My friend Johnny and I wandered over to Songnisan this past weekend and it was an absolutely beautiful place.
Getting there: first, go to Daejeon (buses and trains are frequent). Next, go to Dongbu Intercity Bus Terminal (pictured below). If you're coming from the train station, leave exit 1, go under to cross the street, and the local 201 or 501 will take you there in about 10 minutes.
Here is the schedule for buses from Dongbu Bus Terminal to Songnisan. It takes about an hour and twenty minutes.
To get home, take a bus back to Daejeon. Here is a schedule of departures from Songnisan:
As for the trail itself... there are several routes suggested on Korea's National Park Service website and Korea in the Clouds blog. I was excited to do a longer loop course - 17.9 km! And was surprised it would only take 4.5 hours! Of course, this was foolish. In actuality the course is significantly longer. Walking on flat ground at a brisk pace is about 6 km an hour, so hiking this quickly was entirely ridiculous.
From where the buses drop you off, walk straight down the crowded street full of street vendors. Its about 1 km to the park entrance. Then, its a short walk to the temple- Beopjusa. The trail to Cheonhwangbong is smooth and flat the first 4 km. After that, its climbing up moss covered stairs and hiking up steep gradients.
This is one of the main reasons I had to see Songnisan next. This is a 33 m tall Buddha that is plated in actual gold. Its quite impressive.
Under the giant Buddha is a circular walkway with hundreds of smaller gold Buddhas, wrapping around to a big room with another large gold Buddha. That is the main one though, so it cannot be photographed.
Another reason to make the trip? This fantastic five story pagoda. Most pagodas in Korea are statues, things to look at but not functioning. This is one of the only ones here done in this style. I've always loved these, and know they are more common in other countries, like China, so it was fantastic to see this one in person.
Unlike most parks I've ventured to, this one had moss everywhere. The buildings, rocks, steps, fencing.. I loved it. Probably the most memorable part of the trail here.
Johnny is very enthusiastic about these cute little pagodas. Visitors can gather nearby rocks and build their own. Be careful though! Its bad luck to knock over someone else's pagoda, even if it is an accident.
At about 3:30, Johnny and I realized we would never make it to the peak and down by dark. We decided to play it safe and head back. I was pretty disappointed, but the combination of a late start in the morning, getting lost, dealing with soreness in my knees still, and the wrong trail time estimates, it was not surprising that we didn't finish.