So, you decided to hike the Ulsanbawi Hiking Trail! Or maybe you saw a picture of this stunning place and now you are debating whether or not you would like to do so. In any case, you have come to the right place.
We hiked Ulsanbawi in May and to-date it is one of the most stunning hikes we have done! In this guide we will answer everything you might want to know when planning your own trip. From how to get there to how much time you should plan, whether you can do it as a day trip from Seoul etc.!
But, aside from the logistics of this hike, we also want to share our own experience and what it is truly like to hike Ulsanbawi trail, for those of you that have yet to decide whether or not Ulsanbawi trail is something for you!
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Ulsanbawi Hiking Trail – Everything you need to know
Ulsanbawi is a stunning rock formation inside Seoraksan National Park. The latter has been a national park since 1970 and is known for its many peaks located 1200 meters above sea level!
Since Ulsanbawi is located at the edge of Seoraksan National Park, standing on top of Ulsanbawi will not only give you amazing views over the surrounding mountains, but also towards the seaside town of Sokcho, the city nearest to Seoraksan National Park. Among foreign tourists Sokcho is probably best known as being the base for a visit to the national park! In our opinion Sokcho has a bit more to offer than just that though.
But before we get to the views from Ulsanbawi, we should probably start from the very beginning: How do you even get to the Ulsanbawi trail?
Can you hike the Ulsanbawi trail as a day trip from Seoul?
The short answer is yes, you can. Would we recommend it though? Probably not – unless you are really on a time crunch. And here is why. To get to Seoraksan National Park from Seoul you first have to take a 2h30 bus-ride to Sokcho, followed by a 30-min bus ride to the national park.
This means that you would spend at least 6 hours of your day inside a bus, stressing about whether or not you have enough time. Also, you would completely skip Sokcho, which we think would be a shame. But, technically it’s doable, yes.
Another option that might be interesting if you really only have one day to do the Ulsanbawi trail from Seoul is booking a tour*. This option is a bit more expensive. But, it is an option and probably the most comfortable way to hike Ulsanbawi as a day trip from Seoul.
How to get to Seoraksan National Park from Sokcho
Now, for the purpose of this section, we will assume that you made it to Sokcho. In case you do need more information on how to get to Sokcho from Seoul, head to our travel guide to the city of Sokcho!
From Sokcho Express Bus Terminal, you will need to walk to the nearest bus station, which is located across the street a little more than 200 meters away (see picture down below for the exact location). Here you can catch the local bus 7 or 7-1, whose last stop will be the entrance to Seoraksan National Park.
In order to get back to the city after you finished your hike, you can catch the same bus. It will depart on the same parking lot where it dropped you off in the morning!
The trip will take around 30-40 minutes one-way depending on the driving style of your bus driver. Let’s just say, in our experience, the bus drivers in South Korea are not exactly squeamish.
Heavy breaking at every red light even when the bus is full? No problem! We usually don’t like to generalize, because there are certainly other bus drivers as well! However the vast majority of bus drivers we encountered in South Korea did kind of fall in that category… So just a heads up if there are no seats left on your next local bus trip in South Korea;).
One-way the bus costs 1100 KR₩. You can either pay in cash to the bus driver or you use a T-Money card to pay! We recommend the latter!
The origins of Ulsanbawi according to the folktale
There is a folktale surrounding the creation of Ulsanbawi Rock. In said folktale, the creator called upon all the rocks of the country because he wanted to create the twelve thousand peaks of Geumgangsan Mountain. The latter is located about 50 kilometers north of Sokcho.
One of the rocks following this call was Ulsanbawi. He dragged its body north all the way from Ulsan. However, when arriving at his destination he learned that the twelve thousand peaks were already created and thus it was asked to return home. However the poor Ulsanbawi was too ashamed to return and so it decided to stay next to Seoraksan Mountain, where it is located today.
Of course we all know that this is not really how Ulsanbawi was formed, but we thought it was an interesting anecdote that we read on a sign at the bottom of the hike.
How difficult is the Ulsanbawi Trail?
Before getting more into what this hiking trail looks like etc., here are a few statistics surrounding the Ulsanbawi trail you might be interested in before attempting to do the hike:
- Length of the hike: 3.8 kilometers one-way (from Seoraksan National Park entrance gate to the top of Ulsanbawi) – 7.6 to get back to the starting point of the hike
- Height difference: 561 meters (most of the height difference is within the last kilometer of the hike!)
- Difficulty level: Hard. On the last kilometer of the hike the trail only consists of stairs in some form or another.
When is the best time to hike the Ulsanbawi Trail?
The best time to hike the Ulsanbawi Hiking Trail is either spring or autumn in terms of temperature. During the winter months there will probably be snow in Seoraksan National Park and it will be rather cold. And during the summer months it will be way too hot!
We did the hike mid-May which was quite ideal temperature-wise. The views were stunning too since the surrounding forests were lush green. If you wish for even more stunning views, the autumn months might be a good time to go as the whole national park will have beautifully colored leaves (typically this is somewhere in late October).
What is the Ulsanbawi Hiking Trail like?
After getting off the bus, you will see a huge gate, which is the unmissable entrance to Seoraksan National Park. From what we read you will have to pay an entrance fee of around 3500 KR₩ to get inside the National Park. On the day we visited, they for some reason waved everyone through without having to pay the entrance fee. We are not entirely sure why though.
Getting to the starting point
Getting to the starting point of the Ulsanbawi hike is actually quite easy as the trail is very well marked by several signs. But just in case, here’s a quick description of where you need to go.
As a rule of thumb, on most crossroads keep to the right and you will eventually get there. When entering the national park, you will first pass several restaurants and cafés. just keep walking straight further into the national park until you reach a huge Buddha statue. Right next to the statue you should see a number of stunning bridges now. Cross them and make your way towards Sinheungsa Temple.
When standing in front of the temple entrance, take the paved road to the right to get to the Ulsanbawi Hiking Trail. You will soon cross another bridge that will lead you to Anyangam Hermitage. From here, the road will follow the river bed for a while.
Eventually, you will reach a fork in the road and to your right you will see the first stairs. Congratulations! This means that you completed the easy part of the hike;).
From now on the hike will mostly consist of stairs of some sort. The picture to the left down below depicts a quick roadmap of the hike (it’s a picture of a panel inside the national park). The picture to the right gives you a glimpse of what the stairs look like. I will however say that this picture was taken on the last stretch and is probably the worst part of the hike.
The views on top are absolutely worth it to get through the stairs though! So everything I wrote in the paragraph above was definitely not to discourage you. However you should have a realistic idea of whether you can make it or not. We took several breaks along the way and so did many of the other hikers. But, in the end we all made it to the top! And we were not disappointed!
So, is the Ulsanbawi hike worth it?
In our opinion, the hike is very much worth it! Even though the ascent is not necessarily easy, the views are very rewarding and absolutely stunning. We do think that this is one of the most beautiful hikes we have done so far. So if you consider yourself up for the challenge we definitely recommend you to go for it! You won’t regret it!.