Korea is a paradise for active travellers. Hiking is a national pastime and there are trails for all abilities all over the country. Its natural beauty is just begging to be explored and with it being the same size as England, it’s pretty easy to do! Here are eight Korea hiking trails you have to do on your next visit.
Bukhansan National Park
If you think National Parks are remote and hard to get to, think again! Bukhansan is practically in Seoul itself, easily reachable by subway and bus. It even has a Guinness World Record for highest number of visitors per square foot. There is plenty to see too. From numerous Bukhansanseong Fortress gates that are dotted around the park to the Golden Buddha at the Guknyeongsa Temple, there is no shortage of sights. And then there is the hiking of course. Most people summit the Baegundae Peak which offers amazing views of Seoul but there are other, less trodden paths which take you to other peaks in the park. Views are equally sublime.
Seoraksan National Park
Some of the best hiking in Korea can be enjoyed here. The trek up to Daecheongbong Peak, 3rd highest in Korea, is tough but well worth the effort. The views along the trail are stunning, jagged peaks rising above the clouds and fields of wildflowers clinging to the slopes. There are waterfalls, bridges and ropes to negotiate on your climb. Elsewhere, there is a temple and beautiful Yukdam Falls. Those less adventurous can take a cable car for some great views. Hikes for all abilities – ranging in length. Most visitors base themselves in nearby city of Sokcho, which is itself interesting to explore for a day – with beaches, markets and a hand-pulled ferry called Gaetbae.
Sobaeksan National Park/Danyang
Probably the most off-the-beaten-path option on this list, Sobaeksan is yet another awesome hiking destination. The hike to Bironong peak is a straightforward 3-4 hour return trip but there are plenty of other options as well as temples within the NP. Add the incredible Guinsa temple and otherworldly Gosu Cave nearby – all accessible from the town of Danyang where most visitors base themselves – and you have a perfect mix for an adventurous couple of days. Paragliding is another popular activity for visitors and you can often spot them circling over the town.
Gyeongju National Park
While the city of Gyeongju itself has plenty to keep visitors busy, it’s the surrounding National Park that has some of the most interesting sights in the area. Bulguk-sa Temple, a 30 minute bus ride away, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is worth exploring. It’s then possible to hike to Seokguram Grotto (another UNESCO site) via a 2.2 km trail. Elsewhere Namsan Mountain just south of the city is perfect for nature and culture loves, its many trails sprinkled with shrines, rock carvings and ruins which make the hiking even more interesting.
Korea’s second city has plenty to offer – from its sandy beaches to bustling markets and temples. It also has plenty of mountains on its doorstep with great hiking opportunities. Beomeosa Temple, north of the city, is well worth a visit but instead of heading back to the beach, head up sacred Mt. Geumjeongsan. Hike to the 801 metre summit of Godangbong or walk along remains of ancient fortress walls. There are great views from the top and numerous trails around the mountain. Alternatively, head to Taejongdae park for strolls through pine forests and along rocky cliffs. There are great views of the ocean and, on a clear day, even Japanese islands.
Korea’s largest island is an active traveller’s playground. Mountains, caves, beaches and great hiking await visitors who make the short plane hop from the mainland. Jeju is home to Korea’s highest peak, Hallasan, standing tall at 1950m. The Olle Trail that circumnavigates the whole island has been designed to be tackled in manageable chunks while ascending a volcanic crater at Seongsan Ilchulbong is a special experience. Add to that quirky museums like erotic Love Land, great food and beautiful beaches to relax on and Jeju cements its place as a must on any Korea itinerary.
Jirisan National Park
Korea’s first national park was established in 1967 and plays an important spiritual and conservational role. The country’s second highest mountain is considered sacred and visitors flock here to tackle the Cheonwangbong Peak or to attempt various multi-day hikes, stopping off at various shelters scattered around the mountains. The park boasts almost 5000 species of flora and fauna including the Asian black bear, with projects to restore the population in the area ongoing.
Namsan Park, Seoul
Mt. Namsan is located right in the centre of Seoul, making it popular with tourists and locals alike. While it’s possible to take a bus or a cable car to the top, it’s the leisurely climb to its peak (262m) that’s most interesting. Making your way through Namsan Park, you will come across locals walking, cycling and exercising in free outdoor gyms. Couples stroll its leafy paths and students from nearby university relax between lectures. Once at the top, there is plenty to do with N Seoul Tower offering amazing views of the city as well as many cafes and restaurants. There is also a traditional pavilion, love locks installations and even remains of the old fortress wall. It’s a great way to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.
What are your favourite places to hike in Korea? Let me know!
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