Hiking and Camping in South Korea

South Korea is a small country, but it is packed full of amazingly beautiful places. From mountains to rivers to beaches, it is a paradise for nature lovers. There are so many awesome destinations for hiking and camping in South Korea.

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Hiking in and Around Seoul

South Korea’s capital city, Seoul, is a good place to start for some fun urban outdoor adventures. The city has an extensive network of well maintained hiking trails that range in difficulty from beginner to advanced. The trails wind all through the city, so you are never far from a hiking adventure spot.

Things to Know Before You Go

When planning to hike in South Korea, there are some things you should know before you go. South Korea is a country that is seventy percent mountains, including numerous mountains within the city limits of Seoul. The mountains vary in size and terrain, but if you’re planning to hike in South Korea, you should be prepared for some steep inclines and elevation gains.

Hiking is a very popular sport in South Korea, and in Seoul, you will often see all types of people who incorporate hiking into their daily routines. Retirees will hike up to play a round of badminton on public courts on the side of mountains, businesspeople will hike to see the sunrise before heading to the office, and other people will take a hike with friends and then go for coffee. Hiking groups are very common, and you will meet lots of friendly people on the trails, many of whom will offer words of encouragement and may even offer to share their snacks with you.

South Korea has all four seasons, so you should take that into consideration when planning a hiking trip. Seoul is very hot and rainy in the summer and can also be quite cold in the winter. Spring and fall are the most popular times of year to go hiking for both the pleasant weather and the natural beauty of the cherry blossoms in spring and the autumn leaf colors in fall.

Accessibility

Hiking trails in Seoul have numerous features that make many of them very accessible. The trails often have multiple options for traversing the same distance with different trail surfaces for all abilities, thus allowing you to hike on mountains with a wheelchair or a stroller. You could also choose to scramble over rocks or hike along dirt paths.

All of the hiking trails in Seoul are accessible via a quick walk from public transportation, making hiking convenient for locals and visitors alike. This accessibility makes it easy to incorporate hiking into your daily routine in Seoul or into a busy day of adventuring if you are a visitor. The ease of access to public transportation is also helpful if you need to cut a hike short for any reason because you can locate the nearest exit point on the trail and then pick up a bus, subway, or taxi to return to your home base or to access any services you may need.

Unique Aspects of Hiking in Seoul

Trails in Seoul have many unique features that are awesome, especially for hiking with children. Well designed seating areas are abundant and varied from benches with a view to hammocks and lounge chairs in the shade, and these are perfect for a snack break or rest stop. Reading areas with free books to borrow and public workout stations and sports courts are also common features of hiking trails in Seoul, adding interest for younger hikers.

Hiking trails in Seoul offer many helpful amenities that are especially beneficial for family hikes. Public bathrooms are clean, well-stocked and common to find along the trails. Seoul trailheads often offer additional resources like bug spray stations when you start your hike and air blaster stations to remove dirt and bugs when you finish.

The city of Seoul has several hiking challenges where participants receive a free map and collect stamps at certain points along the trail. The completed map is then returned and exchanged for a certificate and sometimes even a prize. In addition to being a fun family activity, these challenges are also a good way to learn about the history of the city.

Many hiking trails in Seoul will either allow you to see some of the city’s famous landmarks or great views of the city or both. Some trails follow along parts of the old city wall dating back to the year 1396, and other trails take you to the base of Namsan Tower, one of the most well-known landmarks in Seoul. If you hike to any of the mountain peaks in Seoul, you will likely see a temple or two along the way, and you will also be rewarded with stunning views of the city and the surrounding mountains.

Top Hikes to do in Seoul

Seoul has seemingly endless miles of hiking trails, so you can find the perfect trail for your family’s preference on difficulty and length. Seoul was built in and around mountains, so if you want to climb to a peak, you can choose from a variety of summit opportunities without leaving the city limits. You will not be disappointed regardless of which trail you choose.

If you are interested in climbing mountains, Seoul is a great destination because it is home to numerous mountains. In Korean, “san” means mountain, and Ansan is a great option for beginners or those with mobility challenges. The mountain has many trail options ranging from a 7 km raised wooden deck trail that circles the circumference to rock and dirt trails up to the summit. At 296 m (971 ft), Ansan’s summit is low compared to a lot of other Korean mountains, but the panoramic views are incredible.

