Geoje Ridgeline Trail

March 10, 2014

The Geoje-do Ridgeline Trail (GRT) was founded by an American hiking enthusiast who became intimately familiar with the mountains of Geoje Island in South Korea. The trail stretches a distance of approximately 30 km (19 miles) and combines three established ridgelines that span Korea's second largest island, where my fiance and I lived for one year in 2013. Hiking this trail, one approaches the remains of ancient fortresses and temples and the ruins of a POW camp established during the Korean war. At one point, the hiker will walk directly over what is left of a stone fortress wall. From the peak of Garasan (Gara Mountain), where we prematurely ended our journey, it is sometimes possible to see Japan. The GRT is a great way to experience the beauty of Geoje Island, from the populated, urbanized North to the breathtaking coastlines in the South.

We hiked the trail in late fall last year and a lack of sunlight prevented a continuous daytime trek. We carried our tent and sleeping bags with us and camped overnight at the quaint Geoje Natural Recreation Forest, which rests at the base of Nojasan (Noja Mountain). We slept on a wooden plank with regular visits from several charming forest cats and two chickens. Were we to do it again, we'd have opted out of camping; our heavy packs intensified what was already a challenging hike. Tired and hungry, we ended our trek early, stopped at a mart for some cold beers, enjoyed a view of Hakdong black pebble beach, and missed our bus home. 

If you seek specific information regarding the GRT, there is a very helpful Facebook page here. I also found this article - written by the trail's founder, Michael Eschenbach - to be helpful and interesting. Should you embark on this hike, I urge you to start early in the morning, head North to South, and bring extra food to share with fellow hikers. On our trip, we were offered fresh fruit, rice, and candy, a very common and uniquely Korean gesture. Prepared for such generosity, we brought along a large bag of trail mix; we ate about 2/3 of the bag and the rest was offered up in the spirit of companionship on the trail.

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  1. Absolutely stunning views on the South side of the island, but a highly enjoyable trek all the way through. Can't second strongly enough about leaving the camping gear behind. Exactly half way through the hike the prescribed path leads to a small town with a few motels, or the Geoje Natural Forest of Recreation (거제자연휴양림) has some lovely looking cabins that don't cost much. Had we traveled lighter we most likely would have been able to complete the hike and enjoy not having all the extra weight.

    Even with the gear, this was one of my favorite weekends in Korea. Spending multiple days in the woods and marveling at the ocean views is something that doesn't get old. Enjoyable from start to finish, even with a hot pink duct taped together shoe.


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