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Leave Your Cares Behind on South Korea’s Hiking Trails

December 16, 2020 North Asia News No Comments

South Korea comprises over 70 per cent of mountainous terrain so it makes sense to say that the best way to explore South Korea’s diverse countryside and cities is by foot. In Korea, hiking is the number one leisure activity as there are 22 national parks with a range of trails, from half day jaunts to overnight treks, where you can take advantage of rustic mountain shelters.

Walking amongst the diverse landscape changes dramatically as the seasons change – displaying lush cool greenery in summer, colourful autumnal leaves, fragrant spring blossoms or a snowy winter wonderland.

Perhaps the best-known walking trail in South Korea is the Jeju Olle Trail that takes you around the circumference of the UNESCO Natural Heritage Listed island. Broken down by 26 individual hikes, you can collect a stamp in your Jeju Olle Trail Passport as you complete one of the routes each day.

Jeju Island has a number of natural highlights that make the hikes worthwhile. Firstly, the three-tiered Cheonjeyeon Waterfall surrounded by lush forest, then for serious hikers, take one of the four trails to the top of the extinct volcano – Hallasan Mountain (1950m), South Korea’s tallest peak. Once at the top you’ll be rewarded with sweeping views of Jeju Island down to the coastline. Don’t miss the caves of Bengdwigul, Manjanggul, Gimnyeonggul, Yongcheondonggul and Dangcheomuldonggul which form part of the Geomun Oreum Lava Tube System.

Rivalling Hallasan Mountain is Seoraksan Mountain, not for its height (1708m) but for its beauty – brightly coloured flowers or leaves (depending on the season) and crystal-clear streams and waterfalls, including the large falls of Biryongpokpo and Oryeonpokpo. The Seoraksan National Park is the ideal place to head for hiking serenity – stunning vistas of mist-shrouded crags or valleys with quiet temples and hot springs.

If it is great views and temples you’re interested in, hike Dalmasan Mountain – providing views over ‘Lands Edge’, the southernmost point of the Korean peninsula and its outlying islands or walk amongst the ancient forests of Duryunsan Mountain where, hidden deep, is the important Buddhist monastery of Daeheungsa Temple. The temple was founded in either the fifth or sixth century. But potentially the cutest is the Dosolam Hermitage (also spelt Dosoram) almost hidden in the crags of Dalmasan Mountain.

Around Chungcheongbuk-do you can wander through the hillside Guinsa Temple, located below the Yeonhwa area of Sobaek Mountain, which is the Buddhist administrative centre of over 140 temples across the nation. Here amongst some of Koreas most intriguing and impressive temples you can discover the rare five storey wooden pagoda Palsangjeon at Beopju-Sa.

For a more inner-city vibe try the Seoul City Wall Trail which takes you in an 18.6km ring over the peaks of Bugaksan, Naksan, Namsan and Inwangsan. The original city wall of Seoul was built in 1386 and was made up of four major gates and four sub gates – only six remain today.

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