Adventures in ultra-running, nature-loving, plant-eating & travel

Deoksan Provincial Park

It wasn’t the highest peak on the peninsula. It wasn’t the longest hike of our mountain mission year. But there was something about Deoksan Provincial Park that I loved, right from the start.

An image of the author exploring Buddhist relics. She is a tiny figure, dwarfed by a large, simple stone Buddha seated on several tiers of stone pedestals. The Buddha is located alongside a rocky cliff.

I wasn’t feeling myself on our taxi ride to the park. We’d spent the morning exploring Taeanhaean National Park. Feeling uncharacteristically tired, I wondered whether we were rushing through the parks too fast. But as soon as we arrived in the welcoming little tourist village below the mountain, I felt a weight lift from my shoulders. By the time we hiking uphill on the forested slopes, I felt relaxed and restored to myself. Not for the first or the last time, I felt the strong healing power of nature.

An image of a serene hermitage, situated high above the valley on the slopes of Deoksan. There are two stone pagodas perched on large boulders above a little lily-filled pond. A classical Korean temple building forms the background, along with the encroaching green of the forest.
Tranquil temples…
An image showing the trails in Deoksan Provincial park. A seam of earth runs down the center of the image, interrupted by the gnarled roots of trees that rise up from the middle of the path. The slope is not severe, and the forest to the sides of the path is dense but not overgrown.
…and trails

Still, despite my burst of excited energy, we didn’t rush this mountain. It was to be a short hike to the summit, and we wanted to enjoy each step.  So we climbed slowly, lingering at little hermitages and rocky outcrops; snacking and photographing and basking in the sun. We even had a little picnic at the summit, something we hadn’t done in ages! We traded some Clif bars for tangerines among some fellow hikers who joined us at the top. It was incredibly peaceful, and just what I needed.

An image of the author and her husband, and it's not a selfie! The pair stand on either side of the stone summit stele. They are smiling happily at the camera. The ground at their feet is rocky, and the tops of some trees form the background of the image.
The tippy top!
An image of the author seated on top of a large boulder. She is wearing a running backpack and has her back turned to the camera, looking out over the forested slopes of the mountain. A still larger boulder is to the left.
In my natural habitat

Descending with a light heart, I was happy that our adventures weren’t over. In fact, the route we chose to descend on offered us many sights in the form of statues, relics and stone wish towers. We lingered at the main temple; observing pilgrims and reading the historical plaques.

An image of three stone Buddhas, facing at angles to one another. Each statue is performing different mudras or hand gestures. There are piles of tiny rocks stacked into towers near the Buddhas' feet.
Buddhas and prayers
An image depicting Sudeoksa temple. In the background, the classical and elegant shapes of the temple buildings harmonize with the emerald mountain slopes. In the foreground, a large stone pagoda pierces the sky, while a woman walks circles around it it in prayer.
Sudeoksa temple

Finally back in the tourist village after our little loop, we still weren’t ready to go. So we didn’t! We stayed for a meal, a random slurpee and a game of cards!

Know and Go! Deoksan Provincial Park

Transportation

Deoksan Provincial Park is a little remote. It’s not so much that it’s far from Seoul, it’s just that it’s pretty distant from any urban center.  The park lies in Yesan county, a couple of hours south of Seoul. The closest and largest town in the area is Hongseong.

Coming from Seoul by public bus is possible. There’s a bus to nearby Hanseodae from Seoul Nambu bus terminal. Or, take a slow train to Sapgyo station. From either of those destinations, the mountain is just a short taxi ride away.

If you a little extra time to explore the area, it might be worth your while to look into spending some time on the beaches of the west coast in Taeanhaean National Park.

Hike

The peak atop Deoksan Provincial Park is an accessible couple of kilometers away, round-trip. The trails are comfortable and fun. And don’t let the short distances deceive you into thinking there’s little to see here. In fact, this park is full to bursting with interesting Buddhist artifacts! It also boasts one of my favorite tourist villages of any park, and, thanks to the flat land surrounding the park, has beautiful expansive views from the summit. The trails are welcoming, the forest is warm and the temple is a treasure worth exploring.

An image of the trails in Deoksan Provincial Park. The park has one main trail leading from a temple at the bottom to the summit at the top, but there are two large loops branching off from the main trail, leading to hermitages and other Buddhist sites in the forest.
Deoksan Provincial Park trail map

Stay & Eat

Eating options are abundant at the foot of the mountain. We had some great mountain vegetable dishes there ourselves. There’s also cafes and local maekgoli, if that’s your thing.

We weren’t planning to stay the night, so we didn’t look into accommodation options. We did spot a couple of minbaks, and I imagine it’d be quite pleasant to stay in this quiet little corner of the world overnight. However, for more convenient transit options, it might suit some better to stay in the city and make a day trip to Deoksan.

Other Notes

Kent and I visited this park in late August 2016. We made a wee, 3.9 kilometer loop over the peak.

The peak is 495 meter Deoksungsan rises high over an area of flatter farmland for great views.

Don’t miss a stop at Sudeoksa temple, run by Buddhist nuns, and its many hermitages in the hills! Here’s a little more about the area from the English language Yesan county website!

Lastly, I hope you might take an interest in these other national and provincial parks!

 



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