South Korea

Introduction to Hiking in South Korea

Korea is a mountainous country, so although Sophia and I visit primarily to see family and friends, we’ve started making the effort to get out of the cities and into the mountains. I’m glad we have, because there are some great walks on offer. Read on for more info, or go straight to a list of the walks.

Gorge in Seoraksan National Park, South Korea
Gorge in Seoraksan National Park, South Korea

Koreans are mad about hiking, particularly those in their middle age and early old age it seems. Although I respect this enthusiasm, it does mean the most popular trails can be quite crowded with brightly coloured hikers wearing the latest gear, and covering up their faces to protect themselves from the sun, or perhaps the air pollution if it’s a city mountain (or maybe it’s just to freak me out). Nevertheless, the crowds thin out on the more difficult tracks, and some of the scenery looks like those idealised scenes depicted in Daoist paintings.

Waterfall in Seoraksan National Park, Gangwon Province, South Korea
Waterfall in Seoraksan National Park, Gangwon Province, South Korea
Uisangbong 의상봉 & Baegundae 백운대 Circuit, Bukhansan National Park 북한산국립공원
Views from the summit of Baegundae (836m) in Bukhansan National Park, Seoul.
Towering cliffs in Seoraksan National Park, South Korea
Towering cliffs in Seoraksan National Park, South Korea

Finding Track Notes

When planning my walks I used information from bloggers, and my wife looked up some of the walks in Korean, so I can’t recommend any central resource. As I post the walks I’ll probably describe them in a bit more detail than some of my others, or else link to specific sites where you can find notes.

Forest with bamboo carpet, Hallasan National Park, Jeju Island, South Korea
Forest with bamboo carpet, Hallasan National Park, Jeju Island, South Korea

The Weather in Far East Asia

The weather in Korea (like much East Asia) ranges from hot, oppressively humid summers, often with a wet season, to frigid and dry winters; so you’d better be prepared for the conditions when you walk. The summers can be very hazy, limiting the views, and there can be lot of snow in winter, so spring and autumn are probably the best times for hiking, (and you can get bonus spring flowers and autumn colours during those times of course).

Autumn colours, Seoraksan National Park, Gangwon Province, South Korea
Autumn colours in South Korea

The Walks in South Korea

You can browse through a list of the walks I’ve posted on so far…

Ageobong 악어봉 / Crocodile Peak, Woraksan 월악산
My brother in law recommended this short but steep walk to Ageobong / Crocodile Peak for on our drive back from a day out in Woraksan National Park. It was totally worth the hour or so walking (return) for the spectacular views of Chungju-ho (Lake), and the various peninsulas that jut out, looking like crocodiles in the water and giving the peak its name. (more…)
Baegunbong/Baekundae ascent, Bukhansan National Park

Bukhansan National Park is located in the northern suburbs of Seoul. The highest peak, Baegunbong (or Baegundae, 836m), is an enormous granite summit that provides excellent views of the surrounding area in the right conditions. The route to the top gets quite adventurous as you walk steeply up the smooth granite summit, inevitably queuing with many others on the narrow and precipitous sections if you do it on a weekend or holiday (as I did). But despite the crowds it was an excellent walk. (more…)

Daecheongbong ascent, Seoraksan NP

Seoraksan National Park is reputed to be the most beautiful part of South Korea, and with good reason. I was lucky to time my first trip to the park with peak Autumn colours, so I got the full experience. Despite having walked for hours already, the scenery in the latter third of the walk was so fantastic that I bounded down the mountain like a manic mountain goat, feeling no tiredness due to the scenery-fuelled adrenaline in my system. Keep wading through my many photos to see this section, and also a few photos at the end of the Buddhist temple Sinheungsa. (more…)

Gwaneumsa Track, Hallasan, Jeju-do

When Sophia and I first visited Jeju Island many years ago, we walked up Hallasan along the less scenic route to the summit, but only as far as the tree line, as they had closed the rest of the track for repairs. We also had to wind in and out of hundreds of school students, so it was just an okay experience. Consequently, I had only moderate expectations when we set out in early Autumn 2017 on the reputedly more scenic and less travelled Gwaneumsa Track, but the walk very much exceeded expectations. (more…)

Gyeyangsan, Incheon, South Korea

When visiting my wife’s family in Incheon in October 2017, we did a couple of suburban hikes, which are possible in many Korean cities because they often have small and sometimes not so small mountains within the city boundaries. What they completely lack in remoteness they gain in often extensive views of Korea’s impressively dense city scapes, and Gyeyangsan (395m) is one of these walks. (more…)

/ Asia, city, Moderate, mountains, South Korea, views
Jebibong Peak 제비봉, Woraksan 월악산 National Park

This walk up Jebibong Peak in Woraksan National Park was a plan B for us, but unded up being a real gem. For just moderate effort in less than half a day you get spectacular views of Chungju-ho Lake, the largest in South Korea, surrounded by mountains, cliffs and lush forest. (more…)

Namhansanseong Fortress 남한산성 Circuit, Gyeonggi-do

The walk around the fortress city of Namhansanseong 남한산성 is a very nice combination of natural scenery and historic architecture. The complex was built on a mountain (approx 480m high) south of Seoul in the 1600s as an emergency capital. The view of Seoul from the West Gate is excellent, and if you time it like we did, then you can watch the sun set behind the city. The 555m Lotte World Tower is an obvious highlight of that sprawling cityscape.

(more…)

Obongsan, Nonhyeon-dong, Incheon

Obongsan (Five Peaks Mountain) is a diminutive mountain (in other words a hill) in southern Incheon, very close to my Mother-in-law’s place. We went up a few times to work off our holiday indulgences, and I imagine only locals would visit. A convenient and pleasant way to get outdoors and keep fit if you happen to live in the area. (more…)

/ Asia, city, Easy, South Korea, views
Songaksan Circuit, Jeju-do South Korea

The Island of Jeju is dominated by South Korea’s tallest mountain, Hallasan, and I presume this offers the best walking on the Island. Nevertheless, there is a trail called Jeju Ole that circumnavigates the island, and is broken up into a series of sections. We (my wife Sophia and a few family members) walked a short portion of section 10, around the extinct volcano of Songaksan. It’s an easy walk and doesn’t require any hiking gear. The scenery was nice enough, including views along the coast in both directions, and to small islands which form the southernmost points in South Korea.  (more…)

/ Asia, coastal, Easy, South Korea, views
Uisangbong 의상봉 & Baegundae 백운대 Circuit, Bukhansan National Park 북한산국립공원

Bukhansan National Park sits on the northern edge of Seoul, and offers some of South Korea’s most dramatic scenery, all accessible by public transport. The route to the spectacular high point of Baegundae Peak (836m) over Uisangbong Peak (502m) is probably the best in the park. Returning through Oryudong Valley adds variety, including a couple of temples and various traditional buildings. Expect granite cliffs, beautiful valleys, fortress gates and Buddhist temples. (more…)

Yeongmori Coast Walk & Sanbang-sa Temple, Jeju-do

There were two walks just a short stroll away from where we stayed on Jeju Island when holidaying there in 2017, so we paid the combined entrance fee to the short coastal walk and nearby temple/cave walk, perhaps not expecting all that much, but they turned out to be very much worth it. The rocks and cliffs of the Yeongmori Coast section made for great coastal scenery, and the Buddhist temple Sanbangsa is situated in an impressive spot below sheer cliffs on the 395m mountain Sanbangsan, with a cave and views a short but steep walk further up the mountain. (more…)