I finally did another hike in Korea! There are actually a lot of trails all through Jirisan (it’s a huge mountain), but embarrassingly, I’ve only done the Baemsagol hike. However, when Autumn joined me in Namwon on my last trip, we decided to do the Guryong Valley hike!
Depending on how you tackle this hike, it’s probably one of the easiest trails in Jirisan. While you could get dropped off down by the northern Jirisan office and do a roundtrip trail, we accidentally got dropped off half way through and hiked backwards. This means our entire hike was pretty much downhill and lasted maybe a little over an hour at most.
If you’re looking for a very pretty trail with tons of stunning views and a few waterfalls, then this is a must to do if you’re in the area. I’ll go through what to expect and some tips down below!
9 Beautiful Views in Guryong Valley
Like most places in Korea, someone in the tourism board put together specific stopping points long the way. For the Guryong Valley hike, these are the stops:
- Songnyeokdong Falls (송력동)
- Yongso (용소)
- Hakseoam (학서암)
- Seoam (서암)
- Yuseondae (유선대)
- Jijudae (지주대)
- Bipokdong (비폭도)
- Gyeongcheonbyeok (경천벽)
- Guryong Falls (구룡폭포)
I’m just noting them, but some of them aren’t even noticeable, so I wouldn’t worry about making sure you hit all the spots exactly. Instead this is how your hike is going to go:
How to Hike Guryong Valley in Jirisan
Like I said above, this is technically the full loop hike cut in half. However, since you’re just retracing your steps if you start from the very beginning, it doesn’t seem to be that worth it to to the whole thing unless you’re trying to get a certain amount of exercise in for the day! If you do still insist on doing this as a roundtrip hike, then you’ll want to start from the bottom at my pick up point and work your way backwards.
Drop Off: Parking Lot
There’s no easy way to get to this parking lot unless you get a taxi. We actually did this by accident since I just plugged in “Guryong Falls” into KakaoTaxi, and the pin led us here. For a minute we thought we’d been dropped off in the wrong place!
Luckily, there was a sign to give us an idea of where to go. Look for a blue arrow that says 구룡폭포:
From here it’s a bit of walking through the woods. There’s at least one more sign nudging you in the right direction to the first major stop.
Guryong Falls (구룡폭포)
After a bit of hiking down, you’ll come to the first stop: Guryong Falls! Guryong actually means “nine dragons.” The name apparently comes from a myth about nine dragons that lived in the area and then went to heaven, but I’m not too familiar with it either way.
This is such a pretty spot and one of the best of the trail. If you look above at the photo you’ll see the stairs you have to come down, and then there’s a suspension bridge so you can see the falls straight on.
After you enjoy Guryong Falls, the next breathtaking view is going to be as you come to a lookout over the valley. Pictures really don’t do it justice!
Bipokdong Valley (비폭동)
Bipokdong Valley is technically the 7th scenic spot. The falls come down from Banwolbong Peak (반월봉), and its name means “valley with a waterfall flying up.” Unfortunately, when we were there, the waterfall wasn’t particularly strong. Normally, that trickle of a waterfall is gushing, and for a moment Autumn wasn’t sure she’d done this hike before because it looked so different.
Still, it’s quite a nice view! If you have some time to relax, this is a good are to sit on the rocks and enjoy the weather.
Bridges & Water
By now you’re really in the valley. There are so many bridges and pretty landscape scenery with the water, you’ll want to stop and enjoy view every few steps!
The next notable stop is at Seoam, which means “reading rock.” This name apparently comes from the fact that it looks like the shape of a Buddhist monk kneeling to read scripture.
At some point you’ll come up through this entrance above and reach the main road. You’re basically near the end now.
Yukmojeong Pavilion (육모정)
Down around the main road, you’ll see a few different spots. If you drove to do the roundtrip hike, this is where you’d park. One of the notable spots is Yukmojeong Pavilion. Four hundred years ago scholars built a hexagonal pavilion on the large rock next to Yongso, but this was destroyed in the sixties during a rainfall, so it was moved to this current spot.
Chunhyang’s Royal Tomb (춘향묘)
Across from the pavilion is apparently Chunhyang’s Royal Tomb. I honestly don’t know what’s actually here because Chunhyang is a fictional character, but I guess it’s like Juliet’s balcony in Verona! If you haven’t read anything about Namwon yet, then know that it’s kind of like the Verona of Korea.
Because it’s the setting to Chunhyang, which Korea says is their version of “Romeo & Juliet” (expect the story is a LOT different), Namwon’s identity is tied with the story. It’s called the “City of Love,” and yearly the big event is the Chunhyang Festival, which includes a beauty pageant. That’s all to say, it makes sense there’s a “tomb” for her in Jirisan!
