Beat the heat in the gorgeous valleys of Goesan County
GOESAN COUNTY, North Chungcheong — Avid travelers who wish to continue their adventures but are conscious of social distancing amid the coronavirus pandemic should add this county to their must-visit list: Goesan in North Chungcheong.
While it may not be the top choice for travelers looking for activities to take part in during their leisure time, Goesan is perfect for nature lovers.
In fact, its number-one draw is its numerous untouched valleys.
In the summer months, when many look for an escape from the scorching sun and sweat-inducing temperatures, valleys in Goesan are the perfect summer vacation destinations.
And amid the pandemic, the valleys that stretch up to high mountain peaks offer a chance to enjoy the water and avoid beaches which are much more likely to see a larger number of people gathered together.
Gallon Valley, which was chosen as one of the 100 less busy travel destinations by the state-run Korea Tourism Organization, is a great spot for a picnic out during the day. It is the only spot in Goesan County that made it to the list, so definitely worth a visit.
Walking from the entrance, where cars are no longer allowed to pass, you will get to see the running water within about five minutes. Follow a better paved trail that’s about 3 kilometers (2 miles) long to see the water hitting the rocks in the valley.
Along the trail, there are multiple openings for you to get closer to the water, so look for the spot that appeals to you most. Some young visitors come carrying a whole watermelon to keep them satisfied during their visit. Trees growing along the trail also offer many shady spots.
Gallon Valley is part of Songnisan National Park, and therefore there are some rules to follow. While barbecuing or camping overnight is not allowed, you're more than welcome to take a packed lunch or picnic to enjoy.
Because of the low water level, it is relatively safe to get your feet wet. However, it's better to wear sandals rather than going barefoot as the rocks are slippery.
If you'd rather keep your feet dry, just hop from rock to rock.
For those who want to take in more mountainous views, there are fields covered with wild flowers along the trail.
Gallon is not the only valley to visit in the area — there is also Seonyu Gugok, Ssanggok Gugok and Hwayang Gugok. Gyegok is the Korean word for valley.
Historically, during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), the valleys were often sought out by academic scholars.
Many, including Yi Hwang (1501-1570), often took their pupils out to the nature to talk about books they were studying or paint the view they saw as a way to improve upon their academic and artistic skills.
Hwayang Gugok provides multiple picturesque spots for those looking for the most dramatic views for memorable photos.
Although it takes much more time to hike all the way there, the view makes every drop of sweat worthwhile.
Focus on the sound of water hitting the rocks, to find your own tranquility in nature. Maybe pack some paper to scribble on. Who knows, you might be hit with all the academic and artistic inspirations that was felt by the scholars who once studied here.
Ssanggok Gugok may be the most convenient choice for families with younger children. The access to the valley with the backdrop of tall cliffs is located right by a parking lot as well as a cafe with a restroom.
At Ssanggok Gugok, the focus is more on the cliff than the water itself. Shapes of cut rocks with protruding greenery coming from the cracks offer a breathtaking view.
You can also try walking up the valley to stay away from the busier area close to the parking lot.
Besides staying put in the valley for hours, you can be more active and walk the trails the county has paved.
Sanmagi Yet-gil trail used to be one of the most well-known spots to visit in Goesan. The trail, made specifically to draw in visitors back in 2011, has lots of different additions to entertain, such as a shaking bridge.
Although not as popular as it once was, there is speculation that the county is checking to see if they can renovate the area to add more up-to-date facilities to allure more visitors.
Another trail called Yangban-gil, translated to mean "trail of noble aristocrats," passes by Yeonhahyeop Bridge, which leads walkers to a more mountainous trail.
To make the walk more dramatic, a transparent floor has been installed on parts of the bridge so that visitors can see the river right below their feet.
It takes about two hours to get to Goesan by car or an express bus. One can go to Central City Terminal to catch the inter-city bus. The fare starts from 12,100 won ($10).
For more information about where to go in Goesan County and how to explore, visit the country’s website www.goesan.go.kr for details.
To get more details on the general travel information across Korea, call 1330, a travel hotline available for 24 hours every day. The service is offered in four different languages: Korean, English, Japanese and Chinese.
BY LEE SUN-MIN [email@example.com]