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Bike Seoul to Yeoju

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Ride the old rails from Seoul and into the heart of Korea’s past.

Welcome to the rest of the Hangang Bicycle Path.

GeoTag

Bike Seoul to Yeoju forms the second of a three leg cycling tour down the Han River. Seoul’s North Side and South Side traversed the first leg. Ride Yeoju to Chungju conquers the last leg.

This section is part of the Cross-Country Route, which travels from Incheon to Busan.

Let’s begin where we left off.

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Hanam Yeoju Distance City Names
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Highlights

Paldang Bridge

Paldang Bridge (팔당대교). This is where the North and South Side Bike Paths through Seoul conclude.

Took the North Side? You’re on the correct side of the Han River (한강).

Took the South Side? Then cross Paldang Bridge from Hanam City (하남시) and arrive in Namyangju City, another one of Seoul’s satellite cities, or “bed towns.”

High-rise apartments filled with folks swell most cities surrounding Seoul in Gyeonggi Province. And a handful of cities contain over a million souls, meaning they’re eligible for the self-autonomous “Metropolitan City’‘ status. 

Namyangju isn’t one of those cities. Because of Seoul’s greenbelt  — a ring of land around the capital, off-limits to urban developers — farms and parks claim much of the city’s 458 square kilometers.

One result of Namyangju’s restrictions: no downtown. Namyangju-ites spread throughout clusters of apartments and suburban outposts, tucked under hillsides, wedged between verdant valleys.

Valley of Green

A verdant valley unfurls east of Paldang Bridge (팔당대교) along the Hangang Bicycle Path between Hanam and Namyangju Cities.
A verdant valley unfurls east of Paldang Bridge (팔당대교) along the Hangang Bicycle Path between Hanam and Namyangju Cities.

East of Paldang Bridge, crowned by Geomdan Mountain (검단산; 658 m) in the south and Yebong Mountain (예봉산; 683 m) in the north, a verdant valley of mountain clusters unfurls before you.

Pedal onwards!

On the upper hillside above buzzes Gyeonggang Road (경강로), which carries vacationers from Seoul through Pyeongchang (평창군) — site of the 2018 Winter Olympics — to seaside Gangneung City (강릉시) along the Gangwon (East Coast) Bike Path.

Just above hangs Paldang Station (팔당역), a Gyeongui-Jungang Line (경의·중앙선) stop. This commuter rail runs from the DMZ (문산역), snakes through Seoul, and terminates two stations beyond downtown Yangpyeong.

Come weekend, Seoul cyclists stream from Paldang or any of the six other stations along this section of the Hangang Bike Path, ready for a countryside jaunt.

Roll along. A kilometer and a half down from Paldang Bridge (directions), the route slams into a bit of city; a distant outpost of Wabu Town (와부읍).

Follow the blue bike lines as they divert across streets and crawl under a Gyeonggang Road overpass (road view).

Hungry? Thirsty? Cafés and Korean chicken noodle soup spots litter the settlement around.

Ghost Rails

Beyond the roadway overpass, climb to the top of an embankment (road view).

Hate hills? Hairpin turns and dragged routes? Then thank those who came before.

Electrification

In the 2000s, Seoul electrified the Gyeongui-Jungang commuter rail line. That meant replacing old tracks with new.

The entrance to an old railroad tunnel converted into a cycling tunnel along the Hangang Bicycle Path in Yangpyeong, South Korea.
Yangpyeong Country transformed eight old rail tunnels into cycling and walking paths along the Hangang Bicycle Path.

In Seoul, where space was (and is) scarce, engineers painstakingly tore up old tracks and installed upgraded rail and electric gates.

Outside the capital, however, it was cheaper to purchase and clear new land, burrow fresh tunnels, and lay a new route.

The New Old

So what happened to the old railroad? You’re riding on it. 

Namyangju City and Yangpyeong County installed bike paths along the old rail bed.

So instead of fatiguing your legs on Korea’s innumerable hills and peaks, the next 30 kilometers to downtown Yangpyeong navigate the efficient train route through old tunnels and around gentle bends (directions).

Paldang Dam

4 km (Ride Seoul to Yeoju)
6.3%

Atop the railroad embankment, keep those wheels turning.

Stop at one of the many rest stops and view the valley that no development can touch (road view). On sunny days, clouds smear shadows over their green slopes. In fog, tails of white wrap plump, earthy frames.

And, look! Over the horizon, Paldang Dam (팔당댐; road view), the Fortifications of Seoul.

Paldang, the Protector

Completed in 1973, this dam holds down two jobs.

  • It stabilizes water flow.
  • And it generates power.

Throughout Korean history, the Han River gave and took. It watered farmers’ crops and led ships to the Yellow Sea’s trade routes. But it also regularly washed away riverside settlements. 

To stabilize the Han’s flow — prevent floods and droughts — engineers dropped a 29 meter tall, 575 meter wide curved wall twelve kilometers upstream from Seoul’s borders.

So if Paldang fails, not only does Seoul’s lights dim and tap run dry, Gangnam, Songpa, and every riverside district will transform into an above ground pool.

