Hiking The Seoul Trail – The Best Way to See the City

Last Updated: December 2020

About The Seoul Trail

The Seoul Trail is a 157 km (97.5 mi) trail, split into eight sections, that takes you around the capital city of South Korea. Along the way, you will pass through forests, parks, historical sites and temples, streams, rivers, and city roads.   

It takes you to the four great mountains of Seoul; Dobongsan, Suraksan, Gwanaksan, and Bukhansan.   However, you are  walking around the base rather than hiking up them.

If you are looking for pure mountain hiking then there are definitely better trails. The Seoul Trail is more suited for those wanting to see different areas of the city at a rather easy to medium level of exertion.

All in all, the Seoul Trail really shows you the best and worst parts of Seoul. You will pass by beautiful temples and lego-esque apartment blocks, mountain streams and construction sites, beautiful parks and trash sites. 

Terrain

According to the Seoul Trail website, the breakdown of the trail is forest sections (85km), sections along villages (40km), and sections along streams (32km).   Each course has a combination of terrains but, some are definitely more scenic than others. 

Best Season

Korea is well known for having four distinct seasons.  A source of pride among the locals.  We hiked the trail in spring which was nice as we got to see the cherry blossoms.  

The temperatures ranged from 5 to 20 degrees Celsius. Fall would also be appropriate, with similar temperatures.  Summer and Winter are probably to be avoided if possible. 

temple seoul trail

Transportation

A key feature of the trail is the forethought to have every leg start and finish at a subway station.  Also, as convenience stores and restaurants tend to surround stations, it is useful for stocking up before or relaxing after a hike.

Difficulty

Parts of the course are quite strenuous but hikers with an average fitness base should have no difficulties.  Each course is given a difficulty rating from Easy to Hard.  

Preparation

As each course is a day hike it is not necessary to pack heavy.  It is advised to take plenty of water and some snacks as there are parts where you don't pass any shops for some time. 

Depending on the season, hiking pants, shirt, and a light jacket should be enough. Hiking boots or shoes are recommended as the terrain can be uneven.  I wore the Merrell Men's Moab 2 Vent Hiking Shoe

As they are just one-day hikes, a day backpack such as the Osprey Talon 22 will be enough to carry your supplies.  Check out our guide on Best Hiking Backpacks Buying Guide.

Stamp Collecting

Along the Seoul Trail there are 28 red mailbox/phone booth structures that each contain an individual stamp.  The stamp impressions are based on a story of the location.

You need to visit one of the locations on the website to get a stamp book, and it is best to take your own ink pad.  Once you have collected all 28 stamps it is possible to receive a certificate of completion.  

If this is of interest we would advise finding out more information here.

Seoul trail

Signage

The course is quite well signed and should be easy to follow if you pay attention. The whole course is lined with orange ribbons each roughly around 20-30 feet apart.  In addition to the ribbons, there are marking on the ground and signposts along the way.  

Other Things to Note

The course length information and what we recorded were not always the same.  On average, we tended to track 10% more, so take that into consideration. 

Also, we recommend starting early.  When we set off around 6 am, we had the trails to ourselves, but as we were finishing, normally around lunchtime, the courses were teeming. 

Finally, the course can be taken either be walked clockwise or anti-clockwise. We alternated the direction based on where we wanted to end up.  See each trail description for some tips. 


The Seoul Trail Course List

Course

Distance

Time

Difficulty

Enjoyment

1

18.6 km

3.5 hours

Hard

2

12.5 km

3 hours

Intermediate

3

25.7 km

4 hours

Intermediate

4

17.8 km

4 hours

Intermediate

5

12.3 km

3.5 hours

Intermediate

6

17.9 km

3 hours

Easy

7

17.5 km

4.5 hours

Hard

8

37 km

9 hours

Hard


Course 1:  Suraksan and Buramsan

seoul trail
  • Distance: 18.6 km
  • Terrain: Mountain trails
  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Duration: 3.5 hours
  • Point of Departure: Dobongsan Station Exit 2
  • Point of Arrival: Hwarangdae Station, Exit 4

After a short walk through the streets, you start the climb up Suraksan Mountain. The course takes you through some steep climbs, but the difficulty is not extreme.

There are some good lookouts that are well signposted, but sometimes you will need to leave the trail momentarily.  

We started around 6:30 am and were lucky enough to see a deer in the woods. The only one we saw on any of the trails.  About halfway along, you will pass by Danggogae station.  This is a good place to pick up some supplies if you need to. 


Course 2:  Yongmasan and Achasan

seoul trail
  • Distance: 12.5 km
  • Terrain: Mountain trails
  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Duration: 4 hours
  • Point of Departure: Hwarangdae Station, Exit 4
  • Point of Arrival: Gwangnaru Station, Exit 1

Coming out of the Hwanrangdae subway station, the course takes you through some streets and a park before a stretch along a stream. We would recommend stopping for kimbab and coffee during this part as there are not a lot of options for a while.

The first half of the this course is pretty blah, just taking you through some uninspired streets.  In the second half of the trail, there are some nice landscaped areas perfect for picnics.  There are also small vendors selling makgeolli (Korean rice wine) beer, and snacks.

Coming down towards the end, there is a convenience store with outdoor seating.  If you are planning to celebrate the end of the hike, then here is probably the best spot as the trail ends in the middle of nowhere. 

Not realizing this until after we finished, we decided to cross the bridge to Gwangnaru park on the Hangang River. There is a great area here with families picnicking.  If the weather is nice, take a seat outside the convenience store, have some beer and chicken and enjoy some people watching.


