Truth be said, Korea is not the greatest country for endless driving and rough camping. Most certainly not after the vastness and emptiness of South America that we had grown so used to. Korea is too densely populated, its road mostly consisting of (multiple-lane) highways.
Land Cruising in South Korea, but on Foot
But, 70% of the country consists of mountains, and since Koreans love hiking, this is the place to find an abundance of (well-marked) hiking trails. To get a feel for these mountains, our Korean friends suggested us to hike in their most beautiful park: Seoraksan National Park, in northwest Korea.
Hiking in Seoraksan National Park
So that’s what we did. Initially, hesitantly, one day. We were blown away by the views, the trails and the connections made so easily with fellow hikers. We returned to the Land Cruiser, reconsidered our options, bought a good backpack for Coen, packed our stuff, and set off for a 3-day hike.
We were blown-away, once more. Our muscles ached, our shoulders hurt, we felt our knees. The trails are steep, naturally made of stone or where the mountain walls are too vertical, they constructed staircases that seemingly ascend or descend forever.
But the pain didn’t matter. We loved hiking every single minute here. The views are astounding, with jagged stone peaks protruding from mountain slopes covered in forests. Clear streams run along trails and rivers cut through gorges. Camping isn’t allowed here but the park has shelters, which include picnic tables and cooking areas.
I had already bought the book, the Baegdu-Daegan Trail (find the beautiful, colorful and inspiring book here, a new edition will be published in autumn 2017), and after this trial hike we studied it with deeper interest. We’ve decided to simply start at the beginning of the 735-kilometer trail that runs from the south (Jirisan NP) to the Demilitarized Zone in the north. We’ll walk it in sections, having just finished section 1 (4 days through Jirisan NP) and are about to start the next two.
How far we’ll get? Who knows. It doesn’t matter. For now we feel this is the perfect way to enjoy Korea in the most thorough way we think is possible: to breath in its clean air in the forested mountains, to connect with hikers and villagers along the way, to take in historical, religious, and cultural sites that lie along its trails. And to feel the freedom of hiking with all you need simply carried on your back.