Today Paldang Dam sends 2.6 million tons of water per day and generates 338 gigawatts of electricity annually for the capital city.

While the dam has a road across its top, only vehicles can cross when weekend traffic reaches apocalyptic levels. No bikes allowed.

Paldang Lake

Just beyond Paldang Dam, roll upon the first of eight tunnels along the Bike Seoul to Yangpyeong route: Bongan Tunnel (봉안터널).

Ride into the hole carved into the hillside ahead (road view) and cruise through the naturally refrigerated burrow.

Pop out and find a genuine section of the old railroad track (road view) splitting the bike lanes over a short bridge.

As the bike path bends right, the trees recede and offer a glimpse of the reverse side of Paldang Dam and Paldang Lake (팔당호; road view).

When complete, the dam flooded the river valley behind it, creating a 244 million ton reservoir. The halted flow fomented algae blooms that starved the water of oxygen, killing river critters.

So while the dam made life comfortable for downstream humans, upstream ecosystems received the sharp end of the progress stick.

Neungnae Station

5.9 km (Ride Seoul to Yeoju)
9.3%

After the Bongan Tunnel, the bike road slips into a teardrop peninsula in the river. 

Curve into flanking trees, farms, passing ten-meter sections of the old track embedded between the bike lanes.

Near the center of the peninsula, an extended stretch of old rails leads into Neungnae Station (능내역), a local cycling mecca.

Neungnae Station Then

Neungnae Station began as a small stop along the Gyeongui-Jungang Line in 1956. Over the years, the station grew but never served a major population center.

So when railway operators rerouted the line onto new tracks, they skipped Neungnae Station and transferred responsibilities to Ungilsan Station (운길산역).

Neungnae Station lost its primary function and closed in December, 2008.

Neungnae Station Now

Neungnae Station lives!

Once the Hangang Bike Path replaced the old railroad, proprietors repurposed the old outpost.

Noodle and pop-up hot dog shops dropped seating on the old tracks (road view) and found a steady revenue stream in hungry, passing cyclists. Memorabilia invaded the old station building (road view), now open to the public. And a café invaded an abandoned rail car (road view).

Neungnae Station Certification Center

One feature beats all the old station flair. Just before the main building, next to a bike rental station, sits the Neungnae Station Certification Center (road view).

능내역
인증센터
62 km (38.5 mi) from start
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Neungnae Station certification center checkpoint stamp for Korea's Bicycle Certification system.

Don’t want to grab a bite? Just here for the stamp? Chug along slowly when crossing Neungnae Station’s main drag. Watch out for dawdling crowds.

Two Rivers Into One

Onward down the curving bike path. Hop a bridge over a city road and arrive at a path side rest stop (map) with a unique feature: a row of binoculars (road view).

Set your bike down and peer through a pair. Spot the uninhabited Jokja Island (족자섬) and an expanse of water.

A view of Jokja Island (족자섬) and the merging of the North and South Han Rivers along the Hangang Bicycle path in Namyangju City.
This Hangang Bicycle Path holds a rest stop where you can witness the merging of the North and South Han Rivers near Jokja Island (족자섬).

What’s so special about it? From the Hangang Bike Path, this is your clearest glance at the convergence of the North and South Han Rivers.

The Han River flows as one only near the end of its life: through Seoul and into the Yellow Sea. For much of its existence, the river lives a double life. 

Intersections

Jump back the bike route and continue the last stretch on the riverside peninsula. Sail through arboreous lengths beside the North Han River and Road (북한강로).

Keep an eye out for a quartet of vehicle roads that smash into your route.

  1. Here (road view; map).
  2. Here (road view; map)
  3. Here (road view; map)
  4. And here (road view; map)

Respect each intersection’s traffic signs and traffic. Bongo trucks, Korea’s every-duty pickup, drive like they’re an hour late to wherever they’re going. 

These crossings bear a bit of danger, but also a smidge of treasure. The second and third intersections lie near mini-villages, which sport fresh fruit stands and quick-dine shops.

At the end of the peninsula, the bike road curves and leaps over North Han River Road on a small bridge.

As you land, find a right-hand signpost with two blue arrows (road view).

  • One points forward and reads “이포보 / Ipo-bo / 36 km”.
  • The other points right, to a diving offramp, and reads “춘천시 신매대교 / Chuncheon Sinmae Bridge / 70 km.”

If you have a day to kill, head right, barrel down the ramp (road view), and spiral around to the Balgeun Gwangjang Certification Center (밝은광장 인증센터).

This red booth doesn’t count towards the Hangang Bicycle Path. It’s the first stamp along the Bukhangang Bike Path, which snakes 70 kilometers north to Chuncheon City (a.k.a. Romantic City).

Bukhangang Railroad Bridge

10 km (Ride Seoul to Yeoju)
15.8%
A picture of a clear fall day on the bike paths in Korea.
Bukhangang Railraod Bridge (북한강 철교) repurposed the old Yangsu Railroad Bridge into a cycling and walking bridge over the North Han River.

Keep your wheels pointing forward and continue on the Hangang Bicycle Path.

