About Gugok Falls (gugok pokpo [구곡폭포])
Gugok Falls (Gugok Pokpo [구곡폭포]) was a an impressively tall, twisting waterfall that we managed to reach on an easy, well-developed walk in the Gangchon area near the city of Chuncheon.
It’s said to have a 50m drop making it one of the taller waterfalls on the South Korean part of the Korean Peninsula.
For some reason, its multi-drop, multi-segmented characteristic kind of reminds me of smaller version of Amicalola Falls in Georgia.
That said, this waterfall apparently has 9 drops to it, and so sometimes it’s referred to as “Guguripokpo” (the first “gu” means 9 in Korean).
In any case, as you can see from the photo above, we happened to catch this waterfall in lighter flow during our June 2023 visit so there’s probably a bit of timing to see it in heavier flow.
My guess is that this either happens later in the Summer season when monsoonal thunderstorms might replenish its stream more, or perhaps in the Spring if there has been snow accumulation and it’s warm enough to melt quickly.
Experiencing Gugok Falls
As far as experiencing the falls, we started from a large car park (see directions below) before going on a developed paved path that went by an entrance kiosk followed by a handful of cafes.
All this infrastructure at the outset made me think that this was a pretty popular waterfall, and that was certainly the case during our visit.
Even though we had an early morning start at around 7:30am, there were already a handful of people coming back from the falls, but there were way more people heading to the falls when we came back to the car park just before 9am.
Anyways, after getting past the cafes, the paved path then meandered through a well-forested area alongside a stream that was part of the outflow of the Gugok Falls (as well as other feeder streams).
At about 400m from the trailhead, I did notice that there was a small seasonal side waterfall, and at 200m further (or 600m from the car park), there was a strange “fountain” atop a giant pile of rocks.
At 1km from the car park, the trail started to fork at a confluence between a pair of streams, where there seemed to be some infrastructure for camping.
We went left at this fork to continue going up towards the Gugok Falls, and the trail at this point was noticeably more uphill than the gentler incline at the start.
Eventually after 200m from the trail junction (or 1.2km from the car park), we then went up a series of steps leading up to the lookout fronting the impressive Gugok Waterfall.
Even though the falls and its plunge pool were tantalizingly close, the railings and viewing decks indicated that the falls should be enjoyed from the lookouts while off-trail scrambling was discouraged.
Heck, the falls was so close to the lookout that it was tricky to try to photograph the whole thing in one frame (attesting to its height).
Nonetheless, after having our fill of this waterfall, we then enjoyed the all-downhill walk back to the car park, which ultimately took us around 90 minutes in total.
I’d imagine that if you walk faster or spent less time lingering at the falls, then this entire excursion could easily take less than an hour.
Cost of Gugok Falls
By the way, one thing I noticed on our visit was that even though there was a kiosk at the car park as well as the start of the walk, no one collected money for our visit.
I’m not sure whether this is due to the fact that we visited on a weekday (and maybe they collect on the weekends when it’s probably much busier) or if we happened to come early enough before staff showed up.
Whatever the case was, the cost for our visit (assuming they collected money from us) would have been 2000 won (roughly $1.50 USD as of June 2023) per person aged 7-65 along with another 2000 won to park an averaged-sized passenger car.
Finally, I have a bit of a bitter (and embarassing) memory with this waterfall because it’s where I happened to lose my GoPro HERO 9 (possibly leaving it on our rental car when we drove off).
Since Gugok Falls was a stop on the long drive between Seoul and Gangneung via Seoraksan National Park, there was no way we were going back hoping to find the lost gadget several hours later.
So if you’re wondering why there are no more Video Guides on our YouTube Channel, this is a major reason why.
Gugok Falls resides near the Namsan-myeon in Chuncheon-si county of the Gangwon-do Province, South Korea. It is administered by local authorities. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, I didn’t find an official website, but you can also try visiting this website, which lists a phone number that you can call.
Rather than confuse you with a bunch of turn-by-turn directions that won’t mean anything to you, I’ll just tell you that it’s best to use a Korean routing software on a phone that’s hooked up to a Korean Network (because Google Maps doesn’t work in Korea).
We prefer using a SIM card with an unlimited data plan for this purpose so we shouldn’t be running out of data while routing (while also allowing us to use that phone as a hot spot).
Regardless of what your current location is (and South Korea is as well-connected of a country as I had ever seen), use Kakao Map app to navigate your way through all the city streets, interchanges, and local rural roads.
It even tells you the whereabouts of speed bumps, school zones, speed cameras, and all the particulars about which lane to take when there’s a decision point with multiple lanes involved.
The only catch to using Kakao Map (or any other Korean routing app) is that you’ll need to at least learn how to put your place names in Hangeul (the Korean writing system).
That’s because using romanized words and expecting the app to find it doesn’t always work, but placenames in Hangeul almost always can be found in the app.
If you start from Chuncheon and set your destination (도착) for 구곡폭포, then this drive should take 30 minutes to go the 19km.
In my case, I had set up the starting point (출발) from the Lotte City Hotel near Myeongdong District in Seoul with 구곡폭포 as the destination.
This route took us about 90 minutes barring traffic and/or detours to go the 76km distance.
Finally, the Gugok Falls park has a large car park fronted by an entrance kiosk, where there’s normally a 2000 won fee to park.
However, on the day we went in mid-June 2023, they didn’t charge for parking though it’s not clear to me whether we just showed up early or whether they only bother to collect fees on weekends and holidays.
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