Hiking in Hallasan, the Highest Mountain in South Korea

baengonokdam 360 scaled Hiking in Hallasan, the Highest Mountain in South Korea  Ms Angela Chiang

Hallasan, also called Mount Halla, is the highest mountain in South Korea. I believe that Mt. Hallasan is a misleading term because “san” means “mountain” in Korean. It is a common misunderstanding that Hallasan is located at the Korean Penisula. The mountain, however, is located at Jeju island, the biggest volcanic island of South Korea. Also, it is about only 2,000 meters high.

Jeju island is a nice travel destination for Koreans but not for foreigners. For example, it is really difficult to communicate in English, and Hallasan information provided online is not that satisfying. Also, Google Map is useless in Korea. That means, for Hallasan hiking, we definitely need more preparation; yet the good news is, Hallasan hiking is super easy.


The Difficulty & Safety

Considering “the highest,” some people might come out with the imagination that the route is difficult. Nonetheless, it is said that most of the highest mountain in each country is overestimated, and the same is Hallasan. All of the trails can be easily overcome.

All of the trails are enclosed by ropes. Hikers are able to see the marks or boards every half an hour. In addition, it is wifi available ALL the time, and you may see staff in the shelters and on the summit to make sure hikers arrive and leave on time. Therefore, hikers can NEVER get lost.

There are only two factors that might influence safety. One is that the broadcast in the shelter is Korean only that foreigners cannot understand, but this really doesn’t matter because it is super safe. Another is during the winter, it is better to use simple crampons. Half of the hikers, however, did not use crampons. They can still overcome this but less safe. (do not recommend) The national park will shut down during bad weather, so please be aware of their announcement.

My Plan & Trails

The peak of Hallsan is Baengonokdam, a crater lake, but only two of the trails can arrive it, Gwaneumsa Hiking Trail and Seongpanak Hiking Trail. Most of the people start from Seongpanak Hiking Trail and leave from Gwaneumsa Hiking Trail because Gwaneumsa Trail is steeper than Seongpanak Trail. Yet there are several reasons I chose to hike oppositely.

  • It is better to go downstairs by smooth slopes, Seongpanak Hiking Trail, to protect knees.
  • The distance between downtown and the entrance of Gwaneumsa Trail is shorter than another, so I could start earlier and wander around.
  • There are more buses available at the entrance of Seongpanak Hiking Trail. After I complete, I could easily go back to downtown.

Start from Gwaneumsa Hiking Trail

Hallasan Gwaneumsa Trail board in South Korea
Gwaneumsa Hiking Trail

I walked quite slow because I have never seen snow before and desire some time to play them. While I was still climbing up, some of the hikers already went downhill. Since the trail was slippery, I’ve seen more than three Koreans felt over because they didn’t use crampons. A great amount of hikers dressed improperly. Therefore, I believe that Hallsan trails are not for real backpackers and wild people but for tourists. Most of the difficult part has already been built with stairs. As a backpacker with exploration experiences, these trails seem boring. People are well-protected.

I think I visited this trail at a wrong time. There was little snow only. During autumn, it is said that the trail is decorated with colorful leaves.

Some records mention that Koreans walk extremely fast. The record recommends to neglect them because what we really need to do is to relax not to compete with others.

Baengonokdam, the Peak of Hallasan

Baengonokdam, Hallasan, Jeju, Korea
Baengonokdam, the summit of Hallasan

As you can see from the first panorama image of the post, this place is full of people. Most of the Koreans believe that visiting Hallasan is the must-do behavior in their life. I was a little bit disappointed that visitors cannot access the lakeshore. The picture above is the neared view of Baengonokdam. Still, the peak is full of wooden walkways.

Seongpanak Hiking Trail

Seongpanak Hiking Trail, Hallasan, Jeju, South Korea
Seongpanak Hiking Trail

The most awarding part of Seongpanak Hiking Trail is the path near the peak. Hikers are able to sea landscape and the coastline on the east side of Jeju island. It is a natural landscape without tall buildings. I saw some of the most popular spots, such as Udo Island and Seongsan Ilchulbong.

Also, the path near the entrance is quite comfortable. I walked in the woods with a wide and smooth walkway, making me feel like a philosopher: a philosopher meditating during his or her daily walk on a silent path in the woods.

If you visited Seongpanak Trail, please take the time to visit Saraorum as well. Its peak has the biggest crater lake in South Korea. The entrance, which started from midway of Seongpanak Trail to the crater lake is only 20 minutes walk.

Hikers can purchase the certificate in the information center. I remember both of the entrances have the buildings. Just be aware of the opening hours.

Timeline

My schedule is not that normal because I took lots of time taking pictures and lingered for snows and plants.

[05:30] Wake up
[06:00] Leave hostel in Jeju City by Taxi
[06:40] Arrive entrance of Gwaneumsa Hiking Trail
[06:50] Start hiking
[12:50] Arrive Baengonokdam (the peak) and eat lunch
[13:00] Leave Baengonokdam
[17:30] Complete and leave by bus

The Prohibit Hours by Gwaneumsa & Seongpanak

TimeSummer (May ~ Aug.)Winter (Nov. ~ Feb.)Other Seasons
Last Entrance12:0013:0012:30
Shelter Last Entrance12:0013:0012:30
Peak Last Stay14:3013:3014:30

Summary

As for me, Mt. Halla is too artificial. I wonder every mountain in Jeju island look like this because the peak of Ilchulbong is full of wooden walkway as well. Anyway, If you expect a tourist-like outdoor reaction then this is for you. For hikers who do not have many outdoor experiences, these trails are challenging enough and awarding.

For more information, check the official website for your reference.

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