September is a quite mysterious month of year. It lays between summer and fall giving hot and cold same time, and also it always starts same week day with December. So I packed my bag for YongMunSan(Yongmun mountain) as I didn't want to miss this kind of mysterious time of the year, and before the mountain changes its color.
There's lots of good things if you arrive there early in the morning. You don't need to pay for the parking and admission.
Standing on the empty parking lot and looking the top of Yongmunsan, the morning sun is highlighting the top and enticing me to the mountain.
Yongmunsan is 1,157m high and is the 4th highest mountain in Kyeonggi-Do, South Korea. It locates about 50km away to the east from Seoul. On the top, though there's some facilities by airforce and broadcast companies in Korea but no problem to go up there.
The road took me to the gate of YongMunSa(Temple), IlJuMun. Iljumun is the first gate at the entrance to many Korean Buddhist temples. Called the "One-Pillar Gate", because when viewed from the side the gate appears to be supported by a single pillar. This symbolizes the one true path of enlightenment which supports the world. It is the boundary between the Buddhist temple and a human's worldly life. The gate symbolizes purification and one must leave all of their worldly desires before entering the temple.
Yongmunsan is very famous for Yongmunsa(temple) and a thousand years old ginkgo tree, but also famous for the battle in 1951 against Chinese army during Korean War.
On this very calm and peaceful path, May in 1951, an Yongmunsan regiment fought against 3 divisions of Chinese army and wiped them out. After this battle, the Allied Forces was able to start the counter attack against the communist(allied force of North Korea and China). But unfortunately it damaged Yongmunsa very seriously.
When thinking the sacrifice of Yongmun regiment, those paper lights on the path to the temple are not just light but something meaningful on the early autumn morning.
The 1,100 years old grandma ginkgo tree which was watching the serious battle 60 years ago, fortunately, didn't get any damage from the battle. It is 42m tall with 14m's waist and the tallest tree in Korea. It has some story about its origin. According to the legend, this tree was planted by Maui who was thr crown prince of Silla and the son of its last king Gyeongsun, on his way to Geumgangsan after the fall of the dynasty. Many Korean people is visiting this mountain just to watch this tree.
Facing to the ginkgo tree, there ¡s Yongmunsa(Yongmun temple).
This temple was built in 10th century but it has destroyed by Japanese troops in 1907 and burned again during the battle in 1951. Current buildings were rebuilt on the ash.
Nevertheless of those pains, the temple fills my heart with piety in early autumn morning.
The real hiking is starting as soon as you leave the temple. Crossing the bridge and walking through the mountain pass, I feel something amazing is waiting for us. It looks like nobody is ahead.
There are so many small rocks on the trail. Those rocks are from the big quartzite. Time broke the big rock into many small rocks.
Soon after, you need to choose left trail or right trail. The left leads to the ridge of Yongmunsan and the right is to the valley. The valley trail is little tougher than the ridge trail, however both trial will lead you to the top. I took the left as my first target is SangWonSa(temple).
Be careful when you pass this kind of rocky trail.
However some path is very nice to walk and seems to keep some story about fairies.
After about 30 minutes walking from Yongmunsa temple, arrived at the ridge fork where lead to the top and Sangwonsa temple. As soon as the sound of my heart beat vanished from my ears, we could hear the full orchestra music played by autumn life.
If you go straight, you will get the top but my first target, Sangwonsa is on the left.
Do you like the narrow path in the forest? I love this kind of path. As walking slowly and singing my favorite song, birds are singing with me.
There are some bench place in this mountain, please take a break.
I feel the Sangwonsa temple will be waiting for me over this pass. We call this kind of pass as a “Jae or GoGae.” It looks very familiar to me. This pass is very similar to my childhood pass to my grandmother’s house. There were many foxes on the pass and we call it Up-side-down-pass.
Because we believed the fox can be turned into a beautiful girl after a somersault. And the girl make people lose their mind. I was so afraid about it whenever I went there.
It was just story but I have no intention to stay here longer.
Soon after, we arrived at Sangwonsa temple. It looks similar to Yongmunsa temple. Actually both temples were built in same year. The first advisor of Choseon dynasty, MuhakDaeSa, stayed here and also the brother of King SeJong stayed here.
Watching the temple house with firewood for winter and the cloud in the blue sky, I feel autumn in my heart though the mountain hasn't change the color yet.
If I can be in this house heated by the firewood in the winter, reading a book by the snow light, is there any perfect moment than this?
The path to JangGunBong starts from this bridge, down from the temple.
You will find this milepost very soon after the bridge.
The trail to JangGunBong has several tough points but not difficult.
You can enjoy to watch the peak of YongMunSan at some height.
After walking 6 Km from the parking lot, we arrived at JangGunBong. It says 1065m. This is the second highest peak in YoungMunSan. If you go left, you will meet BaekWunBong which looks like Matterhorn in Swiss. Our peak is on the right.
On the way to the top, this kind of rocky pass is waiting.
But also some wild flowers too.
Finally, the trees and bushes have gone and meet the entire YongMunSan.
And arrived at the top. 1157m.
From the top, you can watch YongMunSa temple and the parking lot we have left. It is very relieved view.
The way to down is better than way up.
On the way down, I look up the top once more. Some people arrived at this point and grumbled because the top is still too far for them.
About 1km away from the top, we meet this fork with two options. The one is taking valley trail and the other is ridge trail. No hesitation! Valley!
The valley trail is very rocky trail like this and it goes on until to near to YongMunSa temple. Be careful.
In the valley, you can meet this kind of big rock where you can sleep on if feel tired. It called as “MaDangBaWi” means rock looks like the front yard.
Crossing wooden bridge,
Watching a small waterfall,
The valley is getting wider and you will meet people is enjoying this valley. As I told you, YongMun means “the dragon gate”, I think there lived a dragon in this valley once upon a time.
Returned to the parking lot and watching the peak, I felt we started in summer and ended in autumn.
If you like to visit YongMunSan with a professional guide or if you have a half day available before you fly from Korea after a business meeting, or if you need a guide to get around in Korea, Please don't hesitate to send me an email to