Bukhansan Ridge Hike: Bibong Peak, Munsubong Peak
Bukhansan National Park covers a large chunk of northern Seoul (and runs over the provincial border into neighbouring Gyeonggi-do), encompassing the city’s two biggest mountains Bukhansan (highest point, Baegundae Peak) and Dobongsan. If you’re hiking in the park for the first time you’ll probably be more interested in one of those two, but if you’ve done them before and are looking for another option you can go for a hike along the ridge on the southern edge of the park, which forms the limit of how far you can see from much of the city (it actually blocks views of Baegundae Peak from most central areas in Seoul). This ridge runs roughly west-east before turning north to run up to Baegundae, and consists of a number of connected peaks.
The hike described here starts from Dokbawi Station on Line 6, climbs steeply up the ridge and along it via Bibong Peak and Munsubong Peak (the highest point on the ridge), and descends to finish at Bukhansan Bogungmun Station on the Ui Sinseoul Line. The excellent views over the city start soon after you begin the hike and continue all the way along the ridge, and the terrain’s quite interesting with some pretty steep gradients and fun rock scramble sections. This is a strong contender for my favourite hike in Seoul.
You should probably allow for about 6 hours for the above with photo & rest stops (I’ve done it in under 5 hiking at pace and without stopping); for a shorter option (around 2 to 3 hours) you can just hike up as far as Bibong Peak then descend back the way you came.
For a longer hike, after Munsubong you could keep following the ridge as it turns north all the way up to Baegundae Peak and finally descend to Bukhansan Ui Station at the northern end of the Ui Sinseol Line. I haven’t done this full hike yet but would estimate it to be 6+ hours at a fast pace without stops, probably 8+ hours at a more chilled pace.
(note that the pics on this page were taken on multiple hikes at different times of day & year, so while they are ordered to show the physical route you’ll see inconsistencies in the light & vegetation)
When you come out of Dokbawi Station there’s a useful map just to the left:
Crossing the road, take this side street:
And follow it round to the left through the residential district:
For this first bit passing through the residential area it’s advisable to download KakaoMap on your phone, it’s much better than Google Maps in Korea. The hiking trails are also shown on KakaoMap which is super useful, but don’t pay attention to the walking times it gives for them – it fails to take the terrain into account and gives you times as though they’re flat roads, which they most certainly aren’t. Something I hope they get around to improving on what is otherwise a really good app for hiking in Seoul – it also has a good 3D terrain view which is great for checking out the approximate profile of your hike in advance.
Turn right here:
And left here:
Which brings you to this park:
Pass through the park and head up this road:
Bringing you to Bulgwangsa Temple:
The park trail starts just beyond the temple at this ranger post:
Follow the signs for Bibong or Hyangnobong (which is the main subsidiary peak before Bibong):
Navigation shouldn’t be an issue as the trails are well-maintained and at each intersection you can just check the signs and take the option for Bibong or Hyangnobong.
Hiking in Bukhansan Park in October/November you should see some autumn colours. Aside from the occasional typhoon, autumn’s the perfect time to visit Seoul and do some hiking; see here for the best autumn colour spots in the city. These next few pics are from a late-October hike:
The trail isn’t hard, but the overall gradient is fairly steep and there are some semi-scrambling rocky sections:
Once you’re up on the ridge you have views along the ridge and north up to the higher points further into the park:
And cracking views out across the city to the south:
Note that Bibong Peak itself is a rock formation requiring proper rock climbing equipment & skills, closed to casual hikers:
But if you pass that warning sign you can pass behind the peak then take the next turning back up to reach the base of the rock formation and enjoy the views:
From Bibong you can descend the way you came (which you should if you’re running out of light), or continue on along the ridge to Munsubong Peak then down to Bukhansan Bogungmun Station a few more hours from here.
Looking ahead towards Munsubong:
Ravens are a common sight in Bukhansan park and I think I’ve seen them every time I’ve been on this ridge. Very cool birds to stop and watch for a while:
Follow the signs for Samobawi 사모바위 (which is the name of a prominent rock standing on the ridge between Bibong and Munsubong peaks) and Daenammun 대남문 (a gate in the old fortress wall located further along the ridge):
Take note of this sign here (located between Bibong & Samobawi) pointing along a branch down to Seunggasa Temple:
If you need to descend by the easiest route from the Samobawi portion of the ridge, this is it – if you’ve realised you don’t have enough light, or the weather turns nasty or whatever, get back to this sign and head down. I did this once, it descends to a minor mountain road (access road for the temple I think) where you turn right and walk down to suburbia. But you end up nowhere near any train station, so you have to take a bus (they run direct to City Hall from that area). This is the top of the path down:
But continuing on along the ridge, the next landmark is Samobawi (with a nearby helipad):
From Samobawi keep going towards the Daenammun gate (which is on the other side of the highest peak you can see ahead of you, Munsubong):
Before tackling Munsubong you go up and down a couple of smaller peaks on the ridge, including Seunggabong:
There’s an unsigned fork in the path along the way, but they just meet up again a bit further on:
Munsubong now looms ahead. There are two routes up, one easy and one difficult, and you’re approaching the decision point:
The easy route is steep but only involves walking, first up a rocky section and then wooden steps at the top bringing you up to a gate in the city wall, then round behind the peak of Munsubong to another gate from where you can detour up to the Munsubong peak.
