You Really Don’t Need to Prepare Anything to go Hiking in Seoul?!
- The Seoul Hiking Tourism Center Chronicles by Leila & Lily -
Seoul is such a charming travel destination. It’s one of the rarest places in the world where the city and nature form a perfect harmony. In Seoul, you get to see the tall, green mountains nearby that you can’t easily see in other cities. There are so many mountains surrounding Seoul, such as Bukhansan Mountain, Inwangsan Mountain, Gwanaksan Mountain, Dobongsan Mountain, Inwangsan Mountain, and Cheonggyesa Mountain, that it’s hard to even keep count!
I wondered which mountain to climb when I saw a photo of my Korean friend on social media hiking at Bukhansan Mountain. The Baegundae Peak of Bukhansan Mountain is the highest, standing at 836 m above sea level and looked like it was touching the sky. Meanwhile, the view of downtown Seoul from there was just magnificent. So, I chose Bukhansan Mountain as my first hiking experience in Seoul without hesitation. After deciding where to go and looking up information about hiking, I realized there was a lot to consider. In order to safely hike Bukhansan Mountain, I needed hiking gear. I didn’t even have hiking shoes and clothes, and I thought it’d be too much from a traveler’s perspective to buy all the necessary gear just to go hiking once. After doing some research online, a great piece of information caught my attention. There was a gear rental service near the foot of Bukhansan Mountain.
The Seoul Hiking Tourism Center provides free hiking gear rental services to foreigners, including hiking shoes and clothes. This was such a convenient service for me, as I wanted to experience hiking as part of my trip. You can reserve the rental items on-site, but I recommend you make a reservation in advance through the website in case there aren’t items of your size available. By the way, you can reserve items online up to 2 days before the actual visit!
The day to hike Bukhansan Mountain finally came! The weather was beautiful. Excitedly, I got off the Bukhansan Ui Subway Station, where I was supposed to meet my friend. Seoul Hiking Tourism Center was a five-minute walk from exit 2 of the station. The center staff members were very friendly, and the service was available in English, Japanese, and Chinese. Although I’m not good at Korean, I was able to easily get an explanation on the hiking course of Bukhansan Mountain and some extra help with hiking and selecting a course.
We moved to the rental service area to get the hiking gear we reserved online. It was explained that all items rented here are cleaned after being used once and returned after being washed, sterilized, and disinfected. So, I felt more comfortable renting them, especially at times like this. After filling out a form, we got the hiking clothes and shoes. After changing in the fitting room by the rental area, I conveniently kept my clothes and belongings safe in the locker.
In the center, there is an area where you can rest before and after hiking and a rooftop view of Bukhansan Mountain. My friend and I decided to look around to prepare ourselves mentally before the hike. At the lounge, there’s a place you can rest comfortably, a water purifier & dispenser, a mobile phone charger, and various tour guidebooks of Seoul. While taking a short break, I charged my phone just in case and then went up to the rooftop area. When I got there, I could get a fantastic 360-degree panoramic view of the surroundings. It was a great place where you could see not just the stunning ridges of Bukhansan Mountain, but also Dobongsan Mountain and Suraksan Mountain in a single glimpse. We took some beautiful photos with the stunning mountain view in the background and came back down.
Finally, we began our journey to Baegundae Peak! The Baegundae Peak hiking course is the shortest at 1.9 km and takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes from the center to the summit. It’s a popular hiking course because you can feel a sense of accomplishment in reaching the peak of Bukhansan Mountain in a short amount of time due to the close proximity. However, with many stairs, steep uphill roads, and many stones and rocks, I would have regretted it greatly if I had worn sneakers.
Unfortunately, most foreigners I met while climbing and descending Baekundae Peak wore shoes and clothes unsuitable for hiking. I wanted them to know that hiking clothes and boots could be rented for free. Although the hiking course was a short one, it was pretty tough. So, we took breaks in the mountain cabins and resting areas on the way up to the summit. I took out the chocolate bar I had packed from home and recharged.
