On my most recent trip to South Korea, I found myself in a village at the foothills of Taebaek Mountains. An ‘apple town’, Juwangsan is one of those magically scenic mountain villages you always see imagery of, depicting beautifully carved mountain peaks with lush autumn foliage, and of course hikers, huffing and puffing their way up and over. And in the case of South Korea, also taking copious amounts of selfies! I have to admit to taking a couple myself!
Mount Juwangsan is South Korea’s smallest national park and at 721m is walkable by many, however don’t let its low vertiginous slopes fool you. The trails are steep, rocky and dusty. The stairs, where they exist, just keep going up and up and up and up.
For respites while hiking through Juwangsan national park, you may come across caves, interesting rock features, waterfalls, hermitages and temples. Wandering through the many trails you will soon discover the temples, with music echoing throughout the forest.
One of the most impressive sights you may witness while exploring this national park is the giant reflective pool, better known as Jusanji. This lake is a long hike or shorter drive through apple orchards from the main entrance to Juwangsan. Getting here early is the key. I mean early, before the sun has time to hit the frost on the ground and thaw out the vegetation.
When you arrive at Jirisan, you will be met with a short walk to the lake where there will already be copious amounts of photographers, tripods set up and fingers at the ready. But then you witness the dancing of the smoke. As the sun hits the slopes of the valley you watch as the mist over the water dances with the warming breeze.