Mt. Gaya (가야산국립공원) is a spiritual place that has witnessed the development of Korean Buddhist tradition. The name Gaya originated from Bodh Gaya, an Indian town where Sakyamuni Buddha attained his enlightenment. At the bottom of the mountain (southwestern) is Haeinsa Buddhist Monastery, established in 802 and a fundamental center of the Avatsmasaka School in Korea. The temple houses various Buddhist hermitages, stones, and heritages.
Like most parks in Korea, there are various trails that you can take. We started our hike from Haeinsa since this was the easiest way to get to the mountain by public means. The start of the trail is mostly shaded with pine trees and graced with fresh streams. As you go higher in elevation, you are welcomed with incredible views and beautiful rock formations; there is even one rock resembling the shape of Buddha as you approach the peak.
This was a relatively easy hike for me (avid hiker) and my friend, who is new at hiking. There was not much traffic on the trail since we hiked in the middle of summer. We were the only ones on the course for the first few kilometers, though we later met a few people towards the peak that had started their trek from a different starting point. It was estimated to take five hours, but it took six hours (We took it slow since my friend is new to hiking).
Once you get past the forested areas, the views are incredible; we saw and took some great pictures before the weather changed. Although unfortunately, due to the sudden change in weather, the peak was a bit gloomy and misty; on a clear day, you can see Deokyusan Mountain and Jirisan Mountain a far off.
Chilbulbong peak (1433 – highest peak) is 200 meters away from Sangwangbong Peak (1430m), so I managed to rush to it and back as my friend rested at the first peak. There is no way I could stop at the first peak without reaching the highest peak on the mountain.
Overall, this was such a beautiful and fun hike; my friend liked it so much that she wants to head back on a clear sunny day.
The Route (Round)
Sangwangbong Course 1 (4.2 Km) : Haeinsa -> Sangwangbong Peak -> Chilbulbong Peak
Sangwangbong Course 2 (4.3 Km) : Baegundong Information Center -> Chilbulbong Peak
How to get there from Daejeon
It is a bit challenging to get to Gayasan if you are using public transport. However, after doing some research, we found the easiest way to get there would be to take a Train from Daejeon Station to South Daegu and a taxi ride (5000 KRW) to the Seo Daegu Bus Terminal to take the bus directly to Haeinsa temple. Buses are heading to Heinsa at regular intervals. I recommend arriving there quite early in case you need to wait for the next bus.
Where to eat
The area around Haeinsa has plenty of beautiful – traditionally themed coffee shops to take a rest and recuperate from the hike. We didn’t see many eating options except the traditional restaurant at the bus rest stop.
Tips for Trekking
- If you are traveling from far, please give yourself enough time as there is a 1- 1.30 bus interval.
- We hiked during the summer, and there were few people on the trail. Make sure you plan for any emergencies. Bring an extra power bank and enough food and water for dehydration.
- I would recommend doing a point-to-point hike; most people we found trail started from Haeinsa temple and finished at Baegundong Information Center.
- Take note of the bus departure times back to Seo Daegu
- A comfortable pair of shoes will improve your hiking experience and come with an open mind.