Bukhansan National Park is almost 80 sq/km in size and is located so close to the urban area of Seoul, South Korea that it’s possible to take the subway here, like I did on this visit.
I started out in Insadong and transferred to line number 1 and rode the train until the very last stop of Dobongsan, which is actually the name of the mountain I’m going to hike up today.
I think it’s important wherever you are hiking to stake out a place to have a beer or coffee and something to eat afterwards,. Some motivation or a reward to think about as you’re making your way to the top and of course something to contemplate as you safely get back down.
It’s a bit of a hike itself just to get to the entrance of the park from the subway station, passing through what seems like a galleria of hiking and outdoor stores, Koreans love their outdoor gear. Plus there’s loads of restaurants and stalls selling food.
I’m going to grab some gimbap, Korea’s version of sushi, the perfect picnic or hiking meal. Some say gimbap was inspired by the tekkamaki sushi rolls eaten by the Japanese soldiers that were present here during Japan’s rule of the country. Others say it is totally an original food of Korea, Either its the perfect dish to stuff in my backpack along with some kimchi, Korea’s national spicy pickled cabbage dish.
Finally it feels like I’ve arrived in the park or at least I’m alot closer. I spot this very cool relief style map of Bukhansan and all of the mountains that are hikeable. Rock climbing is also a huge sport here.
Bukhansan National Park was established in 1983. Being so close to the urban sprawl of Seoul, which is the third largest urban area in the world and an area population of over 25 million it’s a very popular recreation area. In fact at least 5 million people visit the park every year making it the most visited national park per square kilometer in the world.
Another added feature of hiking in Bukhansan National park are the Buddhist temples that are scattered throughout the mountains. The first one I come across is Gwangnyun-sa. Shaminism was widely practised in Korea before the introduction of Buddhism in 372. Because Buddhism did not conflict with the nature worship of shaminism it was allowed to blend with the indigenous religion. Because spirits were believed to inhabit the mountains in pre-Buddhist times they became the home to many temples.
The trails here are well marked so it’s pretty easy to stay on course. Dobongsan mountain is made up of 5 peaks and on this day I will go to it’s highest, Jaunbong Peak at 740m. It’s not a hard hike if you are in reasonably good shape.
OK Mr. positive I would like to see some amazing views but It’s just not going to happen today. Too bad because this peak looks absolutely spectacular from this photo point image. Even with a little light adjustment it only makes the trees stand out. The trails are quiet though and normally this place is crowded with hikers sometimes causing traffic jams.
Within Bukhansan National Park you can see up to 1300 different kinds of flora and fauna, Bukhansanseong Fortress with over 2000 years of history and over 100 Buddhist Temples and monk cells. Bukhansan is also a birder’s paradise with a chance to see among other species the great spotted woodpecker. On this day I’m just going to have to settle for this spotted cat!
I was getting closer to Jaunbong Peak but with the skies appearing to become darker the threat of rain was looming. I was hoping I would make it all the way to the top before a downpour. When it rains in this part of the world the showers are fierce and sometimes torrential.
In East Asia you have to be prepared with rain gear, like a poncho or an umbrella, so long as there’s no lightning. With the heat and humidity in the summer months jackets, unless they are of the lightest material, will most likely cause you to melt.
Because the skies were cloudy with the possibility of rain few hikers were here. Normally on a sunny day this trail can be backed up with people trying to get to the top.
Wow, this was really a special feeling in the mountains of South Korea, only 20km from the border of North Korea amongst these beautiful rock formations.
Just can’t see past these rocky of Dobongsan but on a sunny day this small area of Jaunbong would be packed with people.
Oh yeah, gotta get the selfie in here. Hey think about it, if they had this ability back in the day do you realize Edmund Hillary would have actually had a picture of himself on the top of Mt. Everest. So laugh if you will but they are a great way to record your achievement.
OK not even close to anything in the Himalaya let alone Everest but a great day hike with some incredible scenery and guess what-it just started to rain as I made it to the top.
I will definitely come back to explore more of Bukhansan National Park in South Korea. There are so many trails, interesting sites and temples that I can’t wait to see. Now where was that place I staked out earlier for a much earned beer. I know it’s somewhere around here.
For more on Bukhansan National Park:http://english.knps.or.kr/Knp/Bukhansan/Intro/Introduction.aspx?MenuNum=1&Submenu=Npp&Third=Intro&Fourth=Introduction
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