Hiking Bukhansan National Park
On my recent trip to Seoul, South Korea I had the opportunity to reach Seoul's highest peak in Bukhansan National Park, and it most definitely did not disappoint! Located just north of the city, the park offers an amazing, and easily accessible, escape from Seoul's hustle and bustle. In the five days that I spent in Seoul, this hike was by far my favorite activity! Once you reach the summit of Baegundae Peak you will feel as if you're up in the clouds, rewarded by both city and mountain views all around.
How long is the hike? It takes most hikers between 2-2.5 hours to reach the summit of Baegundae Peak, however this could really differ based on speed and breaks
Difficulty level? I would rate this hike as intermediate. While it is not impossibly challenging, it does require a fair bit of physical fitness. The beginning is rather flat, however the last hour is almost completely straight up!
Total hike time? I spent a total of 6 hours to hike the 14 mile path. I entered through the Western Entrance and after reaching the summit I attempted to hike across and exit through the Eastern side, however at some point I became lost and ended up back on the Western side of the park. I think that if you enter and exit through the same side, the trek should only take between 4.5-5 hours total.
I found the trail on the Western side (closest to the Gupabal station) to be well marked and very manageable as a solo hiker. You will simply follow signs towards Baegundae (Peak) throughout. The Eastern side of the park, however, I found to be less well marked, as well as less beautiful. You will get to see some of the old fortress walls though!
How to get there:
In order to reach Bukhansan from Seoul you can take subway line 3 to Gupabal station. From here there will be a series of buses departing for the park. I found that I simply had to follow the locals, fully decked out in their trekking gear.
What to wear:
I must say, I was feeling quite worried when I saw how prepared all the locals were in comparison to my Nike running sneakers and cotton shorts. While it was completely doable without proper hiking boots, if you have some along then I would opt to wear those as they will provide a bit more grip for the steep areas closer to the summit. If you're traveling during the rainy season then I would suggest bringing along a lightweight raincoat or poncho as well, as the weather can be quite unpredictable.
What to bring:
Water - There is nowhere to purchase water along the way so it is super important that you pack enough. The sun was strong with temperatures well over 90 degrees on the day of my hike, so I finished off my first 2 liters of water quite quickly
Protection from Nature: sunscreen, mosquito repellent, etc
Food - either pack your own food for lunch or pick it up right at the entrance of the park. I purchased a bag of hard boiled eggs for $2 from a local vendor, which provided some much needed energy throughout the hike