Seoul is fortunate to have a magnificent national park right on its doorstep. Hop on the subway – yes, it’s as easy as that – and in just 45 minutes, you’ll be in hikers’ heaven, scaling Bukhansan National Park’s picturesque granite peaks, enjoying sweeping mountain vistas, admiring the abundant flora and fauna, and stumbling upon charming little Buddhist temples. And the views of Seoul? You won’t find any better.
Bukhansan National Park covers just less than 80 square kilometres and comprises two sections divided by a mountain pass: Bukhansan Mountain to the south and Dobongsan Mountain to the north, each with their own attractions and bushwalking trails. Keen mountaineers will want to make a beeline for the southern Bukhansanseong trail, which boasts the park’s highest peak: 836-metre-high Baegundae. Allow about three hours for the return trip. For a great family-friendly option, try the Daenammun trail, with its gentle slopes, crystalline streams, historical sites, seasonal wildflowers and wildlife sightings. Wherever you choose to venture, be sure to bring plenty of water, snacks and sturdy hiking shoes.
More than 100 Buddhist temples and hermitages dot the national park; it’s also home to the historic Bukhansanseong Fortress. The impressive fort, which was built during the Joseon Dynasty in 1711 to ward off foreign invasion, affords striking views of the mountain, especially in autumn when the colours of the leaves erupt. Approximately 1,300 species of flora and fauna live in the national park, too. Look out for the black and white great spotted woodpecker, with its striking crimson ‘underpants’ as well as the sunshine-yellow Forsythia saxatilis, a native Korean wildflower.
Because it is so close to the city, Bukhansan National Park is an incredibly popular weekend destination; it even holds the Guinness World Record as the most visited national park per unit area. To avoid the crowds, go during the week if you can.