Two bridges spanning the same section of the North Han River approach after a hundred meters. At one time, each claimed the name “Yangsu Railroad Bridge” (양수철교).

Old Yangsu Railway Bridge

Engineers completed the original Yangsu Railroad Bridge in 1939. For almost 70 years it carried trains along the old Gyeongui-Jungang Line, connecting Neungnae to Yangsu Stations.

The first bridge lived for only eleven years, however. Acting as a critical point just outside Seoul, the Korean War tore the bridge asunder twice.

  • First in 1950, upon the North Korean Army’s rapid advance.
  • Then again in 1952. The People’s Liberation Army (China) joined the fight and drove the southern forces back to Seoul.
A picture of the new Yangsu Railway Bridge (양수철교) along the Hangang Bike Path.
Carrying commuter trains over the North Han River, the new Yangsu Railway Bridge (양수철교) runs beside the Bukhangang Railroad Bridge (북한강 철교) along the Hangang Bike Path.

New Yangsu Railway Bridge

As we explored earlier, the modernizing of the Gyeongui-Jungang Line required new rail infrastructure. And the faster trains and electric gates didn’t meld with old Yangsu Bridge’s fatigued architecture and overhead trusses.

So the Korea Railroad Corporation (Korail) built a gleaming concrete arch bridge beside it. Glance to the left as you ride and spot green gates and overhead wiring surfing across the new Yangsu Railway Bridge (road view).

Biking Bridge

A picture of a bike rider on the Bukhangang Bridge outside of Seoul.
The Bukhangang Bridge (북한강 철교) crosses the North Han River near the point where it merges with the South Han.

What happened to the old Yangsu Railway Bridge?

It received the new title “Bukhangang [North Han River] Railroad Bridge (북한강 철교). Then engineers tore up the tracks, installed wooden slats, and reinforced its aging supports.

Today the old bridge doesn’t carry trains, but bikers and walking selfie machines, capturing social media certificate pics of its gold and rust colored overhead trusses (road view).

Because of its proximity to Seoul and unique look, the railroad bridge cameos in everything from K-dramas and K-pop music videos.

Yangpyeong Dumulmeori

Near the end of the Bukhangang Bridge, beside a public restroom, discover another offshoot (road view) that leads to the first of the Namhangang’s (South Han River) Eight Scenic Views.

 Climb down a set of stairs and land on Yangpyeong Dumulmeori (양평 두물머리), an island that stretches down the bottom bit of the North Han River (aerial view).

Yangpyeong Dumulmeori? That’s a confusing name. It has a literal meaning.

  • Yangpyeong (양평) refers to Yangpyeong County, where it resides.
  • Du (두) means “two.”
  • Mul (물) means “water.”
  • Meori (머리) means “head.”

This island sits at the point where two waters meet: the North and South Han Rivers.

In the past, a port facilitated the area’s trade and transportation. But since Yangsu (양수대교) and Sinyangsu (신양수대교) Bridges arrived, the boats dried up.

Now parks, photo spots, and cafés dominate the river island. The high summer lotus flowers of Semiwon (세미원; island adjacent) and green lotus hot dogs draw sightseers to the area. 

Want to get the best perspective on the colliding waterways? Descend from Bukhangang Railroad Bridge and bike south fifteen minutes to the tip of the Yangpyeong Dumulmeori (directions). There sits a panoramic view of the North and South Han’s collision (road view).

Before we pedal further, let’s note the passage of land.

Crossing over Yangpyeong Dumulmeori brought you from Namyangju City and into Yangpyeong County.

As we noted before, cities fill Gyeonggi Province. Twenty-eight of the province’s thirty-one municipalities hold the title of “city,” meaning they hold over 150,000 citizens.

With a population around 120,000, Yangpyeong claims the rare title of “county.” This works to its advantage, however. Proximity to the capital combined with a bucolic landscape makes it a haven for Seoulites seeking a rural tinged vacay.

Tunnel Hopping in Yangpyeong

Near the end of the Bukhangang Railroad Bridge, the new Yangsu Railway Bridge cuddles close to the old before gracefully entering Yangsu Station (양수역), just on the mainland.

The bike path, however, takes a few jagged turns, then twists onto city streets (road view), nearly colliding with Yangsu Station.

Why? While Korail abandoned Neungnae Station, they kept every other station active. They disconnected the old tracks and linked up with the new line. 

The effect? At three succeeding stations — Yangsu, Sinwon, Guksu — to avoid running smack into active tracks, the old rail bed and bike path reroutes, tossing the cyclists onto city streets. No kiss goodbye. No cab fare.

Rail Hopping

The Gyeongui-Jungang Line allows full-size bikes on weekends and holidays. That makes them perfect transportation options for weekend cyclists escaping Seoul for a countryside ride.

From Paldang Bridge to downtown Yangpyeong, seven stations perch under a kilometer from the Bike Seoul to Yeoju section of the Hangang Bike Path. Each a useful access and exit point.

Yongdam Art Tunnel

12.2 km (Ride Seoul to Yeoju)
19.3%

Ride along Yangsu Station. Just before a roundabout, the route jumps through the station’s courtyard (road view) and onto another bike path (road view).

