HIKING GUIDE FOR SEORAKSAN NATIONAL PARK IN KOREA? HOW TO GET THERE? IS IT WORTH IT?
Seoraksan National Park (설악산) is for us the most beautiful park in South Korea. And we are probably not the only ones who think the same. Seoraksan is located on the Northeast coast of Korea near Gangneung and Yangang. This national park is a must see if you travel to Korea.
You are probably wondering what to do in Seoraksan. How to get there? Which are the best hikes? What else to see in Seoraksan if you do not want to go hiking?
In this post, we compiled a full guide to help you prepare for your visit to Seoraksan National Park. Enjoy your visit to Korea’s most beautiful National Park!
Visiting Seoraksan National Park during your stay in Korea, will allow you to see a different side of Korea and fully appreciate this country’s natural beauty.
Between its many peaks, its atypical rocks, its rivers and waterfalls, and its flora and fauna, the park has been designated as a biosphere reserve by UNESCO. And in addition to its many natural attractions, there are also some temples and other religious sites…
What to expect in Seoraksan National Park?
Seoraksan is the highest mountain in the Taebaek Mountains. The Taebaek Mountains range crosses the Korean Peninsula from north to south along its eastern coast.
The Seoraksan massif includes around thirty peaks. The highest of them is Daecheongbong (1708 meters).
While only a few places remain truly wild in South Korea, Seoraksan National Park is surely one of the places where nature still reigns in the country. And that’s probably what makes this place one of the most beautiful in South Korea.
Amongst the main things to do, you can hike to the top of Ulsanbawi for an amazing view, see the gorgeous and impressive bronze statue of Buddha in the valley, visit Sinheungsa temple as well as the small but charming Gyejo-am temple, take the cable car up to Gwongeumseong Fortress, see some waterfalls and so much more.
In a nutshell, you’ll have plenty of things to do and see in the National Park, which is suitable for the whole family.
How to get to Seoraksan National Park?
To get to Seoraksan, you have several options:
1. By Car
This is the most flexible option, the one we opted for for our trip to Seoraksan. As the National Park is located near the east coast, we took the car to also visit the amazing Naksan Temple, Yangyang for a perfect surf trip in Korea and the beautiful Gangneung with plenty of things to do.
From Seoul, count approximately 2.5 to 3 hours to get to the entrance of Seoraksan National Park. It’s quite easy to drive there, as it’s practically only on a speedway.
If you need to rent a car, we recommend going via Trazy which offers the lowest price for foreigners. Most rental car company offer very expensive rate for foreigners and their website are not all translated into English. Check out Trazy rental offers here.
To park the car, there is a car park just before the entrance to Seoraksan. During peak season in Autumn especially, expect a bit of waiting time to enter the car park, as it can get crowded. Come early to avoid the big crowd.
2. By Public Transport
To get to Seoraksan from Seoul, head first to Sokcho Bus Station. You can take a direct bus from Seoul. Then take the local bus to the entrance to Seoraksan National Park (“Seoraksan Sogongwon” stop).
The journey takes between 20 and 30 minutes from Sokcho, via bus lines 7 and 7-1.
Another option is to take the KTX to Gangneung, and then a bus to Seoraksan directly or to Sokcho first.
3. Organized day trip
Another popular option amongst tourists is to join a tour with an English-speaking guide. This would be the most hassle-free option, where everything is organized by the tour agency.
Check out Trazy here, as they offer day trips from Seoul at very attractive prices.
Useful information about Seoraksan National Park
In Seoraksan National Park you can find everything you need on site. By that, we mean food and coffee, toilets, and even souvenir shops at the entrance.
The entrance ticket to the park is 3,500 won per adult, 1,000 won for 14-19-year-olds, and 500 won for 8-13-year-olds. In short, it is very affordable to visit the National Park.
Best time to visit Seoraksan National Park?
Seoraksan is open all year round, however, the best time to visit would be in Autumn to see the tree foliage. The colors are just amazing. We went there during the first week of November and we were so amazed by its beauty. To know more about the best season to visit Korea, check out this post.
How many days to visit Seoraksan National Park?
If you only want to visit the main valley with the temple, the big Buddha, the cable car, and the waterfall, then 1 day would be enough if you start in the morning.
However, if you want to add 1 of the main hike to a peak, then spend at least 1 night in a hotel nearby.
Here is the ideal program for 2 day visit:
D1: departure from Seoul in the morning/visit of the Seoraksan valley, Buddha statue, Sinsheungsa temple, Cable car, and hike to one of Biryeong waterfalls.
