Bukhansan National Park

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Insubong Peak, one of highlights of Bukhansan National Park

Insubong Peak, one of highlights of Bukhansan National Park

Bukhansan National Park is a national park located in the Seoul metropolitan area popular for its scenery, hiking trails, streams, and granite peaks. The park is named after the tallest mountain in Seoul, Bukhansan, which means “mountains north of the Han River.”

on April 2, 1983, Bukhansan became the 15th national park of Korea. The park, which stretches across Seoul and Gyeonggi-do, covers about 80 square kilometers (30.8 square miles). The park lies partly in the city of Seoul and partly in the city of Gyeonggi-do with multiple entrances, usually near major subway stations. Many of the tall granite peaks are visible from areas throughout Seoul.

Efforts are being made to change the name of the park back to its original name, Samgaksan, which means “three horned mountains.”

Around 5 million people visit each year making it one of the most visited national parks in the world. This is not surprising given how the park is surrounded by subway lines and how close it is to downtown Seoul and surrounding urban areas. The park is so popular with the residents of Seoul that many of the hiking trails are closed on certain days to protect the ecosystem and environment which has taken a hit from so much foot traffic. It is best to avoid weekends if possible to avoid the crowds, especially when the weather is warm.

Along with hiking, visitors flock here in droves for the outstanding nature watching and birdwatching. The black, white, and red Great Spotted Woodpecker is often seen flying around the park. In total, there are well over 1,000 species of plants and animals that call this beautiful and magical place home.

One of the some 50 access points leading into Bukhansan National Park

One of the some 50 access points leading into Bukhansan National Park

Visitors flock here for the natural beauty and the almost endless options of hiking trails. Bukhansan has it all from large granite peaks, multiple Buddhist temples, pine forests, sweeping gorges and valleys, clear and cold mountain streams, and Bukhansanseong, a walled fortress which protected Seoul from invasions from the north and was also used as a refuge for the king during attacks. The fortress also marked the northern boundary of the Joseon Dynasty. Remnants of the wall still exist to this day.

At 837 meters (2,746 feet), Baegundae Peak is the highest peak in Bukhansan. Insubong is the second largest peak at 810.5 meters (2,659 feet) and Mangnyeongdae is the third largest peak at 799.5 meters (2,623 feet), respectively.

Jingwansa, one of the many temples found dotted around Bukhansan National park

Jingwansa, one of the many temples found dotted around the park

There are numerous hiking trails in Bukhansan National Park, with the majority of them leading to the top of peaks or to one of the many hidden mountain temples that dot the landscape. Hiking trails are generally marked with the majority only taking a few hours to complete. Always use caution when hiking. Stay on the marked trail at all times and do not attempt to hike in inclement weather.

The park offers sleeping shelters at specific locations for those who wish to spend the night in the park. The shelters, which need to be booked in advance at a park office, cost about 5,000 won with another. A blanket can be rented for 1,000-2,000 won for a blanket but be sure to bring your own sleeping bag. Those looking to camp will find multiple campgrounds. Campsites, starting at 2,000 won for a 2 person tent, must also be reserved at park offices.

One of the most popular is the hike up Baegundae. The panoramic views from the top are breathtaking. On a clear day, you can see as far away as downtown Seoul and the Han River. Other popular trails include Insubong, Bukhansanseong Fortress, and the 70 kilometer (43.5 mile) Dulle-gil Trail.

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