If you are visiting Korea for the first time, you will quickly notice that hiking is a common hobby. Many South Korean cities are surrounded by beautiful mountains that showcase the country’s incredible views. As a result, hiking in Korea is a popular pastime for people of all ages.
In this guide, we will dive into all that there is to know about hiking in South Korea and what you should prepare for this activity.
Hiking as part of Korean culture
People of all ages go hiking in South Korea, although different mountains are more popular with different demographics. For example, mountain’s known for their night view are very popular with couples, while mountains with easier trails are very popular for family outings. Surprisingly, the toughest of mountain trails are very popular with older people. Since Korea is a very health-conscious country, hiking has been highly promoted for its positive effects on the health of the older generations. It should be worth noting that some mountains, especially in Seoul, are very popular and can be crowded during peak times. It is therefore advisable to hike on a weekday and not during school vacation periods.
Besides the beautiful scenery, you can typically see traditional temples and stone statues on Korean mountains. These statues represent the summit of the mountains with many hikers taking photos with these ‘summit stones’.
Unlike a lot of countries, hiking mountains at night is a popular hobby in Korea. Especially in the cities, many people like to hike to the tops of the surrounding mountains to enjoy the stunning night views of the city’s landscapes. Although mountains are a great way to enjoy nature and exercise, mountains in Korea are often equipped with official hiking trails that have lights and handlebars to ensure safety. Additionally, many mountains across Korea have convenience stores, restaurants, cafes, and information centers, so that there is something for everyone!
Which are the most famous mountains in Korea for hiking
Below are some of the most famous mountains in South Korea. These range in ability from the easiest to the hardest hiking trails:
Naksan (낙산) 125m
Naksan is a smaller, more urbanized mountain in the north of Seoul. The mountain is easily accessible from the city and has very well-maintained, easy trails to the summit, making it suitable for a range of walking abilities. There are many cafes and restaurants at the top of the mountain, which are known for their great views of Seoul.
Namsan (남산) 272m
Namsan Mountain is located in the center of Seoul and is home to N Seoul Tower, one of the city’s main attractions. From many lookout points along the trails and from Namsan’s peak, you have a breathtaking view at anytime of day. If you would prefer not to hike, there is also an affordable cable car that takes passengers to the top of Namsan. In a survey conducted in 2011, Namsan Mountain was voted as the most scenic place in Seoul, making it a perfect destination for hiking.
Geumjeongsan (금정산) 801m
The mountain is the highest point in Korea’s second largest city, Busan. Geumjeongsan Mountain is home to many attractions, including its own village, temple, and fortress, which visitors can explore. The views of Busan and the surrounding area from the top of Geumjeongsan is highly praised for its views of the surrounding cities. The mountain is also famous for hiking on New Year’s Day, as many people climb the mountain to witness the first sunrise of the year.
Hallasan (한라산) 1,947m
Hallasan is a mountain on Jeju island known for being the highest point in Korea. The mountain is very popular with both locals and tourists because of its beautiful views of the island and for having the oldest Buddhist temple on Jeju. Since the mountain’s summit is very high, it is especially recommended for experienced hikers to explore.
Required equipment when hiking
When hiking in Korea, we recommend the following equipment:
- Sunscreen – When hiking, it is crucial to protect your skin from the sun. Even though it may feel cold on the mountain trails, you can easily get burned from the increased sun exposure on the trails.
- Hiking Shoes – Comfortable, good quality shoes.
- Warm lightweight layers – When hiking in the mountains of Korea, the weather and temperature can change very quickly. It is recommended to dress in multiple layers and bring a hat and waterproof clothing for all weather conditions.
- Water & snacks – The recommended amount of water for the ascent and descent is about two liters per person. Not all mountains have water fountains or stores available so it is advisable to bring your own supply of water when hiking. Also, if you do not have the opportunity to buy food at a location on the mountain, it is recommended to bring your own snacks when hiking. Snacks will keep your energy levels up and can help prompt you to rest at one of the many lookout points. In Korea, you will often see cucumbers eaten as a popular hiking snack to help with maintaining hydration.
- Torch (Flashlight) – If you are climbing a mountain to enjoy the night scenery, it is recommended that you bring a torch to help you navigate the trails at night. Some mountains have illuminated trails at night but bringing a torch is a great back up option.
Useful vocabulary for hiking
Please refer to the list below for useful vocabulary when hiking in Korea:
|Information centre||정보센터||Jeong-bo senteo|
|To go hiking||등산하다||Deungsan-hada|
We hope that you will try hiking during your time in Korea!