Bugaksan - East to West Traverse
With most mountains, the goal is to get to the peak and enjoy the view. Bugaksan offers an alternate approach to hiking. Its fortress wall and two gates are the main attractions. The peak is just an afterthought. How refreshing!
The Scouting Report
Be Careful! The military is everywhere.
No joke. There is a heavy security presence on Bugaksan due to the presidential Blue House's proximity to the mountain. The South Korean military likes to be overcautious when it comes to keeping tabs on everyone who visits this mountain.
In 1968, there was an attempted assassination on the president. Would-be assassins were found hiding in the woods on Bugaksan. For a long time, the mountain was completely closed off to off civilian traffic. It has only recently opened to the public and permitted hikers.
Even though civilians are allowed on the mountain, all the guests are closely monitored. Proper ID must be submitted (ARC, passport, etc.) and an visitor ID badge must be worn at all times.
Regardless of all the 'official' oversight, it is still an enjoyable mountain to hike that offers great views of central Seoul.
Steps. Lots of steps. The path is very well trod and marked. It can easily be done in a pair of sneakers. Just make sure you are comfortable ascending and descending lots and lots of steps.
(1=easy, 5=difficult): 1.5
The only notable section is the steep descent at the end.
As far as Seoul hikes are concerned, on a scale of 1-5, with 5 being the most difficult hike, it carries a 4 rating.
How To Get There
Subway Line 3 - Anguk Station (안국역). Take exit 2. Right outside of exit 2, there is a bus stop. Take Bus No. 2 from that bus stop and get off at Sungkyunkwan University (성균관대학교). Travel time to Sungkyunkwan University is usually slightly less than 10 minutes. You will know you are close when the bus starts to climb a steep hill. Once off the bus, keep walking uphill until you reach a bunch of big white Korean letters perched atop a rock. The lettering says, "와룡공원". This is Waryong Park. The hike starts here and ends at Changuimun Gate.
*You could also take a cab from Anguk Station. Tell the cab driver, "Waryong Park". If the driver seems confused it is because the name of the park recently changed from Samcheong Park. The name change has caused confusion. That's alright, though; Cassius Clay felt confused as well.
After passing the white sign, continue uphill. You will eventually reach an entrance where you have the option of either going left or right. Both signs will be for Seoul City Wall. Take a left and continue towards the small blue house.
Walk along the wall for 800 meters. You will reach a sign for Malbaw Information Center. Take a left and go up the stairs. Keep following signs for Malbaw Information Center.
Malbaw Information Center doubles as the entrance to the portion on the mountain guarded by the military. In order to gain entrance, you will need to fill out a form and present your ARC or passport. You can also use the facilities here to fill up on or relieve yourself of water.
Keep following the wall. You will soon reach Sukjeongmun Gate. It is an okay structure. Nice, but nothing to write home about. It was rebuilt in 1976.
An easy rule of thumb for this hike is to follow the wall. You will walk along the wall. The wall will always be there to guide you. Did I mention there is a wall?
There are great views of Seoul from this mountain. However, you can't take pictures when facing the Blue House or Gyeongbok Palace. This is due to an attempted assassination attempt on the president in 1968. The assassins attempted to attack the Blue House from Bugaksan.
During this route, you will pass the pine tree that was shot at during the shootout when the would-be assassins were caught. Shortly after you pass the pine tree, you will reach a set of three signs. Follow the sign that reads, "청의문". Even if you don't see the signs, all you have to do is follow the wall.
Once you start descending, you will reach an information center where you will give up your passes. Then you will reach Changuimun Gate. The gate is nice but not as old as one might be expecting. (Be on the lookout for deer in the area, too.)
Near Changuimun Gate, there will be a sign for Gyeongbok Palace Station. It will say 3,000 meters. You can follow the sign and walk in that direction for 3 kilometers until you reach Gyeongbok Palace Station. It is actually a nice walk.
If you are worn out from the hike and you would rather take a bus to Gyeongbok Palace Station, walk in the direction of Gyeongbok Palace. Follow the path until it comes out onto the street. You will walk on the path for only 2 minutes and then it ends. Cross the street, and you will see a bus stop. The bus stop's name is Jahamun-Gogae, Yun Dong-ju Literary House (Bus Stop ID: 01-106). Take either Bus No. 7022 or 7212 and get off at Gyeongbok Palace Station. It is about 4 stops away.
Budget around 2 hours for this trip.
Inwangsan lies immediately to the west of Bugaksan. It is very possible to combine the two into one longer hike.
Near the eastern portal of this hike is Samcheongdong. It is a chic little area that has many small eateries, cafes, and bars. The streets are small and it has a distinct feel relative to the rest of Seoul. Check out our Samcheong Neighborhood Exploration Page for more information on this location.
Elsewhere on the Web
- Seoul Fortress Wall of Mt. Bugaksan - by The Korea Blog
- Bugaksan - by Hiking Hub Korea
- Seoul Fortress Wall of Bugaksan - by The Lost Wanderer
- Hiking in the Heart of Seoul, Korea - Climbing Mt. Bugaksan - by Aclipse
- Bugaksan Fortress Wall in Central Seoul - by KBS
- Bugaksan - by Time
- A Snowy Walk on the Seoul Fortress Wall - by The Soul of Seoul
- Destination: Bugaksan - by Koreabridge
The following video was made by Arirang Culture. It does not focus only on Bugaksan. It has a lot of information about the entire Seoul City Wall.
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Originally posted November 18, 2014
Updated November 19, 2015