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Autumn in Seoul 2019: Stunning Seoraksan (Part II) & Hongcheon Gingko Forest

This post continues my visual diary of our trip to the gorgeous Seoraksan National Park; then ends with a stop at a place that looks like it climbed out of a fairytale called the Hongcheon Gingko Forest. I’ll just jump right in then!


If there was ever an advantage to going with Klook or KKDay on a trip like this one, you’ll definitely feel it when it comes to buying tickets for the Seorak Cable Car. The tickets sell out so fast even our KKDay tour leader seemed harried by the undertaking. It was the first place she ran off to the moment she gave us instructions to meet outside the cable car docking area at a certain hour. The tickets can only be bought on the day and indicate what time you will be allowed to get on the the cable cars.

While the cable cars can fit about 50 people at once and run every 5+ minutes, the number of visitors that come to Seoraksan during autumn season is no joke. If you don’t secure tickets right away you might end up waiting 2 to 3 hours just to do so, and that would be a great way to put a damper on your trip. 

The cable car ride offers up some amazing views in itself, and while you’re looking out from the inside, you start wishing for two things: 1) That you could have the cable car all to yourself so you can walk around and see the park from all angles up top, 2) That the ride lasted more than 10 minutes.

Nonetheless, getting to the other side is really where the highlight is at. Because we were on a tight schedule, we only had time to visit one specific hiking trail, and it’s one that’s rather well-laden. If you’re an inexperienced hiker, have no fear! I wouldn’t say that the rocky uneven stairs and paths are easy to climb but they’re not as difficult as they could be either. A lot of senior citizens make the trek up to the peak through this path with no issues!

Being in the thick of a forest is an incredible experience. I don’t know if it’s weird to say this, but I remember having the same sentiment when I went to Muir Woods in California. Maybe it’s the city girl in me finding something new in this environment, but I love being surrounded by tall trees, weirdly enough. It’s another one of those things that I like but cannot explain.

I mean I obviously wouldn’t want to get lost in the actual woods, but on a trail like this where I can identify the way back and forward, I like the feeling of having all these trees surrounding me. 

There are so many different types of trees here. Sometimes, even the way the branches are positioned creates such an interesting picture. And the thing is, since you’ll be coming down the same way you went up, you’ll get to appreciate the view in reverse too, and it’s a totally new experience!

There’s a lot of opportunities to snap photos, and heck, you can literally just stand by the rails and stare out into the distance if you want! I personally took some time to appreciate all the different shapes and hues of the leaves around me. I love watching the maple leaves blow in the breeze, and I love stepping on the crunchy leaves that have fallen on the ground lol. They make such a nice sound.

When you reach the summit, you’ll arrive at a rocky hill that seems strangely bald compared to where you just came from. This is Gwongeumseong Peak.

Apparently, a fortress had been built in this spot during the Goryeo period. Since that point in history was way back during the 13th century, it’s understandable that there’s pretty much nothing that remains of that fortress except this vast empty space that marks where it presumably once stood. You’ll have to count on your imagination for everything else.

Since there is no fortress, visitors are free to climb all the way to the highest point to get a bird’e eye view of the Seoraksan National Park. By the way, it seems that picnicking is allowed up here. What’s not allowed is stepping too close to the cliff-edge. There are guards posted up here that keep a very close eye on visitors who dare to overstep. 

There are various other hiking trails here at Seoraksan which I am sad to say we did not get to explore. There’s a trail that leads to a waterfall and another that leads to a famous rock formation. Neither of them we had time to visit, but both of them I fully intend to hike to in the future. My resolve to explore Gangwon-do only grows when I think about the things I missed here at Seoraksan, but that’s just an excuse to plan another visit here really.

I can’t stress enough how lovely this place is. 

At the cable car station, there is a little food store and a terrace that allows people to have some snacks while enjoying the view. Looking from a distance is not anywhere as great as actually being in the trail, but it’s pretty enough. 

Despite my complaint, I’d happily sear this last snapshot-look of Seoraksan National Park in my brain before I go:

Hongcheon Gingko Forest

While Seoraksan is impressive in a massive way, there is a little hidden location about 30 minutes away. It is, as I mentioned, something that seems out of a fairytale. Nestled at the foot of Odaesan in Gangwon Province is a private strip of land called Hongcheon Gingko Forest. Yes, it is private, but the owner opens it to the public in October so everyone can enjoy the gingko trees in their full glory.

To get to the Hongcheon Gingko Forest itself, you must first walk through part of the Odaesan’s grounds. It’s a very very pleasant walk, let me just say. Autumn foliage is love.

If you follow the path, it will soon open up to a world of yellow gingko trees, lined up in neat rows. If there’s one word I would use to describe the Hongcheon Gingko Forest, I think I would choose “romantic”. It’s like a place out of a movie, and if you hear the story of this place, you’ll probably agree that it is indeed romantic.

The Hongcheon Ginkgo Forest is, as I mentioned, private property. It started out as a personal project of one man who settled down in this area with his wife in 1985. He moved to the foot of Odaesan with his wife, who had been suffering from chronic indigestion for a long time, when he heard that there were mineral waters in the area that had medicinal properties that could help. He began planting gingko trees then, presumably to help enrich the soil, and 30 years later, the Hongncheon Gingko Forest is home to over 2,000 gingko trees, maintained by the same man who planted the seedlings so long ago.

Where does one find a husband who would plant 2,000 trees for you in hopes it would improve your health?

Anyway, I was totally unprepared for the imagery this sight projected. I kept glancing around and wondering if a filming crew was around. It just seems like such a surreal place. After snapping out of my daze I had tons of pics taken.

Did you guys know that gingko trees have an undetermined life span? A 300-year old gingko tree is apparently considered young! They can shed all their leaves but remain standing tall for thousands of years, regrowing and shedding until the end of time lol. That’s pretty amazing. If gingko trees in historical locations could talk, they’d probably gossip about who did what across dynasties.

Just in case you find yourself hungry after a full day of basking in autumn foliage, there are food vendors inside and outside the Odaesan Park proper. We didn’t buy anything but it was interesting to see what they were selling. I spotted some really great-looking fresh veggies aside from local sticky rice snacks.

To see what else we were up to in Seoul in October 2019, check out this video:

Other posts in the SEOUL AUTUMN 2019 SERIES:


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