When you think about hiking, lots of places come to mind – from the Alps to the Himalayas of Nepal. But have you ever considered South Korea? Hiking in Seoul is a unique experience, complete with stunning views, easy accessibility, and all manner of terrains. Nicole, our Adventure Tours Sales Advisor, gave us the lowdown on the best spots and top tips for hiking in Seoul.
I had the absolute pleasure of living in Seoul for two and a half years, and one of my absolute favourite activities to do on the weekend was to climb one of the many stunning mountains that are located within and around Seoul. If you are planning on spending time in the city and are up for a hike, keep reading for some great recommendations!
Fun fact: Mountains cover 70% of South Korea’s territory!
Where to Hike:
Seoul has numerous mountains in and around itself, so there are tons to choose from. They offer a selection of trails for all abilities, so whether you are a beginner looking for a good walk, or a hiking pro looking for a challenge, there will be a mountain for you!
If you’re new to hiking, this is where you will want to start. Namsan offers a pleasant hike up to the iconic Namsan Tower. You can follow the main trail up and reach the summit within an hour – there’s also a cable car and buses, which you can take up and down the mountain if you are looking to rest your legs! Namsan is located centrally in Seoul, with Myeongdong being the closest subway station. It’s a hard one for you to miss, as Namsan Tower stands tall at its peak. It’s the perfect introduction to the spectacular views that hiking in Seoul can offer you!
Fans of BTS may recognise this mountain from when RM and V lost a challenge on RUN BTS. However, even if you’re not a K-Pop fan, this mountain still makes for a great climb and offers fantastic panoramic views of Seoul. This is a relatively easy and low-altitude climb. Only 40 minutes from Achasan Station, here you can also find Goguryeojeong Pavillion and great views of the city. This means you don’t even need to go to the peak of the mountain to get the views! You can then decide if you want to continue the trail or turn back and head back down. Achasan is located in the east side of Seoul, not too far from Seoul Forest or Seoul Children’s Grand Park Zoo.
After your hike, if you fancy going somewhere full of life, you might want to head to Konkuk University Station, where you can find endless bars, restaurants, cafes and shops. You’ll have definitely earned a good meal and a refreshing drink after your hike!
Connected to Achasan by the Seoul trail, you will find Yongmasan. A higher mountain with wonderful views (and many stairs along the way) guarantee you will be working those legs! There’s an option to start a trail from Yongmasan Waterfall Park, where you can enjoy the views of the waterfall and watch people attempt the climbing walls which are also located there.
On the way down, we ended up on a route that was quite challenging and steep, so it is worth doing some extra research on the best trails down before heading up the mountain! Once you have made it back down the mountain, you may fancy jumping on the subway to Seoul Forest and Seongsu Cafe Street, where you will find some much needed refreshments.
There are various trails to follow up this mountain, with some being easier than others – so it is definitely one to research beforehand!
Located in southern Seoul, we followed the route from Sadang Station, passing temples, sculptures and even some military bunkers en route. Our goal was to reach the rest area, as we knew after this point it was going to be slightly too challenging for our ability. If you’re a pro-hiker, this could be the one for you! Follow the many wooden and metal staircases and take in the view of the city. It’s times like this when you realise just how big Seoul is – and how amazing the landscape looks, where the buildings and the mountains meet.
This was the toughest hike I did in Seoul, but one that was definitely worth the sweat. The views when you stand at the peak are spectacular, the scenery along the way is beautiful, and you’ll discover hidden gems within Bukhansan National Park. If you’re following the Baegundae Peak trail, be warned that the final part is not for the faint-hearted, as you will follow many stairs, holding on to the fixed rope for support, as you climb the steepest part of the mountain. At the top of the mountain, you’ll find a large rock face to take a seat, admire the view, and enjoy a well deserved snack.
Bukhansan is located north-west of Seoul and is certainly a hike you’ll need a whole day for!
Located outside of Seoul (but part of one of our South Korea tour itineraries), Seoraksan National Park is home to one of the most spectacular mountains in the country. Here, you will find Buddhist Temples, all manner of flora and fauna, and a cable car that can take you up to one of the peaks of Seoraksan if you don’t fancy a hike. There is an entry fee to the park – but if you are taking part in our 12-day tour, this is included in your trip!
There are various length hikes to choose from, depending on how much time you have to spend in the park, your hiking ability, and what you would like to see while you walk.
- Option 1: You can take the cable car, before a 20 minute, gentle hike to the peak.
- Option 2: Hike through Bisundae and Keumganggul Cave, on a delightful walk that takes around 3 hours.
- Option 3: Hike through the Park’s stunning waterfalls (Yukdam, Biryong and Towangsung Falls) on a trek that takes around 2 hours.
- Option 4: Hike to Ulsanbawi Rock, on a testing 4 hour hike that will reward you with truly spectacular views.
After your hike, you can head into Sokcho Town to find fresh seafood and soju, and toast to a successful hike!
A small mountain located south of the river, I had the pleasure of living 5 minutes from Daemonsan, so I managed to do this hike a few times. With views of Gangnam, Lotte Tower and more, it’s a wonderful mountain to hike if you have a free afternoon.
This is a hike to do if you are looking to see some of the best sights of Seoul along the way. Following the Seoul Fortress Wall, you may see glimpses of Gyeongbokgung Palace, Namsan Tower and Cheong Wa Dae, the former presidential residence that’s also known as the Blue House.
Fun fact: Did you notice that all the names of the mountains end with ‘san’? Well ‘Mountain’ in Korean is ‘San’ ( 산 ).
How to get there:
When the city is full of mountains, it isn’t too challenging to find them, and for many of these hikes in Seoul, some trails can be found only 5-10 minutes from a subway exit.For navigating around Seoul, I would recommend downloading the app Naver Map or Kakao Map. Both have English and make finding your way around the city much easier! (I would also recommend downloading Kakao Metro to help navigate the metro system.)
What to pack:
It’s important to be prepared when hiking in Seoul, especially if you are looking to brave a mountain like Bukhansan. Be sure to remember the following:
- Backpack or a cross-body bag: A small bag that is comfortable to carry.
- Comfortable shoes and suitable clothing: These hikes don’t require full hiking boots, however, do ensure that your shoes are comfortable and supportive – with good grip. Dressing for the occasion is always important, as the weather in Korea can change depending on when you visit.
- Water: There’s nothing worse than running out of water halfway up the mountain! Be sure to bring a good sized bottle (or two) and keep hydrated as you walk.
- Snacks: When you’ve worked up a sweat, caught your breath, and admired the view, you might find that you are ready for a snack! You may find some people selling ramen or ice cream on the mountain, but if you want to be prepared with your own, head to the convenience store before you start the hike, and pick up some delicious snacks like gimbap, sweet potato, or potato chips.
So there you have it! Hiking in Seoul is an amazing way to get to know the city and its amazing surroundings – and with all these mountains to choose from, you’ll be sure to find a trail for you. If you’d like to learn more about the time we spend in Seoul and Seoraksan, head to our tour itinerary here.
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