Mount Hallasan is known as the tallest mountain in South Korea. Along with Jirisan and Seoraksan, it is one of the three main mountains in South Korea.
What many people do not know about Mount Hallasan is that it is actually active. The volcanic cones are proof that it was once more active than currently. Despite it being “an active volcano”, it has been “sleeping” for a very long time now, about 5000 years and people do not actually know when or whether it will smoke or burp fire again. However, it currently does not do either thing that an active volcano does, nor smokes or burps any fire. If you are a nature lover, an experienced or less experienced hiker, this is the place to go to as you will have the occasion to experience something new, to see some spectacular views and to challenge yourself to a quite good hike.
As with any intriguing and old places, there are many legends that hoover around Mount Hallasan and one of them is related to the words its name is formed from. The main words it is composed of – Han and La – mean it is a mountain that can pull the universe. And it is believed that if someone that climbs the mountain, sees a star and calls out “noinseon” will live longer.
It is believed to be a sacred mountain.
Mount Halla is also known as “Jinshan” and the reason behind this name is that with the help of it, the Korean peninsula is protected as it blocks the great winds that come from the South Pacific. With its help, rice farming can survive, which otherwise would not.
According to the authorities, over 1,800 kinds of plants and 4,000 species of animals – out of which the vast majority are insects live on mount Hallasan. That is in your way up or down the mountain, you will not have any dull moments as the scenery is more than astonishing.
There is a big difference between the temperature of the mount Hallasan at the bottom and at the top. Thus you have to be prepped with some waterproof and warm clothes as well. You may be used with the warm weather if it is summer or with cold weather if it is winter. However, here it is quite different. It is cold and wet weather at the top in the summertime and freezing weather in the winter time.
During Spring and Autumn the weather is chiller and having warm layers to cover you up will surely help you in case of need. Sometimes when sunny, you also need a hat and sunscreen, so make sure you have everything available on you.
During Summer it often rains so you should be well protected with something for wind and rain. There is nothing that can ruin your hike and enjoyment more than getting soaking wet and knowing you will have some hours left to descend the mountain.
During Winter time the weather gets colder and there can also be snow and ice. Thus having good boots that will not allow you to slip is a must.
The way down becomes quite dangerous once it is darker outside. Thus, to make sure people do not venture on their own and without any control on any of the two longest trails and get down the mountain safely before the dark, the authorities put some cut-off times – they vary according to the season and you have to be well-informed about them before starting your hike.
If you choose to climb the Gwaneumsa trail, on the way up, you must pass the Yongjingak Shelter and if you choose to climb the Seongpanak trail you have to pass the Jindallaebat Shelter by the following times:
- Spring (Mar-Apr) & Autumn (Sept-Oct) : 12:30 pm
- Summer (May-August): 1:00 pm
- Winter (Nov – Feb): 12:00 pm
When heading back down from either of the two longest trails, you have to get off the summit by the following times:
- Spring & Autumn: 2:00 pm
- Summer: 2:30 pm
- Winter: 1:30pm
You can start your hiking as early as 5:00 am in the summer time and 6:00 am in the winter time.
The above information will help you schedule your trip and be safe. You have to make sure you have a good watch on your hand that can guide you and lets you know the time.
There are 5 hiking trails on Mount Hallasan, out of which the Donnaeko trail, is just partly opened, and most of it is closed to the public. While there are 4 actual hiking trails, only two of them can take you to the crater lip and those are the Gwaneumsa ((관음사))and the Seongpanak((성판악)).
Info about the trails:
- Gwaneumsa trail has 8.7 km one way. It has no public transport to the car park back, in case you are exhausted. To get here the easiest way is to take a taxi from the Jeju Intercity Bus Terminal to the Gwanseumsa trailhead. Gwaneumsa is the hardest for climbing. This is why, if you want to experience the beauty of it still, you can try a combined itinerary – climb the Seongpanak trail and come back down on the Gwaneumsa one. You will use both this way and not get extremely tired, like climbing only on Gwaneumsa.
- Seongpanak Trail has 9.6 km one way, but it takes less to climb than on the above trail. Seongpanak is the most popular from the two as it has a milder incline, even though it is longer with 900m. While this is the most popular and the easier, the 8.7 km Gwaneumsa trail, is the most picturesque
- Eorimok Trail has 4.7 km one way. While this does not take you up to the top of the mountain it will offer great views of oak trees and various wildlife, while enjoying the climb, as it is not steep at all.
- Yeongsil Trail has 3.7 km one way. This is the shortest trail but it takes you near some wonderful waterfalls. Just like the one above, it does not take you to the top of the mountain.
- Donnaeko Trail has 1 km and while this is rather long as well it does not lead to the top. It was closed for fifteen years and opened to the public in December 2009. It can lead to the peak, but it goes just up to the Witse Oreum, where it closes to protect the wildlife and vegetation.
Tips for the trip
If you are courageous enough and decided to start any of these hiking trails, there are some tips that can come in handy and make your trip even more beautiful than expected.
- Make sure you start the trip as early as possible, as the two longest trails may last up to 10 hours(two ways) and you want to come down during light time.
- Have some food and water on you, make sure you have enough water, as you may not find any on your way up and even though you may find a place to refill, think about the fact that the climbers are many and you may not get the chance of refill. There are a couple of spots to buy water and snacks but better to have them on you.
- Make sure your outfit is ready for weather change conditions. Layering is the best option when hiking a mountain.
- If you want to reach the summit of the mountain, you have to choose between the Seongpanak trail and the Gwaneumsa trail.
- If you enter on https://www.visitjeju.net/en/ you will be able to see all the information regarding buses and their routes.
- The T-money card is useful to get you on any bus or subway in Jeju and in Korea. There are various balances you can choose to have on it, so make sure you opt for your best one. If you happen to have a trip close to one another at less than 30 minutes, you will not pay for the journey.
Climbing on Gwaneumsa trail
This trail is quieter than the Seongpanak trail as not so many people venture on it due to its difficulty.
On your way up it offers you a great sight of many wildflowers, coloured in blue, mauve and purple, so make sure you have your camera on fully charged, or if you are one of those people that likes to save a good memory in the head, make sure you take the time to inhale it all.
Another good thing about choosing this path is that there is a narrow railway on the way, put there for emergency cases, for people that cannot go down anymore, or for when the weather is not very friendly. All in all, it is a good thing that it is there and the thought of it makes you feel safer.
While it is a rather long way up and down you have to make sure you have some hand sanitizer, toilet paper or tissues just in case. There are toilets put at your disposal, but the truth is that they are not very pleasant and you may want to be extra careful.
Starting the hike on Gwaneumsa trail you will climb upper and upper on the staircase for an hour or so and then get to the Yongjingak Shelter that I mentioned earlier. Here you can take a rest and eat. Then you are ready to climb again up until the viewing platform. On your way up you will meet rocky river beds and small streams.
However, as the climb is quite steep it will not be an easy climb and you have to have this in mind and prepare for this. At some point, you will cross a bog wooden bridge over the river bed. Take a moment to take it all in and enjoy the view as well as get some rest, as the steepest part of the climb is yet to come. While the next part is quite narrow, it does not last that long – at the top of 30 minutes.
The more you climb the thicker the clouds become and it is important that the weather stays good to be able to see something at the top.
Making to the top after 4 harsh hours of climbing, you will see the White Deer Lake if you have any luck and the weather allows you to. Reaching the summit to the north you will see the crater with a small blue-green lake at the base. The level of the lake is sometimes low and sometimes high, depending on the time of the year. This is a place where people can rest, eat, stay and relax, take photos, chat, as there is space enough for quite some people.
You may think that going down is easier than climbing up. But in fact, it is quite the opposite. Because it is quite steep, you have to have quite good knees and training to avoid harsh pain in your legs. Don’t let this stay in your way, as every bit worths it. Make sure you are aware of the time you have to start your way down – check the schedule according to the season, as mentioned before. If you forget, there is usually someone there that will remind you of this.
Going to Gwanseumsa you have the possibility to take the bus with the following routes:
- Take the 281 bus to Sancheondan from Jeju City
- Take 281 to Sancheondan Korean Polytechnic University from Seongwipo.
You can also take a taxi if you do not have any money issues.
Descending on Seongpanak trail
This is another trail that is worth hiking on as it has great views and can get you to the summit of the mountain. Climbing it is far easier than the above one but will not prove to be so breathtaking and you have fewer places to stop and refresh for a drink.
Going down this trail will prove to be less steep than the Gwaneumsa one but more slippery. Thus being equipped with good mountain shoes is a must. After one hour of going down, you will reach the Shelter, where you can go to the toilet, take some provisions and some water for the trip down. Make sure you have enough water to have for the trip as there is no spring where you can fill up the bottles, despite it being indicated there is.
The next shelter will be after another hour of descending. Here you can only use the restroom and rest that is all, there is no extra water or supplies. If you are earlier and still have an extra 45 minutes to spare and still get down before sunset, there you can see a side route to another peak and crater lake – Sara Oreum.
Going down further, you can see signs of wild bears in the vicinity, you may just have the luck to meet them or not. However, usually during the daytime, they do not show their face. From here one there will be only one hour and a half of going down to the trail park. You will be able to pass through some nice forests and see some wildlife if you are lucky.
Going to Seongpanak there is no need to take the taxi as the bus is very suitable.
As Jeju Island has become rather popular in the last years, it has quite a few places for one to stay in – depending on what you want to do, what you want to visit, how long you stay and the degree of comfort you need for your accommodation.
In the southern part of the island, one can find the Jejueco Suites, which are close to Waterfall, Yakchunsa Temple, the Teddy Bear Museum, Cheonjiyeon Falls and other sights that worth visiting.
There is also the Benikea Jungmun Hotel, close to the Yeomiji Botanical Garden, Jeju Jungmun Resort, the Teddy Bear Museum and others.
If you feel you need something more luxurious, you can opt for the Shilla Jeju Resort. It comes with the view of the Pacific Ocean and the magnificent Mt. Halla. You will have all the commodities you need at your service, to get to all the attractions this area offers.
If you do not necessarily want a resort you can lodge in the Jeju city and be closer to the Gwanseumsa trailhead. In Jeju City you can opt for the following:
- Lotte City Hotel
- Yeha Guesthouse
- Gudeok Guesthouse in Seongwipo
- R Hotel
- Hotel W Top-Dong – high-quality accommodation in Jeju City
You can have the best from Mount Hallasan and Jeju Island if you are ready and open to new experiences. If you are not from around there, everything will seem different, but it is important to know that people are nice and eager to help and offer information in case you need them.
For a successful hiking trip to Mount Hallasan is imperious that you are prepared in advance. They may tell you what you need at the bottom of the hiking trail, but you may be caught unprepared and choosing to go without good gear and provisions is not an option.
As hard as the climb may seem, what you see on your way up and down, does not compare to anything and you will be left with great memories.