Travelling to Korea and want to know where the best mountains to hike in Korea are located? Want to experience more of Korea than just the big cities and beaches? Ready to take on a day of hiking and trekking through national parks with incredible views at any time of the year? Then this guide to the 10 best mountains to hike in Korea will be essential reading for you.
Replete with natural beauty and awe-inspiring landscapes, Korea is a land that must be witnessed on foot. That’s why hiking in Korea is something of a national pastime and one enjoyed by many, many Koreans each weekend all throughout the year. There’s never a bad time to hike in Korea.
Experience the incredible sights of cherry blossoms or autumn leaves as they descend on Korea in spring or autumn. Witness stunning snow scenes and trek through deep snow during winter. And find places to escape the heat with cool valley trekking during the intense Korean summer.
Discover why you should see cherry blossoms in Gyeryongsan in spring, hike the cool valleys of Odaesan in summer, visit Naejangsan for fall foliage, and hike the snowy slopes of Deogyusan in winter.
Whatever season you’re visiting Korea, there’s a mountain for you. And these national parks are great all year round, offering awe-inspiring views whatever the season.
Many people come to Korea to experience the culture, the food, and the friendly people, but not nearly enough get to enjoy the breathtaking mountain views on offer. That’s something I hope to correct with this guide.
Whatever level of fitness or hiking experience you have, you can still have a fantastic time at these national parks. Beginning hikers looking to test themselves, or seasoned pros looking for their next challenge can both get a lot from these places.
These places are also family friendly, too. After all, I often see children as young as 4 or 5 at the peak of some of these mountains!
It’s not just about the peaks, however. Find out where to see historic Buddhist temples, ride cable cars over fall foliage hotspots, discover Asiatic black bears and other wildlife, taste the most authentic traditional Korean dishes, and discover why hiking is a national pastime in Korea.
Guide To Hiking In Korea
Don’t miss out, read on to find out where, why, and how to get the most out of Korea’s amazing mountains.
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About These Best Mountains To Hike In Korea
I’ve been hiking in Korea for over 5 years and it’s easily one of my favourite hobbies. I can’t imagine a month going by without reaching a peak somewhere in Korea! I love hiking so much that I even run a local hiking group in Daejeon – the Daejeon Hiking Group.
After exploring almost every national park, and dozens of other mountains across Korea, I want to share a few bits of essential advice to help you get the most out of your hiking experience.
The mountains covered in this list are all national parks that offer a lot of routes for hiking, as well as other awesome sights to experience.
These tips apply to these national parks, but might not apply to smaller mountains such as Namsan Mountain, Bugaksan Mountain, or Gwanaksan Mountain (they’re all in Seoul). Please keep that in mind.
1: There’s usually an entrance fee to enter the national park which goes towards the upkeep of the park and associated temples. This is about 3-4,000 won per person.
2: You can buy souvenir towels in each national park. These have maps of the hiking routes and are really convenient as a map / sweat towel / souvenir.
3: If you see a mountain with ‘ak‘ in the name (e.g. Chi-ak-san), it’s going to be a hard mountain to hike. That doesn’t mean it’s not family friendly, though.
4: Most national parks start with long walking trails before the hiking begins. These are great for all levels and you’ll see many families there.
5: Toilets are clean and well maintained in national parks. but don’t expect them after you start the main hike to the peak. Be prepared!
6: Don’t stray from the paths. There can be wild animals (deer, boar, bears!, snakes, etc.). The fences are there for everyone’s safety.
7: You can sometimes find shops or stalls along the hiking paths, but usually you should be prepared with your own supplies.
8: Signposts are usually in Korean and English. There are resources available for non-Korean (English) speaking hikers in the national parks.
9: There are no bins on the mountains, people are expected to take everything home with them.
10: Hiking is very popular in Korea and the national parks can get very busy during peak season.
The 10 Best Places To Go Hiking In Korea:
Here are the top 10 best mountains to hike in Korea, based on my own travels around Korea, reports from other hikers, and national parks that are really popular with locals and tourists alike.
I hope you visit at least one, if not all of them. They each have something unique to offer and I’ve enjoyed visiting each and every one of them.
1: Jirisan: Korea’s Largest National Park
I have to start this list of the best mountains to hike in Korea with one of my favourite overall places to visit in Korea – Jirisan National Park.
This is not only Korea’s largest national park, it also features the highest mountain in South Korea (well… mainland Korea anyway – Hallasan is higher, but that’s on Jeju Island).
This national park has something for everyone – from walking courses for a gentle stroll through cherry blossom-lined streets, to multi-day trekking courses where you can stay in a lodge at the top of the mountain and watch the sunrise.
Whatever your level, you can experience incredible sights and experiences at Jirisan National Park.
The highest peak is Cheongwangbong Peak, which you can reach on multiple routes.
