We love Damyang, South Korea! There are so many things to do in the area, the food in the region is fantastic and there is bamboo everywhere. Over the years we have visited a fair number of times but had somehow completely missed Geumseong-Sanseong Fortress (담양 금성산성) until Compass Korea included it in the list of 7 Must See Places Near Gwangju This Fall. We had been feeling pretty frustrated recently because each time we wanted to go to the fortress it would either rain or one of us would be really sick. Those delays were fortunate though because we couldn’t have asked for better weather than what we had this weekend!
How to Get There
Geumseongsanseong Fortress is about a 45 minute drive from Gwangju in Jeollanamdo, South Korea. Alternatively you can take a bus to the Damyang bus terminal and then catch a local bus to the Damyang Resort and Spa. If you are facing the resort there is a street to the right heading up to the trail start. Just past the trail start you can find parking on the right. Entrance to the fortress is free but there is a 2,000 won fee for parking.
Avoiding the Crowds
The leaves in this area of Korea are just starting to change colors at the beginning of November so the popular treks are getting a bit crowded with hikers on their way to see the fall leaves. Visiting during the week rather than the weekend is the best way to avoid the crowds but if you must go on the weekend try to avoid lunch hour.
The mountain was fairly quiet when we went despite it being a Sunday except when we got right to the gate. Suddenly we were surrounded by busloads of hikers in all their gear!
Many tours time their trip so that hikers can all rest within the gates and have their lunch together before continuing on. Around 30 minutes later the fortress was nearly all ours as they went further down the trails!
All About the Hike
It takes about 30 to 40 minutes to hike to the gate but since we were making the climb with a 3 year old it took us around an hour. For about half of the way up, the path is an easy tree lined gravel road that is not terribly steep.
Before entering into the forest you’ll find a rest stop with a few tables, and snacks and drinks to buy. This seems to be a popular spot for men making the hike to stop for a couple of rounds of makkoli (a traditional Korean alcohol). We thought we were nearing the top at this point so we kept on going. In fact, it was about the half way mark.
Once you pass the rest station the pathway enters into the forest and becomes a bit more challenging. Roots become nature’s steps and near the top there is a bit of a climb up some rocks. It was a bit difficult for a 3 year old to make it up this part and we had to help him a lot in this area but he wasn’t the only kid making the climb. We saw about 10 other children during the day though most were around 8 years old or a bit older. We even saw a grandmother in her 80’s making the climb! So if they can all make it, you probably can too!
There are two routes you can take. The both start out from the same place and go up into the fortress gate. If you want to take the short route, just head back down the same way you came up.
The fortress wall though continues around the entire mountain and so you can do the complete loop if you wish. This route has some fantastic views but is quite challenging with steep drop-offs and rocky trails so we just did the short one. Also hidden among the trails are some small temples and a hermitage to check out.