The hard route involves going straight up the very steep rock slab face of Munsubong, using fixed rails to pull yourself up. Without the rails it would not be a considered a hiking route, and there are sections where if you were to somehow slip and go under the rail you’d go straight off the cliff and fall a long way. Don’t take the hard route if you’re bad with heights! I think it’s great, but you do have to be careful and definitely don’t attempt it in the dark or in dodgy weather – rain or ice could be quite literally lethal.
This signpost is decision time:
Go left along the wider trail for the easy route, right up the steps for the harder climb. I don’t have any pics of the easy route unfortunately, but it takes you along past a comms tower and then up a steep boulder field (from an old rock slide by the look of it) and finally up steps to the gate which is called Cheongsu-Dongammun (and is not the gate you’ve already been following signs for), pass through the gate then take the trail to the right which brings you round behind the peak to a clearing with another gate (this one is Daenammun):
When taking the easy route, you emerge in the clearing from the path on the right. The path on the left goes up to Munsubong peak, so if you take the hard route you’ll come down to the clearing that way:
Rough sketch of the routes:
So if you’ve taken the easy route, when you get to the clearing double back and go up that left-hand path. At the top you reach the fortress wall, with some wooden steps going over it. Don’t go over the wall, but take the path up to the left which brings you up to the Munsubong viewpoint:
(There is actually a slightly higher rock formation just next to the wall, but no way up unless you rock climb it)
From there, just head back down to the clearing and continue on to the next gate, Daeseongmun, which stands at the top of your route down.
For the hard route up Munsubong, here are some pics of the bottom and top (I don’t have pics of the middle bit because I didn’t want to pull my ipad out on the side of a cliff)
Once you get to the top of the rail, you’re on this open sloping slab with amazing views:
There are long drops on three sides, so be cautious and keep heading up the slope towards this:
Passing on the right side of the rock formation brings you to the fortress wall:
Take the steps over the wall, and you can pop up to the right for the viewpoint:
Once you’re done there, take the path down through the trees and then alongside the wall to reach the clearing:
There is a trail down from this gate (Daenammun), but it brings you down miles away from the Metro so from here you should go to the next gate along the wall (Daeseongmun) and descend from there.
You have two options, you can either keep walking along the wall up and over another peak, or take the hiking path round behind the peak.
It’s faster to go round behind the peak. To do so, take the steps down off the wall and follow the signs for Daeseongmun:
Almost immediately, you need to take a path up to the right – it would be easy to miss and I don’t know where you’d end up if you did. This one:
Which brings you quickly round to Daeseongmun:
Alternatively, you can walk along the wall from Daenammun to Daeseongmun by going straight over the top of Daenammun through the pavilion:
It’s a steep climb up & down a stone staircase alongside the wall like this:
The footing is loose in places and this way definitely takes longer, but gives you some more cool views:
Nice view to the north of Bukhansan’s (and Seoul’s) highest peak, Baegundae:
The steps bring you down to the pavilion on top of Daeseongmun:
Whichever route you take, once you reach Daeseongmun pass through the gate and then follow the trail down:
When you get to these steps:
…turn left at the bottom, following the sign for Jeongneung Information Center:
The trail ends at the Jeongneung info center, and the main landmark on the way down is a temple called Yongchwisa:
Keep going down to the temple:
Toilets at the temple if you’re in need:
From the temple keep following signs down to Jeongneung. The lower section of the trail takes you down past a nice stream with multiple waterfalls, some large stone cairns, and this comedy seal/Scream rock:
And finally you come down to a large parking area at the trailhead:
From there it takes another 20 minutes or so to walk down to the Metro station, either by just walking straight down the main road or you can continue to follow the stream which you can pick up again over to your right just past the car park & info center – if you go along the stream, use KakaoMap to make sure you don’t go too far and miss the station. If you’re not set up with mobile internet in Korea just follow the road.
If you want to tackle the longer hike from Munsubong all the way up to Baegundae, follow the above route as far as Daeseongmun gate. At the gate stands this sign:
Follow the sign in the direction of Bogungmun and Daedongmun, two more gates on the way to Baegundae. From Daedongmun you can hopefully pick up signs for Baegundae. For the final descent from Baegundae to Bukhansan Ui Station, see my page here – describes it in the reverse direction, but gives you an idea. If time/light becomes a factor, you only have to make it as far as Doseonsa temple which doesn’t take too long from the peak – the rest of the descent from there is down a well-lit road, or I guess you could even call a taxi from the temple.
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Have you done this hike, or are you planning to? Any questions to ask or tips to share? Leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you.
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