The First 3 Scenic Spots
Next to Yukmojeong is a bridge that’ll take you to the first three scenic spots of Songnyeokdong, Yongso, and Hakseoam. We were cutting it close in terms of daylight, so we didn’t want to linger and instead went to the pickup spot and called a taxi.
Pick-Up: Jirisan National Park Northern Office
When you want to get picked up by taxi, you’ll want to put in 지리산국립공원 북부사무소. Vice versa, if you want to do the roundtrip hike, this is where you’d get dropped off!
Practical Information for Guryong Valley
- Korean Name: 구룡계곡
- Length: From Guryong Falls, I think it’s 3.4 km down to Yukmojeong Pavilion (at least from one of the signs I saw).
- Costs: Free
- Key Points: Jirisan Northern Office (지리산국립공원 북부사무소) for the entrance, Guryong Falls (구룡폭포) for the halfway point.
This is probably the easiest hike I’ve done in Korea! It’s all downhill the way we did it, so really the hardest part was going down some of the steeper staircases, and that was just a matter of balance. I tried to take some pics of what to expect in terms of the stairs and paths above so you can see. There was literally a family with two small kids hiking in front of us, so that gives you an idea of how leisurely you can be!
I will say, if you do the roundtrip options, it’s probably a lot harder as then you have a gradual incline and some seriously steep steps to climb! Autumn said when she did this hike before, she never even saw the Guryong Falls part because she got to the stairs and didn’t want to climb them.
What to Wear for Hiking Guryong
I think I just wore regular sneakers and some workout clothes to hike it, and you can see what Autumn wore above. I’d just wear/bring normal things you’d wear for outdoor activities:
- Sneakers or Hiking Shoes – Seriously, I just had some cheap black sneakers and I was totally fine. If you think you have weaker ankles or you go after it’s been rainy, then I’d wear a sturdier hiking shoes, like the Keen ones.
- Comfortable T–Shirt – We hiked in September, and a long sleeved shirt was too warm, so I’d wear a thinner cotton shirt and bring a zip up hoodie if you’re hiking later in the year or in spring. As always, I love the Everlane T-shirts!
- Breathable Bottoms – Shorts or leggings should be fine depending on when you go. I love the Girlfriend 7/8 leggings.
- Sunscreen & Sunglasses – There’s a decent amount of shade all along the way, but you do want some sunscreen. If you’re paler, definitely reapply; Autumn had to and we were there right before sunset.
- Water Bottle – Of course, bring some water. It’s a fairly short and easy hike, but you’ll still be out for about an hour and a half!
- Daypack – Just something to toss your things in. I have the Gonex one.
Tips for Visiting Namwon
Getting to Namwon
Namwon has two bus terminals and one train station. If you’re coming from Seoul, you can grab the train from Yongsan Station or an express bus from the Express Bus Terminal. It takes about 2 hours by KTX and 3 1/2 to 4 hours by slow train or bus. From here, you can just grab a taxi to wherever you’re staying, or if you’re only here for the day, you can get one to the start of the hike!
Where to Stay in Namwon
I will say there’s not a ton of options for staying in Namwon. We stayed at the Hotel Chunhyang which feels quite new and nice. It’s on the same road as my favorite naengmyung place and an all you can eat BBQ place, as well as Chunhyang Theme Park. The only tricky part is that you can’t really book online, rather you need to call to make a reservation and then ask to pay in person.
Another place I’d try is the Mua Guesthouse, which is run by a couple who moved here right when I left or Yechon Hanok Hotel, if you want a luxury, traditional experience. Kensington Hotel is also nearby, but it’s kind of expensive. The other luxury hotel, The Suites Hotel Namwon, is a bit out of town, so not that convenient either.
What Else to Do in Namwon
Lots! I cover it all in my guide to Namwon, but you can expect some of the best Korean food out there. There’s also a lot of history in this one city, from Chunhyang to pansori and more. If you come in early fall, you can catch the Heungu Festival and the Chunhyang Festival is usually around May. It’s also nicely located near other Korean countryside places I love, like Suncheon, Yeosu, and more.
general korea travel tips
If this is your first visit, then you may want to start with my huge Korea travel tips post. I also have specific seasonal guides for spring, summer, autumn, and winter depending on when you come. You can also browse some of my itineraries from 7 days to 2 weeks to 1 month.
My biggest tip is to make sure you book a SIM card ahead of time, especially if you’re planning on hiking where there’s not really any wifi. Then download these apps for Korea travel because normal apps don’t work as well here.