Hiking trail options on Ansan, South Korea with an accessible board walk on the right and a steep wooden and dirt staircase on the left with a tree in the middle
Ansan hiking trial options in Seoul, South Korea

The Seoul City Wall Trail, Hanyangdoseong, follows the path of the ancient wall built in the year 1396 to protect the city and is a great option for families who want to see the city while hiking. Some of the sections of the wall still remain, others have been rebuilt, and a few parts are no longer standing but are marked on the ground, and along the trail, hikers can access a wealth of information about the history of the wall and the city while completing a stamp challenge to receive a commemorative badge. This trail is well maintained and is an amazing overview of the city that provides incredible views of the city and takes hikers over multiple mountains as well as through traditional city gates and some urban areas.

Hikers who are not able to complete the full City Wall Trail can choose one of the sections of the trail. The Naksan Mountain Trail section is a good option for people who want to see part of the wall and great views of the city with a hike they can integrate into a day of city touring. The trail is fairly easy, with most sections either stairs or paved paths, and takes about one hour to complete.

Paved trail along a curving ancient city wall in the foreground with the city of Seoul and mountains in the background
Section of the Naksan Trail following the ancient city wall in Seoul

For hikers who have three hours to dedicate to hiking, two other sections of the City Wall Trail may be good options. The Namsan Trail is a moderate trail that has a good mix of city and nature and takes hikers past several well known tourist spots, including the iconic Namsan Tower. This is a good trail for younger children because there are multiple interesting places to take breaks and also various options for leaving the trail early if needed, including a cable car station at the base of the tower.

The Inwangsan Trail section of the City Wall Trail is another hiking trail that will take around three hours to complete. This is one of the more difficult sections of the trail, with many rocky sections and some traversing across sheer rock faces, that takes hikers to one of the tallest mountain summits in central Seoul at 339 m (1,112 ft) for a spectacular panoramic view of the whole city and surrounding mountains. 

A huge city is not usually the first place that comes to mind when thinking about the best places to hike, but Seoul’s unique geography in combination with the government’s investment in hiking trails and infrastructure and the cultural love for hiking as a part of daily life makes it a great destination for families who love hiking. The variety of trails of differing difficulty and length means that all ages and abilities will be able to find the perfect hike within Seoul. South Korea offers an abundance of other amazing hiking options in the rest of the country, too.

Hiking in Other Parts of South Korea

Top Hiking Destinations

Bukhansan

Bukhansan National Park is in the Guiness Book of World Records as the “Most Visited National Park per Unit Area”, and AllTrails ranks four Bukhansan trails in the top ten of the 2023 Best Hikes in South Korea, so you will not want to miss it. The park is actually partially within Seoul city limits and has a variety of trails for everyone to enjoy, but if you are planning to hike to one of the multiple peaks, you should be ready for some challenging parts and scrambling over sheer rock faces. The park has several entry points that are easy to access via public transportation, making this park a great option for ambitious hikers based in Seoul.

Bukhansan’s Jokduribong Peak at 370 m (1,214 ft) is located at the southwestern corner of the park and is the first peak on the Bibong Ridge, so it can be a good hike on its own or the start of a full day of hiking along the ridge to three more peaks, including the highest, Baegundae Peak at 836.5 m (2,744 ft). These peaks could be difficult with young children due to challenging technical sections and the risk of falling in some areas where there are steep drop offs, but the variety of terrain and spectacular panoramic views make these hikes very rewarding.

hiking trail on the way to the summit with large rock formations in the foreground overlooking the city of Seoul below
Leaving the city of Seoul behind on the trail up to Jokduribong Peak in Bukhansan National Park

Seoraksan

Seoraksan is a mountain located on South Korea’s east coast, and it is possible to take public transportation from Seoul to Seoraksan National Park, although booking a private tour or vehicle is also common. Depending on the type of transportation you choose and the amount of traffic, it will take about two and a half hours to travel from Seoul to Seoraksan. Accommodations are available in campsites inside the park and in nearby cities for those who want to stay overnight.

Seoraksan is a hiker’s paradise with plenty of peaks, waterfalls, spectacular views, and unique flora and fauna. This park is extremely popular, especially during peak fall color season, so make sure to plan accordingly if you will be visiting during a busy time.