There are 18 recommended hiking paths to follow in Jirisan, which can take anywhere from half a day to several days. You can stay in lodges in the valleys or even up in the mountains during your hiking adventure.
One of my favourite routes is the Jungsalli course that does a loop to Cheongwangbong peak and back in a day.
Jirisan Hiking Trails
Those not interested in the peaks can take one of the walking trails that go around the mountains. There are 15 in total and they can give you some stunning views of the mountains, farmlands, local villages, and abundant nature.
Jirisan Walking Courses
Furthermore, this is one of the few places in Korea where you can see one of Korea’s symbolic animals – the Asiatic black bears. Don’t panic, though, they generally keep away from tourists and I’m yet to actually see one whilst out hiking.
Jirisan National Park Details:
Getting To Jirisan:
Jirisan National Park isn’t close to Seoul. If you want to visit, it would be best to travel from Busan, Daejeon, Gwangju, or one of other cities in southern Korea. You can get there by bus. Nearby towns with access to the park include Namwon, Gurye, and Hadong.
Why Hike In Jirisan National Park:
There’s something for everyone and it is one of the best places for cherry blossoms and autumn leaves.
Cheongwangbong Peak (1,915m)
Best Time To Hike Jirisan:
Spring or autumn. Winter can be good if it has snowed.
Who Is It Suitable For:
Anyone. Courses for all ages and levels.
Where To Stay Near Jirisan:
There are many pensions in the valleys and even lodges in the mountains.
Hotels Near Jirisan
Map of the Hiking Routes In Jirisan:
2: Seoraksan: Sunrise Views Over The East Coast
One of the most popular mountains to hike in Korea during autumn, Seoraksan National Park has incredible views, several Buddhist temples to pass through, cloudy vistas, and many other attractions.
Thanks to its location close to the north-east coast, Seoraksan is one of the first places to see autumn leaves in Korea and makes for a great place to hike for people staying in Seoul, Sokcho, or nearby Gangneung.
Whilst these mountains are technically some of the hardest to hike in Korea, which make them a great challenge for hiking enthusiasts, there’s also a cable car that will whisk you up the mountains without breaking a sweat.
The highest peak is Daecheongbong Peak, standing tall and proud at 1,708 metres. You can certainly do this hike in a day from bottom to top and back again.
However, as with Cheongwangbong Peak in Jirisan, you can also hike up to watch as the sun rises over the east coast, illuminating the Land of the Morning Calm with crisp, clear rays of light.
You don’t need to stay overnight to see the sunrise (although you can do), as the hike to top can take as little as 3 hours, depending on where you start.
A day trip to Seoraksan is a really good activity for all the family for people visiting Korea, even if you don’t plan to hike in Korea.
The 10 Best Day Trips From Seoul
Animals lovers will also enjoy visiting Seoraksan National Park for the chance to see some of Korea’s cutest native animals. There are over 2,000 animal species in the park, including musk deer, Korean goral, stripy squirrels, wild boars, and maybe even some black bears!
Seoraksan National Park Details:
Getting To Seoraksan:
Seoraksan National Park is located 2.5 hours away from Seoul and can be reached by car or bus. There are tours from Seoul that will take you to the main entrance of the national park and may even guide you around the top spots, too. The nearest city to Seoraksan is Sokcho and this is a nice place to stay for a weekend of hiking and beach fun.
Why Hike In Seoraksan National Park:
Incredible views of the mountains, idyllic Buddhist temples, the cable car, and autumn leaves.
Daecheongbong Peak (1,708m)
Best Time To Hike Seoraksan:
Autumn. If you only choose one mountain to hike in Korea during autumn, it should probably be Seoraksan.
Who Is It Suitable For:
Anyone. You can take the cable car if you don’t want to hike.
Where To Stay Near Seoraksan:
It’s best to stay in the nearby seaside city of Sokcho and take a bus to Seoraksan. Buses take about 30 minutes.
Hotels in Sokcho
Tours For Seoraksan:
Map of the Hiking Routes In Seoraksan:
3: Gyeryongsan: Cherry Blossom Hot Spot
This is high on my list of mountains to hike in Korea because it’s the place that I’ve hiked the most in Korea. It’s also one of the easiest mountains to hike in Korea, which makes it perfect for all levels of hikers.
Located in central Korea, just a short bus ride away from Daejeon, this gorgeous, small national park doesn’t have tall, imposing mountains like the other places on this list, but has many other charms that makes it worthwhile.
One such charm is the big cherry blossom festival in early April each year. There are long roads lined with cherry blossoms leading up to the main hiking area, as well as hundreds of cherry trees inside the park and along the river. The whole area is pink and alive with the hope of spring.
People from all over Korea flock to Gyeryongsan to hike and enjoy the beauty of the new blossoms. There are countless festival stalls offering games and local foods, as well as incredible opportunities to take your picture with the blossoms.