From Yangsu Station, the rail line and bike path run side-by-side for a stretch, then collide directly into a hillside (road view).

Don’t worry! It’s not a Wile E Coyote situation.

Like the Bongan Tunnel beside Paldang Dam, this next section brings a series of eight rail tunnels converted into hill-bypassing bike shoots.

Tunnel Totals

The Bike Seoul to Yeoju route holds nine total tunnels. Each earned their living as a section of the old Gyeongui-Jungang Line. Now they usher cyclists and sightseers through steep hillsides.

Local beautification efforts transformed two — Gigok and Yongdam — into “art tunnels.” What does that mean? Worked embedded colored LEDs and light fixtures into the tunnel’s walls.

The first tunnel, Yongdam Art Tunnel (용담아트터널; 441 m), gets its name for the local village nearby.

Enter and discover lights embedded in the walls projecting hue shifting brilliance onto the arched ceiling… maybe.

The Middle Tunnels

Pop out of Yongdam Tunnel and find yourself on a ridge beside Buyong Mountain (부용산), which invades the riverside and shoves the rail, vehicle, and bike roads against the South Han.

The Buyong Tunnels
Bike path parallel to train tracks along the Hangang Bike Path.
Between Buyong Tunnel 2 and 3, the new and old rail routes meet as they dive through hillsides.

Less than a kilometer later, encounter the aptly named Buyong Tunnels, which arrive in four short bursts along a two kilometer span.

As you pop between their chilled interiors, spot Gyeonggang Road’s bifurcated lanes on your right (road view). It’s Seoul-bound east lanes cling to a strip of land below. While the Gangneung City-bound west lanes hop stout pillars over the river’s waters.

Between Buyong Tunnels 3 (부용3) and 2 (부용2), glimpse the new Gyeongui-Jungang line as it threads a set of parallel set of tunnels (road view).

Rest stops (road view) and food tents (road view) populate this high trail/ They give cyclists a break during this isolated stretch.

Sinwon Station

The bike road curls with the South Han and into Sinwon Station (신원역).

Here, like Yongsu Station before, the new and old rail lines collide, forcing the bike route to reroute onto city streets.

Follow the blue lines around Sinwon Station’s main building (road view) and onto Gyeonggang Road (road view). Transition back onto the bike path in half a kilometer (road view).

Dogok Tunnel

Pedal beside the new railroad through Yeonpyeong settlements, then follow a tree decorated bend into Dogok Tunnel (도곡터널; 190 m).

Emerged to multitudes of farm fields sprouting before Guksu Station (국수역).

Guksu Station

Pass a rest stop with old railroad decor (road view) and stumble into the same old problem: the new and old rail routes collide.

Beside Guksu Station, the bike path unspools onto a narrow farm (road view) then a town road (road view). Cling to the bottom of the active tracks (road view) until the bike path restarts (road view).

Wonbok Tunnel

Near Bokpo Village (복포리), after a country road bridge (road view), ride into Wonbok Tunnel (원복터널; 265 m). Emerge between concrete embankments and sweep through more farms and settlements in a hilly valley.

Gigok Art Tunnel

22.8 km (Ride Seoul to Yeoju)
36.1%

Capping off the tunnel-centric section burrows the pinnacle of mountain holes.

Over half a kilometer long, the Gigok Art Tunnel (기곡아트터널) is the longest along the Bike Seoul to Yeoju Bike route.

Like the Yongdam Art Tunnel before, light fixtures furnish the tunnel’s walls. However…

Tunnel Blunder

Back in 2012, when Yangyeong retrofitted the old rail bed into bike paths, planners held stratospheric hopes.

Original proposals envisioned transforming the first and last tunnels, Yongdam and Gigok, into the world’s first “bike museum tunnels,” with inside and outside art dropped throughout.

Reality came quickly. When Yangpyeong County completed the bike paths, limited time, funds, and willpower consumed initial inspiration. Simple light fixtures replaced commissioned sculptures and murals.

Adding a dash of woe, planners failed to account for the “tunnel factor.” Constant moisture ate away at exposed wiring, short circuiting, dimming, destroying.

Now, instead of a magnificent rainbow spectacle, riders settle for overhead fluorescents.

Asin Gallery

23.8 km (Ride Seoul to Yeoju)
37.7%

Zoom out of Gigok Tunnel and roll into a well adorned, functioning aesthetic space (road view).

Nestled under the swirling overpasses of Gyeonggang Road and a Highway 45 interchange, the Asin Gallery (아신갤러리) splatters public art indoors and outdoors.

The main gallery occupies a couple repurposed, mural painted Mugunghwa train carriages on a section of the old track (road view). Open from 10 AM to 5 PM (closed Mondays), inside lives permanent and temporary exhibits.

No time for a gallery tour? Outside, picture painted pillars and outdoor sculptures created by Korean artists populate the grounds and rest areas.

In spring, along one section of track, a wisteria tunnel blooms purple glories.

