Hiking Taebaeksan in Winter:
Taebaeksan National Park during the Winter in Gangwondo, is one of the must do experiences if you have time during your trip or stay in South Korea. Known for it’s snow flowers, called 눈꽃 in Korean, it’s what they call the trees and plants when they are covered in frost and snow and look like flowers.
How to Get to Taebaek
Getting to Taebaek which is in Gangwondo province isn’t the easiest place to get to in South Korea. Located far up in the northeast part of the country, this area doesn’t have quite the same infrastructure as other parts of South Korea. Taebaek is the town to base yourself for a hike into Taebaeksan National Park
I was travelling from Daejeon, so I decided to use the train to get there. The town of Taebaek has its own train station, so I used slow mugunghwa trains to get there. I first took a train from Daejeon Station to Jecheon, and then from Jecheon I took another train to the town of Taebaek. In total it takes about 4 to 4.5 hours to get there. The scenery is really nice though and the train seats are quite comfortable for the duration of the trip.
There are buses to Taebaek as well from quite a few of the large Korean cities, so you could always take that route as well. It will still take quite a bit of time to get there though as the area around Taebaek is deep in the mountains.
Most people will use the day to travel to the town of Taebaek and then stay overnight there, before waking up early to start their hike to Taebaeksan summit. It’s best to start around 2-3am, so you can get to the summit just in time for sunrise. It’s a magical time to be there and I highly recommend this way. You can book a train to Taebaek from the Korail Website.
Hiking Taebaeksan In Winter
As I said earlier, it’s best to start your hike to the top of Taebaeksan while it’s still dark. That way, you get to the summit for sunrise which is spectacular.
So, to do this, I first got a taxi from my hotel around 3am and asked the driver to take me to yuilsa ticket booth (유일사매표소). This is the start of a trail that makes a pretty direct path to the summit of Taebaeksan. You can see a map below of where this is, so you could show it to a taxi driver if you wanted.
From Yuilsa, you start the hike up the mountain. It’s best to put on your crampons or spikes at this point as they have good facilities at the Yuilsa ticket booth and from here on out, if it’s winter time, there will likely be a lot of packed snow and some icy spots along the trail.
As you start out, it’s not too difficult of a trail with just some steeper sections that aren’t to hard to figure out. Eventually you will pass the Yuil Temple and continue your way up the mountain. As you get higher up, you will start to get some amazing views of the valley and also the skies.
The fact that this area is in Gangwondo, which is one of the least populated areas of South Korea, it means that there are plenty of stars in the sky. So take some time and enjoy seeing the stars. It was here that I noticed a group of people setting up their tripods and taking some pictures of the stars, so I decided to as well and took my star trail photo from above.
Slowly dawn started to break and the skies started to brighten up. I was still about 20-30 minutes from the summit, so I decided to continue on to the summit to catch the rising sun.
As I got closer and closer to the summit, a whole new world opened up to me as the views got better and I got a more panoramic perspective of my surroundings. All around were rows and rows of mountains and with sunrise approaching, the land started to light up.
I finally reached the summit where there Cheonjedan which are shamanist altars which make for an interesting scene as well. It was still before sunrise though, so during this time I took some pictures of the incredible surroundings and the sky turning color before the sunrise.
As the summit of Taebaeksan is at 1460M, you get a nice perspective of the other mountains around you as this is one of the higher locations in Gangwondo.
Finally, after waiting in the cold for about 25 minutes, the sun finally broke through the horizon and started to light up the landscape in a nice warm light.
I stayed at the summit to take in a bit more of the sunrise, before starting to make my way back down into town.
The way down wasn’t too bad and took about 2 hours from what I recall. On the way down, the views were still spectacular and made you feel like you were in a winter wonderland. One of the first sections you will pass on your way down is a temple called Manggyeongsa (망경사). This Buddhist temple looks beautiful in the snow.
From here, it was a nice hike down through the woods, where I was the only person there. A perfect silence and time to enjoy my surroundings.
Finally, my hike had finished as I walked through the leftover snow sculptures from the Taebaeksan Snow festival near Cheongwonsa (청원사) temple.
Where to Stay in Taebaek
In the town of Taebaek, there are many places to stay. For myself, I stayed in a cheap hotel that I found on booking.com There are a full range of places to stay though and I encourage you to use the search form below to find accomodations in Taebaek.
Tips for Hiking Taebaeksan in Winter
- This area does have wild pigs. However, as long as you are in a group of people or hiking with other people, the chances of coming upon one of these is not very likely. Just be sure to be aware of your surroundings.
- It’s very cold during the winter, so be sure to pack and wear warm clothes. Best option is to wear layers, so if you get warm during your hike you can remove layers and then if you get cold again, you can put them back on.
- Best time to hike for winter is during January and February. This is your best bet to see the snow flowers and have a good base of snow at your feet. Don’t forget to pack crampons or snow spikes for your boots as without it, the hike would be very difficult.
- Other times of the year are equally beautiful as during the spring there are azaleas, and during the fall you can witness the fall colors of Taebaeksan.
- If you are looking for a slightly warmer place to go during the winter while in South Korea, check out our article on 5 things to do while in Geoje. Being in the southern part of Korea, it’s a bit warmer during the winter time.
I hope you enjoyed this article about Hiking Taebaeksan in Winter. If you have any comments or questions, please let us know in the section below!