Seoul Stunning: Best Hiking Trail
I was wrong about Seoul being just another concrete jungle. This capital of South Korea has plenty to offer — from addictive Kpop hits and bustling night markets, majestic palaces and historic avenues, there’s more than one way to experience this city. The citizens of Seoul are blessed with picturesque mountainous views amid its urban sprawl. Seoul is, no doubt every hiker’s dream — especially for me who grew up in a city-state where mountains are non-existence (but we do have unique hiking trails in Singapore).
If you’re wondering which mountain hiking trails you should absolutely attempt in Seoul — especially if you want to bask in picture-perfect sunset and city lights, I urge you to get your trek on Inwangsan, the name literally means “mountain of benevolent king” in Korean. Situated in the central area of Seoul, Inwangsan is a mountain with a height of 338 meters, which offers a stunning panoramic view of the city. Get to spot major landmarks like Gyeongbokgung Palace, Namsan Park, Seoul Tower and even the residence of South Korean president. Another sight to behold is the 18.6km ancient fortress which circles over the four peaks of Seoul’s sacred mountains namely, Bugaksan, Naksan, Namsan and Inwangsan.
So, this summer I laced up my hiking boots and braved the steep slopes in exchange for dramatic, sweeping night views of Seoul.
Granted, I was besotted. Gazing out at the metropolis of 10 million from the peak of Inwangsan was magical. Under the hypnotising sunset sky, kindred hikers spread out in blankets enjoying rice wine and delectable local snacks. The entire trail took 90 minutes and over 10,000 steps to reach the summit. I just wish that I could have brought a bowl of Kimchi fried rice to dine by the sunset.
What made this hiking trip even more memorable — I was told the North Korean spies made their way along Inwangsan due to its proximity to South Korea’s presidential residence in a bid to assassinate the then President Park Chung Hee in 1968. Since then public access to Inwangsan was prohibited and the ban was only lifted in 1993. The mountain is also a military base so don’t be surprised to see South Korean soldiers patrolling the area. For your info, please do not use a drone there.
Well, I thought I had conquered Inwangsan, but in reality, the vastness and beauty of Inwangsan has conquered me. If you wonder will I attempt this steep and sweaty hike up over again? Absolutely. The view from the peak is worth the struggle. This goes out to the urban dwellers and desk jockeys who are the least motivated to work out in K-pop hits-blasting-gyms, perhaps it’s time to get outside.
How to get there
By Train: Gyeongbokgung Station (Orange line), Exit 1
This is the nearest hiking trail from the central area of Seoul, it is easily accessible. Don’t worry about getting lost, you will meet many enthusiastic Korean hikers along the way. In fact, hiking is their national pastime. There are well-marked trails and handrails along the path.
Choose lightweight, quick-drying sport attire. Bring at least 1 litre of water. The incline to the peak is sharp, put on a sturdy pair of hiking shoes and bring a hiking stick if you need extra support. If you’re planning to stay after sunset, remember to bring along a torch. The trail is not lit after dark and the descend from the peak of Inwangsan is perilous.