Hiking in Korea


Hiking in korea cover Image adapted from: @nickmulya, @thereshegoesagn ,@annaportrr

Korea is filled with plenty of things like KBBQ, K-POP, cosmetics…the list never ends, and that’s precisely why many people find themselves returning to the country again and again.

But if you’re looking to explore off the beaten path, the mountain ranges are a great way to see what Korea has to offer beyond its bustling cities. Below is a varied list with hikes of all difficulty levels – rated for those with average fitness levels and some hiking experience – with routes that will take as little as 1.5 hours, to those that stretch through 3D2N. Directions are included too!

Check out our other hiking articles:


– Within Seoul –


1. Bukhansan, Seoul – easily accessible by bus 


Bukhansan, Seoul
Image credit:
@errrska

For those looking for a quick and easily accessible hike, head to Bukhansan National Park. The mountain sits in the middle of Seoul, with the trailhead easily accessible by bus. As you near the top, you’d be rewarded with a panoramic view of the cityscape, as well as the surrounding hills.

Bukhansan, Seoul
View from the peak
Image credit: @bukhansan_love

The peak Bagunbong, sits at an elevation of 836.5 metres, and with a clear path and stairs lining parts of the route, this hike is pretty doable, albeit tiring.

Bukhansan, Seoul
On the way to the peak
Image credit: @leessssseul

Although getting a pair of hiking shoes is recommended, there are plenty of people that head up in sports shoes. If you don’t have a pair of good shoes, just bring some extra cash along to the trail head as there are a bunch of stores selling hiking equipment like footwear and hiking sticks there.

Pro-tip: Bukhansan is immensely crowded during the weekends, as it is widely popular among locals because of its proximity to the city centre and accessibility, so try to head there during weekdays instead.

The trail map is available here.

Hike difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 7.7KM
Time needed: ~ 5 hours

Getting there: Take Line 3 to Gupabal Station (Exit 1) and take bus 704 to Bukhansanseong Fortress Entrance (북한산성) station.


2. Suraksan, Seoul – quiet hike with view of seoul’s outskirts


Suraksan, Seoul
Image credit: @kangsik9411

Not to be confused with Seoraksan (#6), Suraksan is a lesser-known mountain in the outskirts of Seoul, perfect for those who want to avoid the crowd. At the peak, you’ll be 638m high above sea level with a great view of the rolling hills around the mountain.

Suraksan, Seoul
Image credit:
@ontr2015

There are a bunch of routes you can take to explore the mountain, however one of the most popular ones begins at Danggogae Station (Exit 4) and ends at Suraksan Station.


Suraksan, SeoulImage credit:
@cynthia33133

Attractions along the way include Hangnimsa temple, filled with colourful lanterns and chiming bells. The trail map is available here.

Pro-tip: I slipped and dropped my phone while hiking the icy paths of Suraksan in the winter – oops. If it’s been snowing regularly prior to your hike, bring a pair of crampons (slip on spikes for your shoes) to avoid slipping and falling! 

Hike difficulty: Moderate
Distance: NA
Time needed: ~ 3.5 hours

Getting there: Take the Seoul Metro to Danggogae Station (Line 4). Take exit 4 and follow the Seoul Trail Sign and then “Top of the Suraksan (Mt.)”. Getting to the trail head is a bit hard as you’d have to cut through residential areas. If you get lost, ask the friendly residents for directions!


3. Yongmasan, Seoul – suitable for beginners


Yongmasan, Seoul
Image credit:
@seu1._.1ee

For those looking for a good beginner’s hike, head to the 348 metre high Yongmasan. As a reference, this is approximately 2-3 times the height of Singapore’s highest peak at Bukit Timah Hill.

Yongmasan waterfall
T
here’s a waterfall near the trailhead
Image credit: @jer.g.desjardins

Although technically not a mountain, this hill has a great hike worth doing if you’re visiting Seoul. On the way up, there are also lookout points with amazing views of the city to keep you pumped till you reach the end. The terrain starts easy, but gradually becomes steeper and more rugged as you reach the top. 

