Hiking Bukhansan in Seoul, South Korea: What You Need to Know

Hiking Bukhansan – the highest peak in the Seoul metro area – is a great escape from the bustling city and is a very local Korean thing to do. You’ll see many of the older Koreans geared up and outfitted with the top of the line outdoors gear, hiking poles, and exercise clothes. The biggest challenge will be to keep up with them once they get on the trail. Some of these older folk – maybe in their 60s – are hiking machines and although I am fairly in shape, they sprinted past me. Try keeping up with them – and if you do, you may become friends with some local Koreans.

Hiking Bukhansan – specifically Baegundae Peak – should take you 6 hours total round trip with a stop at the top, and takes around an hour each way on the bus from anywhere in the city. There’s the main 704 or 8772 bus lines that will take you directly to the last street before the national park entrance. But its best to use Naver to help with the navigation from wherever you are in the city. You’ll want to search for the entrance called Bukhansanseong Fortress Trail Tourist Info Ctr. The photo above is from Gupabal metro station exit one and catching the 8772 bus to the start of the National Forest Park. 

The buses will drop you off on the side of the road and you’ll take a right to go towards the mountains. The will likely be other hikers so follow along as they know the path. 

Before getting to the start, you can have a final last loading up on coffee, snacks, and food to either eat or bring with you to the top on the street before the park entrance. There’s convenience stores, regular restaurants for when you’re done with the hike, and also coffee shops to fuel up again. 

Before starting, it’s important to get a proper stretch. Do as the locals do and warm up before because this is an intermediate hike with lots of climbing. The last 2km up the mountain you’ll be using chains and climbing stairs to reach the top. 

A super important note: DO NOT cross this bridge if you are trying to do only Baegundae Peak. I took this left hand bridge and it too me to Wonhyonbong Peak, and then you’ll have to go back down the mountain a bit for maybe 1.5km and then start to climb back up the mountain in order to link the two trails. It’s easier and makes for a less intense day to go up the main trail path. Another note is that you can take other trails back down Baegundae Peak to reach different entrances to Bukhansan park, if you don’t want to do an out and back type of trail. From what I’ve read, the forest isn’t as interesting, but you do get some fortress walls to see along those other routes. 

Now I think a lot of guides and myself included laugh at how well decked out the Korean hikers are, but I think it’s because Korea’s weather is much more intense than we expect it. During winter, the trail is slippery and icy, so you have to be ready for a long journey in the cold. In summer, it’s very hot and so you need gear to help you with that aspect. For spring and fall, you may become cold and getting lost here can happen. Because I saw on the forecast that it was sunny and mild temperatures all day, I opted for comfortable clothes to hike in. It doesn’t hurt to be over prepared. Maybe one of the best gear recommendations is hiking poles and a pair of gloves to use on the chains at the end of the hike. Also bring a rain jacket or poncho if you aren’t already water-proofed. 

When you reach a sign saying 1.3km left on the hike (which is closer to the top of the trail when it starts getting steep, you’ll see on the left hand side two large boulders like this. It looks like a cave entrance through the small triangle in the middle. Here is where I found what appeared to be a spring for fresh drinking water. There was no flowing water above it so I trusted that it’s drinkable. I’ve had no issues as of yet after drinking it. Plus you’re fairly high on the mountain already. Note that if you’ve already started on the fence/chains part of the trail (which is on your right side when going up), then you’ve gone too far for this spring water drinking stop. You’ll want to go back down slightly to find it. 

The trail can be packed on weekends but it’s nice seeing the locals out and about on their trail. Once you reach the 0.4km marker, you’ll start to really climb. The last 200m is super steep and this is where you’ll have to use the chains and pull yourself up in certain sections. Be very careful on this part and give yourself lots of room between the next hiker if the trail is wet. That’s usually the biggest hazard on this path.

Then finally you’ll be rewarded with some awesome views of Seoul and the surrounding mountains. 

Grab a seat and enjoy the kimbap you picked up at the bottom of the trail, or go all the way to the peak and take a photo with the Korean flag in the background.

It should only be 1.5 to 2 hours hiking down, but it may take longer if you take breaks at all of the good scenic spots. 

And then finally you’ll be at the bottom of the ranger station, looking back at where you had climbed. It’s a challenging hike for sure so hopefully this guide prepares you for it. 

Location:

Again, the best way to figure out how to get to Bukhansan is via Naver Maps. Be sure to find the western entrance for the trail (although you could do other trail starts, but read another guide for that trip). There should be a Paik’s Coffee and a place called Bukhansan Handmade Noodle Shop near by. See the map below.

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