Our most recent camping trip in Korea was an overwhelming success. Not only did we hike our hearts (and legs) out, we also found Korea’s best National Park camp site, bar none. As far as I am aware Chiaksan National Park is the only park where you can camp inside the park entrance. Outside of Korea this camp site would have been packed to the hilt, after all it was pretty, right by a gentle river and was less than a mile from the entrance. As an added bonus it even boasted clean (ish) toilets and a drinks vending machine a couple of hundred feet’s walk away. As it turned out we had the whole place to ourselves until much later in the evening when we were joined by solo camper who was gone by the time we crawled out of our tent the next morning. After great speculation we decided that the site’s lack of popularity was owing to the average Korean camper’s love of camping stuff. You can imagine the set up, a big table, comfortable chairs, a washing up station, a generator, a badminton net and the list goes on. While a mile isn’t far, it’s not close either if you’re carrying all of that.
Picture the scene, you’ve lived in Korea for the best part of eighteen months and love camping and for the first time you show up somewhere and there are no people! It was a moment of elation. Our previous night’s campsite was overrun by people, lovely people it’s safe to say but it was most definitely not a peaceful, relaxing experience. You get the point, we were excited. We found the rangers who were more concerned with watching the TV than us, paid them the paltry pound or two camping fee and left them to it. As soon as we turned our backs, we were given a few words of warning,
Please, no fire. You no fire. Fire here is bad. No fire. Thank you. please no fire. yes? no fire camping, no fire….
We did our best to reassure the three uniformed men that we would not make a fire under any circumstances (although it would’ve been nice, there was nobody around and it was a beautiful, dry night…) Obviously we didn’t sound convincing enough because the onslaught continued in broken English for a very long time. A very, very long time.
It took all my strength not to make fire that night, partly because I wanted to and partly because the teenager inside me wanted to rebel against the nagging lecture we’d just had. We resisted and it was for the best, I’m not sure what would have happened if we had made a fire but if three fully grown, park rangers are that terrified, I’m not sure that we mere mortals were up to the challenge!
You can access Chiaksan National Park by local bus or tax from Wonju. The campsite is a mile from the park entrance and is easily spotted as it’s by the nature trail area which can be fairly busy during the day. The majority of the trail is quiet, we saw very few people in peak season and you can hike from the main entrance along the length of the park comfortably in a day. It is about 26km and took us between 8 and 9 hours at a relaxed pace. There are campsites at both ends.
For more information: http://english.knps.or.kr/Knp/Chiaksan/Intro/Introduction.aspx?MenuNum=1&Submenu=Npp