About Towangseong Falls, Biryong Falls, and Yukdam Falls (towangseong pokpo [토왕성폭포], biryong pokpo [비룡폭포], yukdam pokpo [육담폭포])
Towangseong Falls (Towangseong Pokpo [토왕성폭포]) was a towering waterfall among the granite peaks of Seoraksan National Park accessible by one of the park’s most popular trails.
It was popular largely because the trail gives you the best of what Seoraksan National Park has to offer such as its signature skyline, the Sinheungsa Temple Complex, and of course multiple waterfalls.
Speaking of multiple waterfalls, we’re really talking about this being a three-waterfall excursion, where the other two were the Yukdam Falls (yukdam pokpo [육담폭포]) and the Biryong Falls (biryong pokpo [비룡폭포]).
Even though Towangseong Falls was the target waterfall on this hike, I have noticed that both the internet searches and the signage at the park tend to focus more on Biryong Falls as well as Yukdam Falls to a lesser extent, which can be confusing.
Just realize that they’re talking about the same hike, which I’ll detail later in this write-up below.
The Seoraksan Sinheungsa Temple
Something I noticed about my hike to Towangseong Falls is that there was an optional 1.6-1.8km round-trip walk to check out a religious complex called the Seoraksan Sinheungsa Temple.
Although this was a detour from the main trail, I found the extension to be worth the extra effort since it added more diversity and intrigue to this excursion.
In my mind, the main appeal of the Sinheungsa Temple (for a non-religious person) was its great photo op as its charming multi-building complex was well-situated before Seoraksan’s granite peaks.
Of course, it didn’t hurt that this spot was apparently important because Sinheungsa was the head temple of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism.
There was also a giant bronze (“unification”) Buddha statue to further this religious holiness aspect of a visit here.
In fact, I saw a sign indicating that they’re apparently going to put a big “supreme court” temple building in an open area that the big Buddha would be facing.
I also noticed that the temple was on the hiking route up to the Ulsanbawi Peak Pass, which was one of the main scenic attractions of Seoraksan National Park.
I ended up spending about an hour pursuing and checking out the Sinheungsa Temple Complex before finally starting the actual hike up to Yukdam Falls, Biryong Falls, and the Towangseong Falls.
Weather At Seoraksan National Park
Before getting into the hike description, I do also want to point out that I really had to consider the weather conditions before setting out (especially since it poured rain the day before).
That was because during my visit in mid-June 2023, there were always threats of pop-up thunderstorms, which seemed to follow a pattern of building up in the morning before becoming stormy (sometimes violently so) by midday or in the afternoon.
So I had to really watch the weather forecast to see if the weather was benign enough to do the hike to begin with.
And even if the weather forecast called for nice weather in the morning, I still needed an early start to ensure that I’d be pretty much done by the time the clouds organized into thunderstorms by midday or early afternoon.
Such storms often are accompanied with lightning, which is no joke when you’re exposed to the elements on conductive granite outcrops, peaks, and ridges.
Besides, when clouds start covering the granite peaks, it can also conspire to block your views, which messes up the very reason why you wanted to be at Seoraksan National Park anyways, right?
On the day that I did this hike (June 14, 2023), I started my hike at 6:30am and I finished at around 10:35am though this included a one-hour detour to experience the Sinheungsa Temple Complex.
The weather went from clear blue skies when I got started to mostly overcast skies around the mountains when I got to the turnaround point (though the clouds weren’t low enough to ruin the experience).
Summary Of The Seoraksan Popular Multi-Waterfall Hike
What I’m calling the Seoraksan Popular Multi-Waterfall Hike is an out-and-back excursion that goes to the Towangseong Falls Observatory (i.e. lookout) as the turnaround point.
Along the way, the trail also encounters the Yukdam Falls and then the Biryong Falls before making the steep climb up to the lookout for Towangseong Falls.
I wound up hiking around 3km between the car park (see directions below) and the Towangseong Falls Observatory (so it’s a minimum of 6km round-trip).
That said, the signs indicated that it was 2.5km one-way to the Towangseong Falls Observatory from the end of the bridge spanning the Ssangcheon River (쌍천 according to my Korean maps).
The same signs also said that it was 1.7km to the Yukdam Falls and 2.1km to Biryong Falls.
Thus, the waterfalls are pretty much concentrated towards the last 800m (or 1.6km if you’re counting the full round-trip distance) of this hike.
The distance between the car park and the other side of the Ssangcheon River Bridge was about 500m.
Again, this does not count the optional 1.2km round-trip distance at minimum to explore to Sinheungsa Temple, which I found to be well worth the detour.
Interestingly enough, my GPS logs suggested I went 3.9km each way and 7.8km round-trip, but I’m sure there were times when the GPS logged movement when I wasn’t moving!
That said, the net elevation gain of this hike was about 250m with about 2/3rds of this climb happening in the final 400m stretch (so you’re definitely going to sweat and get quite the stairmaster workout)!
The Hike To Yukdam Falls (Yukdampokpo)
After spending an hour on the well-developed paved paths to the Sinheungsa Temple and back, I then backtracked past the Seoraksan Cable Car Station (which is a separate excursion and doesn’t do anything to shorten this hike) to the Ssangcheon River Bridge.
Keep in mind that without my optional detour, it’s about 500m to go directly from the car park to the other side of the Ssangcheon River Bridge.
Once at the other side of the bridge, there was fork where signs kept me to the left to continue the hike (the right path went to some meditation area).
