Geumo-san 금오산 976m
Geumo-san 금오산 976m
Gumi City, Gyeongsangbuk-do
Gumi City, Gyeongsangbuk-do
Yaksa-am hermitage, looking over Gumi city from high on Geumo-san's north-eastern face.
Tall and striking, Geumo-san dominates the city of Gumi, a brooding presence casting long shadows over the cities' southern suburbs, and a fantastic backyard adventure playground for its residents.
The mountain will be familiar to travelers who have passed this way from Seoul to Busan, as the highway runs right alongside it, and is one of the great scenes of the great cross-country drive.
Although steep and with quite a menacing face, Geumo-san is a very achievable peak for all hikers, with well maintained trails and a circuit trail which encompasses the main peak and all the major attractions of the mountain, including two major temples, a mountain hermitage, cliff side cave retreat, 27m high waterfall, Buddha rock relief carving, ancient mountain fortress and spectacular views to some of Korea's major mountains - all in only 8km!
Hikers should make their way from Gumi city centre to 'Geumo Land", a small amusement park located at the main trailheads to the mountain. Our circuit trail will start and end here.
On the south facing map below I'll describe the circuit in yellow, heading past the cable car entrance to Haeun-sa Temple, passing by the Daehye waterfall and Geumo fortress to the summit and heading down to Beopseong-sa via Yaksa-am mountain hermitage.
Geumo land - 4km - Geumo-san summit - 2.7km - Beopseong-sa - 1.3km - Geumo Land
Haeun-sa Temple, with Doseon Cave in the cliff face above
Our trail begins from the large car park area at the head of Geumo-ji lake, near the small Geumo Land amusement park on the north (city) side of the mountain. Following the road alongside the stream you'll pass through an upper car park and on to the Geumo-san Cable Car station.
The hiking trail leaves the wide trail to the cable car, and heads above the western side of the stream, climbing a low ridge for about a kilometre to the grandly restored gates of the Geumo Mountain Fortress. The fortress was originally built in the Goryeo Kingdom, from down in this deep valley all the way to near the summit of Geumo-san, and was restored and used throughout the Joseon dynasty.
The trail continues south-west above the gorge a further 700m to Haeun-sa, the major temple of this northern side of the mountain.
Haeun-sa stands on a flat ledge below the jagged eastern cliffs of Kalda-bong. High on these rocks is Doseon-gul, a cave hermitage of Haeun-sa that is well worth the side trip to visit. Doseon-gul is named for Doseon-guksa, the great Korean Zen monk who created the idea of Pungsu-jiri Geomancy, and the concept of the Baekdu-daegan mountain range and interconnecting ridge system. According to local belief, it is in this cave that he reached enlightenment!
For more on Doseon-guksa, visit David Mason's excellent san-shin.net page for a more than brief introduction!
In addition to this fabulous history, Doseon cave has been used as a place of refuge during tumultuous times in the peninsula. During the Imjin Invasions of the late 16th century the cave is said to have housed over 100 people, living only off arrowroot vines and dripping water.
The cave can be reached by following a thin path which leaves the main trail just past Haeun-sa, and winds it's way for 300 metres up the side of the cliff face, with wonderful views down over the valley to the city. You'll have to return the same way.
From the Doseon Cave junction the trail heads east and descends down to the head of the navigable stream at the base of Dahye-pokpo, an impressive 27m high waterfall which flows from a large basin above.
The falls are also known as Myeonggeum-pokpo "The Songster Falls" because it's sound vibrates through the whole of Geumo-san.
The pool at the base of the fall is known as Yok-dam, as legend tells of nymphs riding down the falls on rainbows to bathe in it's crystal clear waters.
As the only regular source of water flowing off this side of the mountain, the falls and stream-gorge were seen as sacred by the villagers of the fields below as the only provider of irrigation for their crops, and refer to this area as the "valley of favour"
Around Daehye-pokpo is a large area of flat rock perfect for picnicking or a bit of a sit-down while admiring the falls. In the fall of 1977, then president Park Chung-hee was one such picnicker, and it is said that upon seeing rubbish scattered about the place (commonplace in those days), he promptly stood up and got to work picking it up, shouting to onlookers "Now! Let's clean up here!!"
Placed exactly 20 meters from the historic spot, where white shirts were presumably rolled up for this high level working bee, a sign marks Daehye-pokpo as the cradle of the nationwide nature conservation campaign.
Upper Geumo Fortress
Leaving the falls the trail climbs east to a rocky outcrop, before turning south east and climbing steeply to the high ridge to the west of the peak. A few hundred metres before reaching the ridge you'll pass a junction where a track runs east below the peak to the Ma-ae-seok-bul standing Buddha relief carving, this track runs for a kilometre across to Yaksan-am, the carving is 300 metres along.
Our trail climbs west at this junction, reaching the ridge to big south-western views. Turning left the trail passes through the high remnants of the Geumo Fortress before climbing east for the final few hundred metres to the high summit area. Before reaching the summit itself we pass by a large helipad and the rocky western entrance to the high temple of Yaksa-am.
Geumo-san's peak is a 100m detour to the south from just before Yaksa-am, it is celebrated by a large stone stele, and views are sweeping from the north-west to the south-west out to the big peaks of the Baekdu-daegan range. On a clear day it is possible to see the dominant peaks of Gaya-san to the south, Jiri-san south west, Deogyu-san to the west, and Songni-san, Mungyeong, and Sobaek-san to the northwest. Unfortunately the eastern side of the summit is off limits with a large, fenced off communications facility, and views out that way are non-existent from the summit itself, although you can walk around if you continue off Geumo-san's southern pathway.
Across the city to Cheonsaeng-san, on Gumi's north-eastern border, from below Yaksa-am
Back tracking off the peak the trail heads through a grand entrance of huge rock walls into the hermitage of Yaksa-am. Located on a natural rock platform within the sharp northeastern cliffs of Geumo-san, the temple is incredibly dramatic, with a huge bell tower facing east looking over the eastern suburbs of the city to greet the new day.
Our path heads through the main temple, heading left past the bell tower entrance to a small toilet block. Here the path to the Buddha relief carving heads west across the face of the mountain, while our circuit path heads down toward Beopseong-sa.
The trail down is 2.7km, and steep at times with occasional open views from rocky outcrops over to Cheonsaeng-san to the north.
500 metres before reaching the main road near Beopseong-sa is an option to cut west through the forest to the camping ground and main park entrance. Continuing on the main trail you'll come out at a small farm and onto the main road, opposite some public toilets 100m down from Beopseong-sa.
Turning left on the road you'll walk 1.3km back to the main carpark/restaurant area, passing the excellent Geumo-san Campground on the way.
By Car: National Expressway 1 from Seoul to Busan passes right through the heart of Gumi City. Get off at Gumi IC and head straight for the mountain, which is signed all over Gumi. It's a 10min drive from the IC, and the main road heads right up to Geumo-ji lake and the carpark.
By Bus: Gumi City Bus number 12 heads up the mountain from Gumi station to Geumo land, and all places in between.
There are a number of options for staying up at the mountain, from the Geumo Hotel at the high end, motels minbaks and the Geumo-san camping ground on the road between Geumo Land and Beopseong-sa.