By the time 7:00 am rolled around, we were well on our way, dreary-eyed and cramped on a speeding bus, to the Seongpanak trailhead for our day’s trek to the highest peak in South Korea. Mt. Hallasan, rising 1,950 meters out of the sea, demands attention and can be seen from anywhere on island.
We arrived at the trailhead amongst a pack of other hikers getting an early start up the mountain. Even at 800m above sea level the differences were far from subtle from the coast where we began our journey. Gone were the waving palm trees; replaced by pine and other high elevation vegetation. Our breath shone brilliantly in the early morning light.
The 9.6 km Seongpanak Trail starts off with a gentle climb through the dense forest and ramps up in difficulty as you near the summit. The toughest part of the first 7 km up the mountain is navigating the endless volcanic rocks that make up the trail. This part of the hike was shady, but not particularly memorable with no vistas to be seen through the thick surrounding flora. Making it to the second shelter, Jindallae Bat, we were finally greeted with the summit of Mt. Hallasan looming above us.
The second shelter is the perfect spot to recharge your batteries before tackling the last, and most difficult, leg of the hike. Hot Ramen noodles are available at the shelter for 1,500 won. A deal that we took advantage of on the way up and the way down; those were the best instant noodles we have ever eaten!
The last 250 meters of elevation to gain was spread out over a 2.1km stretch of trail that was a mix of loose volcanic stones, railroad ties, and wooden stairs. Just imagine climbing up stairs and large stones for nearly 2 hours, our legs went from shaky Jello to limp spaghetti by the time we made it to the summit.
Once on the summit, we were blown away by the breathtaking view of the entire island, its many oreum’s (volcanic hills), and surrounding islands scattered along the coast. We mustered up the strength to take some pictures and then promptly sat down to take off our shoes and snack. The funniest thing about the summit is when we arrived there was a line on top of the mountain to take your picture next to a rock with Korean words etched onto its surface. Probably stating that this was the highest point in all of South Korea or something similar. We were both a bit tickled that after hiking the whole morning people would then have to wait in a line at the top of a mountain.
Our trip back down the mountain was easier going and we made good time back to the second shelter. The noodles cured our hunger but were sadly ineffective at warding off sore legs. The stairs up to our room on the 6th floor were the last struggle between us and a much needed afternoon nap after 8 hours of hiking!
We planned to hike up Seogpanak Trail and down Gwaneumsa Trail, but due to rockslides, we had to hike up and down the same path. There are 7 trails along the mountain, but in an effort to preserve the nature, various paths are closed each season. Check with a local about routes before taking a long bus ride to a trail entrance and visit the official website.
What are your best hiking memories?Hiking to the Crater Lake on the Summit of Mt. Hallasan by email@example.com