D2: hike to the top of Ulsanbawi early in the morning to avoid the crowds and then return trip to Seoul or continue your trip on the east coast.
What to bring/wear when visiting Seoraksan?
If you only stay 1 day and intend to spend time in the Valley, take the cable car etc. then you do not need to wear or bring anything special. There are many restaurants and cafes in the valley. Even if you decide to go for a short hike to one of the waterfalls, you do not need special hiking gear, as the path is quite easy and well-paved.
However, if you decide to hike to one of the summits, expect a full day out in the mountain. Bring some food and plenty of water. Also in autumn, it can already be quite cold at the top, so bring some warm clothes as well.
What to see in Seoraksan?
Here we detailed all you need to know about the best places to visit in Seoraksan National Park, the best hikes and the main point of interest.
The main valley at Seoraksan concentrates the main activities. So although the national park is huge, you can explore many things in 1 day. Some hikes start from outside the valley, but if you decide to visit for 1 or 2 days, head to the main entrance. Check out the location here. From there you can access all the main attractions including the cable car.
1. Take the cable car
In Seoraksan National Park you do not need to hike to enjoy the amazing view. You can simply take the cable car which is located at the main entrance of the park in the Valley. The cable car is connecting to one of the peak of Seoraksan. From there, you can admire the natural beauty of the park. It’s absolutely worth it!
At the top, you can choose to hike a bit to reach Geumganggul cave, carved into the rock. It was once a place of worship for Buddhism.
Please be aware that there is always a waiting time to enter the cable car. You first need to buy your ticket for a specific time at the counter. Then you can continue the visit of the park, and you need to be back in front of the cable car 10min before your chosen departure time. When we went there, we bought the ticket around 11am, and the earliest timeslot available was 1pm. So within the 2 hours, we continued the visit of the park and came back 10min before departure. You do not need to queue or wait there until your departure time.
The round trip ticket for the cable car costs 10,000 won.
2. Giant bronze Buddha (Tongildaebul)
This giant bronze statue of Buddha, was amongst the most impressive statues we have seen in Korea. Especially as we went there during the peak season in Autumn. The colors were absolutely stunning. Although located below Sinheungsa temple, this statue is attached to the temple. Its name in Korean is Tongildaebul, meaning the Great Reunification Buddha, expressing the wish of Koreans to see their country reunified.
The statue is quite close to the entrance and if you plan to hike to Ulsanbawi, you can’t miss it. The statue measures nearly 15 meters in height.
3. Sinheungsa Temple
There are two temples in Seoraksan Park. The first, the most complete, is Sinheungsa, on the slopes of Seoraksan. When setting off for the hike to the top of Ulsanbawi, it will be on the left a few minutes after the start.
Sinheungsa means “Spirit of the Temple”. This temple is one of the most famous in Korea.
It was destroyed and rebuilt several times due to fires, but its first construction dates from the 7th century, in 653 to be more precise. It is sometimes considered to be the oldest Buddhist temple in Korea.
Visiting the temple is free. If you are lucky you can even see monks praying there.
Sinheungsa is located in a beautiful environment, far from everything in the heart of the mountains. Some Koreans even come to visit Seoraksan just to go to this temple!
4. Gyejoam Temple
Gyejoam is the second temple in Seoraksan, further on the hiking trail. It has a sanctuary built in a cave under large rocks. It’s very unique.
This rock shrine is located right next to another landmark of Seoraksan Park: Heundeul Bawi Rock. It is a large block of stone, spherical in shape, and weighs over 15 tonnes.
This rock is very special as it balances on another rock, anchored to the ground. You may see tourists pretending to push it to make it fall: it has become an attraction on its own …
5. Enjoy a great lunch and cafe
There are many great restaurants in Seoraksan National Park. We opted for the traditional seafood pancake restaurant located next to the entrance of the Cable Car. The pancake was absolutely delicious. Perhaps one of the best one we ate in Korea.
We then walk a few meters opposite the restaurant to a nice coffee shop in a traditional house (location: here). The weather was so nice despite being in November already so we could sit outside and enjoy the fresh air of the mountain. It was just perfect!
Which are the best hikes in Seoraksan?
When you enter the National Park, you will find a few maps displayed around the park with all the possible hikes. Most of the hikes starts from the main Valley. So after you explored the valley, it is time to start one of the hike.
1. Ulsanbawi, the most famous one
Ulsanbawi is the most popular hike in Seoraksan. It would be a pity to miss it if you are visiting the National Park.
