Mount Seoraksan, South Korea

Hike Mt Seoraksan Ulbansawi Course

Ulbansawi Course

Nature has a soothing effect on someone's soul. It nourishes the deep, unknown feeling of being close to its endless beauty. I am a child of the green pasture. I always stand in awe of the magnificent things I see when I'm out in the wild. The mountains are one of the most beautiful and mysterious places on earth. It grows and changes each season. 

When I got the chance to visit South Korea which boasts splendid arrays of beautiful mountains. I didn't think twice about visiting one of the most visited mountains in the country. Mount Seoraksan is situated in Gangwon province in the Eastern Part of South Korea. It is also considered the highest mountain in the Taebaek mountain range. A national park located in the city of Sokcho which was also my next destination. The weather up in the mountains can change drastically, so better equip yourself with the right pair of winter hiking clothes.  Let’s go! 

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Travel Tips
  • For flights, Skyscanner is excellent for comparing the best airline deals.
  • For accommodations, our family trusts for reasonable prices.

How to get there: Mt. Seoraksan

I booked ahead of time via email for a two-night hostel stay around the city area of Sokcho. A place near the mountain entrance of Mt. Seokraksan. The blog I read was very confusing because it was pointing me to the Gangnam station instead of the Express Bus Terminal station. I should have figured it out on my own just based on the name itself, yet I didn't and went all the way to Gangnam station. The wrong turn took my precious lunchtime, I had to give up a good Korean meal for a takeaway snack. 

Pack some Snacks

Make sure to pack enough supply of goodies for the bus trip unless you're planning to sleep the whole time. Passengers are allowed to eat inside the bus even in the train service in South Korea compared to Singapore where a lot of things are banned. I purchased a money T-card in the airport for all my transportation transactions yet the counter didn't accept my card when I purchased the bus ticket. 

I even used that card when I was in Jeju Island, so better have enough won with you and try not to top up too much on your T-money card. (Transportation T-Money Card and Initial Top-up: 30,000 won- 60,000 won / 40 SGD-70 SGD). The staff counter didn't bother to explain instead she angrily pointed me to another counter to pay cash. I'm guessing they only accept cash, so I just let that pass. 

Seoul to Sokcho

How to get there: 
Express Bus Terminal Station. (Brown Line 9)
Ticket  Fare: 18,500 won / 22 SGD / 16 USD
Travel Time: 3.5-hour ride

Sokcho to James Blue Hostel 

How to get there: 
a. Go to the right side of the Sok-cho intercity bus terminal then take the second right and walk along the street. Across the street is where you'll find the hostel. Try to ask around and say "Si-cheong" which means "City hall" in Korean, as the hostel is near the Sok-cho city hall too.

b. From the express bus terminal. Take a cab to the hostel. 

Where to Stay

1 Night: 20,000 won
Taxi Fare from Sokcho Express bus terminal to James Hostel: 4,000-6,000 won

I arrived at night and the Taxi driver didn't know my hostel's location at first so he tried calling the hostel owner, James for directions, then he realized he knew the guy himself. We had a good laugh, he welcomed me to Korea and brought me safely to my hostel. So far for the past few days, I've stayed in Korea the locals I've met were really friendly and accommodating. I've also noticed that most of my fond encounters with Koreans were all in the countryside, the city is too crowded for some to be nice to each other, especially for tourists. 

Dinner in 7'11

It was already late at night and the only available food outlet in the area was 7'11. This international convenience store is a lifesaver for tourists all over the world. A safe haven for shelter, inquiries, purchase of food, medicine, and all kinds of necessities you forgot to pack on your trip. 

7'11 Rice Meal: 2,000-4,000 won

Bus to Mt. Seoraksan

I went to bed tired from the long bus ride, woke up late for breakfast, and left the guesthouse late as well. A great reminder of my laziness which I happily repeated over and over again. I left the guesthouse around 10:30 Am and immediately caught the bus to Mt. Seoraksan. I used my T-money card on all my bus and train trips in South Korea except for the bus ride to Sokcho. On my bus ride to Seoraksan, I met 3 friendly Malaysian ladies, all of whom were teachers in  Johor Bahru. We chitchat till we arrived at our stop. I like it when people are amused by me for traveling and climbing a mountain alone. 

