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Jirisan mountain, Cheonwangbong peak: Biggest on the Korean mainland

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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.

Want to stay in Korea for 1 year too? Check out my post on how to apply for the H1 working holiday visa so you can! Plus, check out how to get set up as an expat.

Country:South Korea (Republic of Korea)
Currency:South Korean Won / KRW
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Cheonwangbong peak loop trail entranceway
This archway shows the entrance to the trail

Trail Stats

Length of trail:

11.1 km / 6.89 miles

Elevation gain:

1915 m

Time to complete:

On average takes 7 hours

If you want some help preparing a bag for your day hike, you can download my packing list below:

Metal staircase over large rocks on the jirisan mountain hiking trail
One example of a staircase and how steep it can get

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:

A wooden staircase built into the terrain on jirisan mountain hiking trail
Another staircase along the 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!

signs at a crossroad along the cheonwangbong peak hike
This is where the single trail splits off into the loop trail heading either left or right
me climbing the stairs on a huge hike
Me climbing up one of the longest staircases along the Cheonwangbong loop trail

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.

Don’t forget to get travel insurance to cover you if something bad happens. One company I have personal experience with is Safety Wing. Not everyone needs the same coverage, so make sure you get a personalised quote that suits you and your trip plans.

celebrating at the peak of a mountain
I reached the summit and had to get photo proof!
view of the valley below from the cheonwangbong peak trail
One of the many views from the top of the mountain

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.

Stay connected with the AllTrails app during your trip by getting an eSIM through Airalo. You can download it directly to your device. If your phone doesn’t work with eSIMS get a physical one here.

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.

the summit rock at the top of our mountain hike

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.

valley view from a hiking trail with metal railings on jirisan mountain
Views on the way down from the summit

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.

a wooden bridge over some rocks and a narrow stream
A wooden bridge over a stream on the way down
metal staircase going down a hiking trail
A staircase on the descent

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!

my group of friends and i travelling down the mountain trail

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.

The 3 red dots show where the restrooms are
snow on a hiking trail
Snow along the trail just after the peak in March

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.

my friend and i walking down jirisan mountain

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:

Need help planning your trip?

Check out how to plan a trip abroad & see my travel resources for more.

WayAway – Great for booking flights. They even have a cashback feature for those who fly frequently.
Skyscanner – A comprehensive comparison website showing where to purchase flights.
HostelWorld – The biggest selection of hostels & sociable accommodations.
Booking.com – The largest collection of accommodations worldwide.

Safety Wing – A travel insurance brand for long-term travellers and nomads.

Airalo – An eSIM card company that lets you stay connected during your trip.
Wise – Perfect for transferring foreign currencies.
iVisa – For applying for tourist and visitor visas.

Viator – Great for finding tours and activities worldwide.
Get Your Guide – Another company for finding activities.
Klook – Have some of the best activity deals in Asia.

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