Seoul Weekend Edition: Hiking Inwangsan (인왕산)

Sometimes you have a really good plan to get up in the morning and go on a five hour hike that is 90 minutes away. Sometimes you just feel like sleeping in and don’t even get ready to go until after 1pm. Well if that’s the case, then I have the perfect hike for you: Inwangsan! Inwangsan is a mountain in the center of Seoul that overlooks Gwanghwamun Palace, the Presidential Blue House, and follows the Seoul Fortress Wall along its easily accessible ridge. The hike up only takes about an hour, and the hike along the wall is full of spectacular views of the city center, often not visible in such detail from the peaks outside of Seoul proper.

hiking inwangsan seoul

walk this way

Rather than take the standard trail to the top, we opted to go up the “back way” from Dongdimmun Station on Line 3. Getting out at Exit 2, we took a left on Tongil-ro 14-gil. We followed the narrow, snaking road into what seemed to be a residential dead end. As Hudson and I looked around trying to figure out where to go next, we heard a man start clapping. Presumably just some ajushi clapping at pigeons. Turns out, we were the pigeons. When we turned around we saw him pointing towards a very tall staircase tucked away to the right. Still unsure how he knew where exactly where we wanted to go, we decided to take his advice anyway. We followed the staircase up passing by the Muak-dong apartment complex on the left until we finally reached a fork. We sat down in the small picnic pagoda (as I like to call them) and cracked open a pre-hike beer. What? That’s totally normal. We added a bit of orange juice to our cans since at 2pm, they were still pretty much breakfast beers. As we drank our beermosas, we took stock of the three options before us. To the far left, a grassy trail with hikers popping out from time to time, to the far right, a road with a sign that said “Inwangsan.” Sounds promising. And in the center was a steep road with what looked like an entrance to a temple at the top of the hill. Bingo.

We finished our beers and trudged up the hill only to find ourselves in what appeared to be a quiet little village. Apparently this village is also home to both a Buddhist temple and a Shamanistic shrine. We didn’t do too much exploring, but rather just looked around as we chose which of the many different staircases to follow up.

hiking inwangsan seoul

inwangsan temple walls

inwangsan temple doors

temple doors

hike inwangsan seoul

pretty walls!

inwangsan temple hike

As we climbed, we saw a sign for seonbawi (선바위), which basically means Buddha rock. I think. It was worth a quick stop.

(선바위) seonbawi buddha rock

(선바위) buddha rock

inwangsan buddhist temples

buddhist offerings

On the way to the top we passed a Shamanistic offering (I think?), a table full of meat and fruits and cakes and candles, before which two women were chanting. I wanted to stop to watch, but felt it was an intrusion, so we moved on. Before long we stumbled upon the Seoul Fortress wall! It was a very hazy day (as per usual, Seoul) but we continued the steep climb up to the peak. The entire wall is still an active military base, so they have guards dressed as Best Buy employees pretending to be park rangers. But they’re soldiers. Trust me. There are all kinds of restrictions on taking pictures, mainly that you cannot photograph in the direction of the Blue House, but if you’re stealthy you can sneak a pic.

seoul fortress wall

seoul fortress wall

wyoming road trip to grand tetons

left two stairs break your leg, right stairs makes happy music

view from inwangsan peak

damnit hazy seoul

hiking inwangsan ridge

inwangsan ridge

inwangsan peak seoul

pointing picture!

hiking inwangsan seoul

summit soju

inwangsan summit seoul

picnic time!

As the afternoon wore on, the haze began to dissipate and we found a nice rock to sit on with a view of Bukhansan not far in the distance. We drank our soju and enjoyed our kimbap and crackers before following the only available trail down. We ended up popping out a few blocks from Muakjae station (we seriously never know where we are going to land after descending) and made our way home feeling completely satisfied.

The best part is, we didn’t even start hiking until after 2 pm and we were home by 6:30. Thanks Inwangsan for making me feel like I did something without actually doing that much!