Best Cherry Blossom Festivals In Korea
Gyeryongsan is a great mountain to hike all year round and the courses range from a 2 hour trek up to the Namhaetap Pagodas, to a 5-6 hour hike past waterfalls, along rocky peaks, and past the impressive Buddhist temples.
The main Buddhist temple in Gyeryongsan is Donghaksa. You can stroll along the tree-lined river road on the way to the temple and stop at the river for a picnic before starting your hike.
It’s a wonderfully peaceful area to relax and enjoy nature.
The highest peak is Cheonhwangbong Peak and is a relatively low 845 metres high. You can visit both this peak and Gwaneumbong Peak in one day and they offer wide views of the surrounding mountains, as well as Daejeon and Sejong cities.
One of the reasons I love this hiking in this national park is the delicious local food on offer at the end of the hike.
The walk back from Donghaksa Temple to the parking area is lined with traditional Korean restaurants selling pajeon (savoury pancake), bibimbap (mixed rice and veg), and lots of locally produced chestnut makgeolli (Korean rice wine).
The nearby area is famous for chestnuts and it’s the best flavour of makgeolli in my opinion.
There’s even an unusual restaurant that specialises in mushroom-based dishes. You can’t miss it as the building is shaped like a giant mushroom!
The Best Traditional Korean Dishes
Gyeryongsan National Park Details:
Getting To Gyeryongsan:
The easiest way to get to Gyeryongsan from Seoul is to travel to Daejeon on the KTX. Take the 107 bus from Daejeon Station all the way to the park entrance – the final stop.
Why Hike In Gyeryongsan National Park:
Gorgeous cherry blossom views all around the entrance to the park in spring. Easy hikes that are good for beginning hikers.
Cheonhwangbong Peak (845m)
Best Time To Hike Gyeryongsan:
Early April for the cherry blossoms. Good all year round.
Who Is It Suitable For:
People who want a short hike in a beautiful location. Hikers of all abilities can enjoy Gyeryongsan.
Where To Stay Near Gyeryongsan:
There are dozens of pensions (holiday homes) and a few glamping sites near the park’s entrance. Otherwise, you can stay in Daejeon and travel in easily.
Hotels Near Gyeryongsan
Map of the Hiking Routes In Gyeryongsan:
4: Hallasan: Hike Jeju’s Volcanic Heart
Jeju Island is like a giant fried egg, with Hallasan being the egg yolk in the centre, rising up above the rocky coastline and beaches to form an impressive crater-topped dome just waiting to be hiked.
Hallasan dominates Jeju so much that you can see the central mountain from anywhere on Jeju Island. Of course, from the peak of Hallasan, you get incredible views of the whole island and the blue seas beyond.
This is what makes it such an awesome mountain to hike. Not only is it beautiful, it’s also the highest mountain in Korea, almost touching 2,000 metres above the ever-present sea below.
Known as the ‘Hawaii of Korea‘, Jeju Island is a gorgeous, natural beauty of an island and even listed as one of the 7 New Wonders of the World, a fact not many people realise until they get to Jeju.
50 Interesting Facts About Korea.
You can approach the main peak of Hallasan from several directions, the most popular of which is the Seongpanak Trail. This course is the longest, but also has the gentlest climb to the peak, making it more comfortable for hikers.
The Seongpanak Trail starts in the east and runs for 9.6km all the way to Baekrokdam, the crater lake at the top of Hallsan, which is actually an active shield volcano. Don’t worry, it hasn’t erupted for a long, long time.
If you’re looking for a long mountain hike in Korea that isn’t too steep, I’d definitely recommend the Seongpanak Trail on Hallasan. Be careful though, this is a long hike and it’s best to start early in the morning.
For a shorter course, take the Yeongsil Trail. This course only takes 2.5 hours and is suitable for hikers of all levels.
When winter hits, there may even be snow, which makes the hike even more magical. The views of a white, snow-covered mountain are simply amazing. That’s why I recommend it as one of my top places to see snow in Korea during winter.
Where To See Snow In Korea
Hallasan National Park Details:
Getting To Hallasan:
You can take a bus to the start point from Jeju City (north) or Seogwipo City (south). Take bus 281 or 181 from Jeju City Hall to the Seongpanak Trail starting point. You could also walk there if you want to make a day of it.
Why Hike In Hallasan National Park:
The only place in Korea to see the sea and beaches all around you. It’s also the highest of all mountains to hike in Korea.
There is only really one peak – Hallasan (1,950m).
Best Time To Hike Hallasan:
All year round, but probably avoid summer as it’s extremely hot.
Who Is It Suitable For:
There are courses for all levels. For those who enjoy long treks that aren’t too steep, take the Seongpanak Trail.
Where To Stay Near Hallasan:
Jeju City is only a short bus ride away and the most convenient place to start your hike.
Hotels In Jeju City
Map of the Hiking Routes In Hallasan:
5: Bukhansan: Perfect Day Hiking In Seoul
Unlike the other top mountains to hike in Korea, Bukhansan is extremely accessible and actually sits in Seoul. This is one of the reasons why it’s the world’s ‘Most Visited National Park per Unit Area‘, according to the Guinness Book of Records.
Bukhansan National Park has beautiful traditional Korean Buddhist temples, glistening crystal-clear streams running through it, and an abundance of wildlife that you wouldn’t expect to find so close to a megacity like Seoul.
There are also plenty of sheer rock faces and boulders strewn around the place.
Joel’s Tip: don’t walk off the trail and lose your way. I did this and ended up having to do some improvised rock climbing which was both scary and fun, but not something I’d recommend people to try!
If you’re visiting Seoul and want to stretch your legs and see fantastic views of Seoul’s major sites, including the N Seoul Tower, then Bukhansan is the best option for you. I’d highly recommend this mountain for people visiting Seoul.
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The lower slopes of the southern and eastern side of this park are well developed and have subway stations nearby, which makes for good access for hiking.
You can hike to the top and back in a day, head home to your hotel and change, and be out for Korean BBQ in the evening.
The most popular route is the one up to the highest point – Baegundae Peak (845m).
Starting at the west side of the park, this route starts with a gentle incline and building up to a more serious ascent towards the end before summiting Baegundae Peak and rewarding hikers with stunning vistas.
Although short, this route can be quite difficult, so make sure the weather is good and you have the right hiking shoes for the trip.
There are two mountainous areas to climb – Bukhansan Mountain in the south and Dobongsan Mountain in the north. These are separated by the Uiryeong Pass in between. The southern one will give you views of Seoul, the northern one views out over Gyeonggi Province.
You can also pass by many interesting cultural sites, such as a replica of Bukhanseong Fortress, which was used to protect Seoul from various invaders over the last 2 millennia.
Bukhansan National Park Hiking Guide
Bukhansan National Park Details:
Getting To Bukhansan:
For the hike to Baegundae Peak, take the subway to Gupabal Station (구파발역) on Line 3. Go out Exit 1 and take bus 34, 704, or 8774.
Why Hike In Bukhansan National Park:
An excellent addition to any itinerary in Seoul. You can see views of Seoul and take in just how big it is.
Baegundae Peak (845m)
Best Time To Hike Bukhansan:
You can sometimes see snow here in winter (Jan-Feb) Also great views of autumn leaves in autumn (Sep-Oct).
Who Is It Suitable For:
There’s a course for everyone. Be prepared and you should have a fun time whatever your level.
Where To Stay Near Bukhansan:
You can stay in central Seoul and reach Bukhansan quite easily. Myeongdong has access to Line 4 (light blue) and Line 3 (orange). Both of these subway lines stop outside Bukhansan.
Hotels In Myeongdong
Map of the Hiking Routes In Bukhansan:
6: Odaesan: Long Nature Walk That’s Perfect In Summer
A lot of people overlook Odaesan due to its close proximity to Seoraksan, which I think is a real shame.
Located close to Gangneung, a beautiful coastal resort city that has unique cafes and some of the best beaches on the east coast, Odaesan has a range of incredible attractions that make it worth the trip.
If you’re looking for mountains to hike in Korea that offer more of a walking tour than an ascent, then Odaesan is probably for you.
Whilst many national parks offer a walk along the valley for a few kms before rising up into the clouds, Odaesan has a much longer walking route along tree-lined river paths.
This is called the Odaesan Seonjaegil (pictured below) – a very pretty 10km walk from Woljeongsa Temple to Sangwon Temple (the start of the main hiking route).
I’d definitely recommend the Odaesan Seonjaegil as a great place to hike during summer. It’s shaded and cool, with the water offering a welcome place to dip your head or feet if you get too hot.
The highest peak at Odaesan National Park is Birobong (비로봉) and it’s actually one of the easier courses in Odaesan. The peak stands 1,563m high and offers picturesque views of the other mountains all around.
The ascent to Birobong is 3.3km, along the way you’ll pass by several temples nestled amongst the evergreen trees and lush vegetation. You can complete this hike quite quickly, or stretch it out and check out the other routes, too.
Finishing the hike early isn’t a bad thing as there’s a lot of other things to see in Odaesan, such as the historic temple complex, Woljeongsa, and the majestic Fir Tree Road.
If you’re a fan of the K-drama ‘Goblin: The Great and Lonely God‘, you might recognise this place. A famous scene was filmed in the Fir Tree Road whilst autumn leaves were falling (Kim Shin realised his love for Eun Tak).
Overall, Odaesan is a great park that’s less busy than Seoraksan, has great walking options, impressive Buddhist temples hidden in the forests, and an abundance of nature.
