The ultimate hiking adventure in South Korea

Unplug from high-tech Seoul and immerse yourself in nature with a trek in the Seoraksan National Park where rugged trails and hot springs await.

Girl wearing a red backpack facing a mountain range
  • Erin Craig
  • February 2020

If you’re looking for a challenge, Seoraksan National Park in Gangwon Province has got you covered ‒ the park has 30 peaks and 92 kilometres of rugged mountain trails graded from easy to expert. Climbing upward, lush forest gives way to splintery ridge lines and drop-away views. Clouds snag on the rock spires and cushion the valleys below. It’s no wonder these vistas draw more than three million visitors a year.

“If you are here for a short time and want to see the showpiece mountain of Korea, then Seoraksan is it,” says Roger Shepherd. He knows what he’s talking about – he co-authored the guidebook Baekdu Daegan Trail: Hiking Korea’s Mountain Spine and leads custom treks in both South and North Korea.

For an overnight adventure, enter the park from the west at Baekdamsa Temple or, if you’re truly ambitious, Namgyo-ri (both two hours from Seoul by bus). It’s a precipitous hike past fairy pools and along stunning ridges to the crest of Daecheongbong, the park’s highest peak at 1708 metres.

Hikers walking across a bridge in the Seoraksan National Park
Seoraksan National Park has trails to suit hikers of all levels.

From there, a steep descent ends at the mineral hot springs of Osaek, where you can treat your aching muscles to a soak. The Osaek Greenyard Hotel is famous for its on-site hot spring spa (+82 33 670 1000).

If staying overnight, reserve a bunk in either Socheong or Jungcheon shelter near the top of Daecheongbong – the perfect starting point to catch a summit sunrise. Lighten your pack by renting blankets at the shelter.

Even at sunrise, it is rare to have the trail to yourself. This is especially true in autumn, when weather and nature’s colours are at their peak – roughly 25 per cent of park visitors arrive in October alone.

“There is also a deep culture of mountain worship for the Korean people reaching back thousands of years,” notes Shepherd.

A word to the wise: most walkers in this area opt for the east coast entrance at Sokcho, with easily accessible paths, cafés and a scenic cable car. And if you need more info about anything in South Korea, the Korean Tourism Organization has a free 24-hour hotline to answer all your travel questions (dial 1330 within Korea).

Amateur walker? Check out the epic hike that anyone can take on.