Fall is my favourite time of year. The season is especially nice in Seoul and it is the best time to go hiking. And given Seoul’s topography, there’s never any shortage of options. Gwanaksan is one mountain I’ve been meaning to get to for some time.
Despite being referred to as a “small” mountain, the 4.1 km hike from the subway station to the 629m summit (Yeonjudae) is not exactly an easy climb. Much of the trail is rocky without any real discernible path.
Regardless, if you’re up for a little exercise, the views from the summit are fantastic.
There are a number of trails that lead to the top but the most popular starting point is from Gwancheon Park, just behind Gwacheon Government Complex.
At the foot of Gwanaksan, just beyond the Gwancheon Park entrance, is Gwacheon Hyanggyo, a Confucian temple. This educational institution was established by the government during the Joseon Dynasty. The distance from Gwacheon Hyanggyo to Yeonjudae is 3.2 km.
Just beyond that are several makgeolli (a cloudy rice wine) and bindaetteok (mung bean pancake) vendors, the quintessential snack to wolf down after your climb.
From there the path starts and stretches all the way up along the stream, past numerous resting stations, small stacks of wishing stones beside rushing brooks, and Jangseung, traditional Korean totem poles. Some larger stones here and there are marked with Buddhist scriptures.
Founded in 677, Gwanaksan’s largest temple, Yeonjuam is located at the summit. Four hundred meters from there is Yeonjudae. Arguably the most incredible attraction on Gwanaksan is the beautiful little Buddhist shrine that clings dangerously to the cliff.
Getting there: Gwanaksan is very easy to get to. Take subway Line 4 to Gwancheon Station and get out at Exit 7. Walk straight for 550m and turn left. The park entrance will be just up on your right. There’s a convenience store just before the entrance if you need to stock up on supplies.
Canada-born Gregory B. Curley is a professional photographer based in Seoul. His work has appeared in The Korea Herald, SEOUL Magazine, Elle, MTV, 10 Magazine, Morning Calm, CNNGo, and CNN. You can find his work at hermithideaways.com and on twitter.com/gregorycurley.
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