Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Hiking Palgongsan’s Olle Trails - Donghwasa to Buinsa Temple

Similar to Jeju’s famous Olle Trails, the Palgongsan Olle Trails are a series of eight hiking courses that highlight the natural beauty and popular landmarks of the Palgong Mountains.  Course 8, a circular trail that combines nature and culture, winds along a tree-lined valley road to a reflective pond, a natural water slide, and finally, to the quietly beautiful Buinsa Temple.
The trail begins at the Donghwasa Temple bus drop off point.  From there, follow the trail signs for Buinsa Temple and Sutaegol Parking.  Follow the iconic shoe signs, a symbol of the Palgong Olle Trail, as you continue walking through the small town and past Palgongson Hot Springs Hotel and the Safety Theme Park.
You will soon approach the Sutaegol Valley parking lot, which is the trailhead to a very popular trail that follows a cold stream.  Smooth, flat rocks jut out across and beside the water, making it a perfect place to take a break, have a picnic, and dip your feet into the refreshingly cool water.  If you’re feeling adventurous, hike a little more upstream to slide down a natural water slide! 
To get back on the Olle Trail, simply make your way back to the main road.  At the intersection of the Sutaegol Valley Trail and the main road, you’ll encounter a clear blue reflection pond on the right hand side with mountains looming in the background.

Continue following the marked signs past lush foliage and fruit farms.  If you’re feeling hungry, stop for a snack at one of many roadside fruit vendors along the trail.  In the summer, you can find baskets heaping with ripe tomatoes, sweet peaches, and juicy plums for sale.
Once you see a large, flat rock with a sign for Buinsa Temple, turn right and walk up the quiet farm-lined trail towards the temple.  The first thing you’ll see from the road are a row of stupas.  The path diverges at this point, with one trail leading left past the stupas and the other leading up some old worn steps that disappear into the forest.
Either trail you chose will take you to Buinsa Temple.  Established in the 7th century, during the reign of Queen Seondeok, Buinsa Temple is known for formerly housing the first woodblock copy of Buddhist scriptures known as Tripitaka Koreana.  The Tripitaka Koreana was burned, recreated, and later transferred to another temple, but the shrine to Queen Seondeok still remains.
Though smaller and often overshadowed by nearby Donghwasa and Gatbawi, Buinsa Temple is a compact temple complex surrounded by well-maintained flower gardens.  Beautiful paintings adorn every surface, and bells dangle delicately from the eaves of the buildings, ringing ever-so-gently in the cool mountain breeze.  In the late afternoon, this off-the-beaten track temple hardly sees any visitors, and if you’re as lucky as I was, you’ll have the place all to yourself to explore.
Backtrack to return the beginning of the trail, this time following the path on the opposite side of the main road, stopping at one of the many lovely outdoor cafes on the way back.

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DETAILS

Address:35 Dohak-dong, Dong-gu, Daegu (start of trailhead)

Directions: The trailhead to Palgongsan Olle Course 8 is easily accessible by car or via public transportation.  On weekdays, take the Rapid 1, and get off at the Donghwasa Temple stop. Follow the signs pointing towards Sutaegol parking and Buinsa Temple.  Once on the trail, follow the signs with the shoe icon and course name with arrows pointing in the direction of the path.  If you want to skip the return hike, jump on the Palgong 3 bus across the street from Buinsa Temple.  The Palgong 3 bus runs every 40 minutes, weekends and holidays only, and will take you back to Dongwhasa.

Trail Route:Palgongsan Olle Course 8:Donghwasa Temple bus stop→ Sutaegol Valley → Sutaeji Pond/Reservoir→ Buinsa Temple → Tree-lined street on Mt. Palgongsan beltway →Donghwasa Temple bus stop

Trail Description: Easy to moderate.  Mostly paved with some uphill sections.  Round trip is about 5km and takes approximately 2-3 hours, more if you plan on stopping to see Donghwasa Temple or Sutaegol Valley.This trail is temporarily open in summer from June until September.

Website: www.dgcn.org (Korean only)


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