After briefly following the developed banks of the bouldery river towards an outflow of a stream (about 300m from the bridge), the path then veered away from the river and into a shaded forest full of Korean Red Pines with the odd giant boulder here and there.
This forested stretch persisted for about 1km as it gently climbed (almost unnoticeably) towards some last-chance restrooms while sprinkling some interpretive signs about various aspects of the forest to keep things interesting.
Beyond the last-chance restrooms at about 1.3km from the bridge, the trail made a turn and started to follow alongside the next stream, which happens to be the one responsible for the next two waterfalls.
At this point, the trail climbed more noticeably and became a little rockier as it then went the next 400m going over a series of steps, a bridge, and streambed ledges alongside intermediate cascades and waterfalls.
Eventually, the trail approached the start of the next series of bridges, where there’s a lookout of the Yukdam Falls before the first crossing.
From this viewpoint, I was able to see the Yukdam Falls beneath the upcoming suspension bridge for a pretty popular photo op.
An interpretive sign here mentioned that around the falls were apparently six potholes where the undercurrent action of the waterflow essentially drilled into dented or broken spots on the granite bedrock.
The name “yukdam” roughly translated into “six puddles”, which obviously referred to these potholes.
As far as hiking progress is concerned, it took me about 40 minutes to cover the 1.7km stretch from the Ssangcheon River Bridge to get here.
The Hike To Biryong Falls (Biryongpokpo)
Once I had my fill of this first look at the attractive Yukdam Falls, I then crossed the bridge and went up a cliff-hanging set of steps leading up to the suspension bridge that went over the lowermost tier of Yukdam Falls.
It was on this bouncy bridge that I could appreciate that this waterfall was way taller than what I initially thought I had seen at the lookout (pictures really don’t do this one justice).
Apparently, this suspension bridge was first built in 1973, but then was closed for a period for about 30 years before being restored and in use again in 2014.
I guess without this bridge, access beyond the Yukdam Falls would be difficult and too dangerous.
Anyways, beyond the suspension bridge, the trail continued to climb alongside Yukdam Falls’ cascading upper drops before crossing over more bridges and minor cascades eventually flattening out near the Biryong Falls.
The trail then went past a signed trail junction where keeping to the left got me right at the lookout directly in front of the 16m Biryong Falls, which had more of a shorter but steeper drop than the Yukdam Falls did.
According to a sign here, the name of the falls means “flying dragon”, and legend has it that a young woman had been sacrificed for a dragon that lived at the falls, which enabled it to ascend to heaven and avert an extreme drought.
This lookout was about 400m from the first lookout at Yukdam Falls climbing on the order of 50-60m over that stretch (or 100m in elevation gain from the Ssangcheon River Bridge).
At this point, I had gone about 2.1km from the Ssangcheon River Bridge or 2.6km from the start of the hike.
The Hike To Towangseong Falls (Towangseongpokpo)
After having my fill of the Biryong Falls, I then backtracked to the signed trail junction where a sign in Korean warned of there being about 900 steps to go the 410m to the Towangseongpokpo Observatory (taking about 20 minutes).
Indeed, they weren’t kidding about the steep and persistent steps because the trail climbed immediately behind this sign following a steep rocky slope with sporadic shade from the thinning tree cover.
At around 100m from the start of the climb, there were rest benches to catch your breath as well as a mostly obstructed lookout before continuing on the next round of “stairmaster” climbing.
At this point, the steps seemed to be following a ridge where there were steep slopes and dropoffs on either side behind the trees growing alongside the path.
I recalled that there was another progress sign roughly 300m from the start of the climb or about 100m from the Towangseong Falls Observatory.
Ultimately, the climb terminated at a two-level lookout deck atop a granite outcrop with a commanding view towards the mountains of the outer area of Seoraksan Mountain as well as a hazy glimpse in the distance towards Sokcho City.
According to a Korean sign here, the falls has a three tier drop with a cumulative height of 320m (160m upper tier, 80m middle tier, and 90m lower tier).
It’s said to originate in a drainage on Hwachaebong Peak before dropping over Chilseongbong Peak and eventually joining up with the Ssangcheon Stream (which Biryong and Yukdam Falls flow upon).
I found it amusing that the same sign also mentioned historical books and journals dating back to the Joseon Dynasty.
Among the remarks made, the falls was described like a heavenly maiden’s silk robe spread over the boulders while another remarked that this falls was better than China’s Mt Lu.
In a way, it kind of shows how much influence China had on the Korean Peninsula in the 1600s-1800s, which I also suspected given how hanja (i.e. Chinese characters) was the predominant writing system before hangeul was invented to improve literacy.
After having my fill of the Towangseong Falls (especially as thunderclouds rapidly grew while I was at the lookout), I looked forward to the all downhill walk back to the car park.
That return stretch took me a little over an hour with minimal stops though I took twice as long as that to get up to this lookout!
Yukdam Falls, Biryong Falls, and Towangseong Falls all reside Seoraksan National Park in Sokcho-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, which lists a phone number that you can call.
Towangseong Falls, Biryong Falls, and Yukdam Falls are in Seoraksan National Park near the city of Sokcho.
However, we’ve opted to base ourselves by the resort town of Gangneung since Sokcho tended to be more of a functional fishing port than a place for tourists.
Anyways, 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 from the St John’s Hotel in Gangneung with 비룡폭포 (Biryong Falls) as the destination.
Note that in this instance, I noticed that Biryong Falls was easily found in the app, which was why I used that as the destination.
This route took us a little over an hour to go the 73km distance.
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