Odaesan National Park Details:
Getting To Odaesan:
Take a bus from Dong-Seoul Bus Terminal to Jinbu Bus Terminal. Change here and take a local bus to Odaesan National Park. Alternatively, take a taxi from Jinbu to save time (costs around 25,000 won). You can also get here from Gangneung, which is a lot closer than Seoul.
Why Hike In Odaesan National Park:
Perfect for those who want to enjoy nature without a strenuous hike.
Birobong Peak (1,563m)
Best Time To Hike Odaesan:
Autumn to see the fir trees and autumn leaves.
Who Is It Suitable For:
Walking route – families and beginner hikers. Peak – most regular hikers will be able to get here.
Where To Stay Near Odaesan:
Gangneung is the nearest big city and a lovely place to enjoy coastal life in Korea.
Hotels In Gangneung
Map of the Hiking Routes In Odaesan:
7: Deogyusan: Incredible Snow Views & Ski Resort
Another often overlooked national park located in central Korea, this is one of my favourite mountains to hike in Korea during winter.
Whilst the best mountains for snow are generally in the northern part of Korea, this is one of the few mountains with a ski resort in the south.
The ski resort makes accessing the peak really easy in case you don’t want to actually hike all the way.
Because the main peak, Hyangjeokbong Peak (1,614m), is quite high, there’s a good chance to see snow at the top during winter. You’re most likely to see snow in January and February, but I’ve seen snow as early as late-November in some years.
Where To See Snow In Korea
For non-hikers, head to Muju Ski Resort and take the cable car to the peak and enjoy a coffee at the top with some incredible views – lakes and farmlands snuggled in between the many peaks of Korea’s rocky spine that runs through this part of the country.
The cable car runs all year round, even when there’s no snow to ski on. The cable car takes about 15 minutes and gives great views on the way.
Of course, if you want to hike, you’re in the right place, too.
The course I usually take starts at the Deogyusan National Park Office and head up towards Hyangjeokbong Peak.
This course is actually quite gentle for the first 6km, walking along the valley on the way to Baekyeonsa Temple. After that, the hike goes from gentle to steep and there’s 1.5km of quite tough hiking.
I’d recommend hiking sticks for this section and definitely crampons if you’re hiking in the snow.
After the tiring walk, treat yourself to a tasty Korean ramyeon or coffee at the rest station at the cable car stop.
As you can see from the picture below, this mountain isn’t just for winter – it looks beautiful all year round.
Deogyusan National Park Details:
Getting To Deogyusan:
I wouldn’t recommend trying to travel to Deogyusan from Seoul. You can access Deogyusan from Daejeon and other nearby cities. Buses run from Daejeon to the start of the hiking course. There’s a free shuttle bus from the Muju Ski Resort to the town of Muju. From Muju, you can take buses to Daejeon, Seoul, and other cities in Korea.
Why Hike In Deogyusan National Park:
Incredible snow scenes and a long, peaceful hike through the valley. The cable car is also really worth the trip.
Hyangjeokbong Peak (1,614m)
Best Time To Hike Deogyusan:
Winter for the snow, but all seasons are good.
Who Is It Suitable For:
Intermediate and above hikers if you want to hike in the snow. Anyone can take the cable car to the top.
Where To Stay Near Deogyusan:
You could stay at the Muju Ski Resort during winter. Otherwise, I’d recommend one of the pensions at the park’s entrance for an authentic Korean holiday experience.
Hotels Near Deogyusan
Map of the Hiking Routes In Deogyusan:
8: Chiaksan: Challenging Hike With Beautiful Views
Chiaksan is a tough little mountain located close to Wonju and a couple of hours from Seoul.
The highest peak, Birobong Peak (1,288m) isn’t that high compared to some other mountains in Korea, but it’s a serious hike and one that can last all day.
Fun Fact: Chiaksan, along with Woraksan and Seoraksan, is one of the toughest mountains to hike in Korea. Korean mountains with ‘ak’ in them indicate that they are difficult, although the mountains use different Hanja (Chinese characters), so it’s hard to tell just how true that is. Another translation of the ‘ak’ Hanja in Chi-ak-san (岳) is ‘parents-in-law’, something people might also describe as tough!
Chiaksan is ‘blessed’ with many steep valleys and thick forests to hike through, offering some truly unique views, even when compared to some of the other amazing mountain scenes already mentioned in other national parks.
The hiking path to Birobong Peak starts at Guryong Information Centre and is deceptively gentle for the first few kms, as most hikes in Korea’s national parks usually are.
Once you get to Seryeom Ranger Station, however, things start to get tough.
It’s a gruelling 2.7km from there to the peak, with half of that labelled as ‘expert’ on the hiking guide – the highest rating.
Certainly not for beginning hikers, but don’t be put off by the difficult routes. I think most people in reasonable health could make this hike.
Brave hikers will be rewarded with sights such as Taejongdae Rock, Guryongsa Temple, and the lovely Seryeom Waterfall.
