Hiking in Seoul: Dobongsan
Dobongsan (도봉산, or 道峰山) is the furthest out of Seoul’s mountains (and the second highest), located in the northern part of Bukhansan national park at the city’s northern limit; while the city views are a bit more distant than those from the other Seoul mountains (they’re still cracking though!), it offers the most dramatic mountain scenery instead. There are also some old and famous temples on its slopes:
Standing at 740m Dobongsan requires a few hours for the hike, but you don’t need to do too much by way of planning; just take Line 1 or Line 7 to Dobongsan Station, and start your walk from exit 1. From the station you walk up to the trailhead past a whole load of food stalls and outdoor goods vendors, if you’re in need of any gear or a feed.
Cross the road from the station and head up the steps, turning left at the top then immediately right you’ll find yourself walking up sidestreets lined with the abovementioned stalls.
Further up as you approach the national park entrance the road runs alongside a river and the stalls give way to full blown outdoors shops (big international brands such as Merrill & North Face have shops here, alongside domestic Korean brands). Eventually you reach the park entrance and a large map on a board showing the multitude of trails in the park.
Follow the signs for 자운봉, Jaunbong (the peak) or 천축사, Cheonchuksa (a large temple at roughly the halfway point). Shortly after the entrance there’s a ranger station, and halfway from that to Cheonchuksa there’s a shelter (Dobong Shelter, 도봉대피소, Dobong Daepiso), all of which have toilets available.
The path’s well-maintained and you’re mostly hiking through the forest, but at the top Dobongsan has a series of granite formations which require some scrambling (there are fixed hand rails to haul yourself up on).
From Jaunbong there’s a great scrambling route along the ridge to a secondary peak (Podae Peak, 포대정상, Podae Jeongsang), it has fixed chains on all the steeper sections and is a great bit of fun but inexperienced hikers may find it a bit alarming – I love it. From Podae you can then return the way you came or descend via Mangwolsa Temple (망월사) on a trail which brings you down to Mangwolsa Station (Line 1).
You can get up & down Dobongsan in a few hours if you’re quick, but if you want to allow time for Podae ridge and maybe the descent via Mangwolsa you’ll probably want to allow for 5 hours (perhaps more, depending on your speed and tendencies for photo & rest stops).
Dobongsan’s also a popular spot for more serious rock climbing:
A couple of climbers once stopped for a chat (possibly the two in this pic) and ended up inviting me to join their climbing club, but on that occasion I was only in Korea briefly en route to Japan (after doing the Trans-Siberian Railway) and left Seoul a couple of days later.
The mountain can be climbed in all seasons, but if you do it in winter make you’re appropriately dressed and prepared for snow and ice; I did it once in early December and it was still ice-free, but it would be pretty sketchy up there in poor winter conditions wearing only sneakers… in fact if it’s winter maybe just go skiing instead!
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Have you climbed Dobongsan? How was it? Got any questions? Leave me a comment below and I’ll get back to you!
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