Meet Friendly Hikers

It isn't really my first trek alone in a foreign country, I remember my first climb was Mount Batur in Bali, Indonesia. I walked together with the Malaysian ladies, took photographs, and even hike together before we separate ways. They've even persuaded me to take the cable car however the trip was canceled due to strong winds. I was strongly advised not to go to Ulbansawi Peak. My desired trek for that day was to conquer Daecheongbong Peak however there's a certain period in Korea where all the mountain summit are prohibited to climb, it happened during my trip. 

Mountain Not Access Period: Seasonal Forest Fire Watches by Park March 2 - May 15

Mount Seoraksan - Outer Seoraksan

Admission Fee: Adults 3,500 won
First Course: Mount Seoraksan Entrance to  Heundeulbawi Rock then to Ulsanbawi peak
Total Climb Duration: 4 hours 

My Mistake

I walked with my new found friends till the Sinheungsa Temple then a few metres away they let me go to my death wish. Proud and strong I walk my way up to the Heundeulbawi Rock then to Ulsanbawi peak. The wind was forceful and violent, a few climbers even turned back due to his force. Some Korean climbers motion me to turn back, pointing to the sky twirling their hands rapidly signaling the bad weather. I was stubborn and impulsive instead of stepping back for safety I continued climbing the metal stairs. My grip was holding on to the metal railing not just for support but for my dear life. The furious wind kept pushing me to the sides, one slip, and I say goodbye to the good life. I was intensely struggling that I can't even straighten my back yet I kept going up until I reached the top. 

Unforgettable Experience

The funny thing is I still manage to get a picture of the view from the top. When I stepped on the peak's ultimate ground the wind immediately slammed and pinned me to the big rock. I was trapped in a small corner of the big rock for a few seconds. It was hard to keep my eyes open, my legs were dead tired and I thought that was it. Nah! not really that's too dramatic. But I was really scared and I prayed hard for strength to lift myself up from my misery. One step at a time. I cried. I just focus on getting down. Gripped the handrails hard so I won't lose my balance. When I got the chance to breathe, I cried, laughed and I thanked God with all my heart. I was alone up there. If I stayed longer there I could go into hypothermia. I also have the feeling that the wind might change course and this time around it will be pushing me off the cliff. It will take days for rescue. 

Knowing all these things could have happened to me at that very moment made me appreciate life more. I hope we don't neet to go through life-threatening situations to realize how precious our life is. I didn't go anywhere else afterward, I went to the bus stop and message my mum when got back in my guesthouse. 

Never Again

A life-changing experience. Being impulsive and reckless won't get you anywhere. During the climb, I thought of completing the climb no matter what happened despite the warnings from fellow climbers, because I thought to myself I'm such a loser for not reaching the summit of Mt. Hallasan in Jeju island so I can't afford another losing end again. My ego got in the way. Pride swallowed me whole and I've almost lost my life for that. It's really not about reaching the top, it's the experience. 

Lesson Learned

The journey taught you more about yourself, your thoughts, and your physical being. You will learn things about your body like which part of the leg needs more work, or even things that make you motivated and snacks that work for you. Simple things. Blinded with a thirst for achievement and self-pride. It's not actually a bad thing but when you know you're getting yourself on the edge with the dark knight might as well be rational and walk away with your head held up high. 

Timeline-Ulbansawi Course

I left the Guesthouse around 10:30 Am, crossed the street behind James hostel and luckily caught Bus 7-1 bound for Sogongwon Bus stop, which is a stop located outside the Seoraksan National Park Entrance. Before 3:15 pm I was already at the Sogongwon Bus stop and caught the bus right away back to the hostel. 

Tips for hiking Mount Seoraksan

1. Location

It is situated in Gangwon province in the Eastern Part of South Korea. It is also considered the highest mountain in the Taebaek mountain range. 

Seoraksan is considered the third highest mountain in South Korea, next to Mount Hallasan in Jeju Island, with Mount Jirisan as the highest one amongst all.

