Km cycled: 114.5, elevation gain: 730m

Stayed: Goodmorning Family Hotel, Sokcho

Knowing I wanted to reach Sokcho by the end of the day if at all possible, I left a very empty-feeling Donghae mid-morning and back to the road through Donghae following the railway line. The sea begins to peek out from behind the railway line before long - a reminder of why we're here. Day 1 had been pretty dull, day 2 better, day 3 spectacular and day 4 back to the grind. What would today hold? Leaving Donghae the route did its best to stay close to the water while navigating the urban streets - a dive down below the main road and across some railway tracks for some back-road riding, the blue lines bright and the streets narrow. It pops out on a normal urban street - shared use pavement, but busy - and the blue line now on the pavement too. Follow carefully around the roundabout to get the right exit. Hard to tell but you are following the harbour now over to the sea. Solid blocks of buildings give way to hills on one side and sea on the other, as the blue and the wind fills your sails. Octopus statue. Random rising rock. Convenience stores and car parks. This might be less fun at high season. Harbours and fishing ports pass by to the right, local restaurants and love hotels to the left. It feels for the first time you are here for the beach, and the stuff is here for you: a tourist destination counting on you to be there, not a way of life that will peer at you curiously and return without further thought. There have been tourist areas already of course - for sand, for surf, for screaming fans of boy bands - but this isn't pockets. It's mile after mile. And it's a jarring shift.

The cycling, though, is glorious. Sure, going northbound your "how parked is that car really?" radar needs to be on constaintly. Opening doors and reversing lights are a constant danger. But gosh, it's lovely. Soon though it's back to a main(ish) road - pretty nice shared footpath though, so choices. And no real hills, just the sea "just over there". Onward. Mangsan station to one side. "No bong" beach to the other. But you're here to cycle, so no reason to dwell on that. On the road at this point. Caravan park, beach! Red stamping booth as you approach a car park. Oh, this is nice.

More road-with-car-park right next to the beach. Onward. Some marts. The first seasonally-open Lotteria I've ever seen (closed in early June). CU, GS25 or go local. Handy. The route takes us away from the beach? We follow parallel as the roads closer to the water end, heading straight and true. So many car parking spaces. Would this be nasty if busy? Probably. Road ends. Under a bridge - 1.8m clearance. Are you kiddding? Duck and hope. Thank goodness for the cycle helmet.

Under bridge
I am taller than this.

Round and up to a main road (but not THE main road) with a nice shared use pavement. It's a dual carriageway so I stuck to it. Massive curving bridge, up up up. It's pretty. There's a "warning to cyclists, steep descent" sign. Descent is fine but the way the pavement throws you into the turn-right lane at the bottom less so - factory entrance too. It would not be fun to meet a lorry here. Past the factory, further on, pavement again, right turn, over a bridge. Industrial-urban driving gives way to a path through a car park and a small wood. It's not pure dedicated bike lane - but feels a lot like it for a while. We turn onto a proper road again, there's a small painted bike lane for the northbound. That melts away as we hit the beach again. Oh, this is good. Shared use pavement for a bit, here, but who cares? The road is lovely. Exposed coastal road, between cliffs and waves. Watchtowers come into view, and disappear behind another curve. Awesome cycling.

Then a harbour town and a blue sign to turn left, away from the water. Oh no! Ministop and 7-11 give a chance to stock up, as you know what is coming. Hill. Switchbacks. Painted cycle lane, at least, as you chug. Not that long - less than a km I think - but the Alps this ain't. No big payoff. Just the descent. Busy, car parking to the side, hands squeezing the brakes, eyeing up the cars that might obliviously put themselves between you and the road. Don't want to be doing 40kmph when that happens. Massive toilet complex here, and the way the cars can dive out in front of you, maybe you'll appreciate it. Down, down, into town. The sea, more toilets, convenience stores. Over a bridge, say hello to the railbike. There's a red stamping booth here somewhere, but I wasn't paying attention.

Through a car park and navigating the busy street outside Jeongdongjin Station. Out of the town and onto main road cycling again - busy and narrow, a ittle hairy. Some painted cycle lanes up the hills. And yes, some hills - some a little steep but straight, so cars now going a lot faster than you. Eep. More guard towers, more razor wire. Bizarre tunnel with a bike ramp to the side up and over the tunnel. Whee! I had enough speed built up to cruise up most of the ramp, highly recommended... Up and down again, and a military boat-turned-tourist attraction moored to the side.

Along you go like a wheeled border guard, fences flanking the road with looped barbed wire topping the beach-protecting mesh. A painted bike path switches from one side to the other, semi-related to the presence of hills, and sometimes abandons the road completely. At some point the road goes over the railway line, and the metal lines become the barrier between beach and road. And on it goes, and away from the through road, round a village, back to that road before doubling back. (You won't miss much either by staying on the main road, or taking the short connecting road at the pharmacy inside the village.) Under the railway line, and another somewhat pointless three-sides-of-a-square route - but this time, at least to take in a view of the sea. Might as well do it, honestly.

