About Guryong Falls (guryong pokpo [구룡폭포])
Guryong Falls (Guryong Pokpo [구룡폭포]) was a really a multi-waterfall excursion that also featured other interesting sights along the way within the Sogeumgang Valley in Odaesan National Park.
According to my GPS logs, I did a pretty long 7km out-and-back hike (though the signs here suggest that it’s more like 5.6km round-trip) where the turnaround point was the namesake falls.
The waterfall itself had multiple tiers with a cumulative height of around 30m (the photo above is just the waterfall’s main drop).
It’s said that the 9 dragons represent each of the waterfalls or cascades along the Sogeumgang River (though my Gaia GPS map labeled the stream as Yeongokcheon), but some of the waterfalls weren’t significant enough to tell that there were 9 of them.
In addition to the waterfalls, I managed to experience a temple and some nice gorge scenery, which I’ll get into later on in this write-up.
So there was definitely quite a bit of diversity in the sights here to keep things interesting throughout this trail.
I also noticed that there are options for longer hikes that go further into the heart of Odaesan National Park, and apparently, it’s even possible to do a one-way shuttle hike from another road back to the trailhead.
However, those excursions require earlier starts as it gets dark pretty quickly in Sogeumgang Valley, which was something I had experienced firsthand when I did my out-and-back hike.
Although it’s probably wiser to start hiking no later than 3pm, I actually didn’t start my hike until about 5:15pm (hoping to take advantage of the longer days in mid-June) as I had to wait out a thunderstorm.
Experiencing Guryong Falls and the Sogeumgang Valley
The hike to Guryong Falls began from a small car park next to a ranger station, which was just beyond the village of Sogeumgang (see directions below).
From there, I followed a well-signed walk that followed the continuation of a paved road (only authorized vehicles can go on it) past the ranger station and towards the Mureung Villas for the first 750 meters.
It was during that stretch that I saw a signed detour for the Mureunggye Falls roughly 700m from the car park, and it took me down to a rock ledge lookout of the attractive waterfall.
Back on the main trail, the paved road eventually ended near the Mureung Villas, where the trail continued on a narrower path just past some kind of stone monument as well as some kind of pre-recorded message in Korean (probably talking about not getting a late start).
At this point, the trail was now a dirt path surrounded by lots of trees as well as some big boulders, but it pretty much followed the Sogeumgang River throughout the hike.
There were some bridges and interpretive signs along the way to keep things interesting though most of the signs were in Korean and maybe a small percentage of them had English translations.
Anyways, the trail pretty much persisted like this for a while until I reached a signed lookout for the Yeonhwadam Pool, which was another 1.5km (or about 2.2km from the car park) beyond the Mureung Villas.
The Yeonhwadam Pool had another waterfall as well as some buoys (not sure what they were for) before dropping into a calm plunge pool just as the scenery also started to momentarily open up revealing some of Odaesan’s Peaks in the distance.
In another 200m beyond the Yeonhwadam Pool (2.4km from the car park), I then reached the Geumgangsa Temple, which was essentially a retreat as well as religious site built on the north side of the valley against some mountains.
After the temple, the scenery became more interesting as I then crossed a bridge that entered a knobby gorge as the trail started to traverse slick granite, stone steps, and steel catwalks (some of them had steep steps).
There were also some more cascades and waterfalls within the river around these formations (not sure if they also counted amongst the “9 dragons” that gave rise to the waterfall’s place name or not).
The trail then pretty much went in between granite scenery and pretty thick forest through more catwalks and steps along the trail.
By the way, I did notice some CCTV surveillance cameras out here so you definitely can’t Nature call unless you want to do your business on camera!
I did notice that my map indicated that there’s a Cheongsim Waterfall though I’m not sure if I noticed it while walking the last of the catwalks over the riverbed before the final stretch to Guryong Falls.
Finally at around 3.5km (or 2.8km if you buy what the signs said as opposed to my GPS logs), I then reached a fork in the trail where the steps on the left led up a signed lookout for the main drop of Guryong Falls.
The other fork in the trail descended to some bridges that crossed before the lowermost tier of Guryong Falls and then traversed the width of the main river before re-entering the forest.
My turnaround point of the hike was this bridge as there was signage in Korean pretty much saying that if you’re not here by 2pm (or even 1pm if you’re going for the peaks), then you shouldn’t continue any further due to darkness.
After having my fill of the Guryong Falls, I then turned back the way I came, where the last 2km or so involved rapidly decreasing daylight and then twilight by the time I returned to the car park at 7:40pm.
Overall, I spent about 2.5 hours on this excursion though it easily could have been longer had I been able to get an earlier start and not have to deal with darkness during my hike.
Guryong Falls resides in Sogeumgang Valley within Odaesan National Park near Yeongok-myeon village in Gangneung-si county of the Gangwon-do Province, South Korea. It is administered by the Korea National Park Service as well as local authorities. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, you can try visiting this website.
Guryong Falls is in Odaesan National Park near the city of Gangneung.
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.
Anyways, I had set up the starting point (출발) from the St John’s Hotel in Gangneung with 오대산 소금강분소 (Sogeumgang Mill) as the destination (도착).
Note that in this instance, I actually had to consult the map because there are multiple Guryong Falls in South Korea.
This route took me a little under an hour to go the 36km distance.
For geographical context, Gangneung is about 64km (a little over an hour drive) south of Sokcho, 190km (under 2.5 hours drive) north of Danyang, and 220km (about 3.5 hours drive depending on traffic) east of Seoul.
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