Back home in Seattle, you didn’t have to go far for a scenic view. And after experiencing the wall-to-wall vibrance of Tokyo, I had similar expectations of Seoul. Giant megacities surely don’t have room for mother nature, right? Wrong.
Let me tell you about Bukhansan National Park: Not only is it within an hours’ train ride from downtown Seoul, but it’s not the size of my pinkie nail either. Surprised yet? It gets better.
Bukhansan National Park is tucked between two giant metropolises, Incheon and Seoul, and has dozens of hiking paths featuring waterfalls, caves, and my personal favorite: mountain peaks. While not nearly the size of Fuji-san or other seemingly tough precipices, all of the options I researched were so exciting, I had trouble choosing an option for my day.
Unsurprisingly, I finally decided on the most difficult trailhead, which just so happens to be the tallest peak.
Closing in approximately 200 meters taller than its brothren, Baekundae Peak sits dapperly at 834 meters tall. If you wish to see the awesome view he has at the top, you must climb/stair-master your way up (and I do mean UP) approximately 2.5 hours. I would not suggest taking novice climbers with you on this expedition, or attempt this climb in anything other than fair weather.
Although we had a wonderful time hiking in the sunshine, I can easily picture a completely different outcome if the rocks were wet!
The average trail headed to Baekundae Peak
The slippery rock-stairs required many parties to stop and rest, offering ample time to meet other climbers and travelers! (My party became well acquainted with a backpacker from Canada, who joined us for many other adventures through Bejing and Xi’an!) A rather friendly할머니 har-mu-nee (grandma) and할아버지 har-ah-bu-jee (grandpa) joined our trek, and much to my friend’s embarassment….beat her to the top.
Bukhansan trail friends
I would highly suggest packing a lunch with enough to share with others, as many hikers stop and picnic after summiting. Although my friends and I came woefully under-prepared for the potluck on top, our elderly friends filled us with kimbap, chocolate coffee drinks, and water. And of course, took selfies with us. (What do you expect? It’s Asia)
If you need any more entertainment, there are also mountain cats slinking around at the top. Not the man-eating type, but actual house cats. I’m not sure why they decided the windy mountain peak was a great place to bed, but they were there nonetheless. I counted 3 weathered-looking calico cats sunbathing or hiding beneath the larger rock formations.
(For all you pics-or-it-didn’t-happen folks)
Access to Bukhansan National Park
In order to get to Bukhansan National Park, you need to take a subway and a bus: Take the metro to 구파발 Gupabal station, and then hop of bus #704 to Bukhansan station. It’s pretty hard to get lost, as you will pass a lot of older Korean men and women dressed head to toe in hiking gear!
The bus will also read your stop out in English, so just follow the crowd. We warned about the bus!! The drivers are nuts! Hold on to the hand rail; they make some pretty harsh stops and turns.
Have you been hiking in Seoul? Or do you know of any other major cities with killer hiking spots? Please don’t be shy- I would love to hear all about it!