Gombae Ridge – South Korea’s Heavenly Paradise
As I embarked on my journey to Gombae Ridge, nestled between Han-gye-ryeong and facing the majestic Seoraksan Mountain, I couldn’t help but admire its unassuming charm in contrast to Seoraksan’s rugged allure. Gombae Ridge, situated on the southern ridge ofJeom-bong Mountain, stood before me at an elevation of 1164m, welcoming travelers from Gwidun-ri in Inje-gun to embark on a remarkable adventure from Gombae Valley to Selpi Village.
Ascending the plateau, surpassing the 1000m mark, a breathtaking sight awaited me. A vast meadow, stretching across thousands of square meters, was adorned with a vibrant tapestry of wildflowers. Gombae Ridge, however, is not a destination easily accessible to everyone at any given time. The entire region, including Gombae Ridge and Jeom-bong Mountain, is recognized as a valuable botanical resource. In 1982, when Seoraksan Mountain was designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Gombae Ridge was rightfully included. The Korea Forest Service has also recognized the ecological significance of the forests near Jindo-ri and Gombae Ridge, designating them as protected areas with a daily visitor limit of 200. To ensure a smooth experience, the Forest Service’s Jeom-bong Mountain Exploration Corner accepts reservations for the following month, starting on the 20th day of each month, using real names.
Gombae Ridge undergoes a transformation with each passing season. In spring, it dazzles with a profusion of spring wildflowers and lush greenery. Summer unveils a vibrant display of summer wildflowers, accompanied by dense forests and the refreshing melodies of Jindo Stream. Autumn paints a breathtaking picture with young maple trees and falling leaves, creating a captivating scene in the valley. And in winter, the ridge beckons adventurers with its enchanting snowy landscapes and delicate snowflakes.
Setting foot at the Gombae Ridge office, I eagerly presented my entrance permit and began my ascent. The 1.5km walk to Gangseon Village, which took approximately 30 minutes, unfolded as the epitome of South Korea’s most beautiful road. Along the way, a tunnel of majestic deciduous trees embraced Gangseon Gorge, creating a harmonious synergy of nature’s beauty.
Regardless of drought or harsh conditions, the stream at Gangseon Gorge never runs dry, allowing Grade 1 freshwater fish to thrive. Even amidst the scorching summer sun, nothing compared to the refreshing sensation of strolling alongside the stream, serenaded by its gentle melody and the sweet songs of birds.
Amidst the lush forests, pockets of wildflowers captivated my attention, punctuating the landscape with vibrant bursts of color. Once a thriving village with its own administrative structure, Gangseon Village now finds its inhabitants, including herbalists, long gone, replaced by enthusiasts captivated by the allure of Gombae Ridge. As I reached Gangseon Village, I discovered the presence of snack shops and restaurants, providing sustenance and a moment to savor the atmosphere.
Crossing the serene pine nut forest and traversing the stepping stones, I embarked on the path leading deeper into the heart of Gombae Ridge’s forest. Along the way, I encountered children from the local community, their cheerful smiles accompanied by the playful presence of their canine companions. The purity of Gombae Ridge’s land washed away the weariness and confinement of urban life, filling me with a sense of profound happiness.
As the sound of the stream gradually faded, I ascended the gentle slopes, surrounded by the charming presence of wildflowers. They danced in the gentle breeze, their delicate petals swaying gracefully, enchanting all who beheld their beauty. Each step brought me closer to the summit, where an enchanting vista awaited.
Finally, I reached the summit of Gombae Ridge, situated 1,164m above sea level. The moment I arrived, the panoramic view left me in awe. I stood on the vast plateau, seamlessly blending with the verdant expanse, and a mesmerizing tableau of wildflowers unfolded before me. The azure sky mingled with the lush greenery, creating a magnificent backdrop for the vibrant wildflowers that seemingly floated in the air. Overwhelmed by the enchanting floral spectacle, I couldn’t help but let out a triumphant cheer. It truly felt like a heavenly paradise.
From the summit, my eyes beheld the grandeur of Jeom-bong Mountain and Daecheong Peak in Seoraksan, capturing their essence in a single gaze. Near the summit, wooden decks were strategically placed, guiding visitors along the designated path. While I understood the need for ecological conservation areas, aesthetically, they seemed somewhat out of place.
The coastal breeze from the East Sea effortlessly swept away the sweat of weary hikers ascending the summit.
Reluctant to leave behind the heavenly paradise and the emerald green landscape, everyone seemed entranced, lost in the beauty that surrounded them. We prepared for our descent, invigorated by the brisk wind. Descending, we retraced our steps, reliving the joyous path that brought us here, cherishing the memories and carrying within us hearts filled with contentment.
The Gombae Ridge trail, starting from the information center and passing through Gangseon Village to the summit, covers a one-way distance of 5km and a round trip of 10km. With its gentle incline, it offers an easily manageable climb, allowing travelers to complete the journey in approximately 3 hours and 30 minutes to 4 hours.
June brings a delightful encounter with a variety of wildflowers:
Noreugwi, Eleji, Baby’s Tears, Dogtooth Violet, Hyunho-Colored Spurge, Ae-gi, Taedip, Wae, Dongi Namul, Yeonbokcho, Pinamul, Jokdoripul, Cheonnamseong, Minari Naengi, Hangueryeongpul, and many more.
By Jung Yeontae/Korea Travel News