Hallasan Mountain in Jeju is the highest peak of South Korea. Mount Hallasan rises to 1,950 meters high. If you are traveling to Jeju, make sure to add a hike to Hallasan Mountain on your itinerary.
Formed by volcanic activity, the mountain is an extinct volcano made largely of lava. It is home to the magnificent Baekrokdam (a lake inside the crater of the volcano at the peak). The mountain is covered with rich alpine flora and lush trees.
The mountain is unique by its majestic cliffs, its steep slopes, its artistic rock formations, and particularly by its myriad of colorful azaleas. Also, there are around 360 small mountains (called “Oreum” in the Jeju dialect, meaning uniquely shaped volcanic mountains) that surround Halla Mountain, which make Jeju so special.
There are 4 main trails to hike on Hallasan Mountain, out of which only 2 reaches its peak. In this post we will provide you with a full guide about each hike and share our experience of reaching Hallasan’s peak, a truly amazing adventure!
Hallasan was an active volcano until about 25,000 years ago, but its last eruption was in 1007. So no worry, it’s not about to wake up. It is characterized by a large number of lava tunnels forming a total of 42 kilometers. Thanks to this, the island and its tunnels were classified in 2007 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can visit some of its laval tunnels, the most popular one is the Manjanggul cave. But we also visited 2 caves in Hallim Park, much smaller, but still fascinating.
Hallasan Mountain has been a natural monument since 1966. It has been a UNESCO biosphere reserve since 2002 (biosphere reserves are areas comprising terrestrial, marine and coastal ecosystems. Each reserve promotes solutions to reconcile the conservation of biodiversity and its sustainable use).
We wrote many posts about Jeju which we compiled here. Check it out if you plan a trip to Jeju.
4 main trails in Hallasan – which ones go to the top?
Let’s start with the easy ones first:
Yeongsil is the easiest trail at Hallasan.
Duration: 2 hours
Length: 3.7 kilometers (one way)
Reach the summit: NO
Booking required: NO
Starting point: Yeongsil Rest Area, Seoguipo-si Youngsil-ro 495 (here)
How to get there: If you are renting a car, then it’s relatively easy to reach the starting point. There are plenty of parking spaces. If you want to get there by bus, take #240 from Jeju City.
Our Experience: Yeongsil is best known in autumn thanks to the amazing foliage. The start of the hike takes place in the woods, you are surrounded on both sides by trees and small streams. It’s quite a relaxing atmosphere. The path cleared up after the forest for a beautiful view of Hallasan. Some of the highlights of Yeongsil are volcano rocks, waterfalls, the view of big valleys, and the crater wall of Hallasan Mountain. Overall it’s a great and easy hike. If you want to train before tackling the tougher hikes to the summit, Yeongsil is a great start.
Length: 4.7 kilometers (one way)
Duration: 2.5 to 3 hours
Reach the summit: NO
Booking required: NO
Starting point: Eorimok rest area, Jeju-si 1100-ro 2070-61 (here)
How to get there: Again, very easy to reach by car. There are plenty of parking spaces. If you want to get there by bus, take #240 from Jeju City (same but to reach Yeongsil)
Our Experience: This short trail is also easy to access for beginners. In spring, the nearby meadows are covered with red royal azaleas. From the stone walkway that leads to Mansedongsan, you will enjoy a breathtaking panoramic view of the countryside and the characteristic Oreums. A great hike, which we really enjoyed. However, as this is one of the shortest trail and yet very scenic, it is also one of the most popular. So don’t expect to be the only one on the trail.
Length: 9.6 kilometers (one way)
Duration: 7h – 9h
Reach the summit: YES
Booking required: YES (here)
Starting point: Seongpanak parking lot, Jeju-si Jochun-eup 516-ro 1865 (here)
How to get there: If you get there by car, there is a huge parking lot. Getting to the Seongpanak trail by bus is easy. From Jeju International Airport – Take bus#181, from Jeju Bus Terminal – Take bus#281 and from Seogwipo – Take bus#182.
Our experience: Seongpanak trail is the most popular trail to reach the summit. It’s constant gentle slope makes it easier to reach the summit. However, out of the 2 trails which brings you to the summit, we felt that Seongpanak was less scenic as most of the time the trail goes through a lush forest without a major panorama until reaching the summit. As it is the easiest trail to reach the summit, expect quite a number of hikers sharing the path with you. (We will go into more details about Seongpanak trail the later in this post).
Length: 8.7 kilometers (one way)
Duration: 8h – 10h
Reach the summit: YES
Booking required: YES (here)
Starting point: Gwaneumsa parking lot near Gwaneumsa temple, Jeju-si Sanrokbuk-ro 588 (here)
How to get there: Taking a taxi or your own rental vehicle is the easiest way. (if you need a rental car, you can book here for the best rate as foreigner)
Our experience: The Gwaneumsa Trail offers the best view of the vertiginous valleys and breathtaking terrain of Mount Hallasan. Halfway along the route are Guringul (a lava cave) and the valley of Tamna. The latter is particularly splendid in autumn thanks to the beauty of its foliage, and in winter, when the whole valley lies under a thin layer of snow. Although considered the hardest trail to reach the summit as it is the steepest with many stairs, Gwaneumsa is by far our favorite one and most scenic. (later in this post we will get into more details about Gwaneumsa trail)
Important information before hiking Mount Hallasan
Not only are there cut-off times you have to stick to, hiking Hallasan is an experience to really enjoy. So leave yourself enough time and do not rush it. Depending on your level you may need to take long breaks. Remember, to reach the summit and get back down you will need at least 7 hours. We needed 8.5 hours!
Pack plenty of food and water
This hike will take the whole day. We read before that there should be a place to get water and small snacks along the way but there weren’t. We later learned that they stopped it due to Covid… not sure why though. But this means, that you need to bring sufficient food for a full day. The most popular snack for hikers in Korea is Gimpap. It’s a korean dish made from cooked rice and ingredients such as vegetables, fish and meats that are rolled in dried sheets of seaweed. You can buy them pretty much in any convenient stores or supermarket. We bought 2 each + other snacks and fruits. We finished everything including 1.5 liters of water each.
Prepare for the weather to change
Have layers ready to take on or off. The temperature may change rapidly. Also when you take a break you may feel cold, so it’s better to take one more layer. When we started our hike it was raining in the morning but we had a beautiful blue sky after lunch time. The sun was really strong at the summit, hence we were happy that we brought our sunscreen too.
You need to book online (at least 1 day before)!
To limit the number of people hiking at the same time on Mount Hallasan, the government implemented a booking system. You do not need to pay but it is mandatory to book in advance. This is only mandatory for the the 2 hikes reaching the top (Seongpanak and Gwaneumsa). You also need to choose your starting time, you have 3 option (5:00-8:00 / 8:00-10:00 or 10:00-13:00). Note that to reach the top (unless you decide to run) you shouldn’t start after 10:00am! There are cut off times, so you need to reach a few checkpoints at certain times, otherwise the trail will be close to the top. You don’t want to hike 3 hours and then realize that the gate is closed and go all the way back…
To book, simply go this website here. The website is also in English.
After your booking is completed, you will get a confirmation by email or Kakao message with a QR code. Simply scan the QR code at the entrance of the trail to go through the gate. If you do not show up but made a booking you will be restricted to access the trail for a few months. So make sure to cancel your booking if you can’t make it that day.
Get the right gear
Actually the hike doesn’t require any specific gear, but you definitely should have proper hiking shoes. On Gwaneumsa, the trail is pretty much even with many stairs, however on Seongpanak the trail is totally uneven. If you do not have proper shoes, the risk of accident can be quite severe. Better be well prepared.
