Korea is known for its prestigious mountain temples and monasteries called “sansa.” Koreans from the past believed that mountains embodied holy energy that governed over the country, which led to the construction of temples and pagodas to pray for the country’s prosperity. Hence, many of Korea’s mountains are home to several temples, both big and small, attracting tourists and mountain-goers who seek to admire the picturesque autumn beauty. Read on for a list of Korea’s most prominent mountains that boast majestic fall foliage and temples.
When it comes to autumn destinations, the first mountain that comes to mind for most is Seoraksan Mountain. A feast for the eyes throughout the year, rich colors make Seoraksan a main attraction in autumn. In particular, Beakdamsa Temple located on the Maeungnyeong Pass, the mountain’s highest point, is known for thousands of rock piles and Baekdamgyegok Valley set against the background of the mountain range. Some of the best places to enjoy the autumn leaves are at Cheonbuldong Valley, Osaek Mineral Spring, and Osaek Jujeongol Valley.
Odaesan Mountain’s vibrant fall foliage puts it on the map as an autumn destination. This mountain is where you can appreciate the beauty of autumn foliage as well as valuable cultural heritages by visiting the 1,000-year-old Woljeongsa Temple. The 1-kilometer forest path leading to the temple is lined with 1,700 fir trees and easy to walk on, allowing hikers to pause and take photos of the vibrant attention-grabbing fall foliage along the way. The neighboring Sangwonsa Temple is another fall attraction that is well worth your time.
Songnisan Mountain is designated as one of the eight scenic sights of Korea for its unique cliffs and majestic mountain range. The mountain blooms with mountain cherry blossoms in spring, and becomes covered with shades of red and yellow in fall. The mountain is home to a 33-meter Buddhist statue and the UNESCO-designated Beopjusa Temple, welcomed by a 2-kilometer entrance path with beautiful autumn alder forest. The best hiking trail for enjoying Songnisan Mountain’s fall foliage takes you from Beopjusa Temple, past Sesimjeong Pavilion and finish at Birobong Peak, where you can see a magnificent panoramic view of Beopjusa Temple surrounded by autumn colors.
Naejangsan National Park boasts a high volume of visitors in late October, as to be expected from a top foliage destination since the Joseon dynasty. The best places to enjoy fall foliage are Naejangsa and Baegyangsa Temples. Naejangsa Temple is noted for the tunnel of multicolored maple trees that connects the temple and Iljumun Gate, while Baegyangsa Temple is famous for its pond that reflects the beauty of its surroundings, including Baekhakbong Peak. Visitors are recommended to take the cable car and view the colorful mountain ridgelines from above.
Daedunsan Mountain stretches across the border of Jeollabuk-do and Chungcheongnam-do and has an elevation of 879 meters. The mountain eludes a unique atmosphere with its notable rocky peaks, tree forests, and Macheondae Terrace. It is also equipped with a cable car and Geumgang Suspension Bridge to allow visitors to take a closer look at the maple leaves. In particular, the view from the overpass built 81 meters above ground offers both thrill and pleasure, attracting visitors non-stop. Another draw to Daedunsan Mountain is Taegosa Temple, built by one of the most well-known monks of Korean Buddhism, Monk Wonhyo. The temple sits on Macheondae Terrace, making it look like a temple in the air.
* This column was last updated in November 2021, and therefore information may differ from what is presented here. We advise you to check details before visiting.