Taebaek City is one of the highest-altitude major settlements in South Korea, and one of the coldest. It has a popular snow festival.
Near the city is Taebaeksan, which at 1,567 meters above sea level is the #15 highest mountain in South Korea. According to legend, the father of Dangun, the founder of Gojoseon, the first kingdom in Korea, descended from heaven to earth on “Taebaeksan”. Whether the “Taebaeksan” of legend is the same as the “Taebaeksan” in Gangwon province is open to debate, but since all of the other mountains which might be the “Taebaeksan” of legend are in North Korea, this Taebaeksan (in Gangwon) has become the center of Dangun worship in South Korea. You can read more about the legend here.
The entrance of the trail to the top of Taebaeksan has a couple of presumably old statues.
When I arrived at Taebaek, the trees were at the peak of their autumn colors, so during the bus ride to Taebaeksan I saw lots of scenery which looked like this:
The first section of the trail is really easy – it follows a lovely stream up a valley. The Nakdong river, the longest river on the Korean peninsula, originates in the Taebaek mountains, but I don’t remember if this stream is the actual source of the Nakdong river.
I arrived at a shrine sitting in the mist. I think I saw a sign saying that it was built in the 1960s, but I’m not sure if I am remembered correctly. In any case, most of the sign was in Korean, so I don’t know what this is supposed to be.
At some point, you have to cross the stream, then go up steep steps by a cascade which serves as a tributary of the main stream.
After leaving the cascade, there is another steep section going through a wood.
The path later becomes a bit flatter, though it remains respectably sloped. Eventually, you pass Manggyeongsa Temple (Buddhist) at 1,460 meters above sea level. Next to the temple is a spring which is supposedly the highest-altitude spring in all of South Korea.
Pushing just a bit further on, you reach the peak of Taebaeksan – where you find this:
What is that?
It is an ancient shamanic altar dedicated to Dangun.
Nearby is another peak, Cheonjedan, which also has a shamanic altar.
These altars supposedly were already in use in the time of the Silla kingdom over 1500 years ago, and that they have been used continuously by shamans since then.
I did not see any panoramic views of the surrounding landscape in this weather, but that was fine – I got to see panoramic views on other mountains in South Korea. I came here to get a view into Korea’s past.