I’d definitely recommend visiting Wonju and Chiaksan as a weekend trip away from Seoul.
There are a lot of other activities nearby that you can enjoy, such as the Ganhyeon Wonju Rail Park.
Jump into a rail bike (pictured above) and ride along an abandoned stretch of railway in the valleys of the surrounding mountains. You’ll pass a crystal clear river and sheer rock faces jutting out of thick forests.
In the same area there’s another small hill to hike that has a lovely suspension bridge and views of the same valleys from above.
If you want a weekend hike in Korea that’s not going to be as busy as Seoraksan or Bukhansan, then Chiaksan could be for you.
Chiaksan National Park Details:
Getting To Chiaksan:
Take bus 21, 41, or 82 bound from Guryongsa Temple / Chiaksan National Park from Wonju Bus Terminal.
If you’re travelling from Seoul, take an intercity bus to Wonju Bus Terminal, or the train from Cheongnyangni Station to Wonju Station.
Why Hike In Chiaksan National Park:
It’s a tough hike, but one with many rewards and a unique landscape. Different rock types than in other parts of Korea.
Birobong Peak (1,288m)
Best Time To Hike Chiaksan:
Spring or autumn. It’s best to have cool, dry weather. Summer is too hot and wet.
Who Is It Suitable For:
Intermediate hikers and above.
Where To Stay Near Chiaksan:
Stay in Wonju for easy access to Chiaksan.
Hotels In Wonju
Map of the Hiking Routes In Chiaksan:
9: Naejangsan: Stunning Autumn Views
Famed as one of the best spots to see autumn leaves in Korea (as I wrote about myself), Naejangsan is a splendid place to immerse yourself in the natural beauty that Korea is replete with.
Where To See Autumn Leaves In Korea
Autumn is definitely when Naejangsan is at its best, with vibrant reds, yellows, golds, and burnt orange exuding a feeling of heavenly fire throughout the packed forests that surround the peaks. However, it’s good to visit all year round.
Naejangsan has been listed as one of the top 10 most beautiful places in Korea, which makes it definitely worthy of its place on this list of mountains to hike in Korea.
Nae means ‘inside’ and Jang means ‘concealed’, which reflects the hidden treasures that lie in wait for visitors to Naejangsan National Park.
There are many stunning beauty spots where you can witness autumn’s festival of colours, such as the maple tree tunnel, the Yeonjabong Peak Observatory, Naejangsa Temple, and perhaps most iconic of all, the Uhwajeong Pavilion.
The Uhwajeong Pavillion, redesigned in 2016, offers up a true sense of harmony and serenity. It’s a traditional Korean-style pavillion that rests on the edge of a calm lake, with autumn trees all around.
You could stare at the water and the colourful reflections for hours.
This isn’t a list of places to go sightseeing, however. You’re probably here to find out why this is one of my top 10 mountains to hike in Korea.
Well, aside from the gorgeous natural beauty, Naejangsan has great hiking for all levels.
The main peak, Sinseonbong Peak, is only 763m high, making it accessible for those who don’t want a long, steep hike.
Most of the courses in Naejangsan are labelled as ‘intermediate‘, meaning most people should be fine to hike them. It only gets up to ‘difficult’ level near the peaks.
There are also several other peaks in this park and each one has a unique rock face to gaze upon.
If you don’t feel like hiking, you can take the Naejangsan Cable Car, which will give you incredible views of the valley floor and the many sights that Naejangsan has to offer.
Joel’s Tip: If you plan to visit Naejangsan during autumn, be prepared for long queues as this place is one of the most popular places to visit at this time of year. Try to visit during the week if you can.
Naejangsan National Park Details:
Getting To Naejangsan:
Take the KTX from Yongsan Station to Jeong-eup Station, then take a local bus to Naejangsan National Park. Naejangsan is quite far south, so it might be better to include it if you visit Gwangju, Jeonju, or Daejeon. There should be tours that will take you directly there from Seoul during autumn.
Why Hike In Naejangsan National Park:
Stunning autumn colours, one of the most beautiful places in Korea, and easy day-hiking.
Sinseonbong Peak (763m)
Best Time To Hike Naejangsan:
Autumn! Without a doubt. However, to avoid the crowds, try visiting in April – June or September.
Who Is It Suitable For:
Everyone. Family friendly place and suitable for beginner hikers.
Where To Stay Near Naejangsan:
Jeong-eup, which has a KTX station, is probably your best option. Or a bigger city like Gwangju.
Hotels near Naejangsan
Tour Options For Naejangsan:
Map of the Hiking Routes In Naejangsan:
10: Songnisan: History & Nature Combine In Central Korea
Last on my list, but certainly not the least of these mountains, is Songnisan National Park.
Songnisan has made the list of best mountains to hike in Korea because of the peace, beauty, and tranquility you can find there.
It’s one of the places I’ve hiked the most in Korea (and not just because it’s close to Daejeon) and would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a solid day hike.
Songnisan National Park is a true gem of national park, hidden away in the centre of Korea close to Woraksan and Sobaeksan national parks.
Its beauty is rivalled only by the previously mentioned Naejangsang, with both of the mountainous areas being compared to Geumgang Mountain.
Geumgang Mountain, located in North Korea, is a mountain of famed beauty and a place that’s said to carry the spirit of the Korean people.
If that’s not enough to justify a place on this list, Songnisan is also home to the ‘astoundingly beautiful temple, Beopjusa‘ – one of Korea’s top Korean Buddhist temples that has over 1.500 years of history on display.
Beopjusa is a great place to experience a temple stay in Korea (I’ve done it there twice).
You can wake up surrounding by mountains, only hearing the sound of flowing water, birds signing, and the monks chanting. It’s truly an amazing experience and one of the best places for temple stay you can find in Korea.
How To Join A Temple Stay In Korea
As for hiking, there are several great courses that will take you to the main peaks – Cheonhwangbong (1,058m) and Munjangdae (1,054m).
If you’re feeling brave, you can do both of them in a single day, but you’d best be prepared for a full day of hiking.
The hike itself starts off going past Beopjusa Temple and then follows the river for a few km before splitting off to head to either of the two main peaks.
Once you start hiking, the courses are either ‘intermediate’ or ‘advanced’, but there aren’t that many dangerous paths, they’re just a bit steep in places.
Munjangdae Peak offers incredible views over the valleys below. You’ll find lots of large boulders at the top where you can sit down and eat lunch whilst taking in the view.
Songnisan, unlike many other mountains, actually has quite a lot of food options on the way up. So if you forget to bring lunch, you can have some pajeon or ramyeon on the way.
The restaurant pictured below is about 40 minutes away from the peak.
Look out for the wildlife in this park. There are plenty of unique animals, including otters, flying squirrels, mandarin ducks, and martens.
Songnisan National Park Details:
Getting To Songnisan:
You can reach Songnisan by bus from Daejeon, Daegu, Busan, and other nearby cities.
If you’re in Seoul, take an intercity bus from Seoul’s Nambu or Dong-Seoul bus terminals to Songnisan National Park.
Why Hike In Songnisan National Park:
One of the most beautiful places to hike in Korea and a beautiful temple complex to visit on the way.
Best Time To Hike Songnisan:
This is suitable all year round. Hiking in winter is good, too.
Who Is It Suitable For:
The starting walking path and temple area are fine for anyone.
The hiking paths to the peaks aren’t that tough but some beginners might struggle a bit.
Where To Stay Near Songnisan:
There are lots of pensions (guesthouses) at the entrance to the national park.
Otherwise, Boeun is the nearest city.
Hotels Near Songnisan
Map of the Hiking Routes In Songnisan:
Map Locations Of the 10 Best Mountains To Hike In Korea
I’ve included the 10 national parks mentioned in this article on a Google Map. You can view it by clicking the link below.
You can use this to help you work out how to get to each location (although Naver or Kakao Maps might be more accurate for travel in Korea).
Some Other Mountains To Hike In Korea:
With so many awesome places to hike in Korea, it was hard to choose just 10 mountains that would suit everyone.
Here are a few more mountains that I’ve enjoyed hiking that aren’t national parks, but still have a lot to offer for a day hike.
1: Daedunsan Provincial Park near Daejeon
2: Jangtaesan Recreational Forest near Daejeon
3: Mangsan Mountain on Geoje
4: Mindungsan Mountain in Taebaeksan National Park
5: Hwangmaesan County Park near Jirisan National Park
6: Dalseong Park in Mokpo City
7: Gwanaksan Mountain in Seoul
8: Bugaksan Mountain in Seoul
9: Geumjeongsan Mountain in Busan
10: Hwangnyeongsan Mountain in Busan
I might have to create a second post for more mountains to hike in Korea one day…
Tips for Hiking in South Korea
Finally, here are a few of my top tips to help you enjoy hiking in Korea and to help you stay safe.
For all the best tips, insights, and recommendations, be sure to check out my dedicated guide to hiking in Korea.
Guide To Hiking In Korea
Here’s a quick overview of some of the best pieces of advice I can give to help you have a fun day out in the mountains.
1: Dress Appropriately
No, I don’t mean you have to wear lots of colourful, expensive hiking gear like a lot of people you’ll see in the mountains. But there definitely are some things I wouldn’t want to hike without. These are:
- good hiking boots – stops accidental slips and also more comfortable.
- hiking socks – same as the boots, these will keep you safe, protect your feet, and feel nicer.
- easily removed layers – you’ll get hot hiking, even in winter. Bring layers you can take off and store easily. A light, padded jacket is good during winter.
- sunglasses – protect your eyes. If hiking in winter (when it might snow), this is a must.
