Sometimes the best experiences happen by accident. This is how I feel about our hike to Jaunbong Peak in Bukhansan National Park. Despite planning for a moderate hike, the park ranger convinced us to go for the Jaunbong Peak (or Dobongsan Peak) hike. Although the hike was steep and a difficult climb, the spectacular views at the top make it one of the best hikes I've done!
Hiking in Bukhansan National Park
Located just north of Seoul, Bukhansan National Park covers an area of ~80 km and is a popular spot for hiking in Korea. Numerous trails wind over the rocky peaks and beautiful temples dot the mountainsides. As you climb up to the peaks, you'll have stunning views of Seoul and its suburbs.
If you love the outdoors and have a day to visit Bukhansan National Park during your trip to Seoul, I highly recommend it!
When to Hike in Bukhansan National Park?
Because hiking is a popular activity for Koreans, it can get crowded in Bukhansan National Park on the weekends. If you have the opportunity to go on a weekday, you'll have fewer crowds on the mountains with you.
We hiked up to Jaunbong Peak on a cold Friday in November which was a great time to do it. Since we were hiking straight uphill, it was nice that it was a bit chilly. Even though it was a weekday, we still encountered a few other hikers on the path. So I can imagine how crowded it would be during the weekends!
Visiting Seoul? Check out my Guide to Seoul (and Why You Should Visit in Autumn)!
How Long Does it Take to Hike Jaunbong Peak?
The path that we followed up to Jaunbong Peak took roughly 2.5 hours from the Dobongsan metro station to the peak.
If we'd returned going back the same way we came up, it probably would have been slightly faster than coming up. But we took a longer way back, so our total roundtrip hike time was roughly 5 hours.
This is the map the ranger gave to us. She drew on the map and circled points to see along the way. I highlighted the route so hopefully you can see it better in the photo. As you'll notice, there are plenty of other trail options. And this is just in the area of the park where we went hiking!
Who Should Hike Jaunbong Peak?
Although not a long hike distance-wise, the hike to Jaunbong Peak is incredibly steep. You'll climb over 700 m (~2,300 ft) in ~3.0 km (1.8 mi).
The trail also involves several rock scrambles. At times, you'll have to climb up sheer rock faces using a railing or rope for support. On hikes like these, I always wish I had more upper body strength!
As a result, I don't recommend this hike for beginners or anyone with an intense fear of heights. I'm not in the best physical shape. But I am determined when it comes to hiking, so I made it. Afterwards, it took my legs (and arms) several days to stop aching! Of course, Jeremy wasn't sore for as long as I was!
Enjoy hikes with great views? Check out "Hiking Hong Kong: A Complete Guide to Hiking Mount High West"!
Items for Hiking Jaunbong Peak
You probably have your own list of things to bring when you go hiking, but here are a few of my recommendations for this particular hike.
Pro Tip: Although hiking poles aren't necessary, they would be helpful when navigating the more difficult portions of the trail. If you have them, consider bringing them for the Jaunbong Peak hike. I saw plenty of hikers using them on this trail.
Getting to Bukhansan National Park from Seoul
Since Bukhansan National Park has a ton of hiking trail options, I had trouble deciding which area of the park we should visit. After watching this vlog by Samuel and Audrey on hiking Uiam Peak, Jeremy and I decided to head to the northern part of the park.
We entered the park through the Dobong Park entrance. But there are many entrances so if you want to hike in another area of the park, you could use a different entrance.
Getting to the Dobong Park Entrance
To get there, we hopped on the metro near our hotel in downtown Seoul. The 17-stop ride to Dobongsan Station (line 1) took roughly 40 minutes.
Pro Tip: If you need outdoor supplies or a bite to eat, you can grab it in Dobongsan before heading into the park. There are plenty of little shops along the way before you get to the park entrance.
The park entrance is about a 1.3 km (0.8 mi) walk from Dobongsan Station. When you get to the park, you'll find an information center and ranger station where you should get a trail map.
This is where I was convinced to hike up to Jaunbong Peak. Let's face it, it wasn't a hard sell. The ranger pointed out a route on the map, told us it was the best hike, so we took it!
Hike to Jaunbong Peak
Since we hadn't planned on such a long hike, Jeremy and I started later in the day than we should have. We left the information center to begin our hike around 2 pm - I don't recommend this! Start no later than noon for a more enjoyable experience... and to make sure you're finished by dark!
Starting the Hike
After leaving the ranger station, we followed signs to the Gwangnyunsa Temple. Close to the entrance of the park, this is the first of several temples we encountered on our hike.
The trail starts out paved and gently sloping uphill which had me wondering why some hikers were using walking poles.
Although Seoul still had some good fall colors, the leaves in Bukhansan National Park were mostly gone already by late November.