Visitors to Seoraksan National Park can choose from a variety of hiking courses in the park depending on their preferences on length and difficulty. The park has something for everyone, including the Seorak Cable Car which takes passengers up to the Gwonguemsong Fortress at 700 m (2,297 ft) for spectacular views of the mountain and surrounding areas, which is a great way for visitors who do not have the time or ability to hike up so high to still be able to enjoy Seoraksan’s majesty.

Hallasan

Hallasan is the tallest mountain in South Korea at 1,950 m (6,398 ft), and it is located on the volcanic island of Jeju, off the southern coast of the country. The most common way to get to Hallasan from Seoul is by taking a short flight. 

Hallasan National Park is a popular destination for serious hikers who want to climb the highest mountain in the country and also for others who want to experience the diverse natural beauty of the park and stunning views of the ocean. The park offers a variety of trails for different abilities and interests. If you want to hike to the summit, you will need to make a reservation in advance to access those trails.

Other Hiking in South Korea

South Korea has so many amazing hiking trails that it would be impossible to list them all. The country’s national parks are great places to hike, and the Korea National Parks website has a wealth of information about different trails and facilities available in each park. You really cannot go wrong with any trail you choose.

Two kids hugging and smiling on a wooden platform with mountains in the background
Enjoying the trails in Bukhansan National Park

Things to Know About Hiking in South Korea

When planning to go hiking in South Korea, there are some things you should know in order to have a successful hike. Checking for trail closures is important because some trails, especially those in the national parks, close for some time annually during specific time periods for maintenance. Trails may also close due to weather conditions such as heavy rains or ice or due to forest fire risk, and these closures are listed on the Korea National Parks website and are strictly enforced.

Make sure to obtain any necessary trail permits, and check to make sure that your start and finish times are within the open hours of the park. If you arrive late in the day, you may find that some of the longer trails have already closed. In general, national parks are closed at night, but some open early for hikers to have enough time to complete specific courses.

To find trailheads and trails and to navigate along your chosen route, skip Google Maps which does not function well in South Korea and instead use the trail layer toggle on Korean navigation apps Naver Maps or Kakao Map. You can also find trail maps and information about most of the well-known hiking trails in South Korea on AllTrails. 

Trails in South Korea are well marked and well maintained, as well as very clean, and leaving the trail is usually not permitted. The National Parks have strict rules about staying on the trail and almost always prohibit entry to streams and waterfalls along the trails, with high fines for violating rules. Expect to see CCTV cameras even in remote locations for monitoring the trails.

You should always check weather and air quality forecasts when making plans for hiking in South Korea, as both can impact the quality of your hike. In addition, make sure you have a plan for transportation both to your starting point and returning from your ending point. Most trails are accessible via public transportation, but depending on your starting and ending points and the time of day you will need transportation, it may be easier to take a planned tour or private car.

Hiking is extremely popular in South Korea, both for locals and tourists. In an effort to encourage hiking among foreign tourists, the Seoul Hiking Tourism Center was created to provide various services. Visitors can get information and maps in several different languages, use the rest lounge and showers before or after hiking, and reserve hiking gear online or in person at the office located near Bukhansan National Park.

One last thing to remember at the end of your hike is to eat some delicious Korean foods. Ramen and other soups and stews are common examples of end of hike fare, along with rice dishes and savory green onion pancakes. Most Korean National Parks have multiple inexpensive restaurants in the parking lot areas where hungry hikers can enjoy a well deserved meal before heading home.

Gear for Hiking in South Korea

Hiking in South Korea is a very accessible sport, and in general, specialized equipment is not necessary. If you plan to complete a trail that requires specific items that you did not bring with you, rental items could be a good option for you. Korean National Parks often have hiking shops located near the major trailheads, sometimes even right in the parking lot, and you can buy everything you need from local brands as well as internationally known brands like Columbia and Patagonia.

Footwear is the most important item for hiking in South Korea. Depending on the trail, you might be able to wear a casual tennis shoe or hiking sandal. For the difficult and advanced trails, you will want to have hiking shoes or boots, and the TMM team has some great recommendations for hiking shoes for kids and hiking shoes for women.

