Korean Trails

Over the Mountain, is a Mountain

Juwang-san 주왕산 (720m)
Nakdong-jeongmaek Ridge, Cheongseong-gun county (west), Yeongdeok-gun county (east), Gyeongsangbuk-do 

Daejeon-sa, the major temple of Juwang-san, stands beneath the impressive Gi-am cliffs, the gateway to the Jubang Valley and mountain trails of the western side of the park.

 

 Located in the lonely countryside of Cheongseong and Yeongdeok counties in south east Gyeongsangbuk-do, Juwang-san is one of the most remote mountain National Parks in Korea, and one of only two (along with Gaya-san) located east of the central dividing range, the Baekdu-daegan.

Situated centrally on the Nakdong-jeongmaek range, Juwang-san is the only National Park located on this great ridge line stretching some 500km from the ocean in the south east to Taebaek in Gangwon province, and is quite a unique mountain system for mainland Korea, rising dramatically and vastly different in appearance to the surrounding mountainscape. It's ridges are shaped with huge rounded domes; volcanic tuffs of ignimbrite that erupted to shape some 70 million years ago the famous tops and valley rocks the park is famous for today.


The peaks of Juwang form a west facing horseshoe around one of the most spectacular gorges in Korea, the Jubang-gyegok, which flows through the mountain to Daejeon-sa temple, before opening into Cheongseong-gun and joining tributaries of the Nakdong river north-west into Andong. Jubang Valley is strewn with famous waterfalls which carve through tall, dramatic rocky outcrops amongst a vibrant forest of maple and pine, and hafs a relatively flat trail which sees a lot of traffic, particularly in the autumn months when the forest here really comes alive - pedestrian traffic jams are not unknown during the peak weekends of the Autumnal "Danpung" season .

The name Juwang-san could have come from two separate Kings, and there are two stories of two Ju's who both spent time in these hills.

In the Silla dynasty, Kim Ju-won was in line to inherit the throne from the then King Seondeok, but Kim Gyeongshin revolted against him and was placed on the throne. Kim Ju-won fled to Juwang-san, which at the time was referred to as Seokbyeong-san.

The second story is more compelling. A chinese "King Ju" fled from his homeland when it was taken over during the Dang dynasty. He, along with his daughter and loyalists, came to Juwang-san and tried to rebuildtheir kigdom here. Dang Dynasty rulers asked Silla to flush out "King Ju", and his stonghold was attacked by General Ma and his soldiers. He built impressive fortress walls which still stand in places, and created dramatic illusions that he was supported by a huge army within the deep valley. Juwang and his daughter were killed here, but there is clearly much respect for the pair, and their legacy remains in the names and stories of the area.

Facing west, the main entrance into Juwang-san is from Daejeon-sa temple, from where trails run along the southern ridge to Juwang-san proper, and the northern ridge to Janggun-bong, as well as up the central valley. It is possible in a day to walk a loop of the north and southern ridges, but this would mean bypassing the Juwang Valley - unthinkable if only in the area for one hike. It's common to make a loop of either the northern or southern ridge and walking down or up the valley.

The southern ridge is the more popular trail, and the best of the two view-wise. I will describe this circuit, as highlighted in yellow on the map below.

Circuit Trail from Daejeon-sa temple over Juwang-san to Hurimegi Junction, returning down Jubang gorge via Haksodae rocks. 9km minimum / 4hours

 

 

 

The bus station and car park are both located alongside the Juwang stream, at the beginning of Juwang village some 1km downstream from Daejeon-sa.

Continuing up the road from the car park, you'll pass through the vibrant Juwang Village, an awesome strip of excellent restaurants, accommodations, fresh and dried mountain products, home-made Juwang alcohol and the usual tat for sale at a busy park entrance (left) before reaching the ticket booth just before Daejeon-sa temple and it's nearby hermitage Baengnyeon-am. 

