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Everything You Need to Know About Ulsan

Going Native in the YeongNam Alps

Just west of Ulsan lie the YeongNam Alps, a series of rugged mountains that run roughly north-northeast-southwest parallel to the coast.  For a simple day trip, getting into the mountains can be incredibly easy.  Take the 807 bus or 1713 to Seoknamsa and you’ll be dropped off at a beautiful temple  tucked into a valley at the base on Gajin Mountain. Even if you’ve got your own transportation getting there is easy; simply follow the Taewha river west along highway 24 and follow the signs for Seoknamsa.

Once you’re at Seoknamsa, an assortment of activities await. Whether you’re searching for peace and tranquility or hard core action you can find it here.

Park in the parking area and head down to the stream for some serious picnicing. Koreans flock to the headwaters of the Taewha when the temperatures rise. Be sure to bring a small grill, a little samgyeopsal and some cold soju and your afternoon is all set. A sun dappled stream, the babble of the flowing water and a cool breeze can be a relaxing respite from the city’s heat.

The headwaters of the Taewha River provide a refreshing bit of coolness

The headwaters of the Taewha River provide a refreshing bit of coolness

Even more tranquil? No problem. Head into the temple and get back in touch with your inner Buddha. Historically significant, Seoknamsa is also one of the few temples exclusively for women.

Seoknamsa Temple

Seoknamsa Temple

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At the main entrance to the temple, there’s a magnificent set of large doors. They’re beautiful, but since they’re thrown open and in a darkened stairwell leading up to the main courtyard, they aren’t very visible.  I thought it would be fun to play with Photoshop and Studio a bit and see what they might look like. Check that out here:

If something more active is what you had in mind, head on up a trail – any trail – and make your way to Gajisan Mountain. Although its only 1240 meters, you’ll feel every meter of its steep and rugged terrain.

The view towards Ulsan from Gajisan. Munsu Mt is the small peak in the distance on the right

The view towards Ulsan from Gajisan. Munsu Mt is the small peak in the distance on the right

If you’re feeling very energetic, head on up the road past the temple and over the pass to the opposite side of the mountain. Other places for picnics include the Pareaso Waterfalls and the Reed Plain of Ganwolsan.

Walking not quite your style? If you’re got a motorcycle or a scooter, the road between Gajisan and Eden Valley is a beauty. Twisting, winding and turning through the valley its a fine road to let your bike stretch it’s legs.  Watch out for trees, though.

This tree near Baenaegol was just too big to bulldoze

This tree near Baenaegol was just too big to bulldoze

Jump on a Four Wheeler and roar through the Ganwolsan Recreational Forest.  Numerous rental companies have sprouted up in recent years. Or maybe you’d rather run and dodge bullets?  Paintball, or Survival as it’s known here is another diversion to enjoy that has become popular.

4 Wheelers for Rent, Paintball for Play

4 Wheelers for Rent, Paintball for Play

And after all that activity, why run back to Ulsan? There’s plenty of places to cool your heels right in the Alps. This entire area reminds me of Colorado’s Rocky Mountain Park area with its plentiful cabins, lodges and motels. It’s the same here, except they call them “minbaks” and “pensions.”  From ultra modern steel and glass to classical Korean architectures, you can sleep and eat on the floor in any style you wish.

Minbaks, Pensions and Motels line the valley

Minbaks, Pensions and restaurants line the valley

Whatever your activity level, The Yeongnam Alps probably have something for you to do. Shed your foreigner skin for a weekend and go native.

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