In the wintertime sea of brown, bare branches after other trees have dropped their fall foliage, Korea ‘s cypress trees (pyeonbaek, known in English by their Japanese name, hinoki cypress) offer a welcome bit of greenery.

These trees can be found throughout the country and are recognizable by their scale like evergreen leaves, slim trunks, and often towering heights of up to 35 meters. You might see a few cypress trees lining a local walking trail, or thousands carpeting a mountainside.
Jeollabuk-do has no shortage of places to enjoy cypress tree, and this January I traveled to Sanggwan Pyeonbaek Forest in Wanju, easily accessible from nearby Jeonju by bus. From the Wonjuklim bus stop on the main street, a single-lane road leads past pensions and cafes on a 30-minute walk to the forest.
Ample free parking is also available closer to the forest entrance, which includes a tourist information center, convenience store, and public restroom.

As soon as you pass the information center, you continue on a paved path flanked by a single row of cypress trees on each side until you reach a fork in the road that opens to an expansive cypress forest resting area on the left.

Cypress forests have gained particular renown for the practice of “forest bathing,” drawing visitors who want to experience the benefits of forest air while appreciating the natural scenery.
The resting area features wooden benches and raised platforms, perfect for a few minutes’ break before embarking on your hike or for a leisurely picnic. You can even enjoy a nap there — don’t be surprised to see other forest visitors with a mat or cot drifting off to sleep as they breathe in the fresh forest air.
Cypress forests have gained particular renown for the practice of “forest bathing,” drawing visitors who want to experience the benefits of forest air while appreciating the natural scenery.
As the Sanggwan Pyeonbaek Forest information center explains, cypress trees give off phytoncides, or antimicrobial substances that protect the trees from things like rot and insect infestations — but they also have benefits for humans, too.

The website Phytoncide Korea summarizes some of the domestic research into phytoncides’ ability to alleviate allergy symptoms, reduce stress, improve air quality, and even fight disease. While many plants produce phytoncides, coniferous trees like the cypress generate them in higher concentrations.
Cypress trees generally give off the most phytoncides first thing in the morning and during the summer, but even on my late morning January trip the forest air was palpably aromatic and refreshing.
While the resting area is a destination in itself, it’s only the beginning of the forest. Sanggwan Pyeonbaek Forest was first planted in 1976 and now consists of 100,000 hinoki cypress trees, along with other coniferous trees like pine and cedar.

From the resting area you can continue along the wider paved road at a gentle incline, or you can head up the steeper footpath (follow the signs for 오솔길). As the footpath leads you up the mountainside, it does not offer many spectacular views below; rather, its charm lies in bringing you deeper into the forest so you can feel truly surrounded by the trees’ majesty, like a storybook character exploring an enchanted forest — or like a film hero, as the forest was a shooting location for the 2011 historical action movie War of the Arrows.

There are a few smaller resting areas along the footpath where you can stop and enjoy more forest bathing. We were the only hikers on a Sunday morning and appreciated the chance to remove our masks and take in the air as we reached each resting area, but be sure to wear a mask and observe social distancing guidelines when other groups are present. After you finish your hike, you can also spend time at one of the cafes along the road to the forest. Cafe and bakery Para Mi offers a selection of sugar-free and gluten-free treats, while Cafe Adlib has huge indoor and outdoor seating options perfect for social distancing while sipping one of their handcrafted drinks. Along the main street just north of the bus stop you can find Garden Cafe Mother with manicured garden views and a large menu including sandwiches and fruit drinks.

Sanggwan Pyeonbaek Forest is an ideal destination for healing and reconnecting with nature, but there are plenty of places throughout Jeollabuk- do to hike among cypress trees.

Wibong Falls is a two -tier waterfall located in the eastern part of Wibong Fortress.
The waterfall looks beautiful from spring to autumn. In this period, anyone can see the two- tier form and it has a lot of water. In late autumn and winter, it is almost dried up or even completely dry. The waterfall then flows as a river through the village. On both sides of the river there are several pensions and picnic places.
After 2-3 kilometers, it goes to a water reservoir. From the bus road, one can go on foot as well as by car. The road leading toward the falls is full of maple trees, and in autumn the color of the leaves makes it even more beautiful.

The mountains in this place in autumn change to a colorful bed full of green, red, and yellow, and when the sunlight falls on the mountain it’s amazing.

Words & Photos by BETHANY MCCALL from Jeonbuk Life Magazine
Words & photos by SABATDI ACHARYA from Jeonbuk Life Magazine


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