Jirisan Overview

Jirisan National Park, established in 1967 as South Korea’s first national park, is a revered natural sanctuary sprawling across three provinces: Jeollabuk-do, Jeollanam-do, and Gyeongsangnam-do. Covering an expansive area of approximately 471.75 square kilometers (about 182 square miles), the park is anchored by Mount Jiri, the second-highest mountain in South Korea, standing at 1,915 meters (6,283 feet) above sea level. Jirisan National Park is a place of immense natural beauty, cultural significance, and biodiversity, drawing visitors from all over the country and beyond.

The park’s landscape is characterized by rugged peaks, deep valleys, and an extensive network of streams and waterfalls, creating a picturesque backdrop that changes with the seasons. Jirisan is particularly famous for its rich flora, including vast expanses of azaleas that bloom in spring, dense forests that turn vibrant hues in autumn, and snow-capped peaks in winter. The park is also home to a diverse array of wildlife, including the endangered Asiatic black bear, which has been the focus of conservation efforts in the park.

Jirisan National Park is steeped in history and spirituality, dotted with ancient temples and hermitages that offer a glimpse into Korea’s Buddhist heritage. Among these, Hwaeomsa Temple, one of the most important Buddhist temples in Korea, is a must-visit for its architectural beauty and historical artifacts.

The park offers a multitude of hiking trails, ranging from challenging treks to the summit of Mount Jiri to more leisurely walks through the valleys and forests. These trails provide opportunities for visitors to immerse themselves in the natural beauty of the park, experience the tranquility of the mountain landscapes, and explore the rich cultural heritage of the region.

Jirisan National Park is not just a destination for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers; it’s a place of pilgrimage for those seeking to connect with the natural world and discover the deep spiritual roots of Korean culture. Its status as the first national park in South Korea underscores its importance as a bastion of natural beauty, biodiversity, and cultural heritage.

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Jirisan National Park Highlights


Jirisan National Park features some spectacular wildlife, although most of it is found in more remote parts of the park.  Here are some the species visitors might experience:

Korean Black Bear

The Korean black bear, a symbol of wilderness in Jirisan National Park, wanders the forests, foraging for berries, insects, and occasionally scavenging for carrion.

Amur Leopard Cat

The elusive Amur leopard cat, with its distinctive spotted coat, prowls the forests of Jirisan National Park, hunting small mammals and birds under cover of darkness.

Siberian Musk Deer

The Siberian musk deer, known for its fang-like tusks, inhabits the dense woodlands of Jirisan National Park, browsing on leaves, twigs, and grasses.

Korean Water Deer

The Korean water deer, adapted to wetland habitats, can be spotted along rivers and marshes in Jirisan National Park, grazing on aquatic plants and grasses.

Asian Black Bear

The Asian black bear, with its characteristic white V-shaped chest mark, roams the forests of Jirisan National Park, feeding on fruits, insects, and occasionally small mammals.

Eurasian Otter

The Eurasian otter, a playful and agile swimmer, frequents the rivers and streams of Jirisan National Park, hunting fish, crustaceans, and amphibians.

Chinese Water Deer

The Chinese water deer, with its unique tusks and reddish-brown coat, inhabits the wetlands and grassy meadows of Jirisan National Park, feeding on grasses and herbs.

Red Fox

The red fox, with its bushy tail and rust-colored fur, thrives in the diverse habitats of Jirisan National Park, hunting rodents, birds, and scavenging carrion.

Siberian Tiger

The Siberian tiger, an apex predator, once ranged these forests, now extirpated but remembered in Jirisan National Park’s rich tapestry of biodiversity.

Manchurian Sika Deer

The Manchurian sika deer, with its distinctive spotted coat, roams the woodlands and alpine meadows of Jirisan National Park, browsing on leaves and grasses.

Hwaeomsa Temple

Hwaeomsa Temple is one of the most significant cultural attractions in Jirisan National Park. Located on the western slopes of the mountain, this ancient Buddhist temple, established in the 6th century during the Silla Kingdom, is an architectural marvel that showcases intricate wooden structures adorned with elaborate carvings and statues.

Visitors can explore the temple’s expansive grounds, which include several national treasures like the Gakhwangjeon Hall, a structure supported by stunningly detailed pillars and home to an impressive statue of Buddha.

The temple also offers temple stay programs where visitors can experience monastic life, including meditation sessions and ritual ceremonies, providing a deep insight into Korea’s Buddhist culture.

Cheoneunsa Temple

Cheoneunsa Temple is another cherished site within Jirisan National Park, nestled deep in a lush valley surrounded by the mountain’s scenic beauty.

