Hiking Hallasan

Interested in hiking Hallasan in Jeju, South Korea? Here is what you need to know when planning your trip.

History

On the island of Jeju, Hallasan Mountain stands 1,950 meters above sea level and is the
highest mountain in South Korea. The dormant volcano gave birth to the island and is
now famous for its vertical ecosystem of plants that results from the varying temperatures along the mountainside. It’s also a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site.

Some consider the mountain a holy place where the gods and spirits live and are
worshipped. The name Halla locally means, “high enough to pull the universe.” And when you’ve reached the summit after a day of hiking, you feel it too.

Registering to Hike Hallasan

Jeju-do requires hikers to register to hike Hallasan. Reserve a day, trail, and time slot here: https://visithalla.jeju.go.kr/main/main.do

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Hikes to the Summit

There are 5 trails total on the mountain, but only Seongpanak and Gwanemusa lead to the summit. Each of these trails is vastly different and it’s recommended to hike up one and down the other to maximize explorations.

  • Seongpanak Trail, the eastern course, is the longest at 9.7 km, but has a more gradual incline. It takes between 4-5 hours up and down. We are semi-avid hikers and make it to the peak in 4. This route also has a side trail to Sara Oreum Observatory, which adds 40 minutes.
  • Gwanemusa, the north trail, is considered the most difficult, but also the most scenic. It’s 8.7 km and takes roughly 5 hours going up and 4-5 going down.

Choosing which route to go is a personal preference. If you’re an avid hiker and want to get the hurt out of the way early, choose Gwanemusa up and Seongpanak down. If you prefer a saunter up – go with Seongpanak, but prepare yourself for the number of stairs you’ll encounter down Gwanemusa. So. Many. Stairs.

Once you reach the summit, you’ll be reunited with hundreds of other hikers. There’s
usually an hours-long wait to snap a photo by the official rock. We chose to wait in line
for 5 minutes at the backup rock. The top is also a great place to rest and enjoy the
scenery. Plan to spend about an hour perusing around.

Both trails are a mix of boardwalks, dirt paths, stairs (So. Many. Stairs.), and some
bouldering over rocks.
We saw numerous kids and families hiking Seongpanak, but none on Gwanemusa. The trail is crowded and well-marked – it’s impossible to get lost as a ton of locals, travelers, international students, deer, and wild boar will be hiking alongside. Be prepared to be absolutely smoked by your new Korean grandparents, who will nod gently as they continuously lap you up the mountain. They will also cheer you on – so it balances out.

Parking

Seongpanak Trailhead parking lot is tiny. If you start there, I suggest parking at
Gwanemusa and taking a taxi or bus back to the trailhead to start. When you’re finished
hiking, your car will be waiting for you. The Gwanemusa lot is larger – so parking there
to start Gwanemusa trail is an option too. You can cab or bus from Seongpanak to get
back to your car.

If you choose to park near the Seongpanak Trailhead, you will likely be directed to the
overflow lot at the International University 10 minutes down the road. You can bus back,
or take a cab for 10,000 won. (Which is around how much it would cost to taxi between
the two start points, so save yourself the hassle).
Using public transportation (bus or taxi) will save you time and energy.

Additional Hikes on Hallsan

  • Eorimok Trail: 4.7 km; Midway point
  • Yeongsil Trail: 3.7 km; Midway point
  • Deonnaeko Trail: 9.1 km; Midway point


What to bring

We would consider the following items as Hallasan hiking essentials:

  • Good Walking Shoes: this isn’t a flip-flop or flimsy tennis shoe hike.
  • Sun hat: much of the trail is exposed.
  • Rain Gear: It rains often on the mountain.
  • Layers: I suggest a long sleeve shirt and/or vest for Spring/Summer and an extra warm
  • coat/hat for winter. The temps change greatly once you reach the top and it can be chilly.
  • Water: Suggested at least 3 liters per person, maybe more in hotter months.
  • Food: It’s an all-day hike. Bring lunch for the summit and a few snacks for breaks.
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug Spray
  • First Aid Kit
  • Extras
  • Hiking poles: They are nice on the way down to take some pressure of your knees.
  • Gloves: There are a few ropes, so if you use them, gloves are nice to have.

After the Hike

Once you finish the hike, you can register online for an official certificate, which is
printed out on the spot. You’ll see a kiosk, which explains the process in English. Even
without the certificate, hiking Hallasan is an accomplishment and earns you proper
bragging rights.

Happy Hiking!

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