Asia Society Korea Travel Series 7 – Fall Foliage in Korea
Fall is one of the best times to be in Korea as the intense summer heat finally gives way to more pleasant and cool conditions. This time of the year is also loved by Koreans due to the array of colors that can be seen during the fall foliage period. What’s more, the air quality is at its best throughout the autumn months, so there is no excuse not to enjoy Korea’s natural beauty. With this in mind, this month’s travel series will document some of the best places to see those wonderful fall leaves.
For those wanting to truly enjoy the switch from summer greens to the rich palette of yellows, oranges, and reds, the Korean mountains, unsurprisingly, offer the best settings. When you say mountain to any Korean, the first place most recommend is Seoraksan Mountain, which continues to be an incredibly popular destination. In terms of the best routes to see the fall leaves, we would suggest Cheonbuldong Valley or Osaek Mineral Spring, but do be prepared to share the trails with many other visitors. Odaesan Mountain near Pyeongchang is another popular choice, and this is convenient for those without a car as there is a city bus stop near Sangwonsa Temple, which is a good access point.
To the south of Seoul, three great choices are the mountains of Naejangsan in Jeongeup, Juwangsan in Cheongsong, and Jirisan in Gurye. Naejangsan is famed for its maple trees that were planted to form an incredible tunnel, and they can be conveniently found by the ticket office. Juwangsan’s impressive trails provide glimpses of its rocky peaks, deep valleys, and elegant waterfalls. Most visitors take the Juwang Valley course that usually takes about four hours, but often takes longer due to all the fantastic photo opportunities! Finally, Jirisan always deserves a mention, and its vastness (it occupies three provinces) means there are many options, although the routes near Ssanggyesa Temple and Piagol Valley are our top choices.
Clearly there is no shortage of places to visit, but there is also good news for those who are unable to get away from Seoul. Jeongdang-gil, which stretches from Deoksugung Palace to Jeongdong Theater, offers a beautiful ambience with a number of cultural sites strewn along a kilometer-long road dotted with beautiful ginkgo trees that turn yellow in autumn. Samcheongdong-gil, near Gyeongbokgung Palace, offers a similar setting and is also popular. Let’s not forget that Seoul also has its own mountains. Namsan provides an excellent view of the city below its dense forest that erupts into a myriad of colors during fall, and Bugaksan has a fantastic trail that leads hikers between beautiful autumn foliage on one side and the city skyline to the other.
Typically, the foliage season gets underway from the middle of September, but forecasters have already noted that the more northern regions, including Seoraksan National Park, will not see the leaves change color until the end of this month. That means that the southern areas of Korea will have to wait until mid-October or even early November. Luckily, this gives us more time to plan our trips!
Wherever you decide to go, it is important to remember that the daily temperatures vary significantly during these months so be sure to head out prepared as a hot afternoon can quickly turn into a very chilly evening. Fall, nevertheless, is a fantastic time to be in Korea and get out and about before the harsh Korean winter arrives!