Hike Korea’s Maple Leaf Paradise: Naejangsan National Park in Autumn

If you’ve missed the window to book a trip to Korea’s fall foliage in the mountains this October, it’s not too late! Head to Naejangsan National Park, one of the top national parks to visit during autumn in South Korea. Naejangsan’s much-awaited ‘red carpet event’ is the last to take place among major South Korea mountains, with a peak around November 8. 

Discover mountain landscapes, stunning waterfalls, and temples are cloaked in autumnal beauty. The riot of color created by fall foliage makes it perfect for hiking, drinking, and festivities!

Despite the heavier-than-usual crowds, you’ll witness the gorgeous autumn scenery and join in the authentic, local experience. We’re talking pools of leaves in the deepest shades of crimson. Bewitching woods along the ridge. Monks performing pop songs in front of crowds, who are in turn, are drinking lots of makgeolli (rice wine).

Grab the chance this 2018 to take part in this Korea national park autumn experience you’d never forget. We’ll let you in on expert tips, from picture-perfect photography spots to hiking routes and more!

Journey through the glorious autumn colors of Naejangsan National Park:

(image via Shutterstock)
Naejangsan National Park (image via Shutterstock)

How to get to Naejangsan National Park

Home to Mount Naejang, Naejangsan is in Jeolla-do Province, located near Jeongeup City. Even though it’s quite far from Seoul (a 3.5 hour drive covering 230 km), Naejangsan is easily accessible via KTX.

Depart from Seoul

Board the KTX from Yongsan Station to Jeongeup Station, then take a local bus to get to Jeonju.

From Jeonju City, ride a bus to Naejangsan National Park.

Pro-tip: Fall is a peak season in Korea, so you need to book your tickets fast!

  • Schedule: Check the departure time and purchase train tickets as early as 1 month before your trip here
  • Cost: ~₩40,000

Easy option: Get round-trip transportation by booking the Naejangsan National Park Day Tour

Upon entering Naejangsan, you will need to pay a small entrance fee of ₩3,000 (cash only!)

Map of Naejangsan National Park (image via Klimbing Korean Mountains, WordPress)
Map of Naejangsan National Park (image via Klimbing Korean Mountains, WordPress)

Things to do aside from hiking

Places to stay and eat

(image via Shutterstock)

If you’re looking to spend the night near the area, look no further than Jeonju Hanok Village. This Joseon-era village boasts over 800 traditional houses called ‘hanoks’. The Jeonju International FIlm Festival has also brought fame to this ancient village.

Drop by PNB and taste the famous bakery’s choco pie (1,500). Have some extra time? Dress up in a hanbok and enjoy a dramatic photoshoot at the heart of traditional Korea. We recommend staying at Airbnbs and hostels inside the Jeonju Hanok Village.

Taste persimmons fresh from the mountain! (image via Chelsea Marie Hicks, Flickr)
Taste persimmons fresh from the mountain! (image via Chelsea Marie Hicks, Flickr)

Should you get peckish during your hike within Naejangsan National Park, there are a lot of eateries around. Sample bibimbap, persimmons, and seafood pancakes on your way to Naejangsan Temple.

Ride a cable car to Yeonjabong Peak Observatory

Start your hike with a quick cable car ride! (image via Shutterstock)
Start your hike with a quick cable car ride! (image via Shutterstock)

You can ride at an additional cost, you can ride the cable car 0.5 km up the side of the mountain. If the lines are long, the cable car is totally skippable. But should you feel lazy, or have tired companions, you’ve got the option to take the easy way out! On your way, gaze upon marvelous vistas of warm-colored fall foliage surrounding you.

  • Cost:

Adults – ₩8,000 round-trip, ₩5,500 for one-way

Children (ages 12 and below) – ₩5,000 round-trip, ₩3,500 for one-way

Recommended Routes in Naejangsan National Park Areas

Naejang means ‘many secrets’ – uncover its many hidden gems with many people who will be hiking alongside you. But the crowds will not take away from your autumn experience, in fact, it’s part of the Naejangsan charm. Enjoy the rock concert-like atmosphere with quaint stalls selling snacks and knick knacks, locals getting a bit rowdy from drinking some makgeolli, art performers, and even food festivals.

Naejangsan has eight peaks between 600-700m in elevation. All of the routes are one-day hikes. Below, you’ll find the 3 most recommended hikes, ranging from easy to difficult.

For Beginner Hikers:

Nature Observation Course (1.63km, one-way)

Walk through tunnels of fiery maple trees (image via Shutterstock)
Walk through tunnels of fiery maple trees (image via Shutterstock)

If you’re bringing children and elderly along, this is a perfectly easy trail for them. Take in the spectacular natural scenery and breathe in fresh mountain air, and tranquil waters. Encounter the 108 Danpung Tunnel, a paved road lined with 108 brilliant maple trees.

What’s more fascinating is the hidden Buddhist meaning – the number 108 is a symbol for the worldly feelings and desires Buddhist hermits must remove.

