A new feature I have decided to add to the site is to profile things to do in Korea. Last year there was a discussion initiated on multiple blogs about if Korea is boring. I have never found Korea boring and if anything having to much to do, however the complaint about Korea being boring is one I have heard all to often. So I plan on building a list of things to do in Korea. I figured I would begin with Dobong Mountain (Dobongsan) due to its close proximity to both Uijongbu and Seoul where many soldiers and expats live.
Dobong mountain is a prominent mountain towering 739 meters over Uijongbu and is one of the most popular mountains to hike in the entire country due to its close proximity to Seoul and easy accessibly to the various trails leading up the mountain from both bus and subway stations. I have two suggested itineraries marked on the map below:
Without a doubt, the most popular route up the mountain is from the Dobongsan Station on Seoul Subway Line 1. To reach the trailhead from the station just simply walk across the street and walk through the ville of soju stands, restaurants, and hiking equipment stores to the entrance of Pukansan National Park which encompasses Dobong mountain. If you get lost just simply follow the army of well equipped ajushis and ajummas who look like their ready to under go a Himalayan expedition due to all the gear they are carrying than a simple hike up a mountain. I once saw an ajushi with an ice axe tied to his rucksack hiking up the trail and it was spring.
You cannot miss the national park entrance and will need to pay about a 3,000 won entrance fee to get in the park. The trail from the main park entrance is the quickest way to the summit of Dobongsan, and additionally the lower slopes are filled with picnickers lounging in the waters of the creek that runs down the side of the mountain; so do be surprised by large crowds and a carnival atmosphere when beginning this trail.
If you are not feeling energetic enough to climb up the mountain there are a variety of trails that branch off from the main trail that leads to a variety of Buddhist temples, shrines, and hermitages the litter the lower slopes of the mountain that are worth checking out:
If you go in the spring time you can see the variety of flowers that cover the lower slopes of the mountain as well:
Without any stops and only moderate traffic on the trail from fellow hikers, you should be able to climb to the summit of Dobongsan on this trail in about an hour and a half if you are in a moderate level of fitness. Just keep following the signs to manjangbong to reach the top of the mountain and along the way, make sure you check out the great views of Uijongbu:
Also I recommend taking a sip of some of the natural spring water that comes out of the mountain. Don’t worry, you won’t get sick. I have drank natural spring water in Korea on a variety of mountains and have never gotten sick. I found the water to be quite cool and refreshing when hiking on a hot day.
Once you reach the top of Dobongsan, you will be in between two massive granite peaks. It is here that you need to do some rock climbing in order to reach the actual summit, which can be a bit dangerous at times due to the amount of climbers also on the mountain and high winds. Once at the summit you have a spectacular view of the surrounding mountains and cities below:
If you look closely at the above picture you can see some hikers on one of the peaks at the top of Dobongsan. It gives you an idea of how massive the granite peaks of Dobongsan are.
From the top of the mountain I recommend heading down one of the various trails to the north of the mountain in order to see some more of the scenery of the area. It is worthwhile to visit Mangwolsa Temple on the northeast side of the mountain by following the marked trail there. From the temple you can go to Mangwolsa Station where you can jump back on to Seoul Subway Line 1 again to get back home.
For the more energetic people who want to get away from the huge crowds on the main trail from Dobongsan Station, I recommend hiking on the southern trail up the mountain from the Dobong Station subway stop. Finding the trail head can be a little difficult. To reach the trail cross the street from the subway station and then walk through the ville and veer to your right. You should eventually come upon a creek with a bike path that usually has kids playing down in the water. Just simply follow the creek or the road adjacent to the creek towards the mountain. You will know you are nearing the trail head when the city gives away to a lush countryside.
You will be at the actual trail head when you reach a small store that sells snacks and water bottles to hikers heading up the mountain. Just follow the road to the right that eventually turns into the trail. Don’t expect to see a park entrance because there isn’t any here, which means no park fee, which is an added bonus of taking this trail.
Towards the beginning of the trail you will come upon an elaborate family cemetery:
The cemetery is very well maintained with a few statues and tablets that leads me to believe this cemetery may be for a rich yangban noble or even a family member of past royalty.
Past the cemetery, the trail is not as obvious to follow as the main trail I mentioned earlier because it is not as well maintained and there are very few hikers on this trail, which was alright with me. There are a few other trails that branch off to some isolated Buddhist temples and hermitages on this trail, but all the signs are in Korean. Just keep following the trail that goes up the mountain is the best advice I can give you if you cannot read Korean. This hike is much longer and more strenuous than the main trail hike. Make sure you bring plenty of water with you because there are no natural springs along this trail unlike the main trail.
As you can see in the above picture this trail skirts the southern edge of Dobongsan and then ascends up the mountain’s southern side. Once you reach the mountain’s top ridgeline you will be rewarded with a sweeping view of Pukansan mountain to the south:
Continue following the ridgeline going towards the north. The trail is rough in spots and a little bit more busy due to hikers from other trails converging on the ridgeline. However, the vantage point of Dobongsan’s numerous peaks from this ridgeline is spectacular:
If you look closely at the above picture you should be able to see the ant like bodies of people standing on top of the massive granite peak. By climbing this ridgeline it is easy to understand where the classical Korean artists received their inspiration from:
Above is a view of Dobongsan from the northeast from Camp Jackson that lies on the mountains slopes. If you are a USFK soldier you could always walk over to Camp Jackson and get on the inter-camp bus there or take an AAFES taxi back to your camp instead of taking the subway.
Overall, the easy accessibility and various sights on the mountain make it an easy destination for both GIs and expats to check out, especially soldiers since the mountain is adjacent to Uijongbu which is home to the US 2nd Infantry Division. Despite the easy accessibility of the mountain I have seen few foreigners climbing up the mountain before, so hopefully this travelog encourages others out there to visit this great mountain.
For more pictures of the mountain you can visit my Flickr page here.