About Miin Falls (miin pokpo [미인폭포])
Miin Falls (Miin Pokpo [미인폭포] or [美人瀑布 in Hanja]; “Beautiful Person” Falls) was a tall waterfall said to be 30-50m tall (depending on who you believe I guess) dropping over red cliffs with a tinge of gray and purple.
A distinguishing feature about the falls is that it tends to have sky blue water in its plunge pool under the right lighting conditions (though it was more greenish during our mid-June 2023 visit).
The color is due to the presence of calcium carbonate (limestone) in the rock layers here, which sheds into the water.
The gorge that contains the waterfall is called the Simpo Gorge (심포합곡; though I’ve also seen it called Tongri Gorge), which contains reddish sedimentary cliffs though the area around the falls seemed to exhibit more of a grayish purple color.
While this gorge has nothing on the Grand Canyon in Northern Arizona, it’s still a very deep gorge that may be ancient enough to contain fossilized dinosaur tracks.
According to the signs here, the word “mi’in” means “beautiful person” (definitely reflected in the Hanja), and a legend related to this word.
It told of a dragon in the pond that tends to come here to bathe when he noticed a beautiful woman in the mountain.
He begged the woman to do a 100-year marriage with her, but she refused and returned to the heavens leaving the dragon to long for her.
During his longing, he created the gorge as well as the water’s path giving rise to the falls where it’s said that his tears still goes over the Miin Falls to this day.
Anyways, as you can see from the photos on this page, the waterfall had a bit of a light flow suggesting to me that it has a seasonal flow that probably peaks in the snowmelt of the Spring or after the monsoons of the Summer.
Accessing the Miin Waterfall was a straightforward affair as we descended a developed 1km path to the base of the falls with Piano Falls and the Yeoraesa Temple along the way.
The path started from an easy-to-miss pullout area opposite the actual turnoff for the Miin Falls and Yeoraesa Temple (see directions below).
From there, we followed a paved road past some toilets before eventually getting to a building with an archway at the top of steps and switchbacks.
At that point, we followed a trail covered with those anti-slip straw “rugs” (that I saw in Sogeumgang Valley) descending a handful of switchbacks.
Along the way, there was a partially obstructed lookout towards a train station and accommodation at the mouth of the Simpo Gorge as well as the Piano Waterfall (피아노폭포), which is light-flowing and visible from one of the switchbacks.
Further along the descent, there was a bridge over the stream containing the Piano Falls leading to the Yeoraesa Temple (여래사 or 加來寺 in Hanja).
Unfortunately during our mid-June 2023 visit, the gate at the far end of the bridge was closed so we can’t say anything more about that experience.
Eventually, the descent leveled out at a ledge near the mouth of the stream containing the Piano Falls (before following the gorge towards the Miin Falls.
After finally seeing the Miin Falls, the trail then descended to a lookout deck for elevated views of the falls before making one final descent to a lower lookout and scrambling path on rocks to the plunge pool before the falls.
Overall, we spent a very leisurely 90 minutes away from the car, but I’d imagine that without lingering you could finish this visit in about an hour.
Miin Falls resides near the towns of Dongye-eup and Taebaek-si in Samcheok-si county of the Gangwon-do Province, South Korea. It may be administered by the local authorities of Samcheok-si. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, you can try visiting this website.
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 (as 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 미인폭포 as the destination (도착).
This route took us nearly 2 hours to go the 98km distance (though Kakao said it should have taken less than 90 minutes).
Finally, it’s worth noting that the car park for the Miin Falls and Yeoraesa Temple is on the opposite side of the signed turnoff.
There’s a narrow road with parallel parking spaces along it as it seemed like the people administering the Miin Pokpo and Yeoraesa were not interested in having public traffic clog up end of the road at that turnoff area.
We witnessed a lot of Korean visitors who were thrown off by this during our visit.
For geographical context, Taebaek is 47km (under an hour drive) south of Samcheok, about 99km (under 90 minutes drive) south of the center of Gangneung, about 106km (under 2 hours drive) northeast of the center of Danyang, and 240km (over 3 hours drive) east of Seoul.
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