Best time to hike to the summit
Spring and autumn would be the best seasons to hike to the top of Mount Hallasan. The weather should be more stable and less hot than summer. If you decide to hike in summer, take extra water and sunscreens, as the sun would be very strong at the top. Winter could be beautiful if it’s covered in snow, but you will need to get extra warm clothes. Jeju can be quite windy as well.
Our way to the summit via Gwaneumsa trail
We decided to hike up from Gwaneumsa and go down from Seongpanak. When booking online, you only need to choose from which way you want to start. However, you are free to get down from the other trail.
Most people would normally choose the other option, going up from Seongpanak as the slope is much more gentle and then go down from Gwaneumsa. However, we usually hate going down when the trails are very steep and have many stairs. Remember the full hike is 8 to 10 hours. Hence, you need to think about your knees and legs and how tired you would be. Besides, we knew Gwaneumsa was more scenic, so we thought we would feel more motivated to reach the top with a beautiful panorama surrounding us.
After finishing the hike, we felt that we made the best choice by going up via Gwaneumsa. The other benefit, is that much less people are hiking via Gwaneumsa, so we had the entire trail for ourselves all the way up! We loved it.
We started the hike at 9:00am…
We usually do not like to wake up early on vacations, but here we are, woke up 7:00am, ate a good breakfast, got ready and drove 40min to the start of the trail. We reached Gwaneumsa parking lot a bit before 9:00am. After a quick toilet break we started the hike at 9:00am sharp. (No worry about parking, there are hundreds of spaces)
The start of the hike is really easy. The trail is gorgeous, in the middle of the forrest following a stream with huge rocks from time to time. On the way there are many informative signs about the plants on Mount Hallasan or different animals living in the forest. We also saw beautiful caves on the way. We really wanted to take more time to explore, but we knew we had to reach a first checkpoint at 12:30pm and had no idea how long we would need to get there… So we kept a very good pace in this first part of the hike.
Start of the real climb at 10:00am
Things got a bit harder after the first hour. After crossing a beautiful bridge, we saw the first set of steep stairs. We heard before that Gwaneumsa is mostly stairs. So here we go, our first stairs of the day to warm up our legs.
On our way up, we saw a rail following the trail. We then understood that it is used to bring materials up and down, but also if any hiker gets injured, they can easily bring you down. The little wagon crossed us at some points. Later on we realized it was the cleaning lady to clean the toilet at the rest area located around 1,000 meters. So well organized Korea, impressive!
We reached the first checkpoint at 11:30am
As explained earlier, this is the first checkpoint which you need to reach before 12:30pm in order to get to the summit. If you arrive later than that, the gate will be closed and there would be no way to reach the top. We were hiking in Spring, the checkpoint time changes in winter and summer. The first checkpoint is called Samgakbong Shelter. We reached there at 11:30am. So count at least 2.5 hours to get there. Hence, we do not recommend to start the hike after 10:00am.
At Samgakbong we ate our first Gimbap and took a toilet break. The weather wasn’t so good in the morning, with a thick fog. However the forecasts showed a clear blue sky in the afternoon. So we were still hopeful to see the crater and the panorama from the top…
From Samgakbong to the summit, the most beautiful part of the hike
After taking a 30min break at the shelter, we continued our journey to the top. Right after leaving the shelter, the hike became even more beautiful. Not only the sky cleared up but the forest was also behind us, giving us the opportunity to see the splendid peak for the first time. After crossing a gorgeous hanging bridge, a series of hundreds (perhaps thousands) of stairs awaited us. The good part is that the view was so stunning, that we did not mind all these stairs that much. The contrast of the green valley, the rocks and blue sky was stunning. We suddenly felt in the Lord of the Ring. We could have spent hours contemplating this landscape but we knew we had to reach the summit before 2:pm.
1:15pm: We made it to top of Hallasan (and Korea)!
