8 South Korea Hiking Trails You Don’t Want To Miss

Korea Hiking Trails

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.

For hiking in Seoul…

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.

While not many cities can boast top class hiking trails on their doorstop, hiking in Seoul is easy and fun! The trails are not technical, signage is excellent throughout and you don’t even have to come prepared! There are outlets of all major outdoor gear companies just outside the entrance to the park so if you left your hiking boots at home, you’re in luck! Koreans love wearing the latest hiking bling so you can fit yourself hat to toe with the best gear!

DO: Stock up on snacks and water before you head up to the peaks. It can get VERY hot and I didn’t spot drinking water on the trails. There are fountains and vending machines near the entrance. Outdoor gear stores and cafes are also a good bet to grab some supplies.

DON’T : Bukhansan is VERY popular so if you wanted some solitude, you are unlikely to find it here unless you set off early or use less-trodden trails. I wouldn’t recommend a weekend visit, that’s for sure…Hiking in South Korea is generally better on weekdays!

TIP: I managed to get a bit lost and climbed a bunch of secondary peaks before finding myself at Baegundae Peak. I would recommend getting there first as early as possible so you can have it to yourself (well, sort of). Other peaks and parts of Bukhansan National Park are less busy throughout the day so you can leave them for later in the day. They will have more shade too!

Bukhansan National Park - Korea hiking trails
Standing just under Baegundae Peak. Hiking in Seoul is a must!
Golden Buddha at Guknyeongsa Temple - Korea hiking trails
Golden Buddha at Guknyeongsa Temple

For stunning views, flora and fauna…

Daecheongbong Peak hike, Seoraksan National Park

Seoraksan National Park boasts some of the best hiking in South Korea. The trek up to Daecheongbong Peak, the 3rd highest mountain 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. While it’s possible to do the hike in one day, many visitors to choose to overnight in one of the mountain shelters along the route before ascending to the top for sunrise. It definitely pays to take your time – gazing over the clouds to the sprawling forested mountain slopes while chipmunks dart between your feet is a magical experience.

Elsewhere in the park, there is a good network of trails for all abilities. These link the main entrance with temples and waterfalls including beautiful Yukdam Falls. Those less adventurous can take a cable car to Gwongeumseong Fortress for some great views. 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.

DO: Stock up on water and snacks. Remember to bring money for your entrance fee (KRW 3500), cable cars and any food/souvenirs you may want to buy at the main entrance.

DON’T: Attempt to do Daecheongbong Peak as a day hike unless you have higher than average fitness. It took my friend and I 10 hours but it can easily take longer. Being stranded on the mountain in darkness or if you’ve ran out of water would not be fun.

TIP: One way of potentially making the hike easier is to arrive at the small Osaek entrance and using this shorter section for your ascent to the peak (only 5km versus 10.9km from main entrance). You could then enjoy the views all the way down to the other side. However, this depends on your knees – I HATE going down mountains and would rather have a shorter (and less challenging) section saved for the descent.

Check out a post on my hike to Daecheongbong Peak in Seoraksan National Park

Seoraksan National Park - Korea hiking trails
Hiking in Seoraksan National Park
Sokcho - Korea hiking trails
Sokcho

For going off-the-beaten-track

Sobaeksan National Park/Danyang

Probably the most off-the-beaten-path option on this list, Sobaeksan National Park is yet another awesome hiking destination. However, with buses running from nearby town of Danyang right to the park’s entrance, the trails are easily accessible. The hike to Birobong peak, the highest in the park, is a straightforward 3-4 hour return trip. Expect wildflower-covered slopes, stunning views and a chance to bag the 25th tallest peak in South Korea! There are also plenty of other hiking options as well as temples within the national park. And with Sobaeksan receiving only a fraction of the visitors of Seoraksan, Bukhansan and other national parks, you can enjoy it all without the crowds!

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.

DO: Pack some warm clothes. The winds that batter the long ridge line that runs through Sobaeksan can be freezing, even in the summer.

DON’T: Rush your visit. There is plenty to see and do in the area and though a 24 hour visit is technically possible, you will not have a chance to relax.

