Asia,  Hiking,  South Korea,  Travel,  Travel Advice

How to Take a Day Hike to Bukhansan Mountain

On September 24th I went for a hike with three of my friends in the house: Aida, Ashley, and Vikki. I had chosen the spot, I had researched the public transportation, but we were in for a very different experience than what we had planned. Weeks later, I am still blamed for the extreme, intense, all-day hike we ended up doing that day.

On the day, I got up early and leisurely ate breakfast and drank my coffee as I waited for the girls to wake up. Between sips, I researched the route we would have to take to get to our destination for the day, a famous mountain and hiking route just north of Seoul. We set off and had to take two subways and a bus to get to the start of the hike. We got off the bus joyful and energetic, with “summit gimbap” in our backpacks.

Feeling good at the start of the hike.

We started the hike around noon, taking the six hour route (already more than we had expected) to the peak. Within minutes, the walk became quite steep. We laugh because I am the only experienced hiker among us but hunker on, taking many breaks. After about two hours we reach the first gate and take a long rest, enjoying the view. Moving forward, we climb and climb but trek on because WE ARE GONNA SUMMIT THIS MOUNTAIN. Signs along the way make us think the peak is close, only a few hundred meters away (we soon learned these signs had to be lying to us).

Temple halfway up the mountain.

The view starts to become incredible but I am moving so much faster than everyone else. I am shunned to the back of the pack so I don’t set the pace too fast. We finally arrive to the more intense part with ropes and rocks, assuming we must be close since we had been hiking for four hours at this point. A passing foreigner informs us there is still an hour left to the peak. Immediately disheartened, we eat our “summit gimbap” early on the edge of a cliff.

Stopping for our “summit gimbap” *not* at the summit. Note the rope we used to climb over boulders for the last hour.

With a second wind I decide… screw it, I’m going to the top! Ashley and Vikki peace out and Aida drops out soon after feeling dizzy from the height. I am alone, walking behind this couple that is at least twenty years older than my parents. If they can do it, anyone can! Scrambling to the top, I am overjoyed and happy that I made it. I spend about twenty minutes taking in the view and chatting with other foreigners. I start to go back down the rock wall until, suddenly, a wild Ashley appears from around the corner with Vikki right behind her! They made it! This shows just how different our paces were as I arrived thirty minutes before them, the last push to the summit taking me about one fourth of the time. We celebrate at the top and start going back down.

View from the top!
No filter!
Baegundae peak.
How you had to climb up the last bit of the hike, all ropes and upper body strength.

It’s getting dark and fast, making me increasingly nervous. One thing I did not sign up for was being up here in the dark. I basically run down the mountain, waiting at checkpoints for the girls to catch up. Just as it’s getting pitch black and I have my phone flashlight out, we arrive to this huge temple. We try to hail a cab with no luck but finally see a bus stop. The bus that arrives turns out to be a tour bus for Koreans but the bus driver must have seen the desperation in Ashley’s eyes because he let us board free of charge. We hustle on with our recently purchased coffee and ride the rest of the way to the subway.

Three subway changes later and we are back safe in Hongdae. We hunt for food and end up having cheap noodles in the basement of a clothing store. It was one of the most delicious meals I have ever had after basically only surviving on one gimbap all day. We all slept well that night!

Celebration dessert back in Seoul.

I am leaving soon to explore southern South Korea in a few days and I am excited to hike again on Jeju Island. Although I love my friends, I am excited to race up the mountain on the island and see how quick I can actually go!


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