This smaller and more secluded temple offers a tranquil retreat from the outside world. Established during the Goryeo Dynasty, Cheoneunsa is known for its peaceful atmosphere and the ancient trees that dot its landscape.

It is an ideal spot for contemplation and spiritual rejuvenation. Visitors can admire traditional Korean Buddhist architecture and explore nearby walking trails that offer serene views of the surrounding forest and streams.

Nogodan Peak Sacred Ground

Nogodan Peak Sacred Ground provides a unique cultural experience with its religious significance and breathtaking natural surroundings. This sacred ground is located near the summit of Nogodan Peak, one of the higher peaks in Jirisan National Park.

Traditionally, this site has been a place of prayer and pilgrimage for many Koreans. The area features several small shrines and stone pagodas that blend seamlessly with the natural landscape, creating a mystical atmosphere that captivates visitors.

The hike to Nogodan Peak itself is a spiritual journey for many, offering spectacular panoramic views of the entire region, making it a popular destination for both nature lovers and spiritual seekers.

Jirisan National Park Pictures

Engaging Jirisan

As the longest mountain ridge trail in South Korea, hiking the Jirisan Ridge Trail offers an immersive experience into the heart of Jirisan National Park. This extensive trail spans over 40 kilometers, providing hikers with diverse landscapes ranging from dense forests to high mountain ridges with commanding views.

Along the trail, hikers can encounter local wildlife, discover secluded temples, and view the breathtaking panorama from various peaks including Cheonwangbong, the highest peak in the park. The trail is challenging but rewards with some of the most stunning natural scenery in Korea, making it a must-do for avid hikers.

Jirisan National Park is dotted with historic temples that offer a glimpse into the spiritual and cultural history of the region. Hwaeomsa Temple and Cheoneunsa Temple are two of the most notable, where visitors can participate in temple stay programs.

These programs allow guests to live like a monk for a few days, engaging in meditation, tea ceremonies, and monastic meals, providing a profound cultural and spiritual experience amidst the tranquil mountain setting.

Jirisan National Park Trails

Cheonwangbong Peak Trail

Rating: Difficult

Distance and Elevation Gain: 9.5 kilometers one way, with an elevation gain of about 1,200 meters.

Description: Leading to Cheonwangbong, the highest peak in Jirisan National Park, this trail is challenging and steep, suited for experienced hikers.

It traverses through dense forests and rugged terrain, offering breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.

The summit provides a panoramic view of the entire Jirisan range, making the arduous climb worthwhile.

Piagol Valley Trail

Rating: Moderate

Distance and Elevation Gain: 7 kilometers one way, with an elevation gain of about 400 meters.

Description: This trail follows the scenic Piagol Valley, known for its beautiful autumn colors and clear streams.

Hikers can enjoy the lush forest, rock formations, and waterfalls along the path.

The trail is moderately challenging, making it accessible to most hikers looking to experience the tranquil beauty of Jirisan’s valleys.

Nogodan Trail

Rating: Easy to Moderate

Distance and Elevation Gain: 4 kilometers one way, with an elevation gain of about 300 meters.

Description: The Nogodan Trail offers a relatively easy hike to the Nogodan Plateau, providing stunning views of Jirisan’s ridges and the surrounding countryside.

The plateau is a popular spot for sunrise views and is known for its alpine meadows and wildflowers. This trail is suitable for families and hikers of all skill levels.

Baraebong Peak Trail

Rating: Moderate

Distance and Elevation Gain: 6 kilometers round trip, with an elevation gain of about 500 meters.

Description: This trail takes hikers to Baraebong Peak, offering spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.

The path is well-maintained, with steady climbs through beautiful forested areas.

The peak is especially popular in spring when azaleas bloom, covering the area in vibrant colors.

Chilseon Valley Trail

Rating: Moderate to Difficult

Distance and Elevation Gain: 10 kilometers round trip, with an elevation gain of about 600 meters.

Description: The Chilseon Valley Trail is known for its dramatic scenery, featuring seven beautiful waterfalls, rugged cliffs, and pristine natural pools.

The trail is challenging, with steep climbs and rocky paths, but offers one of the most unique and rewarding experiences in Jirisan National Park.

It’s a must-do for adventurous hikers seeking to explore the park’s natural beauty.

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  • Korea National Park Service, Jirisan - National Park,, retrieved April 2024.
  • Korean Temple Guide, Hwaeomsa Temple,, retrieved April 2024.
  • Lonely Planet, Welcome to Jirisan National Park,, April 2024.
  • Summit Post, Jirisan National Park,, retrieved April 2024.
  • Wikipedia, Jirisan,, retrieved April 2024.