When I arrived in Gwangju last year, I was surprised at the lively bike scene I found. For those who ride, the city and surrounding area has an extensive network of bike paths to explore. Furthermore, Gwangju’s valleys and rural roads offer some great hidden biking spots.
Arguably, the most well-known path in the city is the Gwangju Stream path. This urban route offers good riding and follows the Gwangju Stream through the middle of the city, going from east of Chosun University all the way to the Yeongsang River. Here, the Gwangju Stream path becomes the Yeongsan River path, which is part of the massive 4 Rivers Cycling Project that links Incheon to Busan via 630 kilometers of cycling paths.
The Yeongsan River section spans 146 kilometers, running from Damyang all the way to Mokpo. The Gwangju to Naju section is a popular half-day ride and takes about two-three hours each way.
Another path in the city that offers plenty of green space and solitude is the Purun-gil (푸른길) or “Green Road.” Most of this path runs adjacent to busy Pilmun-daero (Daenam-daero south of Gwangju Stream), but the section that starts near Chosun University front gate offers 3 kilometers of biking goodness. Heading northeast, the path veers away from the road and runs along old railway lines. The path is lined with trees and cool cafes and goes through historic Jisan-dong. Watch elders play Baduk and do Tai Chi in the small park at Gyeongyang-ro, or just enjoy the fresh air and car-free riding.
For a more rural biking experience, head towards the Hagun-dong neighborhood on the road Uijae-ro going towards Mudeungsan. Turn right onto the somewhat hidden road Dongsan-gil. This road offers excellent biking, as it has minimal traffic and follows a stream up a flower-laden valley towards hiking trails. The gentle 3 kilometer-ascent takes you past small farms and Buddhist temples. While you will encounter some walkers and hikers here, the numbers pale in comparison to the main entrance of Mudeungsan.
Another rural biking gem is the Noriche Old Road ( 너릿재 옛길). This old forest road takes some effort
to get to, but is well worth it. Take the Gwangju Stream trail as far east as you can (this requires crossing a couple of small bridges), and go past Nokdong subway station to the road Seongyo-ro, going towards Mudeungsan. This section is great in itself as you pass small farms, with exposed granite rock on mountains and a lot of wildlife.
Once on Seongyo-ro going towards Mudeungsan, turn right at the first bridge you come to and you will see signs for Noriche. This wonderful old road goes up and over a mountain. It is lined with cherry blossom trees and is closed to cars.
Overall, Gwangju offers some excellent biking. With a little effort and planning, anyone can escape the busyness of the city for some fresh air and beautiful scenery. Half the fun can be setting out and finding new-to-you areas to explore. Wear a helmet, watch out for cars and do not be afraid to take the road (or path) less traveled.