South Korea // Chungcheong //

Sobaeksan National Park

Far quieter than most Korean parks on account of its location, SOBAEKSAN NATIONAL PARK (소백산 국립 공원) is an unheralded delight. It is best visited at the end of spring (around May or June), when a carpet of royal azalea blooms paints much of the mountainside a riot of pink, but at any time of the year the views are impressive – the park is traversed by a relatively bare ridge heading in an admirably straight line from northeast to southwest, crossing numerous high peaks. A steep three-hour uphill path runs from the main entrance at Cheondong-ri to Birobong, the park’s highest peak at 1440m. After reaching the ridge most head straight back down, but if you follow it along in either direction you will be rewarded with a succession of amazing views. Many opt to head northeast to Gungmangbong (1421m), an hour or so away, but only the hardcore continue all the way to Hyeongjebong. Southwest of Birobong are three peaks, confusingly all named Yeonhwabong; on the central crest, taking advantage of the park’s clean air and lofty elevation, is Korea’s main astronomical observatory, though unfortunately it is closed to visitors. From here it’s possible to exit the park to the south through the Huibang park entrance, the two-hour walk mopping up small waterfalls and a secluded temple on the way.