Hiking in Seoul

Here are some random hikes I went on in Seoul:

Cheonggyesan:

This was a nice little hike, but definitely one of the least spectacular ones I’ve been on so far. With that being said, it was still really nice.

One of the odd things is that this hike was packed with endless streams of working-age Koreans…on a friday morning. I’m pretty sure I accidentally took part in some sort of company retreat. Certainly distracted a bit from the usual peaceful atmosphere when you are greeted by dozens of people and loudspeakers on the peak. I took some alternative routes to avoid the crowds, which were almost completely deserted. The path was pretty straightforward and not that difficult, as you usually had clear paths and steps leading you everywhere. I still nearly collapsed due to the ridiculous heat. At least the younger Koreans were dressed appropriately (for me anyway) and did not wear sweaters and coats in the blazing heat. Many of them also seemed to struggle with the heat, so that made me feel a lot less puzzled than my previous hiking encounters with people seemingly dressed for freezing temperatures. The mountain is basically a forest, so you can only get a view of Seoul from select spots. Still a nice spot to visit if you have the time, but would not make my top list.

 

Inwangsan:

Inwangsan is located quite conveniently in central Seoul. As such, it is easy to reach and offers some great views. The hike is not too challenging. It has been a while since I went, so I’ll just link to this detailed piece that explains exactly how to get there and which route to take. I followed their recommendation and took the temple rule and I highly recommend it.

As mentioned in that article, this route takes you past a nice little temple and the Seonbawi rock before making your way up the mountain. After that, you can follow a few different routes, enjoy some fantastic views, and walk alongside the Seoul fortress wall.

One thing that will make this hike quite unique is the heavy military/police presence that you might encounter. What I initially thought to be the peak turned out to be a military station that you obviously can’t enter. The area is also heavily surveilled – when I was there, it felt like there were three to four police or military patrols for every hiker. Granted, I was there on a weekday morning, but there was definitely a strong presence up there. No reason to get worried, as nobody will approach you as long as you follow the rules. Most importantly, this one:

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Alll in all, I wholehartedly recommend this hike. The location is great, it’s not too challenging, offers some great views, and a pretty unique vibe.

 

Yongmasan:

I’ll end with my favorite hike. This one gives you the best view of Seoul out of the ones I’ve encountered before, and also the most satisfying peak as there is a lot to explore. However, it was also the most challenging hike I’ve encountered as the way up was a lot less accessible. Whereas some other hikes have steps guiding you all the way or at least have a very gentle incline, this hike can be pretty challenging. The paths can also be less obvious, leaving you to wonder if you are currently even on a real trail or just randomly walking around. As an example, do the two pictures below depict paths that will get you to the top, or do these just happen to be random spots with less vegetation that will lead nowhere? There’s only one way to find out. (When in doubt, try to follow a Korean hiker that seems to know what they’re doing. Good luck keeping up with them.)

The way to the top can also be quite steep at times. However, it is well worth it, and you will be able to catch your breath at the top while taking in a fantastic view.

There is quite a lot of stuff to explore once you’re up there. You can hike along the top for quite a while and climb on some rocks you find along the way if you’re feeling a bit adventurous.

I briefly got lost on the way back down – again, it is often not entirely clear whether you’re walking on a path that leads somewhere or just randomly walking around. Eventually, I found a way down. I also came across a pavillon with a great view. And as I have alluded to many times, Koreans apparantly love going on a  hike and then working out on top of the hill. This time, I didn’t just come across a bunch of scattered equipment, but an actual workout room right on the hill.

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Of course. Oh, Korea…

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