Asin Station

As you approach Asin Station (아신역), the bike road does something a little different. Instead of hitting, then bouncing off the rail station, the route zooms down to the South Han River.

After rejoining your watery tour guide, climb a raised viewing platform (map). Catch motorboats and water skiers skim the currents (road view).

Downtown Detours

Now close to downtown Yangpyeong, riverside Nam Mountain (남산) squeezes farm and city roads together, causing a few misdirecting intersections (directions). 

From the viewing platform along the South Han (map), ride until you reach a fork (road view). Follow the Numbered Distance Marker Sins (always) and cross Satan Stream (사탄천; pronounced /sa-tan/, not Beelzebub).

Veer left back onto the old railroad bed (road view) and roll along a winding ridge, beside farms and over rural roads (road view).

Near another Gyeonggang Road overpass, the bike route curls over a major city intersection (road view).

  • Turn right after the crosswalk.
  • Pedal under the overpass.
  • Slither behind a gas station (road view)
  • Then cross another street and bridge (road view)

Welcome to the last stretch of the old Gyeongui-Jungang Rail Line.

Yangpyeong Art Museum

29.3 km (Ride Seoul to Yeoju)
46.4%

Cycle along the ridgeline until the irregular lines of Yangpyeong Museum of Art (양평립미술관) pop into view (road view).

Opened in 2011, the museum rises three stories and encompasses almost 5,000 square meters. It’s four gallery spaces hold permanent and seasonal exhibitions.

Why such a magnificent art mecca in a rural county? According to their site, Yangpyeong produces the most artists per capita in Korea.

Yangpyeong-gun Art Museum Certification Center

Just before the museum, along the ridgeway, roll under a solar panel roof and find another red booth: the Yangpyeong-gun Art Museum Certification Center.

Take out your bike passport and step inside.

양평군립미술관
인증센터
86 km (53.5 mi) from start
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Yangpyeong Art Museum certification center checkpoint stamp for Korea's Bicycle Certification system.

Wait for the ink to dry. Drop your passport in your bag.

Say goodbye to the old Gyeongui-Jungang Line rail bed route, then roll down the embankment towards the art museum.

Abstract Paths

The art museum is a part of a sprawling complex that includes five institutions:

Parking lots, sidewalks, and a few bike paths bridge the spaces between, creating a maze that ensnares bikers.

At the bottom of the embankment, find a fork in the path (road view).

  • Keep straight for a shortcut to Yanggeun Stream (양근천).
  • Turn right and continue along the Hangang Bike Path

Turn right. Bike lanes carry you behind the Yangpyeong Art Museum.

<small>Note! The museum’s rear parking lot once kept the Certification Center. If you can’t find it on the solar panel roofed embankment, check here (map).</small>

Ride until you smash onto Yanggeun Road (양근로; road view).

Here the bike path breaks. Blue guiding lines fade away.

Cross to the opposite side of the Yanggeun Road (road view). Slide under Yanggeun Bridge (양근교) and down to the South Han River.

Downtown Yangpyeong

Ride along the river and cross a low wooden bridge over Yanggeun Stream (road view). A T-intersection waits on the other side (road view).

  • Turn left to head upstream.
  • Turn right to continue on the Hangang Bike Path.

Still daytime? Your belly rumble-free? Turn right.

Tired? Your belly rumble-licious? Turn left.

Head up Yanggeun Stream’s bike paths and into the heart of downtown Yangpyeong. There, you’ll discover restaurants (map) to refuel and motels (map) to crash.

Silver Grass of Yangpyeong

From the T-intersection, turn right and swing out to the South Han River (Namhangang).

Ride along the edge of Yangpyeong’s downtown, slip under Yangpyeong Bridge (양평교), and climb an embankment. Here you have two options (road view).

What’s the 2nd View of the Namhangang (South Han River)?

Cross Yangpyeong Bridge to the south side of the waterway and land in Naruke Festival Park (나루께축제공원).

There, swaying in the current drawn breeze, amongst weeping willows and wireframe sculptures, find the Silver Grass of Yangpyeong (양평 억새림). Best during autumn.

Walkers Delight

Let’s stick to the north side of the South Han. The south side doesn’t have a monopoly on silver haired grass. You’ll find plenty of riverside meadows on your way to Yeoju.

From Yangpyeong Bridge, pedal onto a wooden raised platform (road view), then a lane-less walking path.

The next stretch presents riverside sports parks and pensions under a canopy of path side trees (directions).

Traveling in cold weather? Expect an unobstructed ride. But on sunbathed days, locals escape to nature and fill these paths. Some bounce between the paths like a pinball. So take caution.

Crowds clear as you flee further from the population epicenter.

Filter Point

Four kilometers past downtown Yangpyeong, ride onto Hyundeok Bridge (현덕교) and pause midway (road view). Watch Heuk Stream (흑천) slip into the South Han River’s marshy stubble. 

This bridge marks the filter point, where cycling daytrippers catch a train or bus back to Seoul. Real explorers roam yonder.

