There are 37 mountains in Seoul, and hiking them is seems to be a popular activity both among tourists and residents. Umyeonsan Mountain is apparently one of the more popular destinations as it is quite easy to reach and is adjacent to the Seoul Arts Center and several museums. It is 293 meters high, so it’s not a gigantic hike.
Still, I would not underestimate this mountain (but maybe that’s just my poor shape speaking). The paths are often quite steep and not necessarily easy to climb as they often consist of a bunch of loosely connected rocks, so caution is necessary. However, don’t let that discourage you. It’s not that bad overall, there are plenty of places to catch your breath and rest, and the view on top is well worth the climb.
This trip also confirmed an observation that I have made throughout my time in Seoul: Koreans appear to be really into physical fitness. You’ll often see exercise machines outdoors in public places like playgrounds, alongside the Hangang river, and so on. However, I did not really expect to see these machines on a hiking trail halfway up the mountain. I saw at least three such stations during my trip and there was at least one person working out at each one.
Most of the people there appeared to be senior citizens (but that might also be because I was there during a workday afternoon), which is paricularly impressive (or depressing, depending on your personal level of fitness). Either way, hiking up a mountain and then deciding “You know what, I think I need to work out” is pretty hardcore.
My absolute favorite workout equipment were hula hoop rings that were just draped over branches of some trees at multiple points along the hike. And yes, I saw one person hooping alongside the trail.
There appears to be some sort of military facility atop the mountain, so you might suddenly run into some soldiers or see a sign like this and decide to turn back:
Luckily, I managed to avoid stepping on any mines, and was able to enjoy the hike and some fantastic views of Seoul:
It took me a while to get to the top and I thought I got lost a few times, but I eventually made it. There’s a little platform with no trees blocking your line of sight, and the view is fantastic.
On my way down, I visited Daeseongsa, a small Buddhist temple. It looked kind of deserted and I’m not sure if you can check out the inside as well, but I was pretty spent regardless. So I was more than content with just the outside view:
A general note to conclude this post: Mid-March is probably not the ideal time to go on a hike. The weather was actually quite pleasant (not too warm, not too cold) and I can’t imagine going on a hike like this in the summer heat. However, the paths were more than a bit muddy at times (even though I haven’t seen any rain in at least a week), and I’m sure the views are even more spectacular when Spring is in full effect. Nonetheless, this was certainly a good start.
There is a little station at the bottom of the hill that contains these little pumps that shoot out pressurized air to help clean your shoes, so I avoided completely ruining mine. The air doesn’t do much against the dried mud though. It appears to work like those little cans of pressurized air you can buy to clean out your electronic devices, only with a lot more power. Hence, it might also be helpful to clean out your laptop fan if it’s full of dust and needs to be cleaned*.
*Please don’t try this