Up and down a minor road but with a hill between you and the sea, so get it done and follow the magic blue line to the coast. There's a "famous raw fish restuarant" (명성횟집) here in the middle of nowhere. Across a bridge and it all gets a bit industrial - the road split in two with the security gate for the works to the left, and the cycle route to the right. Another wee bridge and back to the coast - albeit in a working area. Some kind of research centre is here, and a lot of cars. Construction might get in the way of the mapped route. But the road is nice, close to the coast. Pass the "Maple Beach" resort building, and then its golf course entrance. Heading away from the coast here unfortunately, you're on a road through woods and besides farms. It's pleasant though. After a while there's a right turn along a farmer path - very straight, fields and paddy on both sides. Narrow though - I had to pull over to let cars overtake and to let those approaching me to get by. By a farm and the road ends at a military installation. That has a feeder road which we jump onto - there's a shared use pavement but no real traffic (but a lot of parked cars), so take the road. You come off this road before the railway line - I missed that turning at first, again not helped by a painted "straight on" arrow but the (faded) blue lines led you true. More tiny farm roads. You could even believe this was a dedicated cycle path, until a car reminds you. The forest riding is a pleasant change though, and somewhat unexpected.

Meeting a larger road, there's a nice shared pavement off to the right. The 3 x 2 lane road is perhaps a bit wide to ride on anyway. Some coffee shops appear, a bridge, the river cycle path (not taken), and down towards Gangneung. After four days, this was the first time I told the route planners to do one and ignored them. If you follow the official route, it's a shared footpath along the wide road, then a painted cycle lane, and eventually some lakeside riding before a right turn up to the coast (and the red stamping booth). But honestly, why? Over the bridge hang right, then left at the bus station, and you reach something marked on Kakao Maps as "강릉경포호산소길" which takes you along the beach, with a few cafes at the start too. Less traffic (at least off-season), more sea view, more convenience stores. The official route rejoins at the stamping booth, too. Seriously, can't recommend this alternative enough.

It's another car park road (and one-way, so beware southbound riders) leading to a shared pavement - the road gets busy, so I think worth taking. Follow the sea, follow the sea, and when the road becomes a dual carriageway the pavement dives off into the woods for northbound cyclists (southbound still has an on-road painted cycle lane, as far as I could see). The path emerges from the woods after a short while, and it's just crunching out the kms along this road (no longer by the sea, sadly). The bike route ignores Sacheonjin completely, if you care. At the coffee shop and Pension K, you reach the coast again and there's a cycle track off from the road, nearer the beach. Nice. Sidewalk after that says it is for cycles both ways - the road is narrow so if busy, potentially helpful. The path dives back into the woods for more quiet cycling, then finds a big 7-11 and leads over to a quiet back road. There's a painted two-way cycle lane for cars to park in, but the road is so quiet it is hardly worth using. A bridge with a really narrow set of pavements follows - bikes are supposed to use them, but tough if people are walking. There's a Harley Owners Club cafe in a shipping container next. A Dutch-style separated cycle route. Onward, upward, cycle route disappears. Still, now you're back by the sea. In theory it's another shared use pavement now, but maybe better just to stay on the road (weirdly there's a blue East Coast route sign here saying "no road" so maybe they don't want you to). Another sign appears when the blue lines reappear, with a bike lane / car park hybrid. But it's beachfront riding, so ignore that and enjoy. Another bridge, into a town, straight, straight, follow it round, and back to the sea. All on-road cycling for a bit now. Green line on Kakao Maps.

After Hyangho Beach there's a bike lane behind the parking. Nice. Inevitably it dumps you back on the road. Quiet, though. And just this road and the beach, this road and the beach. Toilets, convenience store and restaurants here. "Burger & Coffee & Pub". Love it. Across a bridge now for a dedicated cycle lane, into Jigyeong Park with its red stamping booth just before rejoining the road. Quiet road, beach behind a fence. On and on, some touristy places, through a town (including under a building?!) and back to the seaside. Scenery isn't exciting, by now, but being so close to the water with just the odd staccato interruption of small urban pockets, is still a great cycle. The blue lines again essential as the road goes off to the right before hitting Route 7. The sea isn't far. A few minutes by Route 7 on a shared footpath / boardwalk transforms to a tarmac dedicated two-way bike path. At some point it leaves the roadside to head up and over a hill, running away from the main road before merging with a small service road running parallel. The highway veers away, and we dive right into another small tourist town. Back to the beach. A massive sweet-natured dog wanted to say hello. Good doggy. Lots of surf boards here... Sibyeon-ri Beach Rest Area can be found with some convenience stores. But getting late so on we go, past the restaurants and coffee shops.

