Up until this Summer, one of the things that had been sitting (unticked) on my Korea bucketlist for a while was hiking Hallasan, the highest mountain in South Korea. Due to its location, slap bang in the middle of Jeju Island, I was beginning to think that I’d never get there. So, when Veeran and I decided to go to Jeju on a cycling holiday it was an essential part of our itinerary.
You might think that we were a bit mental for cycling 244 km and then hiking up a 6,398 ft mountain, and to be honest, we kind of were! My legs seriously hated me for the extreme torture that I put them through on our very active holiday. But still, I’m so glad that we did it- Jeju Island is fairly difficult to get to, so it made sense to kill 2 birds with 1 stone while we were there. Plus, those views from the top were absolutely amazing.
I’ve done a lot of hikes in Korea and I have to say that this one was definitely my favourite. Yup, I liked it even more than hiking the other Jirisan on Saryangdo!! Although there are several hiking trails along Hallasan, only 2 will take you to the top- Gwaneumsa and Seongpanak.
At 8.7km long, this is the shortest trail of the 2 but also the steepest. This is apparently the most beautiful of the two trails with contrasting scenery along the way.
Getting There– Although there are public buses to Gwaneumsa, I’ve heard that they’re not very frequent. A taxi from Jeju City should be less than 20,000 KRW.
Although this is the longer of the 2 (9.7km), it’s the easiest route since it’s the most gradual.
Getting There- Buses 781, 781-1 and 781-2 go from both Jeju City Hall and Seogwipo City Hall. You should get off the bus at Seongpanak bus stop.
We had originally planned to hike up Gwaneumsa and hike back down Seongpanak. Sadly, when we got there Gwaneumsa was closed due to falling rocks. I’ve searched online to see if there is a website where you can check which routes are open every day but had no luck. If anyone knows of any, please let me know in the comments so I can add it in here for other people.
People say that Gwaneumsa is the more picturesque route of the two. I found Seongpanak to be very beautiful but it was a bit same-y. The majority of the route is through forested areas and there wasn’t much variety in the landscape until we reached the top. Regardless of which way you take, you’ll still enjoy the same views from the summit (which, by the way, are amazing!)
Tips for your Hallasan Hike!
- Bring plenty of snacks and water. The hike is no joke and you’re going to be up there for at least 8 hours (unless you zoom up and down.) Unlike other mountains in Korea, there was actually no access to fresh spring water on the trail which was a bit disappointing. There is a shelter along the way selling snacks and bottled water.
- Set off early in the morning. The mountain rangers stop allowing people to go past the shelters at certain times everyday. This depends on the season. Check here for more information.
- Trainer or hiking boots? In the Summer I like to hike in my trainers as my feet get too hot in my boots. Plus, if I’m travelling far, I tend to spare myself the extra weight of carrying my boots. For Hallasan, I would bring them if you do have them- even if it means adding a bit of weight to your luggage. Coming down the mountain is steep, rocky and murder on your ankles!
- If you decide to go in Winter, you will need winter hiking equipment since the mountain gets really snowy. Crampons are recommended, along with some warm layers. Don’t forget to wrap up your extremities as well, of course!
- Don’t worry about a guide- it’s a straight path the whole way up and everyone is going the same way. This would be completely unnecessary and a complete waste of money. Don’t let any tourist touts tell you differently.
- Take your time, and enjoy it! It’s not a race to the top! Just go at your own pace and make sure to toast your achievements when you get back down to the bottom! We had a bottle of red wine waiting for us in the hotel room and it was definitely the best decision we made on our whole trip!
Where we Stayed
We stayed at Hotel W Top-Dong which I would thoroughly recommend to anyone looking for comfortable, high-quality accommodation in Jeju City. You can read more about all the hotels we stayed at on our trip here.
My Summer Hiking Essentials
Want to go on an adventure to Jeju? Don’t miss these posts!
What’s your favourite hike in South Korea? (Or anywhere?) let me know in the comments!
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