddhist temple and is apparently good for taking group photos. *The lanterns: These were located in front of the temple. I LOVE the colors and found that they made the perfect background for a photo as they swayed gently in the wind. *The pagoda: It houses the purported remains of the Buddha and makes for the perfect photo with the backdrop of the foliage and blue sky.
*Resting area: This area was where a lot of people were sitting down to take a rest. There were stairs leading up to the top where many photos were being taken too. The photographer would stand there and point their camera down so that the foliage would be captured with the subject in the middle.
2. Uhwajeong Pavilion
The leisurely downhill walk from the temple back to the parking lot was about an hour and 40 minutes down a long path called ‘Five Colors Danpoong (Korean for autumn leaves) Path’.
As we walked down, we saw Uhwajeong Pavilion.
The name is derived from the legend that the pavilion once grew wings and ascended into the heavens. Various flowers, trees and foliage surrounding the pavilion created a view that looked almost fake. The water was also so clear that I could see fish swimming!
The one that stands today was built this year to replace the original one (pictured above) erected in 1965, which was criticized for failing to harmonize with its surroundings.
Recommended photo spots:
*Stone path: I noticed many people taking photos on the stone path leading to the pavilion. They would stand in a line and pop their heads out in alternative directions while flailing their arms, which made for a cute photo.
*From a distance: I also found that taking a photo from further away made the pavilion look like something out of a postcard. This was thanks to the foliage and trees appearing in the surroundings as well as the ray of sunlight!
3. Sinsun Waterfall
Located further down from where Uhwajeong Pavilion is, Sinsun Waterfall is a historical river bank where Japanese and Korean soldiers fought. Since the river is old, natural stones were stacked in efforts to reconstruct it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get to see the water flowing out on the day of the tour, but when it does, it just looks amazing!
Recommended Photo Spot:
*Sinsun Waterfall and Uhwajeong Pavilion: Because Uhwajeong Pavilion is visible behind the waterfall, it makes for the perfect photo as you can see it in its miniature form in the background behind the cascading waterfall!
Trazy’s Survival Tips – Know Before You Go!
*Wear comfortable shoes! I wore a pair of combat boots that were relatively comfortable, but sneakers would be better. Wear hiking shoes if you plan on trekking along the more challenging courses.*Skip the cable car or be prepared to waste a good two or three hours waiting. It’s much better to explore the paths by walking in that time.
*Stick to bibimbap if you’re not into foods that have strong seasonings or taste. The tour staff told us one of the tourists ordered a bean paste soup, but it turned out to have such a strong taste that was like ‘cheonggukjang’, a fermented soybean paste that has a pungent scent).
*Avoid weekends. If you head to the park on a Friday, there may be an increased amount of traffic when you head back in the evening. This is normal, though.
Review on ‘Korea Fall Foliage Small Group Tour’
Overall, I had a really great time at the park. I was dreading it at first since I am by no means an outdoorsy person, but it wasn’t bad at all! The trail was nice and easy to walk along and the weather was amazing. I captured so many amazing photos and got some exercise too.
I do kind of wish that I had visited earlier since the foliage is in full bloom during early November. Plus it had rained heavily the day before, making lots of leaves fall to the ground.
So, if you are thinking of joining the tour next year, check the weather forecast regularly and book your trip during the month of October.
At any rate, the Fall Foliage Small Group Tour was excellent since I was driven to and from the park by the tour staff. Since the tour is not guided, we were also free to explore the area on our own and be back at the parking lot at a designated time.
For those of you who have never been to Naejangsan National Park or other national parks across South Korea during fall, check out Trazy’s fall foliage tournext year and book in advance if you want to save your seats during the peak season!
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