Experience the primordial mysteries of Taejongdae Park’s forest
Written and Photographed by Travel Writer Mun Cheol-jin
Taejongdae Secret ForestTaejongsan Mountain makes up the majority of the Taejongdae Recreation Area. Due to its status as a protected area, even the natives of Busan often have no idea that this place exists, compounded by the area being closed off to public for half a year for forest fire prevention. It is truly a “Secret Forest” known only to the select few.
The gateway to Taejongdae Secret Forest is hidden near the entrance to the Taejongdae Recreation Area, in the form of an unassuming stone staircase that I have never recognized throughout my many visits to Taejongdae Park. I climb the stairs and follow the forest trail along the right-hand side to find the Taejongdae Secret Forest trail.
The forest trail, which starts from the entrance to Taejongdae Park, goes through the forest behind Beobyungsa Temple to reach the cliff, from which one can see the Korea Maritime & Ocean University and the Oryukdo Islets. From there, it leads one to Taejongsa Temple. The total length of the trail stretches 3.5km, laid out in a circle around Taejongsan Mountain, taking about 1 hour 30 minutes to 2 hours to complete.
This narrow road, fenced in with barbed wires, takes one into a forest that seems to be completely untouched by the human hand. One runs into a massive fernbrake colony, then a mossy valley, with large boulders blocking one’s way. An interesting feature of the forest is the prevalence of pteridophytes, which gives the forest an exotic scenery rarely found in Korea I simply find it surprising that such forests still remain in Busan.
One cannot help but stop in one’s tracks to enjoy the view. The breeze brings with it the fresh scent of the sea. I never expected to find such a wonderful view in Taejongdae. Come to think of it, I don’t recall running into anyone in the Secret Forest. It feels as if I had the entire trail to myself.
Just as I feel short of breath, I find myself once again on the gentle forest trail, with a small cave to the right. This is no work of nature; it is a work of human hands. Despite its small size, barely housing three or four people, the cave seems bigger than I expected inside.
Past the cave is Taejong Guard Post, just before the end of the trail. When one arrives at the wire fences, confusion settles in seeing that the road disappears. Here, one needs to step toward the right side along the wire fence to find a paved road, which leads to Taejongsa Temple.
Taejongsa TempleTaejongsa Temple, the final stop for the mysterious trip in Taejongdae Secret Forest, was established in 1970. Daeungjeon Hall, Sansingak Hall, and other buildings of the temple blend into the surroundings of the alluring Taejongsan Mountain with their dignified atmosphere.
While this temple lacks the history other more famous temples have in the area, Taejongsa Temple has received nationwide fame thanks to its bigleaf hydrangea colony. Every late July, the bigleaf hydrangea bloom into brilliant colors that transform the area into a completely different world. The sheer number of bigleaf hydrangea flowers makes the temple appear to be buried in the flowers. These flowers draw visitors from all across Korea and even from abroad during the Hydrangea Festival.
Gamji BeachWhen one climbs down from Taejongsa Temple, one meets Taejongdae Scenic Road. One can find the entrance to the Taejongdae Recreation Area to the right, while the left side leads to Yeongdo Lighthouse, the observatory, and eventually to the Taejongdae Recreation Area entrance area. If you have some time to spare, take the road on the left to enjoy the view of Yeongdo Lighthouse and the observatory: they are great places to enjoy the view of Taejongdae’s shoreline, which has even been designated as a UNESCO Geopark.
AddressTaejongdae Recreation Area San 29-1, Dongsam-dong, Yeongdo-gu, Busan
Taejongsa Temple 119, Jeonmang-ro, Yeongdo-gu, Busan
Gamji Beach Dongsan-dong, Yeongdo-gu, Busan
Closing DatesOpen all year round
Operating Days and HoursTaejongdae Recreation Area Opening hours: 04:00-24:00 every day
Service FeesFree of charge (fees required for Danubi Train)
Traffic InformationExit 6, Nampo Station, Subway Line 1 → Transfer to Bus 30 or 8 at Yeongdodaegyo Bridge → Disembark at Taejongdae Park & Taejongdae Hot Springs
Bus 8, 30, 66, 88, 101, 186, Disembark at Taejongdae Park & Hot Springs
Parking Taejongdae Park Parking Lot (fees apply)