Sun protection is important year round. South Koreans take their skincare seriously, and you will see most locals wearing oversized sun hats and UPF protective clothing, which are widely available for purchase locally. We also love these sun hats for kids.

Other important gear for hiking in South Korea varies by season. The winters can get cold, so layers are important during that time, and hiking crampons can be helpful on icy days on the challenging trails. Winter hats are especially important to staying warm, and here are some of our favorite winter hats for kids.

The rainy season takes place during the super hot days of summer, so full rain gear is not really recommended as you could quickly overheat. During summer, a raincover for your backpack, a cooling towel, and plenty of water are the most important things to bring. Umbrellas are very popular gear items during summer, both to stay dry when it rains and to block the sun on sunny days.

Hiking in South Korea is something the whole family can enjoy with some planning and preparation. You can choose a short or a long trail, or one that is near or far from the city. You will enjoy whatever trail you choose.

Camping in South Korea

Camping in South Korea is a very popular pastime. Just like hiking, many locals and visitors alike enjoy getting away from the hustle and bustle of the city and spending some time in nature. South Korea has a wide variety of campgrounds and camping facilities.

Things to Know

Before you set out on a camping trip in South Korea, there are some important things to know that will help you make the most out of your adventure. Some rules and customs may be different than those you have experienced in the past.

One of the most important things to know about camping in South Korea is that due to the popularity of camping combined with the small size of the country, popular camping locations book really far in advance and are completely packed on any kind of holiday. Try to make your plans as far in advance as possible, especially if you really want to camp somewhere specific or if you are planning to go with friends and need multiple campsites. Many campgrounds in South Korea, including those in the national parks, have specific dates on which the next set of reservation dates open, so look out for that and make your reservation right when the new dates open.

The second most important thing to know is that no ground fires are permitted anywhere at any time. Most campgrounds do allow small raised fire pits, but make sure to check the rules at each place you plan to visit. Some campgrounds sell or rent fire pits for campers to use if you do not have your own.

South Korea has a wide variety of types of campsites. Wilderness camping and oversized, grassy campsites are very uncommon, and some campsites are basically glorified parking lots, so make sure to read descriptions carefully and look at pictures. Some campsites have different surfaces for pitching tents on, like crushed gravel or wooden platforms.

Most campsites in South Korea have a convenience store on the property or very close where you can buy almost anything you may have forgotten, plus firewood and snacks. Campgrounds have microwave rooms due to the popularity of certain foods like cup noodles, and dish washing rooms with stainless steel counters and massive sinks are common too, making meal preparation and cleaning up a breeze.

South Korea has very few wild animals other than birds, so you do not need to worry about bears or bear canisters. It is still best to keep all food and food related items safely packed away, but if you do forget and leave some food out overnight, it will likely be right where you left it in the morning.

Camping in Korea National Parks

Many of South Korea’s national parks offer camping options that are clean, well maintained and very affordable. Campsites should be booked online in advance, and the national parks website has an option for foreigners to make reservations for campsites. The national park campsites are extremely popular and book up quickly.

If you want to reserve a campsite in one of the national parks, advance preparation is important. Reservations open twice a month on the 1st and 15th at 2 pm local time, and you need to be ready to book at those times or you are likely to miss out, especially if you plan to camp during the peak months of July, August, October or the first half of November. Make sure to read the reservation policies and to research in advance the specific campground and type of campsite you want to book. 

Some national parks have multiple campgrounds and types of campsites, so choose the location that works best for you. Most parks have a variety of options including electric or non-electric tent sites and camper sites where you bring your own equipment or prepared sites with rental cabins or campers. Prices are very affordable, even during the peak season, ranging from under $15 US for a tent site to $40-60 US for cabin or camper rentals.

two kids stand near a picnic table next to a tent with mountains in the background
Fall camping trip to Seoraksan National Park

Camping in Private Campsites

South Korea also has an abundance of private campsites that are very popular. A quick search on Korean navigation apps Naver Maps or Kakao Maps will show a variety of options all over the country. These campsites can be anything from basically a parking lot to more elaborate configurations, so make sure to check out the description and pictures.

The booking process can vary from site to site, but often it is possible to make a reservation within the navigation app. Just like with the national parks, private sites, especially those in popular locations, book up really far in advance, so it is always best to plan as far in advance as possible.