The highway gets close but we hug the coast and avoid it. Somehow miss the turn off and head up a highway slip road - oops. One of the few times when the blue sign indicates the turn in FRONT of the sign, not after it. Kakao Maps gets this completely wrong, but Naver gets it right. The road gives way to a bike lane tracking the highway, then swinging over to the beach. It makes a sharp turn back to, then under, the highway next. We get on a small farm road, into a village, and perhaps the steepest hill of the course. I met people walking DOWNhill. It claims 10%, but I don't buy it.

Sign and hill
Up or down, you ain't cycling this.

More narrow road then a wider road above the highway. A hill down and then back up to the highway - right before reaching it, a small cycle path to the left. The path rejoins a road for a short stretch, then leaves it again - cars don't care, obviously, so this needs caution - and kisses the highway again at a slip road heading up above the highway. Literally - the cycle route crosses a bridge high over the highway, then descends in a tight switchbacky ramp down to the highway itself - and lower still, to a parking area below the road. Some fun "don't cycle into a parked car" signs on the ramp down.

Through the small service area and back to a separated cycle route that throws you out into a side road leading into a town. Narrow streets, short distraction, back to the highway. There was a sign suggesting the cycle path was closed, but I took it anyway without issue. Follow onward, down a slip road, along a new road (still a separated shared use path). Into a town. Red phone boxes for use to make phone calls. Sharp right to follow a river, then left to the beach. Smallish road now, surfing beach, parked cars. Met a hundred soldiers marching here. No need for the cycle lane, thankfully. They had guns. Onto another farm track, highway high to the left. A straight road, head down, legs pump. Cross a small road, now cycles only. Looks new tarmac, it's not on the maps. A lovely cycle, but if the soldiers were on it, not sure how you would pass. Back to road, at the fork head right without any sign or help to know to do so. A neighbourhood road, wood to the right. It inexplicably gets wide after a while, without any obvious increase in traffic... perhaps there are trucks. There's a pavement and a section of tarmac behind the crash barrier - it's unclear where bikes are supposed to go. Either are nicer than the road though, which seems designed for cars to put the hammer down. This does become official later on, marked as a two way bike path complete with cute painted kerbs. Pension, 7-11, and sea. Yay! Ahead you see a hill to the right that the road curves left behind. Just before it is a rest area and the Dongho Beach red stamping booth.

Past the hill and crank onwards. Beach is there to enjoy, even if the road is just grind at this point. Highway cycling, almost. And across a bridge to head into Naksan. This time I actually did get stuck behind a big group of soldiers. They had support cars with them, so getting past them was a bit hairy as cars tried to do the same. Back up to the shared use path though, and cycle into civilisation. Road markings get very confusing as you reach the first building, but both maps say to go straight. At some point a cycle lane appears on the right, then switches to the left. It kind of just peters out after a while, though the intention is it remains I think. Try telling the oncoming cars that. Still it reestablishes itself eventually. At some point the painted arrow says to go left - but it means only to the crossing, not onwards on the cycle path. Duh. Onto the road, and at the CU a left. Onto the pavement - if you don't, you will be stuck on the Route 7 highway. (I passed some hikers who messed this up, nervously tracking the cars speeding past them).

More dedicated (and at one point, elevated) cycle path along the highway. Another CU and a right turn into a village. A bright pink building, for reasons, ahead as there's a small road to the left to take. The route through the village is not at all obvious (and the two map apps disagree), but the broad direction is clear. In any case, there is a toilet block and beach with campers here to aim for. Another CU, too. Follow the beach and the blue line reappears, some great beachfront riding. A sign warning of an 80m, 3% hill just in case you can't see the damn thing. Do you care at this point? Does someone get paid for ludicrous placement of these signs? Anyway, important to bear right and down at this point to get on the bike path (the pagoda straight ahead has steps). Onward on this path, on a boardwalk, past the concrete kissing booths, past car parks, along beach. Careful for missing slats. Over a bridge, no longer wood beneath you. This is the run into Sokcho now. I think I've booked a hotel. Right and down into a more industrial area. A circular harbour, restaurants all the way round. Ahead the Ramada hotel - left turn in front of it. Round and up the hill to the Lotte Resort road. I realise my hotel booking failed. Sit at the bus shelter, desperately trying to book another one. So little available. I settle for the Goodmorning Family Hotel, despite the bad reviews. I cycle down to it. The next red stamping booth is a lot further on, at the parking opposite the restaurant 영금정횟집. I am just glad to have somewhere to sleep. They want me to lock my bike up on the street. I argue. The elevator is large enough, and the bike stays in my room - which may have seen better days in the 90s. Still - internet, convenience store next door, bed. Ride done.

 

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