Hiking Seoul Fortress

Recent Posts, Posted by Matt in ALL DESTINATIONS,Best of DK,Historic Korea,Nature,Seoul,Video, 14 Comments

Hiking Seoul Fortress


Hiking Seoul Fortress (서울성곽) is one of the best ways to experience a conspicuous remnant of Seoul’s ancient past. First constructed in 1396 – just five years after King Taejo founded the Joseon Dynasty – the earthen wall was built to join the ridge lines of the four small mountains that surrounded Seoul proper – Namsan (남산)  in the south, Inwangsan (인왕산) to the west, Naksan (낙산) to the east, and Bugaksan (북악산) in the North. Although much of the old Seoul Fortress wall has been torn down, significant portions remain and others are being rebuilt.

From Seoul Fortress (서울성곽)

As you’re hiking Seoul Fortress, you can tell from the size and shape of the stones which era in which it was built. The original walls, built in the late 14th century were constructed of medium-sized round stones held together by mud. The next major expansion, which took place during King Sejong the Great’s reign in the mid 15th century, are marked by rectangular stones closely fit together. Another major restoration in 1704 was when King Sukjong rebuilt sections of the wall using large, uniform stone slabs joined so tightly that even a sheet of paper can’t fit in-between.

Among what’s left of the Seoul Fortress wall, the stretch from Bugaksan to Inwangsan mountains provide some of the best preserved stretches that, along with spectacular views, make for a great day hike. Recently reopened to the public, the trail begins at Waryong Park (와룡공원). Turning left after a short break in the wall, the trail leads past a virtual tunnel of blooming vines. A boardwalk extends throughout the forest, whose canopy provides welcome relief from the summer sun. After several hundred meters, the forest gives way to open sky, and the upscale neighborhood of Seongbuk-dong (성북동) comes into view.

From Seoul Fortress (서울성곽)


Once you reach the Sukjeongmun gate Rest Area, it’s mandatory that visitors register with the office. It takes just a couple of minutes to furnish your passport, provide your contact information, receive a badge, and then your on your way to see the Great Northern Gate, Sukjeongmun (숙정문). Among the four main gates that mark each of