Hiking is a huge part of our lives. While we don’t always find time, the desire to stand atop massive natural places always gnaws at us. After living in Seoul, South Korea for over a year, we have climbed a considerable amount of the Seoul mountains as well as a few in Gyeonggi-do. We want to share some of our favorite hikes within Seoul’s city limits and explain why these mountains stand out in our minds.
Gwanaksan is considered to be a very impressive mountain by Koreans, and for good reason. It is not even close to impossible or impassable as you hike to the top but there are a few challenging parts that make this a “manly” mountain. This is a beautiful mountain on the South side of Seoul, just far enough from the city to offer some quiet escape from the city while maintaining some nice views of Seoul’s skyline in the distance.
Several sections of this hike require the use of thick ropes as you ascend the rocky terrain. These aren’t necessary in all instances, but they help avoid getting overly dirty if that’s something that bothers you like it bothers Koreans. These ropes are nice to have in a few sloped areas but they make this hike much more manageable and less difficult.
The top of Gwanaksan takes the cake. A weather station can be reached by crossing a rickety metal walkway that sways with the wind. Incredible views. There is also an old Buddhist Hermitage precariously perched on the side of the peak which is open to the public for prayers and meditation. Both of these structures provide great photo opportunities and stunning views. We spent a great deal of time at the top taking pictures and having a picnic lunch. This was one of our best hiking experiences. On the way down there is another temple that is quite large and beautiful. There are multiple routes up and down this southern giant, and we suggest choosing separate ones for your ascent and descent.
One of Seoul’s most beautiful peaks, Bukhansan stands at 836m in the northern part of Seoul in Bukhansan National Park. This mountain is greatly coveted by rock climbers for its massive granite rock faces and stellar views while roped up. In the fall this park lights up with changing leaf colors that cannot be missed. For a full write-up about Bukhansan in the fall, click here or check out our video.
There are several temples and old supply roads in the park that bring a sense of history to your hike. It starts easy enough, with wide paths and switchbacks, but toward the top it becomes much steeper. Sure footing is required on much of the upper end of the hike, as the steep rock formations are narrow and sometimes jagged. It is easy to get sidetracked on the way up with the natural beauty all around, but keep an eye on your footing so that you will make it to the top safely.
Located amid the northern limit neighborhoods of Seoul, this mountain provides uncompromising views of the city that every Seoulite and expat should witness. It would also make a very worthy day trip for tourists looking to gain a different perspective while visiting the city. This is the most beautiful mountain on our list. The jagged peaks and stunning views will leave a lasting impression on anyone that puts in the leg work, guaranteed.
This mountain was a surprise to us. When we hiked this mountain we were trying to get a better vantage of Namsan Tower (N. Seoul Tower). We saw a wooded area behind an apartment complex that we thought would offer good views. As we were exploring the park we found ourselves with many reasons to keep going upwards. Night fell and we made excuses to continue on. As we went, we questioned our sanity on a cold winter night and continuously considered turning back. We reached peak after peak that kept us moving higher, toward the prize that we didn’t expect.
This minor peak in Seoul was important for its signal fires. When we reached the top we found major structures from the past intended for signalling enemy invasion. These structures lent a wondrous nighttime vantage from which to see the city of Seoul. The foreground of ancient palaces and magnificent modern buildings mesmerized us. Coupled with our surprise discovery of this place solidified it in our list of favorite mountains in Seoul.
To put it lightly, we have greatly enjoyed the mountains of Seoul. We have enjoyed exploring their paths and views with great vigor, and encourage others to do the same. We have topped all of Seoul’s major defensive peaks and we look forward to visiting many of them again the future to explore different seasons.