The Daegwallyeong Sheep Ranch is like the Doha of the Youngdong Highway—a transit stop for travelers en route to their final destination—and this is surely the case for the hoards of Seoulites heading to the East Sea for their annual vacance in August.
Passing clouds create the illusion of craters across the blue-green grass. Friendly herding dogs wallow in the shade during their time off, quick to roll over for a belly rub whenever visitors draw near. For a moment, you forget that you’re in Korea.
The drive to the ranch from Seoul is just under three hours without traffic. It’s conveniently located a few hundred feet behind Daegwallyeong Rest Area (대관령마을휴게소), so you can park your car at the adjacent rest stop and grab some refreshments at the cafeteria or from the vendors outside selling steamed corn and the glutinous local specialty, potato ddeok. Once you’ve had your fill, follow the large banners directing foot traffic up a few hundred meters behind the rest area to a bright expanse of imposing hills that seem to have popped out of a Swiss storybook. They don’t call Pyeongchang the “Alps of Korea” for nothing.
Like my initial reaction, it’s easy to dismiss the Daewallyeong Sheep Ranch as just another gimmick on the road to bigger and better things, but at 200 square meters, the ranch is surprisingly sweeping, and its hills are majestic and rugged beyond expectation. Depending on your propensity to trek, you can spend a good 30 minutes or more taking in the pastures from the walking paths that ridge the farm. Exchange the 3,500 won admission (3,000 for children) ticket stub for a small basket of hay to feed the gentle sheep that eagerly await in the feeding stable. Once you’re done, yards of rustic fencing offer photo opportunities and a popular tire swing allows you to channel your inner Americana. Passing clouds create the illusion of craters across the blue-green grass. Friendly herding dogs wallow in the shade during their time off, quick to roll over for a belly rub whenever visitors draw near. For a moment, you forget that you’re in Korea.
The visit to the ranch can feel like a slightly orchestrated experience—literally, with ballads streaming out of outdoor speakers camouflaged as bird houses—but a welcome one at that. Now that peak travel season has come and gone, and the rain has tapered off, there’s no better time to visit this picturesque ranch—en route to someplace else, of course.
Tip: On your way back, try an alternate route if time allows: take Donghae Highway northbound through Seorak Mountains for better scenery and get onto Chuncheon Highway toward Seoul.