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Jirisan Mountain is home to multiple peaks and the tallest summit on the Korean mainland – Cheonwangbong Peak – which are all worth hiking. Completing this hiking trail is something to be proud of as it is often deemed harder and more challenging than Korea’s largest peak – Mount Hallasan.
Jirisan Mountain is located in one of the nation’s favourite national parks and there is an abundance of stunning views. On a clear day, you can see for miles in all directions and you’ll learn to appreciate the beauty in this region.
The trail takes an average of 7-9 hours to complete depending on how many breaks you take. It’s a fantastic way to get out in nature and put your physical abilities to the test.
|Country:||South Korea (Republic of Korea)|
|Currency:||South Korean Won / KRW|
|Do you need a visa to visit as tourists?||Check here|
Length of trail:
11.1 km / 6.89 miles
Time to complete:
On average takes 7 hours
Location of the Cheonwangbong peak Loop trail
If driving to Jirisan national park it will take:
- From Busan – 2 hours & 15 minutes
- From Seoul – 4 hours & 15 minutes
If driving that distance is too far for this hike, you have to option to fly domestically to Yeosu airport and drive 1 hour & 20 minutes.
Need a rental car to make the journey? You can rent a car here for your trip.
The Cheonwangbong Loop trail is located in Jirisan Mountain National Park. The park is located in between three regions on the borders of Gyeongsangnam-do to its east, Jeollanam-do to the southwest and Jeollabuk-do to the northwest.
The trailhead is clearly marked and you can find it below:
Location: Jirisan National Park Jungsalli Parking Lot Entrance Western ( 경남 산청군 시천면 )
To reach the start of the trail you will need to either drive to the local car park or take a shuttle from the small town just a short drive away. The shuttle will pick you up from some of the local accommodation choices.
Want to enjoy some more hikes in Korea? Check out these popular trails in Busan only 2 hours away:
- Jangsan Mountain, Busan’s popular city hike
- Geumjeongsan Mountain, Hiking the highest peak in Busan
- Bongnaesan Mountain: A short hike with great views
- Exploring viewpoints on the Hwangnyeongsan Mountain hike
- Enjoying the Igidae Coastal Walk in Busan
- Seunghaksan Mountain: Completing the Loop Trail
Where to stay near the trailhead?
If you need somewhere to stay before and after your hike, I have listed a few accommodations nearby to suit different budget levels. Both of these options include the use of a free shuttle bus to the trailhead!
Low budget: Green Valley (Motel)
This motel is suitable for all group sizes and has various room options including standard rooms with beds and “Korean style” where futons are laid out on a heated floor. There is a small convenience store located on the ground floor and a pool you can use during the warmer months.
Mid-range: Kensington Resort
This is a semi-luxurious hotel that allows for a very comfortable stay. They have large beds, and breakfast included so you can start your day off right!
What to expect on the Jirisan Mountain hike
From the shuttle drop-off point and car park, you will walk along a paved road until you reach a small camping area and the trail entrance.
Once you pass through the archway, you will start walking through the forest with almost no incline. The trail quickly starts to ascend and you’ll notice wooden staircases and rock formations that raise the trail by a few feet.
Although this part of the forest is dense, it’s almost impossible to get lost as the trail is clearly marked. There are also rope fences to help keep you on the right track and to stop you from wandering off.
The trail really picks up the incline within 15-20 minutes of walking and you will notice yourself climbing over some rocks and steep staircases for a while.
There are not many areas of the trail that flatten out so it will continue to be an uphill climb for the duration of the hike. You’ll need to climb over some rocks and even use your hands when scrambling at times.
Always use caution
It is highly advisable to wear hiking boots due to some of the terrain here.
The are some areas that are only wide enough for one person to walk at a time, and others widen so that people can pass each other easily. However, you should always use caution when stopping to allow people to pass as there are some steep sections of the path.
Towards the middle (or peaks) of the trail, the staircases get longer and steeper and there’s a high chance you start to regret your decision to hike here. I know I did. Plus, in some areas, there aren’t even staircases, but instead, a metal bar or safety chain that just offers support as you struggle up the huge piles of rocks.
Be careful on these sections as they can also get very slippery after and during rainfall.
Reaching the peak of Jirisan National Park
When hiking the Cheonwangbong loop trail in Jirisan National Park, you will actually reach multiple peaks along the way.
If completing the trail along the right side of the map and ending on the left, you will reach the mountain peaks in the following order:
- Gaecheonmun – 1676 m
- Cheonwangbong – 1917 m
- Tongcheonmun – 1823 m
Each peak gives you a slightly different view over the seemingly endless valley below. If you’re not closely following the route on the AllTrails app you might mistake Gaecheonmun Peak for the main Cheonwangbong Peak.
The climb is steep and the second peak seems to come out of nowhere. The only way I was able to tell we were at the first peak is because the trail map told us so. Luckily, once you reach the Cheonwangbong Peak you will quite clearly be high above all other mountains in the area.
Plus, the view makes for a great photo opportunity over the national park below.
You are guaranteed to feel accomplished being at the highest peak in all of the Korean mainland when you reach the top.
