Tag Archives: hiking



Last weekend we decided to (finally) head out for our first sojourn out of Seoul since moving in in August, and joined a tour of Seoraksan National Park, located on the eastern side of Korea. We got up before sunrise (a shocking 6 AM alarm, one of only three times we have been required to get up at the ring of an alarm in the last three months), and caught the tour bus.

When we arrived at 1 PM we were given the choice between an easy hike and a difficult hike. Daredevils that we are, we opted for the difficult hike, and set off with hundreds of other people, enjoying the sight of the tanpoong, Korean for the red, yellow, and orange autumn foliage.


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The trail up was quite like a line at an amusement park, complete with foot-traffic jams that left us at a dead standstill on the trail. Every ten minutes or so, we would come across a large establishment of restaurants where hikers could unload and grab some food and alcoholic beverages before continuing on their arduous journey.



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Early in the hike, we heard a helicopter far in the distance and saw two men running up the mountain with stretchers roped around their back. Soon after, the helicopter was hovering directly above our heads, moving only slightly for about ten minutes. By the time the helicopter left, all of the leaves were blown off the trees, and we were scrambling through six inches of leaves on the trail. Hopefully the person the helicopter picked up is okay. It is important to heed such advice:

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The crowd started to thin out as the hike got steeper and turned into a pretty solid set of stairs.
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The stairs were just attached to solid rock, barging their way straight to the top. I avoided looking down as the stairs were always shaking and vibrating with people going up and down, but the view was amazing.
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We finally made it to the top, and could hardly see over the crowd crammed at the top. Vendors selling medals and pictures certifying one’s ascent of the mountain were crammed in with tourists moving to get a glimpse over the railing. We took one look at this bumbling crowd, I shoved my camera in the air to snap a few pictures, and promptly turned around and headed right back down.
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Luckily we found small turn off with a slightly lower viewpoint off the mountain, much less crowded than the first, and got to take some time to appreciate the views of the surrounding mountains and the Eastern coast of Korea, stretching all the way to the Sea of Japan.

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On our way back down, we got to grab some ice cream cones and relax a little before heading back down. IMG_5240 copy

On the bus ride, we were sleepily waiting to get to our hotel when we heard “Ryan Dunn” from the seat in front of us. It turns out that Ryan’s friends coworkers were on the trip and meant to keep an eye out for him. We spent the night in a small mountain town playing cards, under the hostile eye of the hotel worker whose television program was interrupted by our presence in the lobby.

The next morning, we went on an easy walk through Jujeonggol Valley. The water was perfectly clear and the rocks underneath were differing shades of red, blue, green, and orange, making the river quite magical.

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The trip was wonderful, and we’re hoping we can go again at a time that there are less people; this was one of the peak times of the year due to the autumn foliage, but hiking in general is just a busier affair in Korea than in the US. Even with all the people, Seoraksan was beautiful, and a nice break from Seoul.



Saturday night Brittany and I went to Itaewon to get some burgers and (finally) quality beers.  After drinks and bingsu (shaved ice topped with red beans and fruit), we got on the subway to go back to Gaerong Station.  Realizing we had gotten on the wrong train, we got off and waited for the next one to come along, and who should we see sitting right next to the door of the car we walk onto but one of the 10 out of 10 million people that we know in Seoul, Gabriel, a Korean teacher at our school.  Before parting, Gabriel asked us to join him and his girlfriend for a hike the next day.



For Koreans, hiking is serious business.  Namhansanseong isn’t a particularly rigorous hike.  It’s a 4 km walk with a couple of steep inclines, but mostly pretty smooth terrain (for fellow Coloradans it can be likened to any short day hikes in Chautauqua), but that doesn’t stop Koreans from having all the fun of preparing for an all out adventure on the mountain.  Throughout the city and on any of Seoul’s fairly short hikes, you will see people dressed in the latest and brightest hiking clothes, along with backpacks stuffed with amenities for just about any imaginable situation that can arise.  The casual short walks look like serious expeditions.

When Gabriel asked the night before if we had hiking boots, I showed him my lightweight sneakers.  Eyeing them suspiciously, he said that they should work, and as it turned out Brittany and I were the only two without around-the-ankle, heavy-duty boots.


The hike itself is a lavishly green trail and a beautiful climb.  Hiking is enormously popular in Korea, and since we went on the weekend, there was a pretty solid line of people going up.  About half way up we found conveniently placed picnic tables with rainbow umbrellas and a friendly man selling red bean popsicles from a cooler.  We stopped here for some excellent and mysterious sandwiches brought by Gabriel and then carried on to the top.




Namhansanseong translates to “South Han Mountain Fortress” and has been an important defensive post for hundreds of years.  Namhansanseong has been used both as an outpost for imperialistic military designs as well as protection for Gwangju, the capital of a dynasty that dates back 1100-700 years.  The wall seen at the top dates back to the 18th century and has a number of pavilions and temples along the walk across the top.

This historical gem and excellent trail is only about a 15 minute run from our home ^^