Top 5 Hikes in Korea
Guest Post by Morgan Sullivan from A Beautiful View
There are many things to love about Korea: the food, the fashion, and the friendly people. However, one of my favorite things about this country is the sincere and widespread appreciation of the outdoors. Hiking is an extremely popular and much loved pastime in Korea! I’m from Colorado, and have lived around avid hikers my whole life, but Korean hikers take it to the next level. One reason for this is that Korea, as a whole, is very mountainous. Another, I think, is that Korea is very densely populated – the cities are crowded, loud, and always awake. So, it is nice sometimes to escape from all the hustle and bustle into the serene calm of Mother Nature. There are hundreds of hiking trails all over Korea, and it can be difficult to choose just one. With this is mind, the following my Top 5 recommended Korea hikes. These recommendations are based on personal experience, suggestions from friends, and extensive research on the ‘best’ hikes in Korea. They are in no particular order, and I tried to choose hikes of various difficulties and locations. When it comes to hiking in Korea, there is something for everyone!
1 – Daedunsan – This mountain is actually located near to my home city of Daejeon, so I’m probably a teeny bit biased. This being said, I absolutely loved this hike. Taking a little under two hours from bottom to top, it is a relatively short hike; however, there are several mini-attractions to keep things interesting – a nerve-wracking suspension bride, an extremely steep set of “floating” stairs, a cable car in case you don’t want to hike down, and the fall foliage is absolutely breathtaking. Though the main trail is relatively steep, I would suggest this hike for beginning-intermediate hikers – there are plenty of places to sit along the sides if you are tired, and overall the trail is easy to traverse.
2 – Seoraksan – Of all the hikes in Korea, this is the one I want to do most. I have seen pictures taken from the top, and seen the mountain itself from the bottom. It is majestic, unique, and has a myriad of different trails. The longest hikes in this park can take upwards of 12 hours; however, if you are a novice hiker there are several shorter and less strenuous trails, as well. This being said, if you do undertake the journey to the top the reward is stunning views of the national park, and an amazing picture of the “Dinosaur Ridge”.
3 – Bukhansan – I included this mountain because it comes highly recommended by several of my friends. Also, for travelers who are just passing through Seoul, it is very easy to get to. This mountain is accessible from the Seoul subway line, so it requires much less transportation effort when compared to some of the others on this list. More than that, it is said that the view from the top provides unparalleled views of the entirety of Seoul (depending on the air pollution), which I can imagine is magnificent to behold. Seoul is the second largest city in the world, so a bird’s eyes view would definitely provide a new and interesting perspective.
4 – Naejangsan – Located in the Southwestern part of Korea, this mountain is less well-known in the foreigner community. That should not dissuade you! This park is home to over a dozen trails, multiple Buddhist temples, several small waterfalls, and it is said to have the most beautiful fall foliage in all of Korea (which is definitely saying something). After checking out the pictures, I would definitely have to agree. For the best picture I would definitely suggest visiting the Baegyangsa Temple during the fall. Keep in mind that because this park is located in the south fall happens a bit later than it does in the North, so the leaves probably will not turn fully until early November.
5 – Hallasan – This mountain is located on the scenic and very well-known island of Jeju. This mountain was once a live volcano, and if it were located fully above sea-level it would be the tallest mountain in all of Korea. Getting to this mountain does require that one either fly or take the ferry to Jeju Island; however, experiencing Jeju is well-worth the extra transportation. The surrounding waters are the clearest blue, the air is significantly cleaner than the mainland, and the view from the top of Hallasan provides a scenic and truly stunning panorama of the surrounding ocean. With this option you get two for one – a trip to a beautiful island, and a uniquely picturesque hike on one of Korea’s best known mountains.
So, there it is – my top five Korea hikes. As I said earlier, hiking is immensely popular in this country and there are opportunities for great hiking pretty much anywhere you go. As someone who grew up at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, I find this very comforting. Though I love the city, there is something uniquely fulfilling about getting away from the noise and the concrete, and spending some time in nature. Hiking in Korea provides a much needed getaway, a release after a week of hard work, and many breathtakingly beautiful views.
Morgan Sullivan was born and raised in Denver, Colorado before moving to South Korea to teach English. With suburban sensibilities and penthouse dreams, she is currently pursuing her lifelong dream of international travel. Always looking to meet new, interesting people, devour delicious foods, and partake in unique experiences – her current goal is to make it to six continents by the time she’s 25.