Yongmasan, Seoul
Image credit:
@lee_yong_seon_no.16

Pro-tip: Many of the direction signs are in Korean. If you can’t read their language, make sure you’ve got a data sim card to do a quick Google translate!   Hike difficulty: Easy 

Distance: NA
Time needed: ~ 3 hours

Getting there: From Yongmasan Station (Line 7) Exit 2, walk 15 minutes towards Yongmasan Waterfall Park. The trail head is right next to the playground with a basketball court.


4. Inwangsan, Seoul – hike along an old fortress wall


Inwangsan, Seoul
Image credit
: FalseGuide

Although it has the lowest elevations on the list, Inwangsan, with its highest peak at 338m, has a route packed with lots to see.

Inwangsan, Seoul
Image credit:
@sataphonia

The trail takes you along the ancient fortress wall, and along the way, you’ll be able to spot landmarks like Gyeongbokgung Palace, Namsan Park and even the Blue House, which is the  president’s house.

Feel free to snap away on your camera, but avoid taking shots with the Blue House in it as there are patrolling officers that’ll stop you for security reasons.

Inwangsan, Seoul
Image credit:
@ken_abcd

The route is easy with steps and a marked trail, but can get pretty exhausting near the top.

Hike difficulty: Easy
Distance: 1.5KM to the peak
Time needed: ~ 1.5 hours

Getting there: From Dongnimmun Station (Line 3) Exit 2, and take bus 1020, 7212 or 7022 to Jahamun bus stop.  Cross the road on your left and walk uphill all the way, then take the Inwangsan Jarak-gil trail until you reach a police post. The wooden stairs nearby is the trail head.


– All around Korea –


5. Hallasan, Jeju-do – beautiful crater lake at the top


Hallasan, Jeju-do
Image credit:
@nickmulya

If go big or go home is your mantra, then head straight to Hallasan, the highest mountain in Korea, on the island of Jeju. Standing at 1950m, the majestic mountain is actually a dormant volcano which houses a beautiful crater lake at the top.

Hallasan, Jeju-do
Image credit:
@serimi_

While this mountain is physically tiring to climb, it’s technically not difficult as the path is clear and well-developed with stairs covering a large portion of the trail. There are 2 trails heading up to the peak of Samgakbong: 

  • Gwaneumsa – 8.7KM one way
  • Seongpanak – 9.6KM one way. 

The best way to hike Hallasan is a combination of these 2 routes – head up Seongpanak and down Gwaneumsa. The former is easier to hike up, with gentler elevation and the latter has the more magnificent views, which you’ll be able to appreciate more on the way down.

Hallasan, Jeju-do
Image credit:
@aigerim.nurgaliyeva

When you reach the peak, make sure to get a photo of yourself there as proof, as you can get a certificate of achievement (1,000KRW ~ S$1) when you get back down to the base! The trail map is available here.

Hike difficulty: Medium
Distance: 18.3KM
Time needed: ~ 8 hours

Getting there: From Jeju Bus terminal, take bus 281 and alight at Seongpanak trailhead. From Segwipo, take bus 182 and alight at Seongpanak trailhead.


6. Seoraksan, Gangwon-do – deemed the most beautiful mountain in Korea


Seoraksan, Gangwon-do
Image credit:
@be_a_maan

Proclaimed by Koreans to be the most beautiful mountain in South Korea, Seoraksan in Gangwon-do will probably give you the most scenic experience among everything in this list.

Seoraksan, Gangwon-do
Image credit:
@raminborn

There are many trails that branch out from the visitor centre, that bring you to various attractions around the park. But for the adrenaline junkies out there, head to the peak of Daecheongbong which sits 1,708 meters high.

Seoraksan, Gangwon-do
Image credit:
@giyeon_park

Depending on which route you choose, you’d get to encounter sights such as caves, valleys and clear streams. The hike will take around 13 hours so make sure you start really early. For those who wish to cover the route in 2 days instead, you can pre-book a slot in one of the shelters to make camp.

Seorak Cable Car
Seorak Cable Car (KRW9,000 ~S$10.40)
Image credit: @stephie_kwan

Other attractions here include Ulsanbawi Rock, Sinheungsa Temple and Seorak Cable Car – which takes you to the peak, Gwongeumseong Fortress, which is the former site of a castle.