The last part of the hiking course, which leads you to the summit, was short but very steep. It was quite a difficult hiking course for beginners. I wanted to give up several times on the way up there, but my friend and I kept encouraging each other and continued onward until we eventually reached the summit. The view of Seoul from Baegundae Peak was much more beautiful than it looked in the photos. I felt my affection toward Seoul growing deeper and appreciated the stunning scenery. I took in as much as I could with my camera and my own eyes. I had forgotten about the tough hiking experience as soon as I felt the pleasant breeze up at the top! The feeling of accomplishment for making it to the top of this high mountain for a day I'll never forget made it all so worth it.
On the way down, the phytoncide of the nature around me was amazing to breath in and the scenery I missed on my tough climb up felt great to properly notice. After arriving at the Seoul Hiking Tourism Center, I returned the clothes and shoes I rented. There are also shower rooms available for you to freshen up after the tiring hike.
The only thing to remember is to bring undergarments, socks, and towels when using the shower rooms. There are disposable shower wipes available in the changing room, which would be convenient for people who have to visit more places during their trip but don’t have enough time to shower.
Everything from renting the essential hiking shoes and clothes to using the locker, resting area, and shower rooms were free. I still can’t believe it. Thanks to these services, I had an incredibly satisfying first hiking experience in Seoul. The chocolate bar I had earlier apparently wasn't enough because I started to feel hungry. After the climb, I went straight to the place I had in mind for food.
- Seoul Hiking Tourism Center
- Address 5F, 52, Samyang-ro 173-gil, Gangbuk-gu, Seoul
- Operation Hours Daily 09:00 to 18:00 (Closed Mondays and on the day of Lunar New Year & Chuseok)
- Phone +82-2-1533-2608
Having a Delicious Meal after Hiking is a Must in Korea! - Sandubujip
Throughout my trip in Korea, I’ve found that Koreans like to enjoy particular food according to different timing and places. For instance, they look for and enjoy eating energy-boosting food in the summer, enjoy jeon (Korean-style pancakes) on rainy days, and eat tofu dishes or pajeon (green onion pancakes) with makgeolli (Korean rice wine) after hiking. That’s why many restaurants serve delicious food near the mountains in Korea. And Bukhansan Mountain area was no exception. Among the many competing restaurants, the winner I chose was Sandubujip, (lit. Mountain Tofu House). I chose this restaurant specializing in tofu dishes because I felt I needed to eat some protein after hiking.
Another big factor that led me to choose this place was that it was right across from the Seoul Hiking Tourism Center. So I could easily get something to eat without having to go somewhere far away. Past the pillars of ground level parking lot, we went up to the second floor into a restaurant that looked like a mountain cabin. Just like the name of the restaurant, “Sandubujip,” there were various tofu dishes, including spicy tofu stew, tofu bossam (boiled pork belly), soft tofu, and tofu kimchi, as well as many other dishes, such as haemulpajeon (seafood green onion pancakes) and dotorimuk (acorn jelly). After taking some time to decide, I ordered the items I’ve always wanted to try. The neat side dishes were served first, then the main dishes.
Tofu, the main item, was savory, light, and easy to eat. The seafood pajeon and acorn cake, which is great after hiking to recharge yourself, were also very delicious. Thus, our trip was concluded!
Try hiking to appreciate the divine nature in Seoul without the worry of preparing anything special. Be sure to also make it out for some tasty eats afterward! The excitement you feel after hiking up the tallest mountain in Seoul and prolonging that good mood with a hearty meal will enrich your traveling experience all the more so!
- Address 61, Samyang-ro 173-gil, Gangbuk-gu, Seoul
- Operation Hours Daily 09:30 to 19:00
- Phone +82-2-903-3532
※ This article is dated September 2022. Business operations and business hours may change according to government quarantine guidelines. Please check before visiting.