Course 3:  Godeok and Iljasan

  • Distance: 25.7 km
  • Terrain: Mostly flat, some steep climbs
  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Duration: 4 hours
  • Point of Departure: Gwangnaru Station, Exit 2
  • Point of Arrival:  Suseo Station, Exit 5

This was a long but quite disappointing section of the course. Mostly flat and a lot  of city walking, passing through some pretty nondescript neighborhoods.  

You do pass some rows of flower shops, but other than that, I can hardly remember anything of note. A bit of a climb through the woods towards the end but otherwise pretty ho-hum.

Pro tip - As there is not much to do around Suseo station, we decided to do this one backwards (i.e. end to start, not walking backwards) so that we could finish at the river again (see post above).  More chicken and beer was consumed. 

If you aren't collecting stamps or trying to do all of the courses, I would recommend skipping this one. 


Course 4:  Daemosan and Umyeonsan

seoul trail
  • Distance: 17.8 km
  • Terrain: Mountain trails mostly
  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Duration: 4 hours
  • Point of Departure: Suseo Station, Exit 6
  • Point of Arrival: Sadang Station, Exit 4

Some nice mountain trails and a good mix of scenery in this section. This course takes you past Daemosan, Guryongsan, and Umyeonsan Mountains, and along Yeoeuicheon Stream and the Yangjaecheon Stream.  

The trail is mostly through the forest, so not a lot of streets or traffic or noise. Some nice views of Seoul too. We saw quite a few woodpeckers on this trail, so look out for those. 

Yangjae Citizens Forrest is a good spot to rest and have a picnic. Finally, the course concludes at Sadang station, which has a pretty good selection of places to enjoy food and drink.


Course 5: Gwanaksan Mountain

  • Distance: 12.3 km
  • Terrain: Forest trails mostly
  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Duration: 3.5 hours
  • Point of Departure: Sadang Station, Exit 4
  • Point of Arrival: Seoksu Station, Exit 1

One of the more enjoyable sections as it was nearly all forest.  We passed by some temples that were preparing for Buddha's birthday, so they had the lanterns up.  

Not a lot of views of the city but nice wooded landscapes in this section. Also, about halfway as you pass Seoul National University, a convenience store and line of vendors selling hiking goods, snacks, drinks, and silkworm larvae.

There is not a lot around the endpoint, just some some Korean BBQ restaurants which fill up around lunch and dinner time with red-faced hikers.


Course 6:  Anyangcheon Stream

  • Distance: 17.9 km
  • Terrain: Flat
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Duration: 3 hours
  • Point of Departure: Seoksu Station, Exit 2
  • Point of Arrival: Gayang Station, Exit 4

Course 6 takes you along Anyang stream.  It is a nice enough walk but quite repetitive.  If you remember old school cartoons where during a chase scene, the background would keep repeating, then you will get a good sense of what you are in for.  

If hiking this section alone, make sure you have plenty of music/podcasts lined up. And if with a partner or group, ensure you have some conversation starters ready to go. 

This is another part of the trail that we would advise skipping unless you are determined to complete all eight courses. 

The path is flat and other than some tulip gardens it is mostly just an opportunity to see Seoulites out and about enjoying various forms of exercise. 

When you make it to the Han river, we would recommend turning right, rather than following the trail to the left.  Then if you follow the river for another 2 km, you will come to a footbridge where you can walk over to Seonyudo. 

Seonyudo is a small island in the Han river. It was previously a filtration plant, but it has been converted into an ecological park.  On the northern side are a restaurant and cafe.  It is a nice place to sit outside and chat (if you have anything left to talk about). 


Course 7: Bongsan and Aengbongsan

Bongsan
  • Distance: 17.5 km
  • Terrain: Mostly mountain trails
  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Duration: 4.5 hours
  • Point of Departure: Gayang Station, Exit 4
  • Point of Arrival: Gupabal Station, Exit 3

A relatively flat first part of the trail takes you across Gayang Bridge and past the World Cup Stadium and through an Oil Tank Culture Park. 

About one third of the way along the trail gets more interesting as it takes you through the forests of Bongsan and Aengbongsan Mountains.   The peaks provide some good viewpoints of the surrounding apartments and Bukhansan.

There are also some nice features along the way, such as the beacon mound and Suguksa Temple.   It was not too crowded, but there are often bunches of older hikers congregating at the outdoor exercise stations.

Seoul trail
Pagoda

Due to the length and terrain, this is one of the more strenuous courses. We were pretty happy to reach the endpoint. But that may have something to do with the whiskey drank the night before, in celebration of it being Friday.

Best to carry at least 2 liters of water as there are not many places to pick it up along the way. 


Course 8: Bukhansan

Bukhansan
  • Distance: 33.1 km
  • Terrain: Mountain trails
  • Difficulty: Medium/Hard
  • Duration: 9 hours
  • Point of Departure: Gupabal Station, Exit 3
  • Point of Arrival: Dobongsan Station, Exit 1

At 35km, this is a long section to complete in one day, but it is doable if you are prepared. 

Course 8 is a mini Seoul trail in itself, as it encompasses dense forests, temples, the Seoul Castle Wall, royal tombs, and mountains. Not to mention, a look at some extravagant homes as it winds through one of the more affluent Seoul neighborhoods. To top it off, the endpoint at Donbongsan Station is a mini-base camp where large groups of hikers congregate.


Final Thoughts

The Seoul Trail has something for everyone, whether you are visiting Seoul or have lived there for some time. 

If you do plan on completing all eight sections, it is recommended to get the stamp book.  It would make a nice keepsake.  Otherwise, pick and choose which sections interest you the most.

This post may contain affiliate links. Read the full disclosure here.

Related Posts