Soon after beginning the hike, the trail got steeper and became a dirt path with rocky steps. Every now and then we'd have a long stairway with wooden steps as well - just to keep things interesting!
As we neared the Cheonchuksa Temple, we saw orange lanterns strung up along the trail. Coming closer, we heard the local "wildlife" meowing as three adorable cats came out to beg for food.
Jeremy attempted to make friends with them as I took photos. But they were suspicious and batted his hand away when they saw it didn't contain any food!
After climbing lots of stairs, we reached the Cheonchuksa Temple around 2:45 pm (45 minutes after starting the trail).
Established in 673 as the "Okcheonam Hermitage" this temple is the oldest one in the region. It's been renovated a few times throughout the centuries. But in 1936, it was renovated in the style in which it appears today.
Looming behind the temple, we could see where we were going. Though I still wasn't one hundred percent sure we were hiking all the way to the top.
Looking out over the valley on the temple grounds, we started to see glimpses of the views. They only got better the further up we climbed!
Continuing upward from the temple, the trail gets rockier and steeper. In several places, we had to hold on to the railings as we climbed.
When we reached the Madangbawi Rock, we were rewarded by some stunning views of Seoul. On a clear day like the one we had, you can see the N. Seoul Tower on Namsan Hill!
After a brief pause, we made our way across the sheer rock face to continue the trail. If you have time to stop and rest, this is a great place to do it. Have a snack, drink some water, and rest up for the intense climb ahead!
Since the sun was already going down, Jeremy and I didn't have time to stop and appreciate this view for long. We still had a ways to climb!
Steep and Rocky Climb to Jaunbong Peak
Leaving Madangbawi Rock, it's another ~.5 km up to Jaunbong Peak. This final part is by far the most difficult section of the trail.
At one point - dehydrated and legs quivering - I wondered if I was going to make it. We unfortunately did not bring enough water for this hike! But I'm stubborn so I pushed on.
Already exhausted and looking up at the final climb on the side of the ridge was intimidating. But I could see the summit was near!
Jaunbong Peak Views
The climb was worth it! 360 degree views and I felt like I was on the top of the world. Had to be careful not to trip though since it was a long, rocky way down!
Following the ranger's instructions, we decided not to go straight down from Jaunbong Peak but continued along the Podae Ridgeline. Dobongsan Mountain has several rocky peaks though Jaunbong is the highest.
Climbing along the ridgeline, we had several more ups and downs, scrambling up rocky paths. At one point, we had a bit of a detour around one of the peaks that was closed due to dangerous conditions.
Since the sun was already beginning to set, we probably should have gone straight down the way we came. But we didn't. Instead we caught this amazing sunset!
Finally at the Podae fire guard post, we turned and began heading down the mountain towards Mangwolsa Temple.
Arriving at the Mangwolsa Temple at dusk, we were able to snap a few photos before it was too dark. The temple was beautiful and I would love to have seen it during the daytime.
Finishing the Trail in the Dark
Although the sun set at 5:15 pm, we still had a lot of ground to cover. Luckily light lingers after sunset and we kept up as quick a pace as we could. The trail was rocky, but relatively easy.
Towards the end, we walked along Deokjesaem Spring and could hear the sounds of rushing water beside us. Despite not being able to see it!
Since you never know when this could happen to you, I recommend having a flashlight on hand! We didn't have to use ours, but it was comforting to know we had one just in case.
Returning to Mangwolsa Station
Instead we came down a different trail than the one we went up, we ended up closer to Mangwolsa Station (also on line 1). The walk from the park exit to the station was ~1.5 km (~ 1 mile).
Although we'd signs for wild boars throughout the park as we hiked, we didn't see one until we reached the first houses after the park. I heard dogs barking behind me so I turned to look. A giant pig was running across the road away from the dogs chasing it! Thankfully it ran into the woods and not at us.
Eating in Mangwolsa
Since we skipped lunch, we were incredibly hungry by the time we finished our hike! Luckily, there are plenty of restaurants to choose from in the town!
We popped into a restaurant next to Mangwolsa Station. The owner was friendly, but spoke no English. Since the menu was written in Korean and didn't have pictures, she tried reading it to us (in Korean). But since I neither read nor speak Korean, the only thing I recognized was "bulgogi." So I ordered that. Pretty satisfied with the result!
Once we finished, we hopped back on the metro and got back to downtown Seoul in ~45 minutes!
Looking for other tasty meals? Check out my post "Top 5 Delicious Meals to Eat in Seoul"!
Ready to Hike?
On your next trip to Seoul, I hope you'll try this hike to Jaunbong Peak! Even though it's challenging, the views are incredible! They're definitely worth the sore legs you might have the next day.
Have you hiked in Bukhansan National Park? Which hike did you do? Tell me which hike you recommend I try in the future!