Along the way, you’ll experience one of the country’s more natural riverways, offering mountainside sights and waterfront parks.
City-to-City Path Breakdowns
The Seomjingang Bike Path snakes through two provinces, four counties, and two cities. Read these short profiles of each.
- North Jeolla Province (전라북도) shares the southwest corner of the peninsula with South Jeolla. Koreans know the region for rich food at cheap prices and the birthplace and keeper of pansori, Korean musical storytelling. The least wealthy province in the nation, the area holds part of the Honam Plains, which has filled the country’s rice bowls since ancient times. It’s coast, before reclamation, contained extensive mudflats on the Yellow Sea. Jeonju, the largest city, boasts a famed hanok village, museums, festivals, and bibimbap restaurants.
- Imsil County (임실군) operates the Seomjin River Dam and makes cheese. When a Belgium missionary moved to the mountainous county in the 1950s, he set up the nation’s first cheese factory. Today visitors can visit a cheese town to learn how to produce the district’s reputable product.
- Sunchang County (순창군) urges visitors to drop by their Gochujang Village and try their unique take on Korea’s spicy red pepper paste and other fermented sauces. The county’s towns and villages dwell on steep mountains near foliage flushing, nationally popular parks and Seomjin River sights.
- Namwon City (남원시) wields the nickname “city of love” because it served as the setting for the famous love story of Chunhyang, about a faithful woman who resisted a local magistrate until her true love returned from Seoul. The city holds a yearly festival, beauty contest, and theme park in the story’s honor. In the southeast rises Korea’s Jiri Mountain, Korea’s second tallest.
- South Jeolla Province (전라남도) sits on the southwest tip of Korea. Gwangju Metropolitan City, known for rebelling against the nation’s strongmen policies, once was its capital. Like North Jeolla, South Jeolla keeps the other portion of the fertile Honam Plains and cooks up some of the country’s most delectable dishes. The province’s coast produces seaweed and oysters, and wrangles thousands of mostly uninhabited islands in its borders.
- Gokseong County (곡성군) is a rural county along the Seomjin River. Known for agriculture like strawberries and perilla leaves, the county recently developed a tourist industry. Seomjingang Train Village makes use of the old Gokseong Station, displaying retired steam engines and amusement park rides.
- Gurye County (구례군), South Jeolla’s least populated bucolic retreat, attracts hikers and sightseers ready to conquer Jiri Mountain, which dominates the district’s eastern edge. Hwaeomsa and Saseongam, both mountain dwelling temples, form the county’s historic core. Gurye’s farms pump out wheat, grapes, cucumbers, and a medicinal flower.
- Gwangyang City (광양시) hangs onto the bottom of the peninsula, where the Seomjin River exits into the Korean Strait. An industrial city, Gwangyang boasts a bustling port and the world’s largest steel mill on a patch of land reclaimed from the sea. Though much of its fishing industry dried up, farmers still grow cucumbers, zucchini, and pluck cherries from the renowned Maehwa Village along the riverside bike path.
Bike Path Types
- Seomjingang Dam — <small>(섬진강댐 인증센터)</small>
- Janggunmok — <small>(장군목 인증센터)</small>
- Hyanga Park — <small>(향가유원지 인증센터)</small>
- Hwoingtangjoeng — <small>(횡탄정 인증센터)</small>
- Saseongam — <small>(사성암 인증센터)</small>
- Namdo Bridge — <small>(남도대교 인증센터)</small>
- Maehwa Village — <small>(매화마을 인증센터)</small>
- Baealdo Waterfront Park — (배알도 수변공원 인증센터)
The Seomjin River
How To Get There
The Seomjingang Bike Path is the toughest to access with your bike. Passing only two mid-to-small-sized cities, a supermarket/bus terminal marks the closest entry point and a highway rest stop forms the nearest exit.
Here are your transportation options:
The Seomjingang Bike Path lacks major intercity bus terminals near its start and finish lines. And route-choked intercity bus terminals living in people-leaking districts populate its midsection.
However, short of a personal car, intercity buses remain the best option to access the cycling path with your bike.
Gangjin Bus Terminal
Gangjin Township (강진면), a small outpost near the start line, operates the Gangjin Public Bus Terminal (강진공용버스터미널). Only 1.6 kilometers from the first certification center, it is the closest and best point of entry (directions).
(Note! Korea holds two districts named “Gangjin.” The wrong one, Gangjin County (강진군), sits in South Jeolla Province. The correct one, Gangjin Township, lives in Imsil County, North Jeolla Province. Don’t mix them up!)
However, a reach-in closet sized ticket office and walk-in closet sized waiting room jammed between a supermarket and fried chicken joint comprises Gangjin’s “bus terminal” (road view).
(Can’t find a clerk at the ticket office? Head to the supermarket. The cashier also doles out bus tickets.)
As you might guess, only a few buses drop by the intercity terminal (timetable; click “고속·시외버스 시간표”).
Let’s examine two useful terminals Gangjin Township connects with.
(Please double check in advance. Small terminals mean frequent changes.)
- 24 buses per day drive south from Jeonju to Suchang between 7:05 and 20:50 (timetable).
- 18 buses per day drive north from Suchang to Jeonju between 7:40 and 21:15.
(Note! Some intercity buses that roll north, from Suchang to Jeonju, carry honey from local farms. If you’re unlucky, and the bus you’re trying to board has an undercarriage full of the sweet stuff, the driver will turn you away. Wait for the next bus!)
Imsil Bus Terminal
Imsil County, where Seomjingang Path starts, has a larger terminal than the one in Gangjin Township.
There’s one problem. To get from it to the first certification center, you need to cycle 18.3 kilometers of shoulder-less country roads and climb a 70-meter hill (directions).
Though the Seomjingang Bike Path ends in Gwangyang City, the largest settlement on the cycling route, its intercity bus terminals sit far from the finish line.
Here are your options to high-tail it off the path after collecting that last stamp.
Seomjingang Rest Area Bus Stop
Rest stop? Like, for cars on the highway? Yes. This refueling point lies on the Namhae Expressway, which runs along Korea’s south coast.
The expressway divides the complex of restaurants, convenience stores, gas stations, and more in two, with an overhead pedestrian bridge connecting the halves.
Oh! And express buses drop by both sides of the rest stop, letting passengers grab a bite to eat, board, or hop off.
- Buses westbound for Gwangju, Yeosu, and more stop on the northwest side (timetable).
- Buses eastbound for Busan, Ulsan, and more stop on the southeast side (timetable).
Though none of the buses travel north, cities at the end of the routes’ lines offer excellent transfer points, including:
- Gwangju (express timetable; intercity timetable)
- Busan (express timetable; intercity timetable)
- Ulsan (express timetable; intercity timetable).
(Note! This isn’t a terminal. It’s a bus stop. So once all passengers finish buying or peeing out sugar water, the bus hits the road.)
Jungma Bus Terminal
Unlike the Seomjingang Rest Area, Jungma’s terminal runs buses to Seoul, Incheon, Daegu, and Daejeon. Other buses hit Busan, Gwangju, Ulsan, and local South Jeolla outposts (timetable).
The Middle & More
A handful of intercity bus terminals lie along the middle of the Seomjingang Bike Path. Let’s look at each.
- Gokseong Bus Terminal (곡성버스터미널) sends intercity (timetable) and express (timetable) buses to Seoul, Gwangju, North and South Jeolla Provinces, and more. It hangs 4.2 kilometers from the bike path (directions).
- Gurye Bus Terminal (구례공영버스터미널) sits just over halfway through the bike route, 1.8 kilometers from the path (directions). It runs intercity buses to Seoul, Daegu, Gwangju, and local districts (timetable).
- Hwagae Bus Terminal (화개시외버스공용터미널) lies 800 meters from the bike path on the bottom third of the route (directions). Though small, it sends buses to Seoul, Busan, and nearby settlements (timetable).
- Hadong Bus Terminal (하동버스터미널) hangs 3.1 kilometers from the bike path (directions) and 19.9 kilometers from the finish line (directions). Its tiny terminal offers routes to Seoul (timetable) and nearby towns.
- Gwangyang Bus Terminal (광양터미널) is the largest in Gwangyang City. However, it will cost you 26.7 kilometers of tough city streets to reach its terminal (directions). Intercity (timetable) and express (timetable) buses extend to most metropolitan cities, South Jeolla Province districts, and more.
Seomjingang Bus Terminals
- Jeonju Intercity Bus Terminal — <small>(전주시외버스공용터미널)</small> — Transfer
- Jeonju Express Bus Terminal — <small>(전주고속버스터미널)</small> — Transfer
- Gangjin Public Bus Terminal — <small>(강진공용버스터미널)</small> — Start
- Imsil Bus Terminal — <small>(임실시외버스터미널)</small> — Start
- Sunchang Bus Stop — <small>(순창공용버스정류장)</small>
- Gokseong Bus Terminal — <small>(곡성버스터미널)</small>
- Gurye Bus Terminal — <small>(구례공영버스터미널)</small>
- Hwagae Bus Terminal — <small>(화개시외버스공용터미널)</small>
- Hadong Bus Terminal — <small>(하동버스터미널)</small>
- Seomjingang Rest Area Bus Stop — <small>(섬진강휴게소)</small> — End
- Jungma Bus Terminal — <small>(중마버스터미널)</small> — End
- Gwangyang Bus Terminal — <small>(광양터미널)</small>
Two Joella Line train stations sit nearest the bike path.
- Gokseong Station (곡성역) — <small>3.5 km from the bike path</small>
- Guryegu Station (구례구역) — <small>30 m from the bike path</small>
Want to ride a train with your full-size bike (MTB, road, hybrid)? You’ll need to book a ticket that includes a bike cradle.