I’ve been trying to push myself to become more active (to minimal success, if I’m honest with myself). But essentially, what that means is… I try to do a “hike” in every location I go to. For Seoul, we figured we’d do Dobongsan – as recommended by our local friend. As the Google images looked pretty enough, and the blogs we read mentioned it was a relatively easy ~3-4 hours hike – we happily made plans to conquer Dobongsan Peak! In the end, it was more like… Dobongsan Peak conquered us lol
For full information on hours of operation and hiking route, click this link. To get a better idea of what the hike’s like, read on!
How to get to Dobongsan
- Take the subway to Dobongsan Station (either Line 1 or 7), then exit at Exit No. 1
- Cross the street, then follow the Korean ajummas (aunties and uncles) dressed in brightly colored hiking clothes and hiking sticks. Trust me, you can’t miss them
- Keep following the ajummas. If you lose sight of them, just follow the road that leads to the big mountain you see in the distance. Along the way, you’ll pass a lot of vendors selling hiking gear and Korean food
Tip: Buy gimbap and makgulli from the vendors. This will serve as your lunch. I don’t know if I was just really hungry, but the gimbap was AMAZING, made me wish I had bought two rolls! Note: Each roll cost ~2,000 won (although this varies slightly from stall to stall, depending on the ingredients)
What to bring
I think regardless of the season, the top of the mountain will always be cold. So, I suggest you wear a Dri-FIT top (basically a shirt that allows you to breathe, and moves sweat away from the body), with a windbreaker jacket to protect you from strong winds. For your bottoms, I suggest you wear breathable bottoms (e.g. heat tech leggings, comfortable jeans), and hiking shoes. Note: We wore rubber shoes which was largely serviceable, but we had to give up in the final stretch, at the point where you had to “scale” up the mountain!
In addition, I suggest you bring 1-2 Liters of water. While there are points on the trail where you can refill your water bottle (e.g. at temples), certain trails skip these refill stations, so just bring enough to be safe. Example, for our trail, we didn’t see a single water refill station or bathroom!
For all your gear, I suggest you bring a backpack as there are certain parts where you’ll need to use both your hands to secure your position (or to hang on for dear life!) Using the same reasoning, I would NOT recommend bringing a hiking stick as you won’t need it when you’re scrambling up, and it’ll just get in the way
Lastly, bring a can-do attitude, or a “I won’t let the ajummas beat me” attitude! Haha, this served us in good stead when we felt like quitting after ~3 hours of hiking, with no idea how much longer it would take to get to the peak (that, plus we weren’t sure we could handle going back the same way we had gone up – replete with rock climbing in certain parts…)
What to expect
- Gorgeous, absolutely gorgeous views!
- At least ~3.5 hours hike (round-trip for the easiest route), although this steadily increases if you:
- Stop for photo breaks
- Stop for lunch breaks (or catch your breath breaks)
- Stupidly take a harder route
- All of the above (LIKE US)
- Being regularly overtaken by Korean ajummas, who are super friendly (alas, very few speak English) but are obviously more fit than you
Onwards to the hike…
Are you scared yet? Haha, don’t be! All in all, my friends and I had a very enjoyable hike and we jokingly agree that it was the highlight of our trip. To be honest, the reason why we had such difficulty was (1) we were not fit AT ALL, and (2) we rather stupidly veered off-track and ended up on one of the more difficult (but prettier!) routes
Anyway, most of the trails are really well-marked; but assuming you don’t speak Korean, your first stop should be the ranger’s station to pick up a map and to ask the ranger for advice. The ranger we met was so friendly, and he genuinely seemed to enjoy helping all these random foreigner hikers – so cute! So, we told him we only wanted to do a ~3-4 hours hike, and that we wanted an easy trail. No problem, he said, whilst simultaneously highlighting his recommended trail (green trail going up to the peak, then orange trail going down – as seen in photo below). Supposedly, this route was relatively easy, would take ~3.5 hours round-trip, and was scenic. If we felt iffy, we could opt to do the blue trail, which was the easiest, BUT we wouldn’t reach the Dobongsan Peak
*Note: The yellow highlight below is ALL ME. That’s essentially the route we ended up taking since we veered off-track (completely unintentionally…)
Feeling confident, we agreed that we could do the green trail and off we went! Past the ranger’s station, you’ll see this sign
When you see it, TURN LEFT (if you want to follow the green trail). Noobs that we are, we continued straight ahead and therein lay the beginning of our (mis)adventure. Basically, if you hit a “parking lot” like area, know that you’ve missed the turn and you should head back. BUT, if you like our photos below, then feel free to continue with this route – it’s doable, don’t worry! Just a tad bit more difficult than our presumed afternoon stroll
So, following our trail… it starts off innocuous enough. There’s a light ascent but everything’s paved, followed by slightly slippery stone steps. The air is brisk, and we’re hiking along with Korean ajummas. Everything’s right with the world, and we’re all singing happily (if you must know, our song of choice was “Top of the World” by The Carpenters). Along the way, we take nice scenic shots
After an hour or so, we reach a structure that kind of looks like a temple. Yay, we think we’ve reached the Cheongchuksa Temple (which should have a water refill station, and also signals that we’re halfway there). But wait… this temple seems very spartan, not at all what we expected… At this point, we start feeling slightly worried, so we head on over to the temple to cross-check whether this is indeed Cheongchuksa Temple. Guess what? It’s not! Apparently, we’re at Eunseogam Temple – completely off track!
Mini powwow later, we decide we should stay the course and continue hiking up. Then… the rock climbing begins. Certain parts are at crazy ~50+ degrees angle, with a notched rope you can use to help pull yourself up. At this point, we’re ~1.5 hours in and figure it can’t get worse (it does… but it’s a bit late for regrets now!)
Thankfully, by the time our misgivings become serious enough, we come upon this beautiful panoramic view of the mountain and we’re rejuvenated! Off we go again!
Woops, more rock climbing, some rock scrambling – it’s starting to look more and more difficult, but we shoulder on. Until once again, we’re rewarded by a beautiful rock cropping – perfect for taking IG shots (at this point, we had already reached the ~2.5 hour mark). We also decide to stop for lunch here, so we can enjoy the scenic views and congratulate ourselves for getting this far
After a track where we were kind of skirting the edge of the mountain and some death defying stairway climb, we FINALLY reach the peak! Woo, sense of accomplishment indeed
Afterwards, there’s another steep incline with railings that made the previous hike seem like a baby trail. At this point, we threw up our hands in surrender. The sun was starting to set, who knew how long this trail would take – we had reached the peak, it was time to go home…
This time, we took the easy way down yay! I honestly don’t know which trail this was anymore, but it’s essentially the wooden staircase that led us all the way down to a hidden temple, after which it was leisurely stroll through a dry bed stream. It was therapeutic
Finally, after an arduous ~5.5 hours hike (~1.5x the expected time), we were back at the ranger’s station – just in time for the sun set, wew! Along the way, we took more photos – obviously!
We had definitely racked up an appetite by this point, so we were all extremely eager to head back home and reward ourselves with a yummy dinner! If you’re interested to explore Seoul further, do check out my other Seoul blogs as well: