A long journey, but as with most journeys that are long, they are well worth the patience and effort. After a frigid January, we decided to take the next leg of the Seoul Trail in early February. Originally, we were going to break the first section into three parts, but as it turns out, the Danggogae to Hwarangdae leg of the journey was not nearly as strenuous. The highlight of the hike being a lookout point on the slopes of Buram Mountain (불암산). The overall hike was a distance of 9.2KM which we finished in under four hours.
What to Bring: For this hike, I brought my hiking boots and to be quite honest, I didn’t really need them. In fact, they weighted me down a bit and if I were to repeat the hike, I would bring some good running shoes. That said, if you are an avid hiker, the boots might be more comfortable for you. We brought along some snacks (strawberries and beef jerky) and a couple of bottles of water. It was a nice cool day, so there wasn’t much need for too much water, but depending on the season, you will need to adjust how much liquid to bring. In the summer, I would recommend at least two litres of water. We did not see any refill stations on the trail, so keep this in mind if you are hiking in the warmer months.
How to get there: The easiest way to arrive at the second leg of part one of the Seoul Trail is to take the subway to Danggogae Station (Line 4) and depart from Exit 2. After departing from exit 2, make an immediate left and head up the street with the subway station on your left.
Weaving Our Way Through the Alleys of Danggogae: Surprisingly, this was the most difficult part of the hike in regards to direction. You will need to weave your way through the urban jungle before embarking on the calmness of the wilderness. After you depart from Danggogae station make a left and walk about 200 meters. You will come across an intersection with a green arrow pointing you in the right direction. The goal is to keep heading east towards Bulamsan, but it is going to require a little zig-zaging through the alleys of Danggogae.
The Seoul Trail: Hakdoam Branch Road (2.7KM): The remnants of winter are upon us. The weather is getting warmer, and that beautiful sheet of white snow has melted into the dreary brown of the early spring. Dead leaves from the previous fall that were housed under a thin sheet of snow, partly disintegrated will soon complete the circle of life, for the next spring. It’s a strange time, a paradoxical moment of the year that hovers between death and life. A moment of purgatory in the circle of life. Although it is not the most photogenic time of year, it still has its briefs flashes of beauty.
Bulamsan Trail Observation Deck: One of the highlights of the hike and a perfect place to get some great photos of Bulamsan and surrounding area. Unfortunately, the smog was strong that day, so some of the photos are a little foggy. That said, on a clear day, the view is breathtaking.
A Little More Rugged Outdoors and Some Korea War Bunkers: After we left the observation deck, the most strenuous part of the hike commenced. It was a relatively slow incline, but at the end were about 100 steps to the top of a hill. Unfortunately, this incline did not have a great view as it was covered with bush. However, there was a cool bunker left over from the war. JU was brave enough to go in and scope it out.
The final 3KMs – Gunfire and Gates: The final 3km of the hike leads you into a strange area. On your right is a fenced area which surrounds a gun range and on your left is another fenced in area which we suspect is some type of training area for the military. As you descend back into the streets of Seoul, painted murals on the walls greet you, as well as a beautiful gate for entering into or in or case, leaving Buramsan. After this, it is just walking down sidewalks and under highway overpasses. This is a spot for a rest if you are planning to do the next leg.
Final Thoughts: Although Danggogae to Hwarangdae is an easier hike, it was not as rewarding as Dobongsan to Danggogae. Maybe it was the fresh coat of snow in the first section, or maybe it was just the feeling of doing something new, but I personally preferred the first the section of the hike as opposed to the second. That said, for a new hiker, I think Danggogae to Hwarangdae would be a perfect starting point because it is not a difficult hike and you do get a few opportunities for some great views. Next week, we start from Hwarangdae Station and start section two of the Seoul Trail! Until then, keep on ROKing.