Finally! After a bit more than 4 hours with a 30min break, we made it to the top. To our big surprise, as we felt we were pretty much the only ones hiking that day, the summit was full of people! We later understood that most of them came from Seongpanak, the other trail reaching the summit.
At this stage, the weather was beautiful with the sun warming us up. The view on the lake was gorgeous (unfortunately it is not allowed to go down the crater to touch the water). After some photos, it was time to eat some food and recharge our battery. We were so happy we made it to the top.
It is mandatory to start going down before 2:00pm. Hence after another 30min break we decided to head back via Seongpanak this time.
Going down via Seongpanak trail
We started our descend just before 2:00
On the way down via Seongpanak trail, the first part was actually really nice and scenic. The panorama was also beautiful with nice view of the valley, yet less impressive than Gwaneumsa. After about 1h, we reached the forest again. We were expecting an easy way down, however the trail is really uneven with many stairs also… Although it is less steep, we felt very tired because the terrain was really rocky as you can see in the photo. We had to be extra careful not to twist our ankles…
At 15:00 we reached Jindallaebat Shelter.
If you hike Seongpanak on your way up to the summit, you need to make sure to reach Jindallaebat Shelter before 12:30pm, otherwise you won’t be able to reach the summit. As we were on our way down, we just had a quick toilet break (note that there are no toilet at the summit) and continued our descend.
We saw a deer !
After the shelter we started to go deep in the forest again and it started to be cloudy again (we were so lucky to reach the summit during a sunny window). The forest is actually very nice and felt a bit mystical within the cloud. At some point we saw a deer not too far from the trail searching for some food. What a magical sight in this forest.
We made it back at 17:30pm
After 8.5 hours we made it back to the parking lot of Seongpanak. All and all we took a bit more than 1 hour break. We were very exhausted but so proud of ourselves. To reach back to our car, parked at Gwaneumsa Parking area, we took one of the taxi waiting at the exit. The journey to Gwaneumsa took less than 20min.
Hiking the Hallasan is a must if you visit Jeju. Even if you do not choose to reach the summit, choose one of the easiest hike which is also beautiful.
For us, reaching the top of the Hallasan was one in a lifetime experience and our longest hike to date. It was hard, it was tiring but it was a wonderful experience with breathtaking views. We can now proudly say that we have come to the end of our limits and that we have defeated this giant Halla mountain.
And although many people recommend taking Seongpanak trail, we would definitely go via Gwaneumsa if we were to do it again. The hike is much more scenic, there is less people, and we actually felt that it was less difficult as at least the terrain was even.
If you are planing a trip to Jeju, make sure to read our post with the most awesome things to do in Jeju, here. Also, as we lived in Korea for 3 years, we wrote many posts about amazing things to see in this country. You can see all our posts here.
Where to stay near Hallasan Mountain in Jeju?
If you want to stay in a place surrounded by nature and near the Hallasan Mountain, then Jeju The Gallery Pension is the perfect place for you in Jeju. This very cute pension with beautiful decoration and thoughtful attention is a hidden gem in Jeju. You can book here.
Links to related articles
JEJU the best island in Korea: here
HAMDEOK BEACH, our favorite spot in Jeju: here
HALLIM PARK, a beautiful subtropical garden in Jeju: here
CAMELLIA HILL a beautiful park in Jeju: here
JEJU MAZE PARK in Gimnyeong, guaranteed fun: here
WOLJEONGRI a beautiful beach in Jeju: here
SONGAKSAN the southernmost point of Jeju: here
MANJANGGUL CAVE, one of the largest Lava tunnel in the world: here
SEOPJIKOJI to admire the rugged coastline in Jeju: here
OLLE GIL TRAIL your ultimate guide: here
TAKING THE FERRY TO JEJU: here
MOKPO a fabulous port city in Korea: here
SOUTH KOREA, best things to do: here
GEOJE our favorite destination in Korea: here
NAMHAE the hidden gem of Korea: here
BOSEONG GREEN TEA PLANTATION: here