South Korea might be more famously known as a shopping and beauty mecca but it's also home to a plethora of mountains that are certainly worth a hike! In a country where mountains make up about 70% of the total land area, it comes as no surprise that hiking is one of the top choices for recreation. Several recent surveys show that hiking in Korea has been selected as a more popular pastime in comparison to other casual hobbies such as listening to music, exercising and playing video games. If you love communing with nature, taking in beautiful mountain scenery and getting some good exercise, these are definitely some great hiking spots you don’t want to miss out on.
Dubbed as the second highest peak in the country, Jirisan is home to various hiking trails with multiple landmarks and tourist attractions. It is a popular hiking spot during both Summer and Fall season for beginners and more ambitious mountaineers. A hike up this 1915-meter-high mountain can take up to an entire five-day trip or a minimum time frame of half a day depending on which trails one chooses.
Jirisan is part of the Sobaek mountain range and spans three provinces including North Joella, South Jeolla and South Gyeongsang. This magnificent mountain with its vast and varied landscape has been considered one of the most photogenic mountains in South Korea. Its valleys have been said to be particularly beautiful during autumn season where spectacular fall colours can be seen all along Piagol Valley up till the south. All keen hikers should not forget to bring your cameras along for this adventure as Jirisan’s beauty will be sure to inspire your inner photographer.
Known as the third highest mountain in the country, Seoraksan is the most famous peak in the Taebaek mountain range in Gangwon Province. It has a variety of hiking trails to offer for all skill levels including magnificent views from mountain tops, lush valleys and unique rock formations.
At 1708 meters, Daecheongbong is Seoraksan’s highest peak which is a favourite amongst novice mountaineers. The trek to the top can be done in as fast as three hours depending on where you begin your journey. Hiking courses usually range from 1 to 3 days excursions with designated shelters or campsites which have been allocated as accommodations. This popular spot attracts travellers all year round, especially in the fall when the forests are at their most colourful.
Seoul amidst its urban sprawl has seven mountains. The greatest of these mountains has been said to be Bukhansan also known as the “lungs of Seoul” for the role it plays in helping to clear out the city’s pollution. Bukhansan is the most accessible mountain for avid local hikers or travellers based near the South Korean capital.
The three hours hike up to Baegundae which is Seoul’s highest peak at 836 meters happens to be one of the most popular trails. At Bukhansan National Park there are several trails to choose from with over 20 official hiking trails leading up across the mountains and valleys within the park.
Expect to see gorgeous mini falls during spring or autumn and Mususa which is a temple built inside a cave. An interesting site to look out for would be Bukhansanseong which is a walled fortress that was used as a refuge for kings during historical attacks.
The title Songnisan comes from the meaning “Remote from the Ordinary World”. It is the perfect place to visit when you want to get away from reality and experience the beauty of nature. Its beauty is most prominent in the fall when the leaves turn into gorgeous fiery shades of red, orange and yellow.
The highest peak is Cheonwangbomg at 1058 meters but the most picturesque is cloud shrouded Munjangdae at 1054 meters. The view from Munjangdae is also impressive if you start at Shilla-era Buddhist temple Beopjusa, you are most likely to reach in three hours.
Beopjusa also has a Temple Stay program for visitors who are keen to “leave mainstream society” for a bit longer than an afternoon trek. It is also the home of the peninsula’s largest Buddha statue which stands at 33 meters of wisdom incarnate covered in gold leaves.
Photo Credit: Hannes Kuparinen
At an impressive height of 1950 meters, Hallasan holds the title of being South Korea’s tallest mountain. Hallasan has also been featured in various K-dramas, including the 2005 hit My Lovely Sam Soon.
Found on Jeju Island, it functions as a massive shield volcano with a unique landscape. Surrounding the island, you will find, majestic cliffs, spectacular rock formations, colourful foliage, crater lakes and lava domes scattered all over.