A picture of Hyundeok Stream taken from Hyundeok Bridge (현덕교) just past downtown Yangpyeong along the Hangang Bicycle Path.
The view from Hyundeok Bridge (현덕교) just past downtown Yangpyeong. It marks the point where day-tripping cyclists catch a bus back to Seoul. Adventurers venture forth.

A Sporty Hill

Curve down an outer bend until the route jackknifes inland (road view) then climbs a country road over a 108-meter peak (directions), the first taste of incline.

Warning! Most of the main road doesn’t provide sidewalks, protected lanes, or blue guide lines. Just bicycle decals every couple hundred meters.

This inland excursion requires two self-administered turns.

  • The First — right off the South Han River, turn right (road view; map).
  • The Second — near the end of the country road, turn right again (road view; map)

Yangpyeong’s End

After the sporty hill, turn right and jump Hyang-ri Stream (향리천) into Gaegun Leports Park (개군레포츠공원), which occupies a small river peninsula.

Wind around the sports fields and onto the bike road beside Gaegun Village (개군면). Spy path side businesses catering to adventure bikers like yourself (road view).

Three kilometers down the path, before a pumping station and wooden arch bridge (road view), comes a change in municipalities (map).

Say bye to Yangpyeong County. Hello Yeoju City.

Yeoju City (여주시) lies in the southeast boundary of Gyeonggi Province.

One of the less populated Korean cities (114,048), Korea promoted Yeoju from “county” to “city” in 2013.

While the city still makes much of its living cultivating crops, it holds a few major claims to fame.

  1. Archeologists speculate that, shipped from China and sailed down the Han River, Korean farmers first cultivated rice in Yeoju. <small>(Yeoju rice still holds prestige in Korea.)</small>
  2. Yeoju birthed Empress Myeongseong (명성황후; 1851~1895), the last empress of Korea, who defied Japanese occupation and became a symbol of resistance.
  3. Yeoju was also the birthplace, and holds the tomb of King Sejong (조선 세종; 1397~1450), Korea’s most acclaimed leader. <small>He commissioned Hangul, Korea’s simple writing system.</small>

Ipo Weir

44.1 km (Ride Seoul to Yeoju)
69.8%

Now in Yeoju, it’s tough to ignore those seven humongous eggs straddling the South Han River up ahead (road view).

Welcome to Ipo Weir (이포보; Ipo-bo), the Namhangang’s 3rd Scenic View.

The Project

Ipo Weir marks your first encounter with the ten total water gates along the Cross-Country Route’s Han and Nakdong Rivers.

Part of the Four Rivers Restoration Project, Ipo Weir regulates the flow of water both up and down river, helping farmers during droughts and saving riverside settlements from floods.

Each weir incorporates some element of the city or county where it resides. In Ipo Weir’s case, the water gate’s artistic flourish are those seven oversized eggs atop.

What do they represent?… Eggs. Specifically, Eggs on the wings of an egret. Yeoju claims the migratory bird, which makes a pit stop along the South Han River, as a symbol of the city.

The Facilities
A photo of the observatory on the east side of Ipo Weir in Yeoju City, South Korea.
 The observatory on the east side of Ipo Weir offers a coffee shop and second floor observation deck.

Ipo Weir spans 591 meters, with movable water gates covering 295 meters. Those seven egret eggs atop cover hoists that raise and lower the water gates.

Paths across the weir’s top allow walkers and cyclists to cross the South Han and visit the facilities on either end.

Below deck, Ipo Weir uses three small hydro generators to snatch 3,000 kWh (1,000 kWh each) of electricity from the river’s current.

Ipo-bo Certification Center

Before you reach Ipo Weir, don’t miss another one of our red booth companions: the Ipo-bo Certification Center (이포보 인증센터; road view).

이포보
인증센터
102 km (63 mi) from start
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Google
Link button to Kakao Maps directions.
Kakao
Ipo-bo​ certification certification center checkpoint stamp for Korea's Bicycle Certification system.

No stamp booth? Pop inside the 7-Eleven on the weir’s west end. Show your bike passport and make a stamp motion. They’ll break out their backup certification stamp. They keep it behind the Slurpee machine.

Four Rivers Restoration Project

Why these magnificent weirs? 

Korea’s rivers held an irascible reputation. They flooded. They dried up. They swept away anything riverside.

So in the 1980s, the government tried to control the Han River, the most notorious waterway. They built dams (Paldang Dam) and weirs (Jamsil Bridge) to control its flow. Then they dredged its riverbed to fix its course and prevent sudden shifts in direction.

The taming of the Han spurred Seoul’s exponential development. So the Korean government extended the program to four of the nation’s rivers: Han, Nakdong, Geum, and Yeongsan. (Hence, the “Four Rivers Project” and “Four Rivers Bicycle Certification.”) 

Enter the Four Rivers Restoration Project (4대강 정비 사업). From July 2009 to October 2011, three government agencies (the Ministries of Land and Environment, and K-water) spent ₩22 trillion ($18 billion) to:

  • Construct fifteen weirs (water gates) and four dams along the four rivers.
  • Dredge 5.2 billion square meters of riverbed.
  • Establish hydrophilic zones to absorb flood waters and create wildlife havens.
  • Install riverside parks and recreation areas.
  • And pave 1,728 kilometers of bike path.

