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Saturday, 14 December 2013

National Parks in Korea, Part II: Mount Chiak, Wonju, Gangwon Province

Mount Chiak National Park (Hangul/Hanja: 치악산국립공원, 雉岳山國立公園) is located in the province of Gangwon, South Korea. It was designated as the 16th national park in 1984. The park is named after the 1,288-metre (4,226 ft) mountain Mount Chiak, which in turn had its name changed from Mount Jeogak to Chiaksan, meaning "Pheasant Peak Mountain", based on a myth about a man who saved a pheasant from being eaten by a snake. 

It’s total area is about 181.6 sq km, and east of its highest peak, Biro Peak (1,288m), lies Hoengseong County and to the west is Wonju City, Mount Chiak has many steep valleys among its high peaks ranging above 1,000m such as Namdae Peak in the south and Mount Maehwa in the north, and it is know for having a beautiful scenic figure with steep slopes.

The geological foundation of Chiaksan is a metamorphic rock based on unknown sedimentary rocks. Biotite gneiss and Geumdae-ri schist are widely distributed throughout the range. 

The area is easily accessible through expressways such as Interstate 55: Jungang Expressway and Interstate 50: Yeongdong Expressway and railroads. Lots of people visit Mount Chiak National Park because of its proximity with the capital region.

The temple connected to that story is Sangwonsa Temple. South of Sangwonsa in Sangwon-gol is the Natural Monument Seonghwang Forest. To the west are Sejongdae, Mangyeongdae and Mun Stone and Adeul (Son) stone. You can also see fortress walls from the myth of Jeonransa Temple/전란사 such as Yeongwon Fortress, Haemi Fortress and Geumdu Fortress. Near the main peak Birobong is Seokgyeongsa Temple, where the soul of Ungok Won Cheon-Seok is said to be resting, and Ipseokdae, Sinseondae, Taejongdae and Nogoso. Behind them you can enjoy the magnificent landscape of Seryeom Falls, Sadari Byeongchang, Changdae Rock and Tugu Peak. 

Also on the top of Birobong are the famous three stone pagodas (10m high). Guryongsa Temple was established by Monk Uisang (625~702) of the Silla Dynasty (57BCE ∼ 935CE), during the reign of King Munmu the Great. Other attractions include Daeungjeon (Local Tangible Cultural Property No.24), Guryong Waterfall, the Turtle Stone, Tiger Stone and Dragon stone nearby. 

For many years, Mount Chiak was dotted with numerous temples. However, as time wore on, only Guryongsa Temple along with seven others remain today. At Guryong Valley there is a forest of pine trees that are hundreds of years old. The main ridges of Mount Chiak are steep to the west but slope gently in the east. The park is home to a total of 821 plant species and 2,364 animal species. Among the animals 34 are endangered, including the Flying squirrel and Hodgson's Bat.