The Ulsanbawi is the most famous viewpoint in Seoraksan Park. In fact, when you see a picture of this Korean national park, most of the time it would be a photo of Ulsanbawi.
Regarding the hike itself, it takes around 7 to 8 kilometers for a round trip. So 4 kilometers one way. Most of the hike is relatively easy, however, the last part gets much steeper with many stairs to reach the summit (there are over 800 steps). This is the most difficult part of the hike. But totally worth it!
All and all the level of the hike is for beginners to intermediate. Except for the last part. For a round trip count maximum 3.5 hours.
Ulsanbawi being the most famous of the hikes in the park, there are a lot of people during weekends. So we recommend starting early in the day.
2. Biryong Waterfalls, the easiest one
Another interesting hike in Seoraksan is the one that leads to Biryong Falls. This hike is really easy and quite short. Allow 4.5 kilometers for a round trip with an elevation gain of around 150 meters. You can complete the hike in 1.5 hours.
Biryong Waterfall is quite pretty. The most interesting part of the hike is before reaching the waterfall. Indeed, a section of the hike is truly magnificent, around a suspended bridge. The panorama is sublime and there are several small waterfalls on the way (Yukdam Pokpo).
Biryong waterfall hike can be extended to access a viewpoint. This is signposted once you arrive near the Biryong waterfall: you have to climb steps for about 400 meters in order to gain height.
The goal of this part of the climb is to be able to admire the valley, with Towangseong Falls, on the other side in the distance. Towangseong is over 300 meters high, but they are often dry. The best time to see these waterfalls is autumn right after the summer rain.
3. Daecheongbong Peak, for more experienced hikers
Daecheongbong Peak is located at 1,708 meters above sea level. It is the highest peak in Seoraksan National Park and the third-highest peak in Korea. Allow about 16 km of trail starting from Sogongwon. For info, it is possible to sleep in a refuge near Oryon Falls.
In any case, this hike allows you to observe rare varieties of wildflowers but also many birds and other animals. The landscapes change colors from one season to the next: snowy in winter, multicolored in spring and summer, shimmering colors in autumn…
Where to stay in Seoraksan?
Kensington Hotel Seorak
If you want to maximize your time in the National Park, then we highly recommend to stay at the Kensington hotel. This is the closest hotel to the entrance that can be reached on foot.
You can leave your vehicle in the hotel parking lot to avoid paying for the parking inside the National Park. Depending on your booking, the National Park entrance ticket might also be included. Check out the hotel here.
Two-Y hotel in Yangyang
Just 15min drive to Seoraksan National Park main entrance, you can reach the beautiful east coast and its magnificient sea. As we came by car, we decided to stay on the seaside at Two-Y Hotel in Yangyang.
Our room was facing the sea. We enjoyed a delicious breakfast on the rooftop in a very modern setup. We drove early morning to Seoraksan National Park, and it was quite easy. However, if you reach there by 10am, expect a little bit of queue before you can park your car. To book Two-Y hotel, click here.
Other things to do near Seoraksan
1. Naksan Temple
There aren’t many temple right by the sea in Korea. The most famous one is in Busan, and it’s called Haedong Yonggungsa Temple (more info here). Together with Haedong Yonggungsa, Naksan Temple is one of the only coastal temple in South Korea. It sits right on top of a cliff facing the sea. Which makes the scenery from Naksan Temple breathtaking.
If you are looking for the perfect beach vibes in Korea, then head to Yangyang on the east coast. Yangyang is the Bali of South Korea, a true surf paradise and the perfect gateway if you live in Seoul.
Yangyang is located in Gangwon-do. This town is very popular with Koreans and tourists who come to enjoy the beautiful sea on the East coast. Over the years, Yangyang became famous for surfing and it is now a trendy place with great cafes, restaurants, surf shops, and a lot more.
In conclusion about Seoraksan in Korea
This practical guide of Seoraksan National Park is coming to an end. We hope that this blog post will make you want to discover one of the most beautiful National Park in Korea.
Even though Seoraksan National Park is a bit isolated in the northeast of South Korea, we highly recommend that you include it on your itinerary when visiting Korea. It is clearly one of the wildest places in South Korea.
Are you going to South Korea soon? Planning to visit Seoraksan? If you have unanswered questions, please send them to us via the comment box at the bottom of the article. Our discussions may also be useful to other travelers who read the blog and wonder what to do in Seoraksan and which hike to choose.
We lived in Korea for 3 years and wrote many posts about things to do in this country. You can check them all here.