Hiking Seoul: From almost anywhere you look in Seoul, you’ll be able to see mountains.
Hiking in Seoul is part of the daily life of the people. That’s because there are 37 mountains in the city of Seoul, with over half a dozen over 600 meters tall!? These mountains and their surrounding parks offer both residents and visitors a wonderful way to get some fresh air, see great views of the city from up high, and experience Seoul’s hiking culture.
Almost all of Seoul’s mountains can be accessed by public transportation, usually within an hour.? These mountains provide a quick escape from the hustle-and-bustle of the city and its 10 million people (although at times it can feel like those 10 million people are all hiking with you, up a crowded mountain!).? By going to one of Seoul’s mountains, you will quickly be transported into a whole different world, where you’ll be closer to nature.
For the majority of these mountains, hiking experience is not required.? All that you need are a good pair of shoes, enough snacks and water, a positive attitude, and a will to be adventurous.? Once you are on a subway or bus that is headed towards a mountain, you will see that most of the locals with you are decked out, from head to toe, in hiking gear.? This includes, but isn’t limited to, hiking boots, gloves, a hiking hat with a mesh screen to keep out insects, and even walking sticks.? Don’t be intimidated!? If you start out with one of the easier mountains, you can gauge what you need, and slowly build up your arsenal of hiking gear.? If you feel that you need any extra gear, there are always opportunities to purchase equipment at the base of a mountain. ?There, you will find stalls upon stalls, selling all sorts of hiking equipment, bottled water, and the ubiquitous hiking snack, kimbap.? These rolls, usually consisting of seaweed, rice, fried egg, spam, and pickled turnip, are already sliced and wrapped in tinfoil, and make a perfect mid-hike snack.
Hiking is an extremely popular outdoor activity, enjoyed by people of all ages.? If you think that a seventy-year-old grandma can’t climb a mountain with you, think again!? These elderly, yet surprisingly agile, locals, with their colorful hiking outfits and walking sticks, will pass you on the mountain (sometimes even while sporting a little radio, blasting old Korean country songs).? And once at the top, they will unfurl their blankets, and unpack their daypacks for lunch.? These locals, much to the jealousy of novice hikers, will enjoy a large spread of Korean side dishes (banchan 반찬), rice, and maybe even some soju (a popular Korean hard liquor) or makgeolli (sweet rice wine).? Because hiking is so popular, it is best to go during the week, when some of the hiking enthusiasts are at work.? Otherwise, to avoid the crowds, try to go early on the weekends.
Before you go hiking, do some research on the different mountains and trails.? Some mountains, like Achasan (아차산?) and Umyeonsan (우면산?) are recommended for beginners, while Bukhansan (북한) is a little more advanced.? Your preferred duration of hike, and whether you prefer a dirt trail or mostly steps, will help you determine which mountain to climb.? The Seoul Fortress hike, where you can walk along the ancient fortress wall, consists mostly of steep stairs, whereas the Umyeonsan hike will, for the majority of time, be a dirt trail.? Whatever mountain path you choose, getting to the top of the mountain is exhilarating!? There, you’ll be awarded with stunning views of Seoul and beyond, and a great sense of accomplishment.
The leaves on the mountains have just started to change colors, making your ascent to the top of the mountain just as rewarding as the views from the top.? Not only will you be able to take beautiful photos of the city below, you will also capture the red, orange, and yellow colors of the surrounding mountains.? The colorful fall foliage and crisp autumn air make fall a great time to go hiking.? So, take advantage of all of the natural beauty that Seoul has to offer, and go on a hike up one of Seoul’s many mountains!