Bukhansan is the mountain range with the highest peak near Seoul. We have seen the top looming over the city for three months and finally decided to conquer it. First off to get there it was already a bit of a journey. I took line 6 to Yaksu where I transferred to line 3 that took us to Gupabal. There you take a bus to the Bukhansan Tourist information center which is another 15 minutes. The total journey I believe cost I,750 krw. The trailhead is very obvious at the very end of the road and there are many people walking in the same direction so just follow them! My friends and I were set on hiking to the tallest peak which is known as Baegundae at 838 meters tall. There are two main ways to get to this peak, the difficult shorter course and the easier longer course. Don't make the mistake of thinking the shorter course will be faster. My group went up the easy course and came down the hard course and even though it should be about 6-8 kilometers it took about 6 hours.
Once we arrived at the start of the Bukhansan-seong course we had to make a choice of the easy 4.2 km hike or hard 2.4km. We decided the easy was the way to go because I heard the hard course is very very hard. The easy path also has many attractions as well and splits off to different courses. We were able to see more temples and the pretty creek. The path was fairly flat and had many stairs until we had to make another turn (the signs are very very bad for nonhikers). Now it was a very long fairly steep incline, this was very tiring and my group took many breaks until we got to the historic wall that surrounds the city and also climbs the mountains. The pollution was the worst I had ever seen in Korea the day that we chose to hike, on the mountain, it was not bad but you could not see the views through the heavy haze.
After the wall, we arrived on a cliffside and many stairs and platforms around a smaller peak. The easy course goes around the mountain and up much more gradually than the hard course. We met some very nice Korean men that took care of us on the way. They took photos of my friends and me and told us about the peaks and challenges of the ending hike. I was surprised with how friendly everyone was and the atmosphere was fun and playful.
The hike was becoming more intense now as we reached the top. You have to hold onto a metal rope or watch your step as you are on the cliff overlooking a never-ending valley. With the near sunset, it was absolutely breathtaking! The foggy skies made the sky look like a painting and many smaller peaks surround Baegundae. The final .3 km are where the advanced and easy course meets and turns into an expert-level hiking path. I don't think you can even classify it as hiking as it is mostly pulling yourself up the wire guard rail at least at a 50-degree angle. This was terrifying and extremely busy. You can only go up single file and people are coming up and down at the same time where you have to wait or squeeze past them. I made it halfway up the expert course and stopped on a very nice rock view. I let my friends go to the ending .2 km and watched them from there. The course according to them just got harder and harder and the top was crowded but holds a Korean flag and cloudy view. We conquered the highest peak! What an accomplishment but now was the most difficult part.
Now for part two, returning back to the start. as it was about 4:30 now we decided to take the difficult course back since it was shorter and downhill must be easier??? NO ITS NOT! The difficult course was not nice stairs but sharp rocks at mismatched angles that created a very dangerous downhill. I actually fell down and twisted my ankle slightly many times. Since my energy was already low it was harder to move at a good pace down the steep rock incline. I couldn't believe people walked up this. It was one of the steepest inclines I had ever seen and it was worse because of the scary rocks that I kept wedging my feet into and losing balance. We tried to go fast to beat the sunset but soon we were walking with our phone flashlights out to watch our steps. Luckily wildlife isn't too much of a concern on the mountain with so much foot traffic but it was very dark very fast and then all other people seemed to disappear into thin air. We did not see any other hikers after sunset and we still had about two hours of hiking left. It was a bit eerie and I am aware that the park closes at nightfall because of the dangerous hike. No new visitors were allowed but I thought that the many people we saw at the top would be coming down but apparently, they took a different path. With my friends it was okay but I would NEVER recommend this as a solo hike! Instead, if you prefer, you can hire a guide to explore Bukhansan.
If you plan to go there are some vending machines and bathrooms near the start but none after that so PLEASE use them and bring water!!
We finally reached the end of the hike around 6;30 and found some food in the area to feed our exhausted bodies. We were almost too tired to lift the spoon to our mouths. We had ramen, kalguksu, and bibimbap and lots of water then took the same path home for some well-deserved sleep.
I am so happy that I did end up going on the hike, I almost chickened out and reasonable so now seeing how difficult it was. But the view and experience were priceless! There are also many other peaks that may be an easier climb than Baekundae but we wanted to conquer the tallest one and we SURVIVED!
South Korea Seoul National Parks Mountain Asia Bukhansan Nature Hiking Baekundae
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