Hiking Wolchulsan National Park
Wolchulsan National Park in the southwest part of South Korea is a beautiful and relatively small national park that was only given national park status back in 1988. With a few trails and lots of rocks, it’s the perfect place for all levels of hikers and makes for a perfect day trip up in the mountains of South Korea. The park itself is free to enter, with only a small fee to park if you decide to drive there.
How to get to Wolchulsan
Wolchulsan National Park is located in Jeollanam-do in the southwest corner of South Korea. More specifically, the park is located in Yeong-am Gun. There are various ways to get here, which I’ll detail out below.
The easiest way to get to Wolchulsan is by driving. If coming from Seoul though, expect a good 4 hour drive to get down here. By using the navigation device, you would just type in 천황탐방지원센터 which would lead you to the parking lot to the trail that most people take up the mountain. However, if you want to get to the trail that I detail out here, you could just type into your navigation device 영암여객자동차터미널. This leads you to the bus terminal for Yeong-am and will detail out how I got to the trail from here further on in the post.
To get to Wolchulsan National Park by bus, it will require at least a connection or two. If coming from Seoul or Daejeon, you will first want to get a bus to Gwangju. Once in Gwangju, hop on a bus to Yeongam. There are numerous buses throughout the day from Gwangju to Yeongam and these take around 75 minutes.
Getting to Wolchulsan by Train is one of the fastest ways to get there if you are near a KTX station. To get here by KTX, just get a train to Gwangju Songjeong Station. Outside the station near the parking lot is a small bus stop for the intercity buses leaving Gwangju. It is here that you can pick up a bus to Yeongam. Take note though, that as of writing this, there are only 3 buses a day that stop here on their way to Yeongam. Those times are:
So if you miss one of those, you are out of luck. So you would really have to time your train to one of those buses. If you don’t want to do this, then you could take the Gwangju subway from Songjeong Station to Gwangju U-Square Bus Terminal and from there get one of the more frequest buses to Yeong-am.
To get to the hike that I’ll describe in this post, it’s quite easy from the bus terminal in Yeongam. Just take a look at this map from Naver Maps for walking directions from the bus terminal. It’s quite simple and should take around 10-15 minutes to get you to the start of the path. You can find the walking directions here.
This trail is great because you can start right when you arrive in Yeongam without having to transfer to any other buses or taxis. In contrast to this, the most used trail starts at cheonhwang temple area and requires getting a taxi or bus to the temple area from Yeong-am.
The negative of this trail is that it isn’t as popular and I would say it’s on the more difficult side for trails and hiking here in Korea. The way gets a bit steep in sections, involves a lot of climbing over rather large boulders and there are quite a few steps and walkways to go over. However, with all this said, the way in incredibly beautiful and I felt like I had the trail to myself a lot of the time.
This park isn’t near as crowded as other National Parks in Korea, so I definitely recommend hiking here if you want the trail more to yourself.
From the start of the hike, it at first isn’t too difficult. You are gaining altitude but there aren’t too much in the way of rocks or stairs or hiking over boulders.
As you get higher though and further along the trail, the way gets a bit more difficult with more stairs, more rocks, and more steepness.
In fact, for the whole rest of the hike up to the summit, you encounter sections like above. It makes for really fun hiking though, because it’s a bit more challenging.
Also, the views along the way are well worth the effort it takes to hike this path. Especially in the fall time, the views of the changing tree colors are phenomenal.
Eventually you will reach a split in the trail. If you go to the left, you can go down to the cheonhwang temple. If you go to the right, you can continue up towards the summit.
As you continue up the mountain, you will reach another junction. At this junction, you will want to stay to the right to reach the summit of Wolchulsan. If you decide to go to the left you will either head down the mountain toward Gyeongpodae Valley or you could go towards the famous cloud bridge pictured below.
Finally, after climbing the last little section, you will reach the summit of Wolchulsan at 809M. The views from the top are truly spectacular and you will get a great view of the surroundings as there aren’t a lot of other mountains around. I recommend spending some time at the top to soak in the views. Also, good to get a rest here as the way down will be draining on your knees.
To head back down, it’s best to go back to the junction where it split towards the cloud bridge and the summit. You will start out heading toward the cloud bridge, but then the trail will split off again and you will take the path to the right again.
Of course, you could always go towards the cloud bridge if you wanted, but if you want to follow the way I took, then stay to the right. The way down is very straight forward and just a long slog down into the valley.
Once you reach the end of the trail, you will reach a parking lot at Gyeongpodae Valley and a ticketing booth for getting into the park. Public transportation isn’t very easy to find here though, so to get back to Yeongam to head back home, I got a call taxi to come and pick me up to take me to the bus station. This cost around 15,000KRW.
In total the hiking in Wolchulsan National Park took me about 4-5 hours total and was definitely worth it. Once at the summit, there are numerous other trails you can take and I definitely want to do the cloud bridge trail sometime.
Where to Stay in Yeongam
In this part of Korea, there aren’t a whole lot of places to stay. In Yeongam, you will find some motels, but I feel like for better and more options, I’d recommend to stay in Gwangju or Naju for the night. Gwangju being the better bet as there are more public transportation options to Yeongam and Wolchulsan National Park from there than from Naju. Feel free to use the form below to look for hotels in Gwangju from Booking.com
Other Tips for Wolchulsan National Park
- The best season for Wolchulsan and for a lot of National Parks in Korea is fall. This is when the leaves are changing and the air temperatures are mild to cool. It’s a great time to get out and enjoy the beauty of the parks. However, even during winter, these parks are beautiful, you just need to be prepared with spikes for your shoes in case of icy conditions.
- Some of the trails in Wolchulsan are rated as difficult. Know your limits before taking any trails. Feel free to ask around before hiking to see about the difficulty or consult the maps in the park to make sure it’s within your capabilities. Always carry enough water and it’s usually better to hike with someone in case you would sprain an ankle or get hurt.
If you have any other questions about Wolchulsan National Park and hiking here, please let us know in the comments!
Also, if you are interested in other places to hike in Korea, check out our article on Hiking Taebaeksan in Winter and Hiking Daedunsan Provincial Park.