Hike difficulty: Hard – especially near the peak
Distance: 18.3KM
Time needed: ~ 13 hours

Getting there: From Seoul, head to the Dong-Seoul Bus terminal and take an intercity bus to Sokcho Intercity Bus Terminal, then take bus 7 or 7-1 to Seoraksan National Park.


7. Jirisan, Gyeongsangnam-do – for those seeking a challenge


Jirisan, Gyeongsangnam-do
Image credit:
@annaportrr

For those looking to completely immerse themselves in the wild, head to Jirisan in  Gyeongsangnam-do. It is the largest national park in the whole of South Korea, and stretches across 3 provinces and 5 cities.

Jirisan, Gyeongsangnam-do
Image credit:
@yun_dew

If you’re up for a challenge, pack your camping gear and head for the Main Ridge Course that stretches across 32.5KM and requires at least 3 days and 2 nights. It’s the most popular course among hikers, and takes you across multiple ridges, and through the peak of the mountain range of Cheonwangbong (1,915m).

Jirisan, Gyeongsangnam-do
Image credit:
@mel.d.sol

If camping isn’t your cup of tea, or perhaps reminds you too much of BMT, there are also plenty of day hikes you can explore.

Pro-tip: Hiking communities are very popular in Korea. If you are worried about heading on a long hike without a guide, consider looking out for scheduled trip in groups like Climbing in Korea, Indigo Hill, and Must Go Korea.

Hike difficulty: Very Hard(Main Ridge Hike)
Distance: 32.5KM
Time needed: 3D2N

Getting there: Jirisan is best accessed by car. 


8. Naejangsan, Jeollabuk-do – best Autumn foliage


Naejangsan, Jeollabuk-do
Image credit:
@________him

If you’re headed to South Korea in the autumn, make sure to visit Naejangsan for its beautiful autumn foliage. The entire mountain bursts into hues of red and orange around September to October.

Naejangsan, Jeollabuk-do
Image credit:
@keziasdf

One of the most popular routes here is the 8-peak hike along the ridges of the mountains, which passes by all the peaks, including the highest one of Sinseongbong (763 metres). 

Uhwajeong Pavilion
Uhwajeong Pavilion

Image credit: @darisuduttaman

Other scenic things to do and see in the area include the Baekyangsa Walking Trail Course (8.5km, one-way), as well as visiting the Naejang Temple and Uhwajeong Pavilion.

The trail map is available here.

Hike difficulty: Medium
Distance: 11KM, loop trail
Time needed: ~7 hours

Getting there:  From Jeongeup Station, take bus 171 to the bus terminal at the last stop (30min). To get to  Jeongeup from Seoul, take the KTX 39,500KRW (~S$45) /pax, which will take approximately 1.5 hours.


9. Wolchulsan, Yeongnam Gul – suspended cloud bridge


Located in the Southern part of South Korea, Wolchulsan is a relatively unknown mountain rarely visited by foreigners, perfect for those who are looking for something off the beaten path.

Wolchulsan, Yeongnam Gul
Image credit: @thereshegoesagn

The mountain’s main draw for many hikers is its Gureumdari Bridge, or cloud bridge – a vibrant red suspended structure standing out from the terrain’s rocky surface.

Wolchulsan, Yeongnam Gul
Image credit: @2talltayla

For those who want to cover the highest peak Cheonhwangbong at 809 metres, as well as Gureumdari Bridge, head for the Mountain Ridge Trail. It stretches 9.4KM and takes you through these main attractions as well as Gujeongbong Peak, Eoksaebat (Pampas Grass Field) and Dogapsa Temple.

Wolchulsan, Yeongnam Gul
Image credit:
@roamingaroundtheworld

Hike difficulty: Medium
Distance: 9.4KM
Time needed: ~6 hours

Getting there:  Wolchulsan is best accessed by car.


Mountains to hike in South Korea


When it comes to mountains, the first thing that comes to mind might be the Alps, Andes or perhaps the Himalayas. But if you’re looking for somewhere nearby for your hiking fix, look no further than South Korea, which is filled with so many mountains, you could say the task of climbing them all is insurmountable. *wink*   Korean hikers are also super friendly and often share snacks like oranges and kimbap (rice seaweed rolls) with strangers while hiking. If you’d like to make some new friends, bring some extra snacks to share!   Looking for more things to do in Korea? Check out our other guides: