Korea’s reputation is saturated with K-pop, skincare products, K-drama, and delicious food, but few people talk about its gorgeous terrain. Korea’s landscape is a whopping 70% mountains. Therefore, no matter where you visit (even in Seoul), odds are you will be close to a mountain! Before moving to Korea, I had no idea of the incredible hiking that awaited me. I often crave a challenging and scenic hike, and Korea has definitely delivered. During your time in Seoul, be sure to carve out some time for hiking and see the beautiful city at a different elevation. The hikes can be tough but the reward is plentiful!
Best Natural Escape from the City
When checking out travel guides and blogs, odds are, Bukhansan will be at the top of the list. Bukhansan is located in Northern Seoul and is the highest mountain in the city. The mountain is great for all-levels, as there are multiple trails you can choose from. One of the most popular trails is Baegundae Peak and offers a lovely view. I adore Bukhansan for its natural beauty, but would suggest another hike if you’re looking for the best city view. Regardless, check this popular, stunning hike, off your bucket list. If you’re feeling especially adventurous, seek the giant hidden Buddha in Bukhansan. He’s a little hard to track down, but makes for a fun day.
Most Unique and Challenging Trails
Gwanaksan is located in Southern Seoul and offers an entirely different view of the city than Bukhansan. The majority of Gwanaksan’s trails are rugged and strenuous. Admittedly, Gwanaksan was one of the most challenging hikes I’ve gone on in Seoul. But don’t let that discourage you! Its views and points of interest are worth the while. While hiking, you are likely to stumble upon multiple airplane landing pads, a radio-broadcast facility, and a rare, golf-balled shaped radar station. I especially enjoyed checking out the tiny temple hanging on to the cliff for dear life.
To Note: Gwanaksan’s terrain is rough and rocky, so be prepared with your best hiking apparel. My sturdy hiking boots held up well, but my poor friend’s feet were covered in blisters at the end of day! I strongly advise good shoes if you’re choosing to hike one of the more difficult trails at Gwanaksan. Additionally, be aware that the signage at Gwanaksan isn’t the best so it’s easy to get off trail. We definitely got lost on the way down. I suggest following Korean hikers and give yourself enough time to get down before sunset!
Epic Seoul City Wall & Night Sky View
Ingwangsan trail follows the picturesque Seoul City Wall and showcases a magnificent bird’s-eye-view of the city below. Inwangsan’s difficulty level is fairly low and is a great hike to check out in the night. I suggest going around dusk so you can watch as the city lights illuminate the night sky.
Yongmasan Mountain (용마산)
Best City Hike
Yongmasan‘s view blows my mind. My first thought during my ascent was, ‘WOW. Seoul is enormous.’ If you want a hike to put the sheer size of the city into perspective, go to Yongmsan. The only drawback of Yongmasan is the lack of nature. Yongmasan is truly a city hike so you won’t feel like you are escaping into the wilderness. Stairs, overlooking the city, make up the majority of the trail. That said, I totally suggest visiting Yongmasan for an incredible view of Seoul. I imagine it would be gorgeous at night as well.
Best Views of the Lotte Tower and Gangnam
If you want a stellar view of the Lotte Tower, go to Achasan! All Korean hikes are worthy of a delicious picnic, but Achasan is at the top of my list for picnic locations. It doesn’t take long to get to the stellar lookout point, and there are lots of flat rocks to lounge and enjoy the view. Bring your kimbap, chips, and makgeolli for an enjoyable afternoon.
Best Balance of Nature and City Views
Buramsan has an incredible balance of a city and mountain views. You can get your fill of being immersed in nature, while also getting a dazzling view of Seoul. Buramsan also has a great mix of stairs and scrambling up rocks to get to the top. The mountain doesn’t get as much credit as it deserves and I highly suggest adding it to your Seoul hiking list.
Hiking is a popular activity in Korea, especially for Korean elders (ajummas and adjushis.) Korean hikers are incredibly kind and do their best to communicate with you or point you in the correct direction if you’re lost. Many of them love the extra English practice. To get some smiles, throw an “Annyeong Haseyo” (Korean for “hello”) or the phrase “FIGHTING” (Meaning, “you can do it” or “you’ve got this!”) to passerbys. It is not uncommon for Koreans elders to offer you fruit or other snacks on the trail. I can’t count the number of clementines, energy bars, and yogurts that I’ve received. Korean ajummas and adjushis are so generous! Accept them with gratitude and you will make their day.