Hiking Dobongsan in Bukhansan National Park

6 Sep

“Insanity Workout” has taken on a whole new meaning…

Say hello to Dobongsan (Mt. Dobong)!

The hike up Mt. Dobong in Bukhansan National Park is not for the faint of heart nor for the weak of thighs – this trail is TOUGH!

Okay, so maybe my friends and I accidentally took the dangerous route across the mountain ridge because we were too lazy to Google-Translate the warning sign, which probably read: “WALK THIS WAY ONLY IF YOU’RE AN OLYMPIC DECATHLETE, ONE OF THOSE AMAZING OLD KOREAN LADIES IN HOT HIKING GEAR OR A FOREIGNER WHO CAN’T READ KOREAN AND PROBABLY WISHES THEY COULD RIGHT NOW.” 

But, aside from the slight brush with death, hiking Dobongsan was unbelievably rewarding thanks to the exhilarating views and the full-body workout.

**Read directions on how to avoid the scary part of the trail at the bottom of the post**

I suppose I should start from the beginning, back when I didn’t know the true definition of FEAR:

Two of my hikerific girlfriends planned a “nothing out of the ordinary” hike up to Jaunbong, one of the peaks of Dobongsan, and invited me to come along.

At the time, they didn’t know how much I like to sing while hiking…so, I’m not too sure I’ll be invited again.

At first, everything seemed normal (for Korea, anyway).  We took the subway to the trail-head (hiking is so wonderfully accessible in Seoul), where we met up with the TONS of elderly Korean hikers (dressed to the activewear 9’s) – ready to skip up the mountain.

The trail to Jaunbong started-off with a light ascent along a beautiful river & gradually progressed into a fairly steep incline, paved with large granite steps.

This rather enjoyable climb took us approximately 1 hour.

Towards the peak, the trail stopped being a trail – yes, that is the best way I can describe it– and we proceeded to scramble up a seemingly vertical pile of rocks until we reached the top.

Nothing to worry about, I used both my hands and feet to reach the peak.

After about 30 minutes of climbing on all fours, we reached Jaunbong peak, and then everything was illuminated.

WOWZA!

And that is when things got crazy.

In order to reach the trail down the mountain, we had to traverse the insanely steep Podae Ridge using ropes, railings, and sheer Man Versus Wild fight to survive.

We were scared out of our minds.

We couldn’t take any photos of the ridge because we were holding onto a freaking rope for dear life (survival > pics for blog), but I managed to find an image on the interwebs, below, to give you a mental picture.

Yeah, we did that with a little help from our friends…our Korean hiker friends.

These amazing hikers, who may or may not have been 50+ years old, took pity on us three hysteric foreign girls & acted as our spotters while we rappelled down the mountain.

Here’s a few pictures of us after the worst was over…

It was only after we made it safely to the other side of the Podae Ridge and reached Podae Peak, when we realized that there is actually a “happy-go-lucky, skip and hold hands” trail-equivalent circumventing the mountain ridge that doesn’t require heart attacks.

Ah, the perils of foreign-ness & not reading Korean warning signs.

Anyway, by the time we reached safety, we were so emotionally and physically drained, that all we cared about was getting down the mountain.  So, we veered onto the Minchosaem (Spring) trail, which ended up being a calm and gorgeous descent down a dry stream bed.

It was like 2 hours of downhill therapy.

When we finally reached the end of the trail and the bottom of the mountain, we rewarded ourselves with hugs, high-fives and barley bibimpab.

(What? Did you really think I could go 1 post without talking about food?)

We had survived Dobongsan…

much like the thousands of people who hiked this trail before us.

***

Directions

One of the great things about hiking Dobongsan is that the trail-head is conveniently located next to the Dobongsan Subway Station (Line 1, Exit #1).

From the station, cross the street and walk through the food stalls and hiking equipment shops to the trail-head (I know this sounds vague, but you really just need to follow the hoards of Korean hikers to the trail)

At the entrance to the park, make sure to get a map from the information booth.

Hike up the mountain, following signs for Jaunbong, one of Dobongsan’s peaks.

Hiking to the peak should take between 1.5-2 hours

After hiking to the peak, you will have to walk across the Podae Ridgeline to go back down the mountain (unless you want to retrace your steps & go down the same way you came up).

WARNING:  If you do not want to take the scary route across the mountain ridge, which requires you to use ropes and railings (and lots of upper body strength), make sure to heed the signs.  There will be a sign (with two little images of bears) posted where the two trails diverge, one trail will be marked with a RED line (this is the crazy trail) and the other trail will be marked with a GREEN line (the optimal route for the less sadistic).  Do watch this video for clarification  (or just fast forward the video to minute 2:33)

CLICK HERE FOR VIDEO

After walking the ridge and reaching Podae Peak, you have a few trails leading to the bottom of the mountain.  We, chose to take the Minchosaem (Spring) Trail down, which was a beautiful and rather easy descent.

The trail will lead you directly to the Wondobong Park Information booth, where you can ask for directions to the Mangwolsa Subway Station (or just go down past the information booth, through the few restaurants, and veer left.  Continue downhill until you reach the subway)

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4 Responses to “Hiking Dobongsan in Bukhansan National Park”

  1. Mikey October 1, 2012 at 2:43 pm #

    Maybe we should’ve read your post before tackling this mountain today. Wow, is all I can say. We arrived at 2 p.m. and made it back to the base at 7 p.m. We also hiked across the ridge and descended through the dry creek bed. But by that time it was getting really dark, and was anything but downhill therapy. But we survived, and we did get some amazing pics!

    • akonrad October 2, 2012 at 3:29 am #

      Mike- Glad you survived the hike and even more glad that you agree with me! (Some people thought I was exaggerating the difficulty!) Luckily, the pictures are worth the pain.

  2. Gaston June 4, 2014 at 2:07 pm #

    Ayelet, thank you for your post about the hike. Your description was great and your directions were excellent for getting me there. The hike and views were nothing short of amazing. I made it all the way to the Jaunbong peak and then headed back around to the information center for a very well deserved dinner. Thought about your post at those moments where I was TIGHTLY gripping the steel cables and the knees were weak, but I made it!

    This was my second hike at Bukansan in the last year (not sure what summit I did the first time), but I wanted to share with you how much I appreciated your post; it completely made my day!

    • akonrad June 23, 2014 at 4:32 pm #

      Thank you so much Gaston! Really glad you enjoyed the hike and the directions.

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