Heading back down from the Cheonwangbong peak
After hiking up and spending some time at the top of Jirisan Mountain and the Cheonwangbong peak, it was time to start heading back down. It’s easy to follow the trail across to the opposite side of where we came up. You will see fences along the edges of the mountainside so you can remain safe when walking along the track.
There is a small flat area just below the summit rock, where many people were having picnics and taking a rest ready for the descent.
As you start heading down you’ll see a drastic change in scenery. The view on this side of the mountain (in my opinion) is much nicer than the way going up as you can clearly see the different levels of the trail winding down ahead of you.
I found that the terrain heading down was often much more uneven than that of the trail going up. This means you should take even more care to make sure you don’t slip and fall.
Around 2/3 of the entire loop trail and a few hours after leaving the highest peak, you’ll reach the shelter which is a great place to have a break.
The shelter has everything you need with regard to amenities which we will get into in the next section.
When leaving the shelter you will notice the descent is very steep again as you navigate down more huge stones and wind up back in the thick forests. The shelter is also your last opportunity for bathroom breaks or a water refill station so do not forget to use them while they’re available. It will be a few hours until you reach the end of the trail!
Back in the forest the trail is well maintained with boardwalk routes and multiple wooden bridges and staircases that take you down gradually. After climbing up all morning this journey down does a number on your knees.
The last stretch of the trail will take you back past the checkpoint in which the single trail splits out into two directions for the loop trail which you will likely recognise. From here it is relatively easy and flat until you reach the finish line – the archway at the trailhead.
Jirisan National Park is home to a famous Kdrama
If you’re a fan of gripping television shows and wonder why the park sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the filming location of the very popular “Jirisan” Kdrama.
The show follows a team of park rangers located in Jirisan National Park who climb and hike through unchartered territory and unknown parts of the park. The mountains are treacherous as well as mysterious and the group of rangers need to be on their toes to expect the unexpected. As the audience, you will be transported into the past as well as the present time while trying to unfold the story at hand.
This is also the first television show to have ever been filmed on the grounds of the popular mountain and park. So, if you’re a fan of a gripping Kdrama (or any other type of drama for that matter) then visiting Jirisan could be the perfect combination of hiking the 2nd biggest peak and pretending you’re a star of the hit show.
This Jirisan Kdrama has just one season at present but is worth a watch and it might even be the boost of inspiration you need to visit the national park to go hiking yourself!
Amenities along the trail
You’ll be pleased to know that you’ll be able to refill your water at the temple rest stop as well as purchase some snacks. There are benches too so you can sit a recover before hiking up the next section of the Jirisan Mountain trails.
With regard to toilets, there are three rest areas with public toilets along the Cheonwangbong peak loop trail. I have tried to mark them on the AllTrails screenshot below so you know what to expect and can plan accordingly.
Best time for hiking in Jirisan National Park?
Jirisan National Park is open all year round which means that technically you can hike at any time of year. However, due to the fluctuation in weather in the area, I would recommend a few times over others.
In the winter there is likely to be snow on much of the trail which can be treacherous and slippery. This can cause accidents and injury if you are not prepared. However, if you have crampons and have winter hiking experience, there is nothing to say you couldn’t hike during this season.
Summer is extremely hot and humid, not to mention Korea has a rainy season which can cause lots of muddy and slippery trails. Plus, I don’t know about you, but I don’t enjoy hiking in extremely hot weather anyway.
Spring and autumn in Korea are my top recommended seasons to explore. In spring the weather is nice, but not too hot and there are many more opportunities for wildflowers, cherry blossoms and more to start appearing. In autumn you’ll see the trees turning orange and red across the valleys and once again the weather won’t be too extreme which makes for a comfortable hike up to the Cheonwangbong peak.
Final thoughts on the Jirisan Mountain hike
While hiking this large peak in Jirisan National Park you will feel tired yet accomplished. You’ll be able to say you completed a hike to the biggest peak on the mainland and the second biggest in the whole country. That’s an achievement of its own and it deserves bragging rights.
Climbing to the Cheonwangbong peak along the loop trail takes some stamina but the views are very rewarding. It is one of the hardest trails in the entire country so if you can accomplish this, then you should be pleased!
So what are you waiting for? Get out there and start hiking Jirisan Mountain!
Want to hike some other challenging routes across Korea? Check these out:
- Gwaneumsa Trail: Hiking the Steepest trail of Mt.Hallasan
- Taking the Seongpanak trail to the Hallasan peak
|Day Hike Essentials||Why?|
|Appropriate footwear & socks||Less likely to injure yourself & more comfortable|
|Portable battery pack & wire||To charge your electronic devices|
|Water (0.5L per hour roughly)||To keep yourself hydrated throughout the hike|
|Food||Preferably lightweight but healthy snacks|
|Trail Directions||Phone/GPS device, compass or paper map|
|Mobile OR satellite phone||Helpful in emergencies to call for help|
|Clothing layers||To put on or remove based on changes in weather|
|Hat||To prevent sunstroke or keep warm|
|Sunglasses||To see better without squinting all day|
|First aid kit||To solve minor injuries along the way|
|Multi-tool||Multiple uses for multiple problems|
|Illumination||Torch or phone light to navigate in the dark|