  • Difficulty: Moderately easy
  • Duration: 1 hour and 20 minutes, one-day course

For Intermediate Hikers:

Encounter diverse flora and fauna (image via Shutterstock)
Encounter diverse flora and fauna (image via Shutterstock)

Baekyangsa Walking Trail Course (8.5km, one-way)

Hike your way up steep trail starting from Baekyangsa Temple. Pass through Yaksaam Temple and then Yeongcheongul Cave. Climb the steep steps that start from the cave to reach the Hakbawi Rock and Baekhakbong Peak.

Be rewarded with sweeping views of Baekamsan Mountain – the whole mountain will look as if it’s been set on fire! On the way, you’ll find the Naejangsa Temple. At last, reach the summit of Sangwangbong Peak. Cherish the sight with Baekamsan Mountain and Ipamsan Mountain in the distance.

  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Duration: 6 hours, one-day course

For Expert Hikers:

Challenge yourself by hiking through all 8 peaks! (image via Shutterstock)
Challenge yourself by hiking through all 8 peaks! (image via Shutterstock)

Ridge Hiking Course (11km, one-way)

Route: Seoraebong Peak – Bulchulbong Peak – Manghaebong Peak – Yeonjibong Peak – Kkachibong Peak – Sinseongbong Peak – Yeonjabong Peak – Janggunbong Peak – Donggu-ri

This course is not for the faint of heart; the ridge trail passes through all the eight peaks of Naejangsan Mountain. Start your course from the Hiking Information Center, through the eight peaks, and back down to Donggu-ri. Immerse yourself completely in nature on this trail, as you glimpse magnificent views of the crimson valleys stretching out endlessly beyond the horizon.

  • Difficulty: Moderately hard
  • Duration: 7 hours, one-day course

Picture-Perfect Spots for Maple Leaves

Enjoy the marvelous blend of reds, oranges, and yellow-greens! (image via Shutterstock)
Enjoy the marvelous blend of reds, oranges, and yellow-greens! (image via Shutterstock)

Prepare to take pictures everywhere! The kaleidoscope of fall colors are thanks to mostly maple leaves, but you can also find elm, ash and hornbeam adding to the mix. Behold the striking contrast between red-orange maples and yellow ginkgo trees and evergreens against the bright blue sky. Stop by these photogenic spots listed below:

Naejang Temple

Naejang Temple (image via Shutterstock)
Naejang Temple (image via Shutterstock)

Rebuilt from the destruction since the Korean War, this brightly-colored Buddhist temple will be covered by the fiery hues of maple leaves. Walk around the pond and feel the rustic atmosphere while admiring the pagoda, statues, and lanterns.

Wander around the blazing, tree-lined path from the Hiking Information Center to Naejang Temple. Whip out your camera and enjoy the awe-inspiring canopy of vivid autumn leaves!

Uhwajeong Pavilion

Uhwajeong Pavilion (image via Shutterstock)
Uhwajeong Pavilion (image via Shutterstock)

Located in the middle of the lake nearby, this blue and green pavilion stands out from the toasty shades of the season. Legend has it that the pavilion once grew wings and ascended into the heavens! Feast your eyes on the vibrant flowers and trees framing the scene. Capture the serene beauty of the lush foliage reflecting on the crystal clear waters and colorful fish darting around!

Baekyangsa Temple

Baekyangsa Temple (image via Shutterstock)
Baekyangsa Temple (image via Shutterstock)

Prepare to be enamored by the immense beauty of this historic temple, surrounded by towering craggy peaks and flowing streams. Soak in the tranquil vibes and feel your inner peace as you stroll the temple grounds. Hear the monks chanting, gaze upon the surreal blue-faced Heavenly King statue, and melt all your worldly worries away.

Best Time to Visit

Admire the dramatic views of crimson maple leaves, bathed in warm sunlight (image via Shutterstock)

Ideal months: late October – mid-November

Check out this Korea forecast; you’ll see the fall foliage make their first appearance on October 20 and peak around November 8. Despite millions of other tourists there to witness Mother Nature’s boastful display of color, there’s no reason not to go and join the chaos!

Trekker Tips

Glimpse enchanting autumn leaves at its best and brightest! (image via Shutterstock)
Glimpse Naejang’s enchanting autumn leaves at their best and brightest! (image via Shutterstock)
    • What to wear Comfy running or hiking shoes. Check the weather before you go and add thermal layers accordingly (pants, jacket, hat, gloves etc.). Temperatures will drop from 20° – 13° from late October to mid-November
    • What to bring Snacks, bottled water, camera (obviously), flashlight (for the caves)
    • Avoid weekends We cannot stress any further how much this place will be packed during autumn!
    • Take part in the festive atmosphere Drink and be merry like the locals. Absorb all the amazing colors and culture this ever-popular national park can offer. After all, it’s been the go-to autumn destination since 500 years ago!

Now that you’ve finished reading, it’s time to book your most charming fall adventure. Bask in the warm glow of the fall foliage that beats even the most vivid of sunsets. Brighten up your Korean vacation with a visit to Naejangsan National Park this autumn!

For more hiker’s guides in Korea, keep posted on our page! In the meantime, check out our stellar recommendations below: