We planned to take a break from shopping for an easy hike that is near the city. Inwangsan looked like a good option after some research online. So we took the train to Dongnimmun Station (Line 3, Red, Exit 1) in the morning. There is a little Korean eatery that sold food, and I got myself 2 rice rolls, Kimbap. One for breakfast and the other for the road for only 2,000won each. We also popped by the 7-Eleven to get chilled bottled drinks for the hike. We wished we got 2 bottles each instead of one at the end of the hike though. So do bring a little more water and drink, especially if the sun is out like that day.
We read that there is an Independence Gate near the station and thus we decided to visit it first before the hike. We needed to cross the road from Exit 1 towards the Independence Park and turn left. It was about a 7-8min walk. If you would rather use the underground, Exit 4 of the station leads you to Independence Gate directly. On hindsight, it might have been wiser to do the Independence Gate after the trail as we passed it when we came down from Inwangsan, rather than making a deliberate detour. 🙂
Finding the Start of the Trail
Now the task is to find the start of the trail. There was a little signboard at one of streets near Exit 1 and that was about all we saw. Follow that signboard and look out for apartments that look like these. Near the entrance of the apartment, on a lamp post, there is a little signboard that points to the start of the trail. Continue upslope without entering the apartments compound and at the end of the road turn right.
We eventually came to fork road that has signages that says “Tongil-ro 18ga-gil”, “Seonbawi (Rock) 180m”, and “Guksadang of Inwangsan (Mt.) 150m”. Looking at the other direction, we saw an interesting traditional gate to Inwangsan Temple (Add: 26, Tongil-ro, 18ga-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul). The name Inwangsan means “Merciful King’s Mountain”, given by King Sejong. The temple was closed during King Yeonsangun because it overlooks the royal palace. Buddhist worshippers started to reopen this temple in 1910s. I enjoyed the steep climb with many steps up here as there were many other pretty traditional houses along the way that looked like homes. There is also a legendary wishing rock here.
Starting the Actual Trail
No, we haven’t started on the trail. In fact the temple is up on a very steep slope. We had to slowly get ourselves down the steep slope, back to the fork to get onto the trail proper. So we had a warm up round with the small hill to the temple. So this sign marks the start of the trail. As you can see, it is uphill again!
We enjoyed the view while hiking up the slopes. Don’t forget to turn around once a while when climbing to take in the view. It was a beautiful sunny day, where the skies are blue and the clouds were fluffy white. There are still many pretty flowers along the side walks even though it is the start of autumn.
So here are some photos of the walls, against lovely greenary and a few birds’ nests on the branches if you can spot them.
We came to this gantry point and wondered if we should continue upwards. The view from here is already amazing. We could see Namsan Tower from afar. In the end we decided to go all the way up, not sure what we will find. The properly paved trail comes to an end after about 20min slow climb up. Afterwhich, it is rocky terrain where one needs to get on all fours to climb. I stopped at this point as I am terribly afraid of heights. I can get myself up but coming down will be a HUGE challenge once I see the height. My companion went on and took almost 40mins to return. I believe it was not an easy climb as I saw groups of caucasian young hikers coming down panting hard. One even had a big patch of abrasion on her knees. I was told it was well worth the additional 40min of hard climb though. I would definitely go for it if not for the paralyzing fear of heights.
Coming down was easy, through the paved steps and flowers by the side. We knew we finished the trail when we saw these signboards that serves as markers. You will see a small 7-Eleven strategically positioned at the end of the trail, down the steep slope. That was a life saver as we were thirsty. From the 7-Eleven, turn left while facing the road from the 7-Eleven door and go down the steep slope along the narrow 2-lane-2-direction road. We came to a junction which led to a major road, or a minor highway, made a right turn and the Independence Gate was in view from afar. From there we went back to Dongnimmun Station and came one full circle!
I am so glad we did the hike. It was a great workout with lovely scenary. It was fun trying to figure out where is Gueongkokgong Palace and different landmarks with Namsan Tower at the far distance. This took us almost 4 hours, as we stopped to take photos and enjoyed the view.