Hiking in the ROK – There Are No Jokes on Myeongjisan

By: Erik Weichel 

Even if you had something humorous to mention while hiking Myeongjisan (outside of Gapyeong), you wouldn’t have the audacity to let it be heard. Despite its outstanding and exciting beauty, this mountain is not for those simply looking for a nice view. You will be lulled into your leisurely pace until you realize what exactly these 1200 meters equate to. There are no jokes on Myeongjisan.

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How to get there: Take the ITX line from Sangbong (available from line 7) to Gapyeong. Upon exiting through Exit 1, you will see both bus and taxi booths. This place is a bit of a hike out of Seoul in itself.

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If you arrive the night before: This is what we did. I recommend taking a taxi from the station to the Jarasum Guesthouse, which will be maybe a 10 minute ride. We walked, though this was only because we met a lovely young Korean woman who helped us out. You need to stop by at least for a few craft beers, because they are AMAZING and priced at only 6,000 KRW a piece. There is also an outdoor patio and it’s pretty damn sexual as well. We were extraordinarily inebriated and so I only have a few pictures of the downstairs bar area. Hopefully this fact sums up my opinion on the place. ALSO you can play live music before midnight. Dope.Though if you would rather spend your night getting your sauna on at a Jimjilbang (we did), there are a few near by. Imagine taking a right out of the main doors of the hostel and walking for about 10-15 minutes to the main road. Yet I would definitely ask someone for help, as we were driven there by a good samaritan we met at a GS25. Regardless, it can be done. Continue to the next section for specifics on how to get to the mountain itself.

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If you arrive on the day of the hike: We took a cab from the center of Gapyeong to Myeongjisan and it took about 20 minutes, costing roughly 25,000 KRW. The cab back to the station was about 28,000 KRW. We got someone at the bottom to call one for us. Also worth noting that once we arrived at the mountain, we noticed a Myeongjisan bus station directly in front of the mountain which is pictured along with the bus numbers which run there. I assume you can take these busses from Gapyeong Station, just double check with the bus driver to make sure they are heading that way.

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Myeongjisan: I am serious when I say this to both the travelers who are looking for my advice: get here early. At 1200 meters high, the hike took us over four hours to reach the top. Granted, we did have a few Makgeolli breaks (as should you). This mountain was intense. We followed trail Myeong Ji 1 Bong, which is listed at just over five kilometers (listed picture was not at the bottom of the mountain), but I’m calling bullshit on that one. There were too many times I was sure we were nearing the peak, merely to be screwed by the proverbial pooch.

The early entrance to Myeongjisan is unreal. We hiked on a beautiful late October Sunday afternoon and the foliage was at its peak. I’m literally tearing up as I recollect on the pure, unadulterated spectrum of colors that engrossed my surroundings. Yeah. There are a collection of Temples for you meditative beings out there, and as on most mountains, the near guarantee of an Aju-party at a few different locations. Always a good time. But Myeongjisan is a bad bitch. She’ll turn on you, and turn on you quick. Luring you in as a pleasant, meandering stroll apt for hand holding and poetry, Myeng Ji 1 Bong shifts into a boulderous, exciting, and even difficult climb about half way up.

Several hikers warned us not to continue due to the time, which is why I recommend going early. You don’t want to deal with that. The trail turns to nothing more than a sea of rocks, but it is pretty simple to follow. You won’t get lost, but be prepared for a bit of a struggle. There are multiple sets of stairways, and another section which is accompanied by the necessary use of a thick rope. It gets extremely steep towards the top of this one. Remember though, if a bunch of alcoholics like us can do it, you can as well, just don’t expect a cake walk. That being said, the peak is beyond worth the strain of the hike. As we conquered the last flight of steps, we were literally engulfed in the clouds. And it was COLD. Frigidly cold. It’s indescribable the sensation of being up here, and I can only imagine the view on a clear spring day. Please take this hike. You really won’t regret it.

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Who SHOULD hike Myeongjisan: Any half-way adventurous hikers who are willing to put up with some shit in order to receive an amazing payoff at the peak. There are also a few restaurants at the bottom to reward yourself for a job well done.

Who SHOULD NOT hike Myeongjisan: Emphysema patients, girls in high heals, and boring bastards. Also, don’t bring your kids here if you are planning on getting to the top. While I certainly don’t know your kids, I do know that as a young male in his twenties, I nearly passed out/threw up/gave up multiple times on this mountain. There are no jokes.

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