Every weekend, rain or shine, Koreans take to the mountains. Seriously, there is a national obsession with hiking in Korea! We decided to see what all the fuss was about and check out the hiking scene in Bukhansan National Park. The whole concept of this park is pretty amazing. It has a total area of 79.9 km (43.5 miles), and it receives 5 million visitors a year. What’s so amazing about all of this is that it’s surrounded by the city, and this massive park is just a short bus ride away from the subway station. The little village outside the park is chock-full of sports wear stores, and plenty of places to buy snacks. The vibe of this town was so laid back and quiet, it was actually hard to believe we were still so close to the big city.
The park was a beautiful breathe of fresh air (literally!) compared to the crowded chaos of Seoul. And almost as enjoyable were the hoards of Korean hikers, decked out head to toe in the latest hiking gear. That’s another national obsession–sports wear. Jeans and hiking boots won’t cut it if you’re trying to win any Korean hiking-wear fashion contests–you must have matching hiking pants and jackets, brand new shoes, a visor, and hiking poles. I kid you not. I guess it’s just another one of the eccentricities of Korea!
So, together with some friends, dressed in our wildly inappropriate jeans and tee shirts, we took the easiest pathway in the park, a hilly and winding trail that followed the river. After a couple of hours, we sat by the river, soaking up the (much needed) sunshine, sipping on beers, and eating snacks, and then made our way back down the hill. It was the kind of day that we haven’t had much in Korea thus far–quiet, warm and uncrowded…perfection.
To get there, take Seoul subway line 3 to Gupabal Station, and take exit 1. From there, you can take bus number 34 to Bukhansan National Park. It’s about a 15 or 20 minute bus ride. There are a few other busses that will also go to the park, I’m not sure which numbers, but just watch for the hoards of brightly colored hikers and follow suite!