TIP: Stay at the cosy Us On Earth guesthouse. While it’s a 10-15 minute walk to the bus station, it’s well worth it for the clean, comfortable rooms, plentiful breakfasts and a huge terrace to relax on.

Check out a post on my hike to Birobong Peak in Sobaeksan National Park

Sobaeksan National Park - Korea hiking trails
Hiking in Sobaeksan National Park
Guinsa Temple - Korea hiking trails
Guinsa Temple

For a perfect mix of nature and culture…

Gyeongju National Park

While the city of Gyeongju itself has plenty to keep visitors busy, it’s the national park which surrounds the city 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 home to a number of Korean National Treasures and is an important part of the country’s history. 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 lovers. It has a huge network of trails sprinkled with shrines, rock carvings and ruins which provide plenty of detours and opportunities to stop and enjoy the scenery. Samneung Valley Trailhead is a great place to start with plenty of short, manageable trails criss-crossing the mountain.

DO: Take your time to explore the ancient capital of a kingdom that ruled two-thirds of the Korean peninsula for almost a thousand years! Gyeongju is pretty walkable and easy to explore with frequent buses running to sites further away.

DON’T: Forget to check the last bus times. You don’t want to be stranded in the mountains without a ride back to your accommodation!

TIP: The night-time Seongdong Market is a great place to people watch and try some great Korean and International street food!

A shrine on Namsan Mountain - Korea hiking trails
A shrine on Namsan Mountain, Gyeongju
Bulguk-sa - Korea hiking trails
Bulguk-sa Temple, Gyeongju

For hiking in Busan’s sacred mountains…

Mt. Geumjeongsan, Busan

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 after your visit, 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. The mountain is very important to Koreans and you can read about its significance on handy information boards as you hike.

Hiking in Busan couldn’t be more accessible. As an alternative, 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.

DO: Get to Beomeosa Temple early, especially if you are planning to explore the area on a weekend. This is a really popular place for tourists and locals alike. The hiking trails can get pretty busy too so if you want to avoid the crowds, set that alarm!

DON’T: Forget that Busan is a quite a spread-out city. While public transport connections are good, it can take a while to get between sights. Budget enough time for hiking and sightseeing!

TIP: There is a cable car near Oncheongjang station, which whisks visitors up the mountain. It’s about a four hour hike from there to Beomeosa Temple and makes for a great walk.

Check out a post on my hike on Geumjeongsan Mountain 

View from Mt. Geumjeonsan - Korea hiking trails
View from Mt. Geumjeongsan which has plenty of hiking trails close to Busan
Beomeosa Temple courtyard- Korea hiking trails
Beomeosa Temple grounds

For an island getaway…

Jeju Island

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.

DO: Enjoy the island’s incredible natural wonders. This is really the place to be for outdoor lovers.

DON’T: Leave without sampling some regional specialties such as abalone porridge or the famous Jeju black pork.

TIP: Flights to Jeju can get sold out during the holidays so book in advance or you might have to take the much-slower ferry.

View from Hallasan, Jeju Island - Korea hiking trails
View from Hallasan, Jeju Island (credit: Ning Tan)

For South Korea’s original National Park…

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.

DO: Stay on the trails! With the introduction of the Asiatic black bear, preservation is more important than ever. For your own safety and to avoid heavy fines, stick to the marked routes!

DON’T: Litter! Take all rubbish with you as there is nowhere to throw out your trash!

TIP: Staying in shelters is a great way to experience multi-day hikes in Korean National Parks. These normally have decent facilities, including running water, power outlets and even small stores to stock up on basic supplies!

Jirisan National Park - Korea hiking trails
Jirisan National Park is home to some of the best hiking trails in Korea (source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/kjmagnuson/)

For escaping Seoul’s hustle and bustle…

Namsan Park, Seoul

Mt. Namsan is located right in the centre of Seoul, making it popular destination for locals as well as visitors to the city. 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 an old fortress wall. It’s a great way to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.

DO: Consider having a meal at one of the tower’s many restaurants or grab an ice cream from a cafe. This is the place to linger and enjoy the views!

DON’T: Be afraid of getting lost! There is plenty to explore in the park and you can always orientate yourself using  the N Seoul Tower, Seoul’s second highest point!

TIP: You can get great views of Seoul without paying to head up to the N Seoul Tower observation deck! The views around the attraction are great with plenty of vantage points around. Alternatively head to one of the restaurants!

View of N Seoul Tower from Namsan Park in Seoul
View of N Seoul Tower from Namsan Park
Love Locks at top of Mt. Namsan in Seoul
Love Locks at top of Mt. Namsan

What are your favourite places to hike in Korea? Let me know!

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26 thoughts on “8 South Korea Hiking Trails You Don’t Want To Miss

    • Travel Lexx says:

      Glad you got to experience some of these and your blog definitely helped with deciding where I wanted to go!

  1. Urska (Sliva) says:

    Wow, didn’t know South Korea is such a hiking paradise. Would love to visit Sobaeksan National Park and climb on top of the Mt. Geumjeongsan. Will certainly pin this for later! Relly like your photos.

    • Travel Lexx says:

      Thank you! Yeah, Koreans are obsessed with hiking and there are so many amazing places to do it! Definitely recommend a visit!

    • Travel Lexx says:

      Yeah I definitely see that! I would LOVE to do Stairway to Heaven – it would be incredible! These hikes were pretty awesome too though!

    • Travel Lexx says:

      I am convincing a lot of people right now – just shows how amazing a country it is! I am sure you can tempt him!

  2. Kate and Kris says:

    It’s amazing how many great hikes there are in Korea. Somehow it’s not somewhere you immediately think of for hiking, but lots of people we know who’ve lived there love that about it.

    • Travel Lexx says:

      This is another reason why I am considering living there for a while so I can explore it properly. I agree and I didn’t realise how much there is to see and do there!

  3. Angie (FeetDoTravel) says:

    I didn’t know South Korea was the size of England! These hiking trails look magnificent, the views are breathtaking, seriously. I think for me, I would head for Jirisan National Park as it’s the most spiritual and plays a conservational role, plus the Asian Brown Bear is there and I have never been anywhere where there are bears in the area! You have really opened my eyes with these treks, thank you. I have pinned for when I visit. Looking forward to your next post in this series … at least I’m hoping there will be another! #feetdotravel

    • Travel Lexx says:

      I really recommend for you guys to head to Korea if you have an opportunity – especially as you are currently in the area! It’s such a beautiful country! I would have loved to have seen a bear myself!

    • Travel Lexx says:

      Thanks guys – what I found fascinating about Korea is how easy it is to transition from an urban cityscape to a national park or a lush forest. You never have to travel too far and as a result you can combine a lot of activities!

    • Travel Lexx says:

      Thanks, James! Korea definitely surprised with its beauty! I love how you can do hikes and active stuff right in the heart of Seoul! It’s a great city!

    • Travel Lexx says:

      That’s going straight to my list! My aim is to visit all the national parks in South Korea and climb to every peak! I think it’s doable! Thanks for sharing!

  4. Travel4lifeblog says:

    Thanks for sharing a great article with us! We want to go to Seoul now and do those 8 hikes 🙂 Your pictures are wonderful by the way and they made us want to visit Seoul one day! Keep up the good work 🙂 Patrick and Cécile

    • Travel Lexx says:

      Only one of these is in Seoul but the country is pretty easy to get around so you are never too far away from some awesome hikes!

  5. tracy collins says:

    My daughter is heading off to South Korea next month – she is there a week before travelling to HK and on to Thailand etc. I have shared with her so hopefully she can get to do some of them! I will let you know 🙂

    • Travel Lexx says:

      Tracy, that’s great! She will have a great time – happy to help with an itinerary if she needs some tips!

  6. Garth says:

    Wow you certainly covered some ground! I’m exhausted just reading this. South Korea is so intriguing, it looks wonderful from your pictures, the countryside, the temples and those epic views you’ve captured. Really hope me and Phil get to visit this fascinating country one day, it’s now on our bucket list!
    Garth recently posted…AngkorMy Profile

    • Travel Lexx says:

      Garth, I think you guys would find plenty to do even if you didn’t do a single hike. But the good thing is there are so many trails for different abilities and fitness levels, that it would be rude not to!

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