19 Comments

  • Pretty photos, the white wall kind of reminds me of the great wall of china in that it snakes all the way down. I’m not really a fan of hiking but I think a short hike like this I could definitely handle. Pity Seoul is soooo far away 😛

  • Elle says:

    You’ve just added this to my list of places to go! I don’t know why I haven’t even been there yet seeing as I’ve lived in Seoul for almost a year now. Regardless of the hazy day, your photos are beautiful and have convinced me to make the trip. Especially seeing as it’s something I can easily do even if I start off with a lazy day!

  • Lily Lau says:

    Nice photos, especially the one of the stairs and the title you gave it! Must have been an exciting experience, one day I should try it too 🙂

  • Charisse says:

    Beautiful hiking area! Will have to try to go there on our visits to Seoul. Did you notice if there was a parking lot? We usually drive up instead of taking the train.

    • Taylor says:

      Since we went up the back way, there definitely wasn’t any parking there. It’s right in the middle of the city though so I doubt they have a big lot like the more rural mountains. I’m sure you could find some kind of street parking nearby though.

  • Matt says:

    I had no idea this existed! Looks awesome though, I definitely would have done it had I known about it. I never got a nice, high up view of Seoul. Walking across the Han River can give some good views but this is much better.

    Nice photos!

  • Katie says:

    I just did this last weekend! I loved it! It was an easy hike and had awesome views of Seoul and it wasn’t nearly as crowded as other mountains. I went the same way as you and explored the temple village and shrines and fortress wall. I stumbled upon some lady receiving a blessing or something from a monk. She was being guarded by a bunch of people and I was yelled at in Korean to go a different way!

    • Taylor says:

      haha we were yelled at several times to go different ways, but i didn’t see any blessings happening, we were just trying to explore a bit. it was definitely a nice break from the 3 hour ascents we usually do!

  • We hiked that mountain last year, and man were those stairs killer! On our way down, we stopped by that temple. The Seonbawi rocks that the women are making offerings to apparently will bring sons to pregnant women!

  • That hike looks great! We don’t do a lot of hiking in Korea, but I’ve been reading a lot of hiking posts lately and have been getting inspired.

  • This looks like my kind of hike! We’ve never hiked in Seoul, but this one looks totally doable for us non-hikers. 😛 Maybe we’ll even get lucky and catch Seoul on one of the 5 clear days of the year! haha loved the photos, and thanks for the info! Writing this one down.

  • Nailah says:

    Hey Taylor, I feel like I really need to get my hiking on after reading this post and looking at the views. Isn’t Korea just beautiful? Hiking was always on my list of things I’d like to get into, but often the pull to sleep in keeps me from getting out there…That has to change~ LOL

    Great photos. Good you opted to take the path with the happy music on the right haha

  • Duke Stewart says:

    The more I see of these mountains in Seoul, the less I want to go to Hongdae and Itaewon for foreign eats and things associated with visits to the big city. I really liked those photos of the walk up. That tiger picture looked pretty epic. Really cool stuff. Keep hiking those mountains and sharing stuff about them. I’ll keep reading about them:)

  • I am getting really excited to have the opportunity to check out some of these hikes in the big city of Seoul! Love the fact that you can be in a bustling metropolis one minute and on a mountain peak the next…beautiful photos- I especially enjoy the view of the fortress wall. Yup- this hike is going on my giant list!

  • Such pretty pictures! I never did Inwangsan, but I lived really close to a part of the fortress wall near Hansung Uni. and LOVED “hiking” along it, and I use hiking loosely since it was more of a stroll rather than a hike. A couple friends of mine did the hike you did but took some back way and were basically off-roading through really steep terrain. Looks like they didn’t follow the signs like you did lol.

  • […] what mountain I was on! I decided to hike Inwangsan after reading about it at Taylor’s blog, Wanderlust Logs. Her pictures were beautiful, so I knew I had to […]

  • Neysha says:

    You’re right, these are pretty pictures! I haven’t been hiking in Seoul yet, but it looks like i should definitely check out inwangsan.

  • […] Gangnam, across the river, through the city center, past Inwangsan (a great hike you can read about here), flies by Bukhansan, over the northwest border of the city, and continues westerly for quite a […]

  • […] famous statue of King Sejong before heading to hike Inwangsan. Details for the hike can be found here, and it’s easy enough that anyone can do […]

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