 


Daejeon-sa stands below the awesome cliffs of Giam, one of the most prominent volcanic tuffs of the mountain, rising like a huge tombstone above the valley and creating a grand entrance to the park. It is said that during the battle between the beleaguered King Ju and the advancing General Ma, that the Ju-wang ordered huge piles of rice straw to be piled on the rocks of Giam, to give Ma the false impression that this was a stockpile of military provisions. It didn't work. After capturing the site, Ma raised his General Flag, Daejang-gi, on these rocks, which have since come to be known as Giam, the flag rock.


 Passing through Daejeon-sa the road becomes unpaved, and there are a couple of options for the hiker. To the left a trail heads to Baengnyeon-am, a hermitage of Daejeon-sa named for Juwang's daughter. From here a bridge crosses the river and heads north to Junggang-bong and then east above the gorge, meeting the main valley trail at the upper famous waterfall "Je-sam-pokpo" - a 7.2km, 3.5hr hike.

For our circuit trail of Juwang-san and the Jubang Valley, turn right out of Daejeon-sa to the Giam-gyo bridge, the start and end point of the circuit. Which on this page we'll walk anti-clockwise.

Giam-gyo - Juwang-san - Falls junction - 5.5km / 2hr40min

 

While Giam-gyo crosses the river into the epic Jubang Valley, our trail leaves the wide trail and heads into the forest on the southern side of the river for the 2km walk to Juwang-san, climbing steeply soon after along a series of staircases into the zone of the rocky tuffs.


Views are awesome across the valley to the northern cliffs, and a couple of well made viewing platforms are in place to enjoy them.

Once the initial and quite steep climb is over, the trail sticks to the rocky ridge heading east to the peak of Juwang-san. The path is a good one, but in a couple of spots a bit of scrambling is required over some large rocky obstacles, nothing to be worried about so long as your limbs can handle a good stretch.


Rocky trails generally mean open ridges, and as we get higher to the peak views open up over the southern countryside for a time, enjoy it while you can, because these will be the last expansive views of the hike, as soon after the trail heads back into the forest for the climb to Juwang-san, a peak completely enclosed by trees. 

Looking west from above the valley, with Juwang-san (right) and Ga-me-bong in background.

 At 721, Juwang-san is over 100m shorter than the tallest peak in the park, Game-bong, some 5km to the east on the high back ridge, but is the dominant central peak of this historic western valley region, and therefore commands the name of the park itself. The peak is celebrated by a large stone stele, and has a large cleared area amongst the trees for resting and picnicking.


From Juwang-san our trail continues west, maintaining good height for about 500 metres, before turning north, descending through a thick forest a further two kilometres to Hurimeg-samgeori, a three way junction in a thin gorge, where a trail runs east to Game-bong and west to meet the upper Jubang valley.


If you wish to complete a longer circuit, and climb to Game-bong, turn right at this junction to Game-bong (2.6km). From Game-bong walk north off the mountain 1.7km down to Keun-gol, in the upper reaches of Jubang-cheon, from here follow the wide stream trail down through former farm and village land just over 2km to Sam-pokpo (third waterfall) 


 Turning left at Huri-megi junction, our path heads north-west along the narrow gorge trail to meet the main Jubang Valley Trail. Along the way you'll pass the 2nd of Juwang-san's famous falls "2pokpo", the least impressive of the three, but still worth a look-see. We meet the main Juwang trail about 300metres downstream from "3pokpo"


It's worth heading up to the 3rd falls, which run off a large granite slab into a crystal clear pool. For those with further energy I'd highly recommend heading further up the valley, turning right after the falls on the trail which eventually leads to Game-bong. Here, in the upper reaches of the Jubang-cheon, the valley opens into wide fields, which was once farmed. Until 2005/06 this was a small village area, who's residents were proudly off the electrical grid, and along with farming ran some groovy little restaurants and rest areas. Those are now gone from the park, but there is one which still opens occasionally when foot traffic is high. Regardless it's a nice stroll up this end of the valley, there is no climbing, and some great places to picnic in the grass or along the stream.

