My amazing co-teacher Stefanie invited me to go hiking this weekend with her, and although she warned me that Gwanaksan Mountain would be a hard hike, I didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to take a break from the bustling city of Seoul and breathe some fresh air. It is fall here in Seoul, and the leaves are all changing to brilliant hues of red and orange. Stepping out of Seoul after being in the city for a while is a strange feeling. Seoul is a city that is constantly moving and changing, and everyone is always going somewhere or doing something. It is so important for me to be able to take a step back and spend time in nature. It’s great to just focus on the sweaty, lovely, tired feeling of putting one foot in front of the other. I appreciate hiking so much more now that I live in the city, and the this hike would certainly have to be one of my favorites thus far.
It’s a pretty easy area to find once you exit the subway ( Line 2-Sadang Station-Exit 4).
Just turn right and follow the groups of fashionably dressed Korean hikers up the hill to the mountain. I underestimated Korean hikers, but there were plenty of older people doing the hike with their hiking sticks, and keeping a great pace. It was impressive.
I would have to say that Gwanaksan was one of the harder hikes that I have done. Not only is a longer day hike (it took us 3 hours just to get to summit), but it’s also just really physically challenging. It is mostly a steep uphill, and there are quite a few parts where you have to hold on to the cliff-face and climb up with your hands or the provided rope.
We passed quite a few bunkers on the way up the mountain, and Stefanie told me the military used them. I’m not really sure of the backstory on these, but it was pretty neat to see. Throughout the hike, we were rewarded with sweeping landscape views of Seoul. The last bit of the hike is the hardest, and you have to pull yourself up the last few meters by rope and chain.
I would definitely recommend bringing gloves, good hiking shoes or sneakers, plenty of water, and some snacks for when you reach the top. At the top, there is a temple where you can purchase water and use the restroom, but there is not anything on the way up. The temple is very small and filled with red lanterns.
We brought vegetarian kimbap and ate it at the top before making a quick descent down Gwanaksan Mountain.
It’s funny that a city that I started out really disliking is now growing on me so immensely. Maybe it’s the people I have met. Maybe it’s the brisk fall air and the leaves changing color and the lady on my street who makes my coffee just how I like without me asking her. Maybe it’s the fact that although Koreans take a while to warm up to you, they are also some of the most welcoming people I have ever met.Their kindness and their good nature doesn’t necessarily show it itself right away, and I think that that’s the same with Seoul itself. I am so excited to unravel more bits of this city that is stealing my heart.