HOURS: Daily 24 hours
SUBWAY: Suyu (Line 4), Gupabal (Line 3), Dobong (Line 1)
A granite spine protecting Seoul ’s northern flank, this national park is a magnificent realm of peaks and forested valleys centered on Bukhansan (North of the Han Mountain).
The mountain is also sometimes referred to by its original name, Samgaksan (Three-Horned Mountain), after the trio of rocky, finger-like peaks that are its most distinguishing feature. The highest of these, Baegundae, at over 830 meters, is Seoul’s topmost point. The park is easily accessed from several subway stations and immensely popular with hikers, rock climbers, and nature enthusiasts, who throng it nearly every weekend.
There are a staggering number of trails to choose from, from relatively bucolic strolls on the mountain’s lower reaches to hardcore hikes on its peaks that have walkers reaching for ropes and railings. In general the park is well signposted and routes are easy to discern, but due to the mountain’s sharp elevations many are fairly strenuous.
One of the more popular, and scenic, hikes begins from Doseonsa, the largest temple on Bukhansan—a serene and beautiful compound that’s worth a visit in its own right—and winds up through forest to Yongammun, a gate in a 17th-century fortress wall that still snakes along much of the mountain’s ridgeline. Many of the mountain’s trails culminate at this structure, which hikers can navigate to take in stunning views of the city or even tackle Baegundae peak itself.
The park’s other major assets include the temple Hwagyesa, which is home to the Seoul International Zen Center, a major facility for English-language Buddhist studies.