Hallasan is an inactive shield volcano located right in the center of Jeju Island. Or maybe it is more accurate to say that Hallasan *is* Jeju Island, as the volcano is massive, constitutes a large part of Jejudo’s land mass, and can be seen from all over the island. Peaking at 1.950 meters, it is the highest mountain in South Korea. Unsurprisingly, it is one of the most popular sightseeing attractions on Jeju and in all of South Korea. There is a large National Park surrounding the mountain’s peak, which contains a large variety of flora and fauna.
The park entrance is relatively easy to reach by bus or car. As usual, going there by bus seems like a less convenient mode of transportation as the bus I took just lets everybody out at a stop that is still about two kilometers removed from the actual entrance, but whatever. You’re gonna walk a ton anyway if you want to climb Hallasan, so those few extra steps won’t make that much of a difference.
Once you’re there, just follow the Korean hikers in their typical neon-colored hiking outfits, which are always a sight to behold. The path I took is called Yeongsil Trail. It started out pretty easy through a mountain, but got pretty steep quite quickly as you make your way up the side of the mountain. For that, you are rewarded with some incredible views.
The weather in early June was perfect for said views, but it was already very hot as the Korean spring feels more like Summer in Europe, whereas Korean summer feels like hell from all that I’ve heard. So be prepared and brink lots of water and some snacks as it can take you multiple hours to reach one of the shelters or fountains providing additional refreshments. A hand fan and a baseball cap are other essentials if you go during this time.
You make your way up the slope pictured below, while the scenic rock formations (which are called Yeongsilgiam) are in perfect view the entire time.
After you reach the top of this section, the hike becomes quite easy again for a while. You pass a bunch of Korean fir trees, a unique kind of fir that can only be found in South Korea’s high mountains.
After that, you reach a plateau with a great view of the peak of the volcano looming in the background. There were flowers blooming everywhere and it was a really beautiful sight to behold. I briefly chatted with a Korean hiker who informed me that Hallasan is actually most beautiful in the winter, when the area is covered in snow. Turns out he lived in Germany for a while and was delighted to talk to me, pointing at flowers and excitedly shouting ‘Blume!’.
You can keep walking around here for a bit and take a few different routes to get to different spots where you can rest for a bit and soak in the view. There is also a large shelter with a little shop located on this plateau. At this point, I was already quite exhausted, but decided to keep going a bit further and started walking towards the peak.
And that’s about where I stopped and turned back. For one, I was quite exhausted since the hike is long and quite steep for large parts. On top of that, I also wanted to make sure I got back in time to catch a bus back and had a little bit of time left to explore Jeju City in the afternoon. And finally, I was not really sure how much else there was to see as the path I was on was not frequented all that heavily and there was not that much information about the trail available alongside it (at least not any I could read). On some maps earlier on the trail, the path to the summit was marked as a ‘restricted area’ (or something along those lines), which I interpreted as being closed to the public. Turns out that was probably incorrect, as a quick google search seems to reveal that you can indeed hike up all the way to the summit and look at the little crater lake (Baengnokdam Lake) inside.
I’m a bit bummed out I didn’t quite make it to the top, but hiking Hallasan is a fantastic experience either way. Just be prepared to spend the majority of your day on the hike and to feel quite beat up afterwards, but it’s definitely worth it. And I guess I’ll just have to come back some day to finish what I started.