Hiking getaway: Songnisan National Park

Songnisan National Park

Songnisan National Park is located in the Chungcheonbuk-do/province of Korea. It is where three valleys meet up with Mt Songnisan in the middle of the Sobaeksanmaek Mountain range. The Park itself is quite large and has 11 temples and several waterfalls. It’s a popular family picnic spot and a favorite amongst hikers. It contains several low-impact hiking routes, as well as numerous serious mountain hiking trails.

Directions 
1)From Dong Seoul Bus Terminal, take an intercity bus to Songnisan Mt. (속리산).
* Bus schedule: 07:30-18:30, runs 12 times a day

2)From Cheongju (청주) Intercity Bus Terminal, take an intercity bus to Songnisan Mt.
* Bus schedule: 06:50-21:30, runs 26 times a day

3) Driving: Type in: 속리산국립공원-충북. Alternatively, search via the phone number +82-43-542-5267. Parking is available for a fee of 2000Won for a small car and 5000Won for a Sedan/SUV.

Where to stay

For such a small place there’s an abundance of options. You can sleep in a Love Motel (there’s several), a pension, a hostel or in a regular hotel.

Here are some links for booking accommodation:

Trivago Songnisan Accommodation

Lonely Planet Songnisan Accommodation

Viva Hotel and Pension Songnisan (Pronounced BIBA in Korean)

What to do

  • Visit the temples (there are 11 temples in the Songnisan Mountain)
  • Do a temple stay (Very popular guided temple stay at Beopjusa Temple)
  • See the Lotus Blossoms in full bloom (early July)
  • Buy traditional snacks from the street vendors
  • Drink homebrewed Makgeolli
  • Eat Pajeon (Korean Pancake)
  • Buy traditional wares from the curios stores in the main road (Great for souvenirs/gifts for the people back home).
  • Take 10’s of 1000’s of photos
  • Eat Bingsu (shaved ice topped with fruit, rice cakes or red beans) at a mountain rest stop
  • Hike, hike and hike some more

The Photos

The phases of bloom- Lotus Flower. Enjoy a walk along the lotus fields when they are in full bloom (early July).

Pajeon and Makgeolli are traditionally enjoyed after a hike. You can get this from many restaurants on the main road, or at most of the resting places found along the hiking trail in Songnisan Park.

A typical storefront on the main road. Most Restaurants serve Makgeolli and Pajeon, look for the Makgeolli pots and Pajeon grills outside of the store. Don’t settle for bottled Makgeolli, and try to drink it at different places, since it’s home made it will all be in different phases of the brewing process and every batch will be unique.

Entering Songnisan Park costs 4000Won per person (adult). I would recommend that you plan your route before entering to make sure you have enough time to finish it. Keep in mind that most of the hiking trail is underneath trees and that it tends to get dark sooner than you realize. If you’re planning a major hike, go in at 10h00 when the gates open.

Do not underestimate the hike. It’s pretty steep up most places, and as you can see from our faces above- it got a bit rough at stages. Listen to your body and take a break when you need to. It was also raining on our second hiking day, we were soaked and the climb was extra difficult since most of the rocky pathways changed into mini waterfalls.

Don’t be shy with the camera. You will be surrounded by Koreans taking photos. A fast way to make friends is asking somebody if they can take a picture of you or vice versa.

Photos were taken at Sanghwan-am temple (about 800m uphill hike after the second resting place on the waterfall route), Beopjusa Temple (the first temple after entering the gates, also the biggest with multiple Buddha statues and the Hall of 1000 Buddhas) and lastly at Sanggoam Temple (about 300m hike by road, behind resting place 2).

The ridiculous hike to Munchangdae Peak. We were not planning on hiking at all. We just wanted to go eat some Bingsu at resting place two and maybe chill at the Waterfall for a while. Then we got some inspiration and decided to climb the highest peak of Songnisan Mountain. Notice that I’m wearing a dress and that both of us had a pretty bad sunburn. Given that, the very steep climb and the fact that I suffer from Acrophobia- it wasn’t surprising at all that I broke down into tears when we reached the top. The view is breathtaking, and this is easily one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen in Korea.

Victory! On our way down we stopped at a resting place to celebrate with Makgeolli and Pajeon. The lady also served us with Yulmul, a sweet milky tea brewed from Job’s tears. It’s a new favorite of mine- but apparently, it’s not good men since it affects fertility. It revitalized us and helped with the rest of the hike down.  We checked our stats and it turned out the hike tallied up to 217 sets of stairs and we walked a total of 20.79 km from our car and back. Not a bad day at all.

 

As I’m writing this I’m thinking that there’s so many pictures and memories made over this short weekend getaway- sharing it will take ages and will probably be interesting to only me. My body is aching all over, and I feel like I have the skin of a 70year old, but it was worth every second of it. I highly recommend Songnisan for a weekend getaway, it’s good for the body and the soul.

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