This October, I decided to go and hike at Mount Seoraksan, a popular range of mountains on the East coast of South Korea. It is now a national park and attracts thousands of visitors daily. The mountain was named after the Autumn season and the white rocks that adorn the cliffs.
This year, I decided to take up hiking as a hobby. I have done hikes before and enjoyed it, but never thought of making it a regular staple to my hobbies list. Korea is a great place to take the sport up, as there is easy access to many hiking trails and many hiking clubs and groups to join. Plus, It’s really cheap.
I used to live in Sokcho, but never bothered to visit the mountain once. I wasn’t interested in hiking as I was to busy lazing on the beach. I went with a Meetup.com group called Seoul Hiking Nature Group, which organises hikes almost every week. This trip turned out to be a big one and there were 3 buses full of people!
There were 3 different hiking routes and options from relaxed to difficult, with the most
difficult being 16 hours long! That hike would begin at 3 am. I chose the their relaxed one of course, and got a good night’s rest before spending a day up in the mountains.
Mount Seoraksan National Park
The mountain is open whole year round, but from my experience Autumn is the best season to do outdoor sports as it get really hot in summer in Korea. A few years back I also went up to the mountain in Autumn and the foliage and views were stunning.
We had a small group and we started at 9 am. We decided to hike up to Ulsanbawi. It’s a rather challenging climb as it’s really steep and high. My tight hip flexors were going to get the burn on this one!
The park was really full, with hikers and visitors of all ages and from all over the world. You will be greeted by a large traditional gate, and as you walk a bit in you can see the giant Buddha statue that leads you to the temple.
Up to Ulsanbawi Rock
The start of the hike offers stunning news of little rivers and the beautiful changing foliage along the way. As you start hiking up you will stop at another smaller temple and shrine. It a nice spot to get fresh water from the mountain spring and relax while you listen to the chanting monks.
After this it will get really steep, so it is only uphill from there. Even though it was mid-October, it was still warm so you’ll work up quite a sweat. After climbing through the thick foliage, you will start ascending the steps along the sheer rock face cliffs of Ulsanbawi.
The views up here are stunning. I was last to reach the top out of my group, but I made it to the top. My tight hip flexors and many breaks along the way does not make me the best climber.
After coming down, me and another climber decided to relax in a small traditional style restaurant which offered free Korean tea. It was rather good. My fatigue and exhaustion from the over-night ride eventually gave way to a horrible headache. I walked a few easy paths after that and had some hot chocolate. Bring a jacket, as it gets really cold at sunset up here.
End of the hike
Seroaksan is definitely a place I’d visit again…next year. There are so many routes to see and visit that I didn’t get to see on this trip.
After the hike, our group went to a small restaurant in Sokcho which offered a buffet. Not the best meal deal, but it was OK. The entire trip cost 80 000 KRW ($80) and included accommodation in a pension, return bus fare, snacks for the hikes and a dinner buffet. Not too bad and no real complaints from my side.
How to get there
If you don’t rent or have a car, you can take a bus to Sokcho. There are various terminals around Seoul and it costs about US$30 for a one-way trip. From Sokcho, you can take one of the buses to go up to the park or even take a taxi as it’s really nearby the coastal town.
- Depending on your choice of trail, it’s always a good idea to bring good shoes. Even though there are stairways and ladders, some parts coming down can be slippery from the mud
- Bring lots of water
- Make sure you pack in a good jacket to keep warm at sunset during the autumn and spring seasons.
- Take care of your belongings! If you have a big DSLR camera, don’t let it leave your arm or body. One of the hikers kept adjusting his backpack and would put his camera down or hang it on a side post. He landed up forgetting it at one point and in a flurry ran down to the last spot he stopped. The camera was gone.
- Entry fee to the park is only 5000 KRW ($US5) and you can get your maps available in various languages at the information centre at the gate.
- The park closes at 7 pm, so get an early start!