There is a special meaning to walk on the ridges of Jirisan Mountain, from end to end. There is more to it than just having reached the highest mountain peak in South Korea, as many of those who are serious about hiking think of it as a pilgrimage. To many hikers in Korea, walking on the ridges of Jirisan Mountain from end to end is something they dream of doing.

Seongsamjae is the first place you want to go if you want to take a good look at Jirisan Mountain. To get there, take a bus from Gurye. There is a service area with a large parking lot and other facilities. There is even a take-out coffee shop where you can have a cup of java and give yourself a break before heading up to the mountain. Most hikers planning to walk the entire ridge of Jirisan Mountain spend two nights at one of the mountain villas before climbing up to Cheonwangbong Peak to see the sunrise.
  • Course Guide
  • Nogodan Peak Piagol Samgeori Imgeollyeong Pass Banyabong Peak Hwagaejae Pass Baemsagol Shelter Myeongseonbong Peak Tokkibong Peak Yeonhacheon Shelter Byeoksoryeong Pass (Byeoksoryeong Shelter)
Day 1 The trail between Seongsamjae and Nogodan (1,507m) is a wide, unpaved road. While on the road, enjoy the view of Gurye and Seomjingang River, go past Nogodan Villa, and climb up to Nogodan with a large tower of stones. The place is where people used to hold rituals and pray to the heavens since ancient times. It also served as a training ground for the bodyguards of Park Hyeokgeose, the first king of the Silla Dynasty. In the early 20th century, foreign missionaries built a recreational facility to spend the summer here because of the cool air in the area. During the Korean War, the communist partisans also used this as their base.

The sea of clouds below the peaks of Jirisan Mountain is so dense that you can almost touch it. Enjoy this rare view and start walking on the ridge. The fog arising from the southwestern edge of Seomjingang River covers the plain and valley like a wave of the ocean, before going down around the saddle of the mountain. Many visitors to this place regard this natural phenomenon a scenic wonder of the nature. You may get wet by the morning dew on the leaves. Shake off the water and continue to walk for about one hour before you reach Imgeollyeong Pass (1,320m). This natural fortress was home to a group of chivalrous bandits led by a person named 'Im Geol'. From Imgeollyeong, you still need to walk to Banyabong Peak (1,732m). It's uphill for a while. While on the trail, you'll see that it's shadowed by the main ridge, creating a great view. The sunrise over the old dead trees seen from Banyabong is one of the Ten Scenic Views of Jirisan Mountain. However, it's very rare to see the natural spectacle since you'll most likely be passing through this section during the daytime.
Come down from Banyabong Peak to the mountain trail below, and you'll find yourself standing on a hilly path named Hwagaejae, which connects the villages on the southern side of the mountain with those on the northern side. If you have left Seongsamjae early in the morning, go to Baemsagol Villa to the north for lunch. After lunch, go past Tokkibong Peak and take a short break at Chonggaksaem Spring where you can try the natural spring water. After that, you must directly go all the way to Yeonhacheon Villa. From Yeonhacheon Villa, your next destination is Byeoksoryeong Pass. The place has a shelter, where you can finally rest after 10 hours of walking. The place is well-known for the beautiful moonlight. To some, the moon over the natural forest and old dead trees can appear icy blue. The night at in the middle of the mountain will be mostly beautiful and serene, except for occasional sound of wild animals.
  • Course Guide
  • Byeoksoryeong Shelter Yeongsinbong Peak Seseok Pyeongjeon (Seseok Shelter) Chotdaebong Peak Yeonhabong Peak Jangteomok Shelter
Day 2Yesterday, you should have walked about ten hours. Today, you'll be walking about six hours before you reach Jangteomok, the destination for today. This means you can take your time getting out of Byeoksoryeong Shelter. After a short walk on the wide trail of Byeoksoryeong, you'll find a forest path that leads to Deokpyeongbong Peak. Walk on the path for about three hours while watching Korean squirrels running around the branches, and you'll reach Seseok Pyeongjeon (1,600m), which literally means 'a plateau with small stones'. The best season to visit this place is during the spring. From the end of May to early June in particular, the place is covered with tens of thousands of red azalea.

There is a sad story about the azalea in this place. A long, long time ago, there a young couple lived at the skirt of the mountain. They were childless. The woman desperately wanted to have a child. One day, she was tricked by a bear into drinking the magical water in the mountain, believing that she will be granted the wish by doing so. The problem was that people were forbidden to drink the water by the mountain deity. The mountain deity was furious when he found out, and told the woman to "tend the azalea flowers in Seseok Pyeongwon for the rest of your life" as a punishment. Devastated by the separation from her dear husband, she took care of the flowers until all her ten fingers bled. The local folks came to believe that the flowers became beautiful and pristine like the poor woman, who must have cried her heart out until her death if the story is true. Once you reach the top of Chotdaebong Peak with oddly shaped rocks, turn around look down towards Seseok Pyeongwon. Over the plain with a sad story, you'll see Banyabong Peak, which strangely looks like the buttocks of a woman.

From this point on, you'll be climbing a number of more peaks covered with beautiful wild flowers before reaching Jangteomok, where you'll be spending your second and last night in the mountain. The word 'jangteomok' means 'where the marketplace had been' in Korean. The place was named as such because it's where people from the southern part of Cheonwangbong Peak traded with those from the northern side of the peak traded in each spring and summer. Today, the place serves as an advance camp where people can see the sunrise over Cheonwangbong Peak. So after spending the night here, head out before sunrise so you can see it from the mountain top.
  • Course Guide
  • Jangteomok Shelter Jeseokbong Peak Tongcheonmun Cheonwangbong Peak Beopgyesa Temple Kalbawi Rock (Kalbawi Crossroad) Jungsalli Hiking Information Center
Day 3 You need to get up before 04:00 if you want to see the sunrise over Cheonwangbong Peak. Some Koreans say that "it takes good deeds of three generation to see the sunrise from Cheonwangbong." It's that much meaningful to some people. You need to bring a flashlight to find your way up to the peak. The first peak you'll reach is Jeseokbong. It's a desolate, empty land. The place used to be thick with trees in the past until most of the trees were felled. You'll see dead trees along the trail to Cheonwangbong Peak, as if to secure your footing.

Climb a number of steep peaks before reaching 'Tongcheonmun', which literally means 'the gateway to the heavens'. It's a rock cave, and the last place to pass before reaching Cheonwangbong. A legend has it that "dishonest people cannot pass through this place." They also say that even the mountain deity can't ascend to the heavens without passing through this gateway. Pass through the gateway, and Cheonwangbong (1,915m) will come into view. You'll see that it's a rock peak. It will most likely be very windy up there and there won't be any trees to provide protection. So you're recommended to stay in between the rocks until the sunrise. If you're there on the right day, you'll see the eastern sky turning orange right before the sun comes up. It will light up the sky and then the world around you. You'll see the whole mountain waking to the light before your eyes. To come down the mountain, take the trail to Jungsalli Valley. It's the fastest way down.