Mountains that are Famous for Autumnal Leaves
in Gyeonggi-do Province
One of the best seasonal beauties of Korea among its four distinctive seasons is autumnal leaves. Autumn in Korea is the season of nature’s wonder when the color of the mountains changes to passionate red from the green of spring and summer. Autumn foliage is a phenomenon that affects the normally green leaves of trees; they take on various shades of red and yellow as they stop producing chlorophyll and generate other pigments in the cells such as anthocyanins, carotene, or xanthophyll. The first autumn foliage appears when 20% of the entire mountain’s leaves turn red and yellow on the trees from the summit. According to the Meteorological Administration, this year’s autumn foliage is predicted to appear three to four days earlier than the average year.
In Korea, autumn foliage begins in mid-October and reaches its peak at the end of October. Thus, in order to enjoy the autumn foliage fully without missing its peak, hiking is an essential outing in autumn. Since Korea boasts of many small and large mountains throughout the country, people can enjoy autumn colors at a relatively close distance. The following introduces mountains that are famous for their splendid autumn colors in Gyeonggi-do Province near the capital region:
♣ Myeongjisan Mountain [Gapyeong]
Myeongjisan Mountain is located between Buk-myeon and Ha-myeon in Gapyeong-gun, Gyeonggi-do. As a county park managed by Gapyeong-gun, it is the second highest mountain in Gyeonggi-do Province composed of various peaks including Nambong Peak, Gangssibong Peak, and Seungcheonbong Peak. Visitors can go to the mountain from Gapyeong Station of the Gyeongchun Railroad Line. Boasting of a colony of fir trees and oriental oaks on the ridge around the Myeongjeongsan Mountain, Myeongjisan Mountain exhibits diverse splendid landscapes — azaleas in spring, red autumnal colors of broad-leaved trees, and snowy ridge in winter. Although the mountain is relatively high, it has no rough and irregular features; thus, it is recommended for hiking beginners, too. It takes about five hours to go up to and descend from the mountain ridge.
Myeongjisan Mountain is popular as an autumnal hiking destination because of the splendid view of autumn colors harmonized with the long Gapyeongcheon Valley with abundant water and Myeongji Falls. “Myeongji autumn foliage,” selected as one of the Eight Scenic Views of Gapyeong, boasts of colorful and magnificent scenery. The peak season of Myeongji Autumn Foliage is October 16 – 20.
Address: Dodae-ri, Buk-myeon, Gapyeong-gun
Tel: Gapyeong-gun Office +82-31-582-0103 / Myeongjisan Mountain Park Management Office +82-31-582-0103
Homepage: Gapyeong Culture and Tourism http://www.gptour.go.kr
Transportation: Take the subway or ITX train in Seoul / Get off at Gapyeong Station / Transfer to a county bus no. 33-4 bound for Myeongjisan Mountain / Get off the bus at the entrance of Myeongjisan Mountain (takes 33 mins.)
Bus time: 08:35, 09:40, 10:30 in the morning
♣ Hwaaksan Mountain [Gapyeong]
As the highest peak in Gyeonggi-do Province, Hwaaksan Mountain is located at the fork dividing into Hwacheon-gun in Gangwon-do Province and Gapyeong-gun in Gyeonggi-do Province. With the 38th parallel line crossing on the summit of the mountain (1,468.3m), its highest peak is a restricted area. However, the 10km-long ridge of hiking trail connects Jungbong Peak, Aegibong Peak, and Sudeoksan Mountain.
Hwaaksan Mountain, facing Myeongjisan Mountain across Gapyeongcheon Valley, is about 20km away north from Gapyeong-eup and is considered the best among Gyeonggi-do’s five great mountains. The three peaks of the mountain — Hwaaksan Peak in the middle, Maebong Peak in the east, and Jungbong Peak in the west — are called Three Brothers’ Peaks. Hikers can enjoy a panoramic view of the areas of Gapyeong and Chuncheon from the main ridge of the mountain.
As the best destination for autumn colors, Hwaaksan Mountain is well known for Jomurak Valley between Seongnyongsan Mountain and Jungbong Peak of Hwaaksan Mountain. Jomurak Valley offers a picturesque view of autumn foliage blended with a long line of flowing water and rocks covered with green moss.
Address: Hwaak-ri, Buk-myeon, Gapyeong-gun, Gyeonggi-do/ Sam 1-2-ri, Sanae-myeon, Hwacheon-gun, Gangwon-do
Tel: Forest Management Division of Hwacheon-gun Office +82-33-440-2424
Transportation: Take a train bound for Chuncheon at Cheongnyangni Station / Get off at Gapyeong Station / Transfer to a county bus bound for Hwaak-ri
Bus time: 06:20, 08:35, 12:30, 17:00, and 19:40
♣ Yongmunsan Mountain [Yangpyeong]
Yongmunsan Mountain (1,157m) is located on the border between Yongmun-myeon and Okcheon-myeon in Yangpyeong-gun, Gyeonggi-do. As Gyeonggi-do’s fourth highest mountain following Hwaaksan Mountain, Myeongjisan Mountain, and Gungmangbong Peak, Yongmunsan Mountain features oddly formed rocks and stones as well as high and steep peaks. Although it is not easy to climb due to its height and roughness, Yongmunsan Mountain is visited by many people especially in autumn since it is home to the largest ginkgo tree (covering an area of 260m2, Natural Monument No. 30) in the East. In addition, the beautiful valley situated between rocks stretching from the summit boasts of magnificent autumnal scenery. In particular, Baegunbong Peak, a rock peak on the southern end of Yongmunsan Mountain, is also called Korea’s Matterhorn (Mountain) due to its high, pointy shape. The peak season of Yongmunsan Mountain’s autumn foliage is mid-October when the Danpung (Autumn Color) Festival is held around Yongmunsa Temple’s Ginkgo Tree.
