As you climb upwards there comes a point where you forget about the start of your route. You don’t remember those stretches you did before you began. You discard that memory of when you thought about just taking the day off.
At a certain point along your climb you’ll be focused on the summit.
Jeju Island, South Korea
Located to the south of the Korean peninsula, the island of Jeju covers an area of 714 square miles (1,849km2). As a volcanic island, the region was recently voted in as one of the ‘New 7 Wonders of Nature’. And why not?
The terrain consists of craters, lava tubes, beaches, and a sizable mountain.
As a popular destination for Korean honeymooners, Jeju offers the opportunity to experience astonishing natural landscapes while also taking some time to unwind. With a rented car, a three-day trip is sufficient to do everything from hiking to the nation’s ceiling to delving deep into the Earth.
At the center of the island is the reason for its existence: Hallasan. Reaching a height of 6,398 feet (1,950m), the mountain represents the highest point in South Korea. As such, it’s no small wonder that reaching the summit is a goal of both locals and foreigners alike.
Since the slope up towards the peak isn’t all that extreme, there are a few different trails that visitors can use to get towards the top. And while completion is entirely possible, don’t think that your day of hiking will be a piece of cake.
As the longest hike towards the summit of Hallasan, the Seongpanak Trail is one of two routes that takes visitors right to the Baeknokdam Crater (true summit). The 6 mile (9.6km) one-way journey will take somewhere between four to five hours to complete.
Though not the most scenic of the mountain’s trails, the route will take hikers through dense vegetation, up seemingly endless stairs, and along slippery rocks. A well-placed snack shelter will be your last stop before the trail opens up and the summit begins to present itself.
Make sure to pay attention to the cutoff times at the shelter, as those who arrive too late won’t be able to proceed towards the summit.
Starting from the northwestern end of the mountain, the Eorimok Trail is suited for recreational hikers. Running a one-way distance of just under 3 miles (4.7km), the trail reaches its maximum height at Witse Oreum (5577ft/1700m).
Offering sights of the surrounding landscape for much of the gentle slope, Eorimok is the perfect spot for a nice light day of walking. However, as one of the more popular routes, it’s unlikely that you’ll get much in the way of privacy.
When To Go
With trails open year-round, don’t limit yourself while hiking Hallasan. Summer rains may make your hike slippery, while the summit may be snowy in the winter.
Temperatures at the base of the mountain will range from winter lows of 29°F (-2°C) to summer highs of 82°F (28°F). Keep in mind that it will be a fair bit colder once you reach the summit.
Getting There & Around
To get to the base of either trail, look to grab a bus from the Jeju Intercity Bus Terminal. Buses will run fairly regularly and will take you right towards the start of the route. Taxis can be arranged but will cost at least $20US each way.
- Mid-range accommodations: $80-130
- Meal: $5-15
- Beer: $2.50
- Bring some change to buy a cup of noodles halfway up.
- Carry an extra layer and perhaps a rain jacket for the summit’s inconsistent temperatures.
- Watch your step. Smooth rocks may have you rolling your ankles.
- Plan on getting to the summit without a decent pair of hiking shoes.
- Sleep in. To get to the top you’re going to need to get an early start.
- Fear going at it alone. You’ll meet plenty of friendly Koreans along the way.
- The summit of Hallasan holds a crater lake for much of the year.
- The highest point on the Korean Peninsula is Baekdu Mountain (9,003ft/2,744m) in North Korea.
- Traditionally, Jeju is a matriarchal society.
Feature Image Credit: benkucinski