Hallasan is best visited in winter when the mountain is at its most majestic. All six trials available are reasonably short and can be completed within a day. However, most trails are limited to daytime hiking where hikers are strictly advised to descend the mountain before sunset. Most visitors start their journey at Hallasan National Park’s Visitor Centre and proceed to head up along Eorimok Trail where else some opt for the longer Seongpanak Trail which will take you about 5 hours to complete but brings you to the lake.
Legend has it that the founder of Korea’s ancient kingdom Goguryeo was supposedly born on a mountain called Taebaeksan. Its highest peak called Jaggunbong lies at 1576 meters where an “altar for heavenly rites” known as Cheonjedan can be found. Despite its great height, Jaggunbong is more of a gentle slope and reaching the peak usually does not take more than two hours from the Baekdan Temple entrance.
Taebaeksan is best visited in winter when the tree branches sparkle with frozen snow. This sight is often referred to as “snow flowers” by local Koreans. While less monochromatically striking, autumn weather is pleasant for hiking to view beautiful leaves changing colours.
Despite having its highest peak Sinseonbong, at a small height of 763 meters, Naejangsan has a yearly transformation so radiant its been named as “Fall Foliage Central” for about 500 years now. From October to late November, the hillsides and pathways are covered in a multitude of red, orange and yellow leaves.
There are many stunning sights to be seen in Naejangsan such as their famous waterfalls Dodeokpokpo Falls and Geumseonpokpo Falls as well as temples such as Baekyangsa Temple and Naejangsa Temple. Besides these, there are 760 kinds of local plants, designated Natural Monuments and various wild animals living inside the park.
Other suitable times to visit are in spring when azaleas and cherry blossoms are in bloom as well as winter which can be beautiful when the rocks are covered in blankets of snow.
If you want to get off the more commercial paths and do some hiking in a place few foreigners ever see, make your way to Juwangsan National Park in Gyeongsangbuk-do province.
The popular hike to the 720-meter peak of Juwangsan begins from the base called Daejeonsa. Other temples and hermitages in the park include Gwangamsa and Juwangam. Cave enthusiast should not miss out on the opportunity to check out Mujanggul Cave and Yeonhwagul Cave.
They have a tiny but interesting village community situated within the park known as Naewonmaeul where craftspeople perform woodwork activities. Hiking within the park is prohibited at night but weary hikers can opt to stay overnight at the Minbak Village which has a wide choice of local restaurants and local dining spots.
With easy and well-marked trails, Daemosan is one of the best mountains for beginners to climb. It is a short hike which can take around one hour to reach the peak, quite ideal for a quick morning workout. On a clear day, you can pretty much view all the major landmarks of Seoul such as Namasan Tower, Seoul Sports Complex and the skyline of Gangnam along the hike.
For those who are keen to challenge themselves to get an even better view, you may continue hiking up to the next mountain known as Gyeryongsan which is roughly an additional 1.8km past Daemosan’s peak. Visitors are advised to avoid this trail during rainy weeks where the dirt paths can turn into muddy sludge which have proven to be quite dangerous if one does not have proper footwear on.
For a more scenic workout, a popular choice amongst both locals and visitors is Yongmasan which stands at 348 meters and takes around 2 to 3 hours to complete. The trails here are usually very well-maintained and clean plus there are a variety of interesting fitness equipment along the hike where hikers can incorporate a few extra workouts to compliment the cardio. Various lookout points along the hike give travellers the perfect opportunity to snap beautiful pictures for keepsakes. Hikers who want to have a bit of fun and relax after a tiring day can reward themselves with a drink at the makeshift bar at the summit.
The hike is also connected to Yongmasan Waterfall Park which is home to the largest man-made waterfall in the whole of Asia. You can also choose to visit the Yongmasan Sagajeong Park that is located at the entrance of Myeonmok Drinking Well. Here you can find various facilities such as picnic areas, a playground for kids and even outdoor exercise equipment to further enhance your workout.
So, start to plan your hiking trail in South Korea today by getting your air ticket and hotel bundle package at Mayflower.com.my! If you do not know where to start, contact Mayflower and let us create the best hiking experience you’ve been dreaming of! From planning the right trail, finding the right accommodations, arranging private tours and transfers, Mayflower can customize your hiking trip exclusively for you!