Address: 519-2, Sinjeom-ri, Yongmun-myeon, Yangpyeong-gun, Gyeonggi-do
Tel: Yongmunsan Mountain Management Office +82-31-773-0088
Homepage: Yangpyeong Culture and Tourism http://tour.yp21.net
Transportation: Take a train on the Jungang Railroad Line or a Mugunghwa train at Cheongnyangni Station and get off at Yongmun Station / Transfer to a bus bound for Yongmunsan Mountain at Yongmun Bus Terminal and get off at Yongmunsan Mountain Station (takes about 1 hour)
♣ Soyosan Mountain [Dongducheon-si]
Located on the border between Dongducheon-si and Sinbuk-myeon, Pocheon-si in Gyeonggi-do Province, Soyosan Mountain is famous not only for the splendidness of the mountain but also as a sacred Buddhist site, since Jajaeam Hermitage — where the Great Monk Wonhyo of the Silla Dynasty practiced asceticism — is also situated here. There is also a legend about Monk Wonhyo and Princess Yoseok and their love story.
Soyosan Mountain (meaning “walking”) got its name from the legend of Seo Gyeong-deok, Yang Sa-eon, and Kim Si-seup, famous Joseon Dynasty scholars who enjoyed walking on this mountain. It is also called minor Geumgangsan Mountain by hikers for its magnificent scenery along with the valley and waterfalls. If hikers find it difficult to get to the summit, walking up to Jajaeam Hermitage, the great temple situated on the mountain’s breast, is recommended; the ridge has a gentle slope to the top. Soyosan Mountain offers beautiful scenery from April with its spectacular azaleas to the end of October with its autumn colors.
Soyo Maple Culture Festival is held around the end of October every year; this 2015, it takes place from October 24 to 25. The festival provides various experience events and traditional performances such as poetry writing, traditional Korean Bongsan Mask Dance, and Korean classical music performance.
Address: 145, Pyeonghwa-ro 2910 beon-gil, Dongducheon-si, Gyeonggi-do
Tel: Soyosan Mountain Tourism Support Center +82-31-860-2065
Business hours: 08:00-18:00
Homepage: Dongducheon Culture and Tourism http://www.ddc21.net
Transportation: Walk straight for five minutes from Soyosan Mountain Station (Subway Line 1) to get to the entrance of the mountain.
♣ Gamaksan Mountain [Paju]
The mountain’s name, “Gamak (meaning large, dark blue mountain),” comes from the tale of the mountain rocks showing tinges of black and blue. The mountain (675m), which is seen from everywhere in Jeokseong-myeon, Paju-si, consists of rock peaks and cliffs although it appears gentle in the distance. Gamaksan Mountain is also regarded as one of Gyeonggi-do’s five great mountains following Mt. Hwaaksan in Gapyeong, Mt. Songaksan in Gaeseong, Mt. Gwanaksan in Gwacheon, and Mt. Unaksan in Pocheon. Situated between Seoul and Gaesong, Gamaksan Mountain offers views of Mt. Songaksan in Gaeseong, Mt. Bukhansan in Seoul, and Mt. Soyosan in Dongducheon when the weather is clear.
Beomnyunsa Temple and Ungye Falls are located on the west foot of the mountain. The cave where famous Joseon Dynasty outlaw Im Kkeok-jeong sought refuge from the authorities is situated right under Janggunbong Peak. As a Korean War battlefield, the Korean War Memorial for British Veterans stands at the entrance of the Seolma Valley of the mountain; thus, hiking on the mountain was prohibited. Considered “the mountain of spirit,” the mountain is visited by hiking clubs throughout the country to have a ritual for the mountain spirit in spring. In addition, since the Gamaksan Maple Festival takes place every October, the mountain is frequented by tourists for its beautiful autumn colors throughout the country.
Address: 48, Gamgol-gil, Jeokseong-myeon, Paju-si / Nam-myeon, Yangju-si / Jeongok-eup, Yeoncheon-gun, Gyeonggi-do
Tel: Forest and Farmland Division +82-31-940-4626
Homepage: Paju Culture and Tourism http://tour.paju.go.kr
Transportation: Get off the subway at Dongducheon Station (Subway Line 1) / Transfer to a bus no. 25 bound for Eoyuji in Jeogam-ri / Get off at Beomnyunsa Temple2