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Top 3 Recommended Detours – Cycling Across Korea

While not the most exciting read, this is meant for those who are planning to use the cross-Korea cycling route on the 4-rivers trail from Seoul to Busan. On the whole, the trail is entertaining and great to do with friends since you’re not stuck to busy roads nor do you need superior navigation skills. The signage is very good considering the distance that this trail covers, and you’ll spend most of your time on peaceful trails and roads which makes it much easier to hold a conversation than the TransCanada highway. The following 3 detours between Daegu and Busan avoid 3 particularly nasty bits that aren’t fit for touring.

Detour #1

The first is a detour we took so I can’t tell you what it avoids, but judging from the satellite images on Daum (like google but better for Korean maps) it avoids one up-and-down over a ridge that may be gravel. It also shaves more than 10km off the distance to the next dam if you are getting stamps along the whole route like we were. The river makes a huge bend here so going back inland will both remind  you how nice it is to be away from traffic and diesel smog, and you can have a good meal in town. The route indicated is the one we took, the official route follows the riverbank.

Pushing up into orchards after a super-steep section by a temple

Pushing up into orchards after a super-steep section by a temple (recommended detour #2)


Detour #2

The second detour shows the official cycling route up and over a mountain on a dirt (and ridiculously steep) path. It’s so steep and long that I would be cursing the whole way up on a mountain bike, and I wouldn’t always be able to make it. On a touring bike with bags on it I gave up very quickly. The only interesting part about this walking path is that on the way up (going south) you pass through a temple and on the way down you go through a cattle factory farm. Going around this little nugget would save you a lot of time. If you’re looking for something to break up your day and you feel like pushing your bike for a bit then by all means enjoy the climb. You get a nice view of the river you’ve seen for the past few hundred kilometers. The next dam is just ahead where the path crosses the river and is easy to spot should you take the detour.


Heading down on the last dirt trail after an arduous climb (recommended detour #3)


Detour #3

The third detour is the most necessary. In red is my recommended route and in green is the official route. The official route goes up and over a small mountain on a dirt road. It doesn’t provide a nice view at the top, the hills are steep and long but rideable, but it’s nearly all dirt. If you happen to come through in the rain I’d imagine it can get pretty messy. In the top-left corner of the same zoomed image you’ll have to climb up and over a mountain on a paved road so it’s not like you’ll be left wanting more hills.

Here’s a link to a map I made of the official route from Daegu to just north of Changwon. You can see the problem areas in a lot more detail here and plan your own route. Enjoy!
Day 5 Route


Our cross-Korea route map following the K-Water trail highlighting detour zones.

The three major detours as described above


If you want to read more about our cross-Korea cycling trip check out my trip journal here:
X Korea ’12

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