The effect? Tamer rivers. Secured water resources in a changing climate. And, according to environmentalists, decimated wetlands.

Here is a complete list of dams and weirs on Korea’s certification cycling paths:

Pasa Fortress

Before you leave the Ipo Weir, glance to the northeast. There you’ll spot Pasa Mountain (파사산; 230 m). 

At its peak lies a low stone wall measuring almost one kilometer in circumference, all that remains of Pasa Fortress (파사성; Pasa-seong).

Originally, archeologists thought King Pasa (80~112 AD) built Pasa Fortress. But further excavations estimate the fortifications rose around 550 AD, when the Silla Dynasty began their conquest of the peninsula from their homeland in the southeast.

The fortress fell into disrepair once Silla unified the peninsula and inter-kingdom war ceased. But when Japan invaded during the Imjin Wars (1592~1598), the Joseon Dynasty (1392~1897) rebuilt the fortifications to halt the imperial army’s swift advance up the South Han River.

Dangnam Park & Island

From Ipo Weir, wheel down into a Dangnam District Park (당남지구공원) and under Ipo Bridge (이포대교).

In half a kilometer, look out for a wide intersection (road view).

  • Stay straight to continue on the Hangang Bike Path.

Turn right to enter Dangnam-ri Island (당남리섬).

Ipo Port

While only a few green fields and a looping bike path (road view) occupy Dangnam-ri Island, the view from the island’s western edge provides a unique peek into Korea’s history.

Across the South Han, find a nondescript collection of buildings between two low hills (road view). Ipo Port (이포나루터), the namesake for the nearby weir, once occupied this bank.

During the Joseon Dynasty, upriver goods stopped at Ipo Port on their downriver path to Hanseong’s ports (a.k.a. Seoul).

Yeoju Reservoir

On the mainland, continue down the Hangang Bike Path in Dangnam Park (road view).

Ride by sports fields, public showers and bathrooms galore, and two campgrounds: a natural wellness campsite (no cars allowed), then an auto campsite (cars encouraged).

Up an embankment, glance inland to find the Yeoju Reservoir (여주저류지), a sprawling lowland wedged between a riverside ridge and inland farms (road view).

If weirs break and floods rage, Yeoju Reservoir acts as a buffer zone, absorbing the excess H₂O inflow into its barren nether regions.

The reservoir doesn’t see much action, however. So it plods on as a wetland park, with paths to stroll and species to spot.

Cheonnam Park 

Keep those wheels turning. The bike path flies down a ridgeline beside the South Han.

On the left lie rows of greenhouses, pumping out produce year round. On the right rests a two-hundred wide waterside buffer zone, ready to catch river spillage.

Once the path curls inland, turn right (road view) and hop a bridge over Hupo Stream (후포천).

Woods on your left, a broad bog on your right, pedal until the land gives way to murmuring creeks, walking paths, and the bridges of Cheonnam Park (천남지구공원; road view).

Yeoju Weir

56 km (Ride Seoul to Yeoju)
88.6%

What’s that massive bridge topped with twelve pillar pairs and a spiky bit (road view)?

Greet Yeoju Weir (여주보; Yeoju-bo), the 4th Scenic View of the Namhangang (South Han River), and the second of three weirs along the Hangang Bike Path.

Design
The bike path on the Yeoju-bo weir on the Hangang Bicycle Path
Yeoju Weir is the second of three along the South Han River, and one of many built by the Four Rivers Restoration Project (2009~2011).

Like Ipo Weir before, Yeoju Weir’s reflects the local scene. Here, the tomb of King Sejong (1397~1450), which lies two kilometers away, inspired the water gate’s design.

Together the twelve pillar pairs and concentric concrete supports below the top deck mimic a sundial and water clock, two inventions created during King Sejong’s pro-science and innovation rule.

At night, fixtures toss light onto the pillars and sundial supports, shimmering the waters below.

Function

Opened in 2011, Yeoju Weir spans 525 meters and holds twelve flood gates. Each can lift three meters high, regulating up and down river flow.

Yeoju employs three small hydroelectric units that harness the passing water and create 4950 kWh of energy (1,650 kWh each).

Eyeball Island

Yeoju Weir stands on an eye-ball shaped island on its east end. Around the backside of the island, an inlet diverts water from upriver and pushes it in two directions:

  • Into a stream that flows through Cheonnam Park and reconnects with the river.
  • Down a tiered set of submerged steps into the low side of the weir.

This inlet acts as a critter valve. It bypasses the obstructive water gates and allows fish to migrate more freely.

Want to explore this concentric island? Inside the twin-spike tower (road view), an elevator can carry you below, where you can spin around the perimeter on a path, relax on the steps of an outdoor stage, or cast a line and wait for something to bite.

Yeoju Culture Center & Observation Tower

Yeoju Weir’s west end presents a culture center (여주보문화관) with a three-story observation tower.

Inside find permanent exhibits by local potters, a convenience store, and an elevator that will lift you to the observation tower’s panoramic view of the weir and nearby downtown Yeoju.

