Sokcho to Busan: Cycling South Korea’s East Coast Trail

When most people think of a cross-country cycling trip in South Korea they think of the river trail from Seoul to Busan, and that fact is the primary reason I created this site. The only English cycling information about Korea easily findable on the internet is about the river trails, but the river trails are BORING. For someone new to cycling they are great of course, because they’re doable for people of various fitness levels. But for people looking to really ride, the scenery is lacking, unless, of course, you enjoy looking at rivers all day every day. And that’s why I recommend the east coast trail instead.

The route begins in Sokcho in northeast Gangwondo and ends in Busan, and it takes you along roads that trace the coast, revealing unused beaches, small coastal villages, and some absolutely gorgeous ocean views. Parts of the course go inland a little as well, winding through forests and over small climbs. And all along the way are convenience stores and restaurants and plenty of accommodation.

Only parts of the course are on dedicated cycling trails, so a rider should be comfortable sharing roads with cars. But even then, only in a few areas does traffic become an issue, primarily in the major towns of Gangneung, Pohang, Ulsan, and Busan. The rest of the way the roads are rather traffic-free. The entire way there is a blue line painted on the side of the road, which is the trail guide. Stay on that blue line and follow the blue bicycle signs and you should be able to navigate pretty simply.

The course itself (here), if ending at Haeundae Beach, is about 500km and gains about 4,000 meters of elevation, most of which comes from rolling hills, not from big climbs. I did this route over three and a half days of riding with some friends, none of whom were overly experienced or strong cyclists. It could easily be completed in three days flat or in two hard days.

The few days we spent riding were some of the most enjoyable days I’ve spent in recent years. We took a slow pace and took plenty of time to simply enjoy good food, good views, and games. To get a sense of the time we had you can have a look at our for-fun documentation of the tip here, here, and here. There isn’t much cycling in the videos, mostly games, but that’s the point. This trail, if given enough time to complete, is all about enjoyment.

So if you’re traveling or living in Korea and part of your to-do list includes a cross-country bicycle ride, take the east coast trail and leave the river trails to the rest. The route itself might be slightly more difficult riding, but the scenery and atmosphere of it are unspeakably better than those of the river courses. As always, if any questions, send an email and I will be happy to reply: cyclingsouthkorea@zoho.com

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