Hike to Geumseong-Sanseong Fortress in Damyang, Korea

geumseong fortress damyang

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!

hikers mountain korea

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!

Lunch Damyang fortress

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!

Preschooler mountain climb
view from geumseong fortress

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.

fortress gate damyang korea

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.

fortress gate korea
view from geumseong fortress

view from geumseong fortress

22 Replies to “Hike to Geumseong-Sanseong Fortress in Damyang, Korea”

  1. Anthony Jury

    Great post about one of my favourite countries. I have been to South Korea on a few occassions but never to Damyang, so thanks for intoducing it to me. South Korea is full of woderful hikes and is certainly one of my favourite things to do in the country, my favourite is Muju-gun, which I did during the middle of winter, freezing cold, thick of snow but stunning scenery. I look forward to putting the Geumseong-Sanseong Fortress in Damyang on my list for the next trip to Korea.

    Reply
    • Far Away Places Post author

      We just found out that there is another fortress close by in Gochang as well and we’re going to check that one out soon too. So many things to see hidden in the mountains in Korea!~

      Reply
    • Far Away Places Post author

      Thanks! I believe the full route is about 3-4 hours. So, not too bad, just a bit long for a little guy

      Reply
  2. Kallsy

    Thank you for such a detailed description of this hike! My husband and I are always looking for new places to trek and we hope to visit more of Asia soon so we'll definitely be looking into this a little more. The views are simply spectacular!

    Reply
    • Far Away Places Post author

      If you make it this way, I reccomend the Jeollanamdo region for sure! It’s down in the Southern part of the country and there is so much to do and see

      Reply
  3. Gareth

    If I'm honest, I wasn't aware of this spot, despite living in Korea for a year and doing quite a bit of hiking when I was there. The views certainly look spectacular though and really, I always thought the hiking in Korea was a little underrated. It can come as quite the ego-killer when you are puffing up a hill only to have a group of older ladies sail effortlessly past you!

    Reply
    • Far Away Places Post author

      We’ve lived like 30 min from this fortress for about 9 years and didn’t know it was here! I’ve just found out that there is another one close by that we are going to try to make it to as well. I definatly know that feeling about the old ladies. We once had a 90 grandmother who was terribly bent over using canes pass us on a trail but on this hike our 3 year old was passing a bunch of people!

      Reply
  4. Colleen

    Thank you for the AWESOME directions. I'm someone that gets lost…. A LOT. So, this was super helpful. Seems like such a cool experience and I can't wait to try makkoli!

    Reply
    • Far Away Places Post author

      Personally, I hate makkoli! haha But a lot of people really enjoy it and they are trying to make trendier versions. It’s cheap and traditional if nothing else 🙂

      Reply
  5. Nomadic Foot

    Traveling with family always makes me happy and excited. I always want to show this world to my family and try to find out some good destinations for family. This place loook perfect for my family.

    Reply
    • Far Away Places Post author

      Yes, Korea is very easy to travel around with kids of any age! Hope to see you here some day 🙂

      Reply
    • Far Away Places Post author

      I think Korea has done a very good job of promoting Korea as a flashy, modern, vibrant place full of the big buildings of Seoul and K-pop while overlooking some of it’s really fantastic natural and cultural locations.

      Reply
    • Far Away Places Post author

      It was a lot of fun! We’re heard of another fortress locally but it;s not in the mountains. I’m not sure how it will compare!

      Reply
    • Far Away Places Post author

      We started traveling with him when he was really young and he’s very athletic. I think that helps! Mommy and daddy complain about these hikes more than he does. We’re getting old 😉

      Reply
  6. Vyjay

    The Hike to the fortress seems really interesting and fun. I can see it can be done with kids and we can go slow, enjoying the experience and bonding together as a family. I think a great place for a family picnic and also some great views.

    Reply
  7. Sheena

    You had me at bamboo! The hike looks lovely too 🙂 And what a trooper your little guy is, I bet he did you proud as the only kid on the hike – parenting win! 

    Reply
    • Far Away Places Post author

      We went to another fortress this past weekend and there was a really big bamboo forest! I’ll post later in the week 🙂 If we dont get him outside and doing stuff he bounces off the walls 😉

      Reply

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