A Complete Guide: Bukhansan National Park Hike (북한산국립공원)

With the busy life of South Korea’s capital city, Seoul, the inhabitants of this amazing concrete jungle are always on the look-out for a nature related kind of escape. South Korea offers plenty of parks, rivers to walk alongside, areas of recreation and mountains to hike. And Seoul combines the best of the city life with the perfect amount of National Parks.

Whether you love to hike, go for a walk with friends, drink Soju whilst looking to the beautiful landscape of Seoul city then you most definitely have to visit Seoul’s National Park Bukhansan. This mountain called Bukhan (san meaning mountain) is one of the first destinations of many tourists that want to see the city from another point. So definitely this hike is a must.

How to get there

Seoul’s metro system is so amazingly well done that even if you don’t speak a drop of Korean you will get to your destination for sure, plus speaking English is always encouraged by Koreans… even if they don’t know you they will speak to you, I guess it is the most convenient way to practice. To get to the National Park will take you from ~45 mins to 1h depending how far you are from the city center. For example I was in Itaewon (이태원) and had to take line 6, golden line, (6호선) towards Korea University Station (고려대역). After arriving at the Korea University Station you will have to get out the Metro Station and walk towards the bus stop 7211, the green one, and get off at the Kookmin University. After that you’ll have to walk about 16 minutes to get to the park. If you are unsure of the bus stop just ask the driver, preferably in Korean, if he can point out your stop when the time to get off comes. Once you get in you’ll have to ask the following: 안녕하세요! 질문있어요. 북한산국립공원 스톱이 어디있어요? (an-nyeong-ha-se-yo! Chil-mun-iss-eo-yo. But-han-san-kuk-lip-gong-won seu-top-i eo-di-iss-eo-yo?) which essentially means “Hello! I have a question. Where is the stop for the Bukhansan National Park?”. The driver will definitely point out the stop once you are there, so pay attention.

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Map of the metro and bus lines. Golden one is line 6, green one is bus 7211.

What to expect when you get there?

Once you are off the bus there are street vendors selling Kimbap (김밥), which is a great alternative for snacking on the way up and very inexpensive, water (물), inexpensive hiking gear, Soju (소주), and essentially anything you could possibly need whilst going up. After you pass all the street vendors you’ll find yourself walking about 10 minutes through a paved path, where you’ll get to see a sort of temple, but you haven’t start your hike yet, once you get to a non paved trail that’s where the hike begins.

How to get to the top

There are several mountains in the Bukhansan National Park, so if you are just going to the main mountain or the one where you can see Seoul city landscape, and take pictures with the Korean flag then you are referring to the Baekundae which is the peak (백운대).

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Direction signs that can be found along the hiking trail

To get to the peak (shown below) you’ll have to keep walking in the “peak” direction (shown above).

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Bukhansan peak (북한산 백운대)

What to expect going up?

The trail to get to the peak has been updated with ropes, stairs, bridges and more to facilitate the access to the top. But this is a pretty natural environment and not much has been added to the trails, just the essentials to facilitate the hike for the elders that love to go with friends to have a little chat, lunch and lots of Soju, not that they need any help going up ‘cause they are strong willed, and capable of doing so, if you’ve been there you now what I’m talking about. The hike normally takes from 1.5 to 2 hours for the average citizen alas non hiker. There are different kinds of soil situation from dirt trails, to literally walk on a rock kind of deal. So you need to be prepared.

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What to wear?

Since we have different types of soil and you will pretty much go up and down from dirt to rocks you will need some sturdy shoes. I did the hike with my Adidas sneakers but won’t recommend doing so because it can get really slippery and we don’t want anyone falling from the peak, right? Specially if you are drinking Soju… just…. just wear hiking shoes and be careful. Also the sun is not forgiving so if you tend to sunburn easily wear Sunblock and a cap, which are highly recommended. South Korea doesn’t have poisonous animals or big wild animals for that matter so you can wear comfortable clothes, and the weather will probably be really humid if you go anytime other than Winter so dress accordingly.

Hiking boots lineup

Hiking boots

Boots will vary depending your needs, and the weather. But any boots with sturdy soles will be perfect since it isn’t a difficult hike. Now for clothes you can wear shorts as I said before and if it is Winter you’ll pretty much have to layer to get minimum heat loss on the way up.

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Winter clothes for her

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Summer clothes for her

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Winter clothes for him

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Summer clothes for him

How to head back?

To head back to the city all you have to do after you hike down is take a specific bus that will pick you up at the bottom of the Bukhansan mountains. Since this is a big park it has multiple entrances, so chances are you won’t be going down through the same trail you went up. This might be a bit confusing, but you can always ask around where does the bus pick you up to go to the bus station. Hopefully you’ll get to take the same route back to Seoul, but if you get lost or wander around you can just ask where the near metro station is. That way you can take the metro back to the city. After you get to any metro station you just need to find the station near your place and voilà, you had an amazing time and now you are back to the city.

Now all there’s left to do is enjoy your hike, take lots of pictures, connect with nature and the people around and most important of all… HAVE FUN!!!

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Picture of myself at the Bukhansan Peak

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