Private campsites may have extra facilities such as a swimming pool, trampoline park, kayak rental, or other things, so make sure to check if those will be available during your visit. A lot of private campsites also offer gear rental for things like fire pits and barbecues. 

Glamping

Glamping is very popular in South Korea, and you will find a variety of options throughout the country. Some glamping sites are very fancy and have elaborate set ups that look like they came straight from Instagram. Glamping sites also tend to offer packages that come with cooking equipment and all the food needed for a delicious meal.

Glamping is a good option for people who want to try camping for the first time and also for tourists who are not traveling with all their camping gear. Whether you pitch a tent in a national park or stay in a fancy glamping igloo, camping in South Korea is an experience not to be missed.

Korean Camping Food

Food is a very important part of the experience when camping in South Korea. Camping trips are usually the only time for the average person living in Korea to experience bonfires or outdoor barbecues because most Koreans live in apartments in big cities and do not have backyard spaces for barbecues or bonfires. In addition, parks generally prohibit these activities, so people in South Korea like to enjoy them while camping.

When camping in South Korea, it is very common to bring a variety of thinly sliced meats and vegetables to barbecue. To accompany the meat, people also bring some microwaveable rice bowls, lettuce and sauces to make wraps, and various Korean side dishes like kimchi. Then everyone sits in their camp chairs around the barbecue and enjoys a delicious meal together.

Another common camping meal in South Korea is a soup or stew cooked hot pot style where various proteins like meats and tofu simmer in a pot on a camping cook stove with vegetables and seasonings. When the food is done, everyone gathers to enjoy it. In general, in South Korea, there are not any specific foods for specific meals of the day, so you will see people enjoying this type of meal even at breakfast.

The absolute most common camping food in South Korea is ramen. It is easy to transport, quick to make, and very inexpensive. Korean ramen has an endless variety of types and flavor options, many of which are fairly spicy, and adding more ingredients to ramen is very common, especially eggs and green onions.

selection of Korean packaged camping foods including several rice and noodle dishes and a pair of chopsticks
Selection of Korean packaged rice and ramen dishes ready for camping

Some campgrounds in South Korea are a bit remote, but many are located close enough to a city that you can even order food delivery if you do not want to cook when you are camping. You could also grab some pre-made foods from the closest convenience store, which may even be located within the campground. With so many options to choose from, you are sure to have some delicious foods while camping in South Korea.

Gear for Camping in South Korea

When you are planning a trip to go camping in South Korea, you will need to think about necessary gear. The variety of camping options like glamping or cabins, the wide availability of rental gear, and the convenience of food delivery means that you can go camping in South Korea basically with just the clothes on your back. If you are planning to bring your own gear, here are some recommendations from the TMM team about what to pack for car camping and the best camping gear for families.

You will also find a wide variety of camping gear available for sale in South Korea. Local and global brands are both common, and many places sell camping gear, making it easy to purchase anything you may have forgotten. Since many people have smaller vehicles and homes than in North America, you will notice that a lot of the items are on the compact side and tend to pack up pretty small.

When camping in South Korea, people tend to have elaborate set ups and aesthetically pleasing gear. You will often see people spending several hours making their campsites look beautiful with string lights, rugs, side tables, shade tents, and even cute hanging racks for cooking dishes. People often set up projectors and screens to watch movies, and you will even see people bring portable ice machines so they can enjoy iced coffee and other drinks.

Whether you decide to just grab your backpack and hop on a train to a glamping resort or load your car with a tent and gear and head to a national park, you will have a great time camping in South Korea.

Choose South Korea for Hiking and Camping Trips

South Korea is a beautiful and welcoming country that is a great destination for hiking and camping trips. With a little bit of research and preparation, you can customize an adventure that will be perfect for you and your family.

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Hiking and Camping in South Korea

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  • Elaine Mantinan is a Michigan native who loves to adventure outdoors all over the globe and tries to inspire others to do the same. She is currently based in Seoul, South Korea, with her husband and two kids, Aurelia (7) and Nico (5). Elaine has been having lots of fun discovering new places and ways to do her favorite outdoor activities while living in the middle of one of the biggest cities in the world. She loves hiking, biking and camping but is always up for trying any kind of outdoor activity, especially if there is a picnic involved. You can follow her adventures on Instagram: @adventurousmantinans

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