Since I live right below Namsan, I hike that mountain whenever I get the chance. If Namsan can pick up my mood, imagine how much of a high I get while in the mountains of Bukhansan or Dobongsan. Both locations are as beautiful as any of the other famous mountains in the country, especially if you consider the fact that they are within the heart of the city. But it’s no easy task making the 800-meter hike to the top of Bukhansan all the way to Baegundae Peak. If you love the mountains, but don’t have the physical capacity to make it all the way to the top and would rather go for a quiet nature walk, then the walking trail on Bukhansan is a great route for you. It only takes two to three hours to finish the hike, making it the perfect when you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city
and breathe in some fresh air.
The trail was created from a side road that was later connected to the foot of the mountain, allowing people to enjoy walking along the gentle slope. Out of the entire 71.5km road, the first 45.7km, which includes the Seoul city section and Uiryeong-gil (across the center of the mountain) was opened first, and the rest in 2011. The mountain has 21 different trails, with tree-lined, dirt, forest and village paths that are intertwined with several other types of paths. With a light backpack and a friend by my side, the first walk I went for was through the eighth course, Cloud Garden Trail. It’s the most popular trail on the Uiryeong-gil course, and you can begin at Bulgwang Station or Yeonsinnae Station (both Line 6). The duration of this hike is roughly 2hrs and 30mins with a medium level of difficulty. What’s most impressive about this path is the bridge that has been placed through the woods, which is where it got its name of Cloud Garden Trail. When you’re on that bridge, you get a full view of the apartment buildings in Eunpyeong-gu and a dense pine grove stretching their branches towards you from below your feet. To the left of the entrance of Cloud Garden Trail is Bulgwangsa Temple, a simple place with a small front yard and a garbage tin that’s been converted into a mailbox. When you continue up the road after taking a break to catch your breath, you arrive at Eoksae-gil trail and an observatory, which is the perfect spot to take pictures. A field of tall silver grass in the middle of the mountain presents you with an unexpected twist in scenery. You get a clear 180-degree view of the peaks of Bukhansan from here. The second time I visited the trail, I took the Uiryeong course, which began by disembarking at Suyu Station. I still remember the red and orange leaves greeting me the moment I stepped foot into the woods. Uiryeong-gil is the longest trekking course of the trail. You can feel the difference as you walk to other courses when you notice that the woods are richer and deeper in Uiryeong Valley. Starting the hike from the last bus stop in Ui-dong was harder because it was an uphill hike, but the road down towards Gyohyeon-ri was easier to walk on, as it was a wide dirt road previously used by the military. When we descended the mountain, it was like we had been dropped off in an unfamiliar countryside village. We even had to take an intercity bus back home (we ended up in Gyeonggi-do Province). Closed off to most hikers until 2009, one can now get into this quiet and secluded valley by making reservations on the website (reservation. knps.or.kr) and bringing your ID with you on the reserved date.