Bukhansan National Park is made up of 3 parts: the smaller Bugaksan in the west, Bukhansan in the middle, home to the highest peak in the park, and Dobongsan to the east. As we have explored Bukhansan quite extensively, Adam and I decided to head east and tackle a new part of the park.
Getting to Dobongsan is super easy. Hop on the subway and head north on Line 1 until you reach Dobongson Station. From here, simply follow the hoards of hikers for about 15 minutes to the foot of the mountain. The area from the station to the trailhead is basically an outdoor hiking market with tons of awesome outdoors goods at amazing prices. Finding hiking gear in Korea is not difficult; hiking stores line blocks and blocks of streets surrounding every mountain. However, finding cheap gear? Not so easy. I would venture to say that if you need to pick up gloves, pants, jackets or anything else, the trip to Dobongsan is totally worth it. You can also pick up kimbap, makgeolli or anything else you may want or need for the hike along the way.
As we approached the trailhead, one of the lovely park rangers gave us a map of the park and highlighted her suggested route, casually mentioning that some trails would be too dangerous for us waygooks. Not taking it personally, we forged ahead on the most direct trail to the 739.5 meter peak, Jaunbong. We have experienced quite a few crowded trails both in Seoul and around Korea, and Dobongsan was right up there with the most crowded. At times, it was difficult to simply be able to move forward due to the density of hikers. From the entrance to the park to the peak, it’s less than 3 kilometers. It’s a short, fast ascent with rewarding, commanding views of the city. If you are interested in hiking in Seoul but do not want to commit to the challenge of a longer hike, Dobongsan is the perfect way to experience impressive views of Seoul without the physical and mental challenges of a marathon hike.
That being said, in comparison to Bukhansan’s peak, Baegundae, I found Juanbong to be anticlimactic. Whereas Baegundae offers a expansive peak area where over 100 people can stand and enjoy what they’ve worked for, Juanbong has only a tiny area where you have to fight for space to even take a few pictures. Also, Juanbong is amidst a cluster of several peaks, none of which have any real space to sit, relax and enjoy some food and drink, which are truthfully my favorite things about hiking experiences.
We headed back down the mountain same way we came up, eager for a beer and a bite to eat. Walking towards the subway station, we stumbled across a fantastic joint, Mug and Spoon. Surrounded by tiny restaurants and hiking stalls, this 2-story building stood out like a sore thumb and looked brand new. While it served Korean food, sausages and curry, it had all the makings of a western restaurant: awesome ambience, beautiful decor and actual service. Yes, service in a Korean restaurant! Everyone was extremely kind and there was a great vibe. I highly recommend checking out Mug and Spoon if you find yourself around Dobonsan station!
Overall, heading to Dobongsan was a day well spent and I certainly look forward to exploring more of the mountain.