Hakso-dae, a truly awesome section of the Jubang Valley

 

 Heading downstream from the third waterfall, the valley widens, with sweeping views up along the impressive rock formations above.The trail is virtually flat, with only a slight downward slope, there is good resting by the river, and a toilet block 500metres down from the falls.


Just over a kilometre from 3pokpo the trail narrows into Hakso-dae, an impressive, dramatic section of trail where the rock walls of either side of the gorge almost touch, resembling stern faces divided by the deepening stream roaring it's way through the middle. A well designed boardwalk rests on the chins of these rocks, passing over 2pokpo, a powerful spout spilling into Hakso-dae at it's narrowest point.

In the shadow of the granite cliffs the pools here are the deepest green, unfortunately my mid-winter photos don't quite do this place justice! 


Legend tells of a Blue and White crane who built their nest high on the rocks of Hakso-dae. Sadly the white crane was killed by a hunter, but the blue crane remained, crying mournfully for it's mate before suddenly disappearing without a trace. Their nest is said to remain, and is now part of the rocks, forever awaiting the return of it's masters.


This area of the trail is prone to rockfall, and although the trail is covered in the places deemed most vulnerable, it's a good idea to keep an eye and ear open within this gorge, there are apparently little rocks falling down with some regularity!


Just out of Hakso-dae there is an option to cross the river to explore the sites of the southern side of the gorge, the beautiful small temple of Juwang-am, Juwang-gul cave where it is said King Juwang and his daughter perished, and Mujang-gul cave. This is a worthy detour that will add little more than a kilometre onto your journey. This side trail will again cross the river to rejoin the main trail some 800 metres downstream from Hakso-dae.

Siru-bong


 From Hakso-dae the trail continues it's wide easy way along the river. It really is a good path, wide and easy, for any parents out there this is a really good option for a push chair jaunt, it's also a great path to jog. We pass a junction for the small Yeonhwa cave on the right, before reaching Jaha-gyo bridge, where there is another toilet block.

Overlooking the trail at Jaha-gyo stands Siru-bong, a massive rock, with a very human face, particularly from the western (bridge side), as pictured. From the east he's said to resemble an earthenware steamer, which is where the name "siru" comes from.

Baengnyeon-am



 Crossing Jaha-gyo it's a stroll of less than 1.5km back to Daejeon-sa and Baengnyeon-am (left), and the top of the tourist village for an awesome feed.

As you might imagine this western valley area represents a very small section of Juwang-san National Park, which in it's entirety covers well over 100km2.


There are other entrances and other trails, all worthy and some very beautiful, which I will cover on this page in future. The most notable other entrances being Jusan-ji, the famous ancient dam-lake in the south of the park, and Dalgi-yeoksu-tang spring and valley behing Cheongseong town in the north-west.


Pictured below, Jusan-ji is often the first image many people will see of Juwang-san, and it's well worth a visit, but hiking is limited from this side, with trails up into the park closed from behind Jusanji pond, which is only a kilometre from the carpark.


Jusan-ji, the setting of the well known and liked Kim Gi-deok film "Spring, summer, autumn, winter, spring" can be a pretty average place to visit to be honest, it's history is interesting, but if water levels are low it's not much to look at.


Best time is around sunrise when you can get mist rising off the water and between its submerged trees, and in the fall as in the awesome picture below by Robert J. Koehler, in Seoul Magazine 2010.

 

Getting to the mountain

 By Road - from National Highway 31 turn east onto Provincial Raod 914 south of Cheongseong-gun township, the park entrance is well marked from here.


By Bus

- From Daegu's Dongbu Terminal (near Dongdaegu) buses run directly to Juwang-san 7 times daily at:  07:40, 09:10, 10:10, 11:10, 13:15, 16:30, and 15:40. Its a 2hr30min ride.

- From Dong-Seoul terminal to Juwang-san:  06:30, 08:40, 10:20, 12:00, 15:10, 16:40

- From Cheonsong Township: 07:25-19:10, 22 times a day


 Below: Jusanji,