- long sleeves / leggings – if you’re hiking in summer, there’s nothing worse than getting bitten by a mosquito. These should keep you safe.
Moisture wiicking tops to reduce the impact of sweat, hiking hats, waterproof jackets, and such like are also recommended, but not necessarily essential.
Knee protectors are good if you have problems with your knees. Definitely use them going down the mountains.
If you want to hike during winter, when it could be snowy or icy, definitely bring crampons (spikes for your shoes) and hiking sticks.
2: Pack Appropriately
I always have a backpack filled with the essentials waiting to go whenever I want to go hiking. There are a few things that you should always bring, such as:
- sun cream – as with the sunglasses, it’s important to be protected. It’s easy to get burnt on the top of a mountain without noticing it.
- food and water – bring at least 1 litre of water, preferably more. Drinks like Powerade are great, too. Fruit, nuts, gimbap, and some snacks will keep you going throughout the day.
- tissues – you need them for so many different reasons. Trust me.
- sweat towel – especially useful in summer when the temperatures are soaring.
- plastic bag – this is to take your rubbish home. There are no bins on the mountains and you should be a responsible hiker. Take your trash home.
Hiking sticks are also very useful, but not always essential. If you think you might need them, bring them just in case.
3: Get There Early & Be Prepared
Hiking in Korea often involves getting up at the crack of dawn (or before!) to get to the mountains to enjoy a full day of hiking.
Many of the longer hiking paths have a cut off time where you won’t be able to start the hike after a certain time (usually in the afternoon).
Korea gets dark early, especially in winter, and you don’t want to be stuck on the mountains when it gets dark.
I’ve done it, it wasn’t a lot of fun. I had to use my phone as a torch to get back.
Prepare your route in advance, know how long it will take to get there and back, and also check the bus or train times if you’re planning to use public transportation.
4: Take Photos, Leave Footprints
Take your time to enjoy the views. I see too many hikers rushing to get to the top or bottom of the mountain like they’re in a race.
I don’t understand why they don’t just go to a gym. You’re in an area of outstanding natural beauty. Slow down, take it in, take some pictures, and enjoy the fresh air and sound of nature.
Please make sure you leave the mountains the way you found them, too.
Don’t throw away your rubbish – bring a plastic bag to put it in and throw it away when you get back to civilisation.
Respect nature and keep it nice for everyone. We all need somewhere calming and clean to get away from the city.
I hope you have an awesome time hiking in Korea.
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FAQ About Mountains To Hike In Korea
Here’s a few FAQs about mountains and hiking in Korea, in case the above information didn’t cover enough.
What’s the best mountain to hike in Korea?
Jirisan National Park. Although each of Korea’s 17 mountain national parks have their own unique features, the size of Jirisan National Park and the diversity of activities you can enjoy here make it the best for a wide range of people. You can go trekking or hiking, find cherry blossoms in spring and autumn leaves in autumn. There is a range of accommodation both in the valleys around the national park, as well as lodges to stay on the mountain.
How many national parks are there in Korea?
22. There are 22 national parks in Korea. These include 17 mountain national parks, 4 coastal & marine national parks, and 1 historical national park (Gyeongju). About 6.7% of South Korea has been designated as a national park.
Are there any mountains on Jeju Island
Hallasan Mountain. Hallasan National Park dominates Jeju Island and features an active shield volcano that rose up out of the sea to create Jeju Island many years ago. It is possible to hike to the top of Hallasan Mountain and see the whole island from the top. There are numerous hiking paths that cover different sides of Hallasan Mountain.
Are there many mountains in Korea?
Yes. Korea is mostly mountainous, with nearly 70% of the land of Korea dominated by mountains and hills. There are many national parks built around the highest mountains and are spread out across the country. Jirisan National Park is the biggest of these and features many peaks.
Can you see snow on mountains in Korea?
Yes. During winter it’s possible to see snow on Korea’s highest peaks. There are many ski resorts in Korea, especially in Gyeonggi Province and Gangwon Province in the northern part of the country. Although snow isn’t guaranteed, the peaks of the mountains are the best places to see snow in Korea.
Are the mountains in Korea accessible for families?
Yes. There are many great courses where families can enjoy walking, hiking and enjoying the mountains in Korea. Some national parks, such as Seoraksan, Deogyusan and Naejangsan, offer a cable car service to take people directly to the top of the mountains. This is very helpful for families with children who might not like to hike all the way. There are also national parks with child-friendly walking paths and buggy-friendly paved roads.
Will I get altitude sickness if I hike in Korea?
No. None of the mountains in South Korea are over 3,000 metres high, which is the level you need to pass to get altitude sickness. The highest mountain in Korea is Hallasan, which is under 2,000 metres high. You should look out for cold weather, snow, and sunburn whilst hiking, but you generally shouldn’t feel any sickness related to the altitude.
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