Yeoju-bo Certification Center

From Cheonnam Park, ride across Yeoju Weir and come to a four way intersection.

  • Turn right to visit the Culture Center and Observation Tower.
  • Go straight and hit the vehicle road ahead (don’t do that).
  • Turn left to continue on the Hangang Bike Path.

Before you make your choice, stop! Check the southwest corner of the intersection. Yes, one of our red booth brothers: the Yeoju-bo Certification Center (여주보 인증센터road view).

여주보
인증센터
116 km (72 mi) from start
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Google
Link button to Kakao Maps directions.
Kakao
Yeojubo-bo certification center checkpoint stamp for Korea's Bicycle Certification system.

Blow on your bike passport until the ink dries, then hop back on your bicycle for the final stretch.

Final Stretch

Turn left at the end of Yeoju Weir. Sail down the bike road. Curl under a rocky outcrop, that pushes the path close to the water’s edge (road view).

On the horizon, Sejong Bridge (세종대교) pauses on Yang Island (양섬) before leaping over the river (road view). In summer, spy camouflaged fishing platforms with a dozen fishing rods fanning over the water.

Pedal under Sejong bridge and climb an embankment. Stop at a small bridge (road view) that crosses Soyang Stream (소양천).

  • Turn left and hop the bridge into downtown Yeoju.
  • Keep straight down a small vehicle road to visit the tomb of King Sejong.

Tomb of King Sejong

60.1 km (Ride Seoul to Yeoju)
95.1%

Is it between the hours of 9 AM and 5 PM? Have time for a historic excursion?

Then keep straight and weave two kilometers through city streets (directions) until you reach the Royal Tomb of King Sejong the Great (영녕릉), Korea’s most important historical leader.

The Royal Tombs

This site on the edge of downtown Yeoju holds more than the remains of Korea’s most prominent leader. Surrounding King Sejong’s tomb, you’ll also find:

Collectively, UNESCO designated Korea’s Joseon Era (1392~1897) royal tombs as World Heritage Sites

Why is Sejong’s tomb in Yeoju? Didn’t he rule from Seoul?

While King Sejong first lay in the capital, the succeeding royal family moved his tomb to his birth city, Yeoju, in 1469.

King Sejong the Great

Why the fuss about King Sejong?

Koreans regard King Sejong (조선 세종; 1397~1450) as the most transformational ruler in their long history.

With the peasant-born engineer Jang Yeong-sil (장영실) by his side, his rule saw the inventions of rain gauges, water clocks, sundials, as well as a farmers almanac, a Korean astronomical calendar, and medical advancements.

Sitting just before Sejong’s tomb in Yeoju, inventions and scientific advances discovered under his rule spill from a museum and into a surrounding courtyard.

Sejong’s Magical Alphabet

What was Sejong the Great’s greatest invention? Hangul (한글), Korea’s written language system.

Before his time, Korea relied on Hanja (한자; 漢字), a written language adapted from Chinese characters. Using convoluted logograms, the system required time and elite wealth to learn.

So, to bring literacy to the masses, King Sejong commissioned a simple, phonetic alphabet. One that sounds like it looks, where “바” means /ba/ and “노” means /nō/, no matter the context.

The result? After its complete adoption following Japanese Occupation (1910~1945), this simple system tore down the walls of inequity and brought literacy to 97.5% of Korea.

King Sejong’s Tomb

King Sejong’s burial grounds are an archetypal representation of a Joseon Dynasty-era royal tomb.

When visiting, pass under the Hongsalmun (홍살문; wooden gate) and find a Chamdo (참도): twin sacred stone paths that offer a raised path for dead kings (신도; sindo) and a lower path the living royalty (어도; eodo).

The Chamdo paths lead to a Jeongjagak Shrine (정자각), or wooden house where mourners prepare offerings.

Just beyond rises the Bangbun (봉분). This high tumulus, or burial mound, contains the remains of King Sejong and his queen.

Climb to the top and find a smaller mound surrounded by an octagonal lantern and twelve two-meter tall statues, each representing a Chinese Zodiac animal.

Downtown Yeoju

No time for history. Let’s jump into the future.

Cross the footbridge (map) into downtown Yeoju and stop. A hidden fork lies on the other side (road view).

  • Stay on the path and plow onward down the Hangang Bike Path.
  • Head right onto the brick path to take a rest.
Take a Rest

Looking for nutrition and a few winks? Head right and wheel over the brick offshoot into downtown Yeoju.

Ride until you reach Saejong Road (새종로). Yeoju’s main drag, this street bisects the downtown area and offers a buffet of eateries and motels to energize and recuperate. (Yeoju’s bus terminal also lies on Saejong Road.)

A picture of a Joseon Dynasty era boat anchored in the Han River near the city of Yeoju in South Korea.
Downtown Yeoju marks the end of this section of the Hangang Bicycle Path, and the beginning of its last leg.
Plow On

Not hungry? Nor sleepy? Stay on the path and roll down to the South Han River. Continue onto the Ride Yeoju to Chungju section of the Hangang Bicycle Path.