Bukhansan has long been on our shortlist of mountains to hike in Seoul, but this 835m monster has always been in the back of our minds and the forefront of our to-summit list. Originally, we tried to go to Seoraksan National Park, but the timing was always a bit off. We have oogled over pictures of Korea in autumn and grew quite excited to get out and take some pictures once the temperature began to plummet.
With a beautiful day ahead of us, we journeyed to northern Seoul where we entered Bukhansan National Park. The park hosts a small town that reminded us of an ultra-modern Colorado mountain town that had been overrun by thousands of hikers. Like with every trip into Korea’s hills, we joined the throngs of people plodding along together in an ironic pursuit of natural solitude. From the Korean Tourism website: “The park averages 5 million visitors and has received the Honor of being in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the national park with the highest number of visitors per square foot.” Constant company aside, we were blown away by the park’s beauty.
Climbing to the top of Baegundae (the tallest peak) was a workout. Our hiking thus far has not produced the billy goat legs we keep expecting to replace our own, so we struggled, huffed, and puffed our way to the top just before sunset. The colors were incredible once we got about halfway up. The leaves were vivid reds, oranges, and yellows with backdrops of coniferous green. We couldn’t stop to take as many pictures as we wished since the light was fading fast and we had no clue about how much more hiking would be required until we reached the summit. There was also the issue of having too many beautiful things to photograph in every direction. Once you take 40-50 pictures of the same tree, you start to assume that one will probably turn out decent, and no additional trees need to be shot before getting to the top.
With a harrowing path that relentlessly threatened our balance and footing, the last bit acted to set up the reward of a completed mountain hike. Every direction provided a myriad of colors and rock formations with city skylines in the distance to juxtapose the natural beauty of Bukhansan. Massive granite peaks flanked Baegundae on both sides. These peaks were blanketed with rock climbers, and I can only imagine the visual spectacle they enjoyed.
After taking pictures and enjoying our incredible vista, we decided that it was time to descend while there was still light. This decision was prudent, although a bit late, as we found ourselves running down the path in total darkness, using our cell phone lights to guide us out. We eventually made it and caught a free taxi out of the park to a nearby town with metro access. Exhausted, we found some samgyeopsal and naengmyeon at a restaurant and rested our feet before making the trip back to Anyang.
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We took the subway line 3 to the 구파발역 station. We had to take a bus up the road to the entrance of the park. There were big signs on the side so we saw it immediately and got off the bus. We had to walk through the small neighborhood at the base of the mountain to get to the trail head. There were a ton of hiking clothing stores and restaurants. The peak we summited was Baegundae and took about 5 hours just to get to the top.
English Map of the Park