Travel Destinations

Naejangsan National Park and Following Fall Leaves

South Korea Naejangsan National Park
Written by Carl Hedinger

Fall in South Korea comes and goes so quickly and it’s the best time to visit places like Naejangsan National Park. It’s a busy time for people who love going outside for a hike or walk in nature. Going out grows more exciting and stressful from the crowds that come are also hoping for a glimpse at those beautiful maple leaves. It’s the one time of year when it’s really tough to avoid crowds. Fall is the last true time when people will go out in unison without thinking quickly to get back inside. This story details one of South Korea’s best places to see the fall leaves and after reading, I’ll show you how to follow the leaves here and throughout the rest of the country.

Naejangsan National Park

The Crowds

Stairway along the ridge, Naejangsan National Park in Korea

Fall in Korea’s national parks means a fever pitch of crowds following the leaves. Our quiet drive to Naejangsan in South Jeolla Province began without too much traffic until the park entrance came into view. That’s when we ran smack dab into lines of individual cars and those ubiquitous tour buses. After abandoning the car at a distant parking lot, we got out searched for the right trail.

Reaching the Peak

Mountains of Naejangsan National Park, Korea

We picked one that followed ridgeline, full of beautiful scenery yet at the same time, will bring back that pesky fear of heights I’ll never forget from Wolchulsan National Park. Reaching the park’s highest peak around lunchtime, we find spectacular views and a rock concert atmosphere. Everyone is sitting at the top and gobbling up bits of steamed pork (보쌈) and other treats. My taste buds swell at the smell of it all but the soju fumes quickly send them back to normal size. Beer cans crack open amid a chorus of chatter and laughter.

Continuing On

Buddha Lanterns at Naejangsan National Park, Korea

We’d gone through series of steep stairways and climbed wet rocks to reach this. It almost felt like Christmas. Some people might think this was a mad situation. We brought kimbap, some cut fruit, and chocolate power berries to hold over until dinner at the bottom. I thought maybe they’d give me some of their cooked food but didn’t bother to ask, as we continued on towards the end of this trail.

Running Down the Mountain

Naejangsan Maples, Korea

Our time to leave the crowded peak came, but we were not alone in any sense of the word. The tour buses must be leaving soon, considering the fact that some people are literally running down the mountain. Or maybe this was some sort of death sport, where the first one to fall and crack their head open wins. I also picked up the pace at one point and fell down some stairs, rolling my ankle as a result. A drunk woman beside me also fell and we were luckily too far away to clear the mountain.

Maples!

Sun Shines Through a Tree at Naejangsan National Park, Korea

Regardless of the chaos, we were completely surrounded by red-orange maples and ginkgo trees mixed with evergreens and the beautiful blue sky. These perfectly colored trees mixed in with an adventurous yet gorgeous hike will make Naejangsan National Park one of my favorite places to visit. We came out at a temple looked back and up at the peak where we just were an hour or so ago. I thought back to that food and realize that I’m hungry again, craving some of that steamed pork from before.

Final Thoughts

Pond inside Naejangsan National Park, Korea

A walk by a lovely pond and along a ginkgo-covered path helped me realize why so many people come to these places. Following the fall leaves in Naejangsan National Park forced us to meet the crowds and that’s okay. Everyone’s going to visit these wonderful spots at the same time. Elbows and noisy chatter might impose itself on natural places and the idea of peace but we’re all here to share these sights. Everyone comes for the beautiful and serene. We’re all the same.

There are tons of wonderful national parks and places to see fall foliage in Korea. Got a place you’d like to mention for seeing the leaves in Korea? We’d love to read about it in the comments section below:) 

Naejang Temple at Naejangsan National Park, Korea

How to Reach Naejangsan National Park

(Courtesy of Korea Tourism) 

To reach Naejangsan From Seoul, take a bus to Jeongeup and from the city’s bus Terminal, you can get to Naejangsan by taking Bus 171 (내장산). Multiple Trains go between Yongsan and Jeongeup each day and from the train station there, take Bus 101 to Naejangsan. From Busan, it’s best to take a bus to Gwangju and then to Naejangsan from there. As transportation is an always changing thing, feel free to let us know if the best routes from Seoul or Busan to Naejangsan change and we’ll be happy to change it.

When and Where to See the Fall Leaves in Korea

Also Courtesy of Korea Tourism

First Fall Foliage in the north will be in Gangwon Province’s famed Seoraksan National Park where the leaves will start around September 28th and the peak will come on October 18th. Lots of parks throughout the rest of the country will start to change in October with peaks throughout the month. The month of October will be a busy time for those hoping to get a look at Korea’s wonderful foliage. Be patient and careful around the crowds and you should have a wonderful time.

About the author

Carl Hedinger

I'm a writer and recovering American expat who shares my family's travels through life. Follow our adventures here and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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