2. Admission Fee

Mountain Not Access Period: Seasonal Forest Fire Watches by Park March 2 - May 15
Mount Seoraksan - Outer Seoraksan
Admission Fee: Adults 3,500 won

3. How to get there: Seoul to Sokcho

  • Alight at Express Bus Terminal Station. (Brown Line 9)
  • Go to  Exit 2 to Yeongdong Line. 
  • Ticket Counter is just a few metres away from Burger King. 
  • Then proceed to Bus Platform 19 bound for Sokcho. Take the Donghu Express Bus. 
  • Ticket  Fare: 18,500 won / 22 SGD / 16 USD
  • Travel Time: 3.5-hour ride

4. Where to stay

I stayed in James Blue Hostel
1 Night : 20,000 won
Address : Kang-won do Sok-cho si Dong-myung dong 466-36. 
Tel : +82 10-5365-4591
Taxi Fare from Sokcho express bus terminal to James Hostel: 4,000-6,000 won
The bus stop for Bus number 7 or 7-1 that goes straight to Seoraksan National Park is just a few metres behind the hostel. 

5. Winter Trekking Checklist

1. Heatech Top and Bottom
2. Winter Jacket with Fleece
3. Waterproof Pants
4. Poncho. The weather is unpredictable in the mountains.
5. Waterproof gloves
6. Bonnet or Ear Muffler
7. Neck Warmer or Scarf
8. Winter or Hiking Boots. Pair it up with some winter socks or hiking socks
9. Lip Balm for men and Lipstick for ladies
10. Moisturizer (petroleum jelly) and apply Sunblock
11. Snacks (energy bars, cookies)
12. Water 
13. Whistle and a Photocopy of your passport for an emergency. At the same time inform your guesthouse that you're climbing Mt. Seoraksan for that day.
14. Everything is packed inside a zip-lock bag. Bring along small packs of silica gel to absorb moisture.
15. Don't forget your Camera. Place a separate silica gel pack inside your camera bag. 

6. Trekking Course 

Visit their website for more information about the trails

a. Daecheongbong Peak, the highest peak in Seoraksan at 1708m. Make your way to the southern part of Seoraksan in Oseak, which is famous for its mineral springs, from there you can easily access the trail to the peak. However, the mountain was not accessible during my trip.

b. My Trail was from Mount Seoraksan Entrance to Heundeulbawi Rock then to Ulsanbawi Peak. 
Total Climb Duration: 4 hours

c. Temple to nearby bridges and parks

d. Trail and Bridges going to the waterfalls

7. Overnight Stay on top of the Mountain (Don't forget to Call)

  • The nearest shelter to the peak is the Jungcheoung Shelter stay there and catch the sunrise. 
  • Reservation number: 033-636-7700  
  • KNPS Portal
  • Reservation

8. Easiest Way Up

  • Take the cable car near the Sinheungsa Temple area a few metres away from the Seoraksan Entrance. 
  • Required trek time: Approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes
  • Distance: 1.2km (one way)
  • Cable car Adults (ages over 13): 8,500 won Children (ages 4-13): 5,500 won
  • Operating Hours: 2 hours before sunrise to 2 hours before sunset

  • Exit the cable car platform and take the stairway, walk up for about 10 minutes to reach the top of Gwongeumseong also known as Bonghwadae.

9. Food 

  • Food stalls and restaurants are located near the Entrance. 
  • Try something new and have lunch on the rocks or a picnic near the park.

10. Make a Wish

I read a blog about a hiker who went to Mount Seoraksan and collected stones along the way. After the climb, he piled all the stones like a tower, made a wish for each of them for himself and his loved ones and left the mountain with a smile. I did the same, it felt really great it was like letting go of my worries along with the wind. It wasn't just me but there were a few more stones piled in every corner of the trail. I hope and pray all our heart's desires come true. 

Always Check the Weather

The next day I woke at the same time and went back for the cable car, unfortunately, the weather was still bad so it was still canceled. I made my way to the waterfalls. If you want to avoid the crowd, hike on weekdays and avoid the weekends. Everyone queued everywhere. I don't like the crowd, Korean hikers don't care who they bumped into and almost everyone wanted to be first in line. 

I had my lunch before heading out to the bus stop around 12:30 noon outside the Seoraksan Entrance, then again I was able to catch the bus right away. My plan was to get back to Seoul as soon as possible so I took the 2 pm Bus to Gangnam. The supposed trip of 4 hours turned into an agonizing 6 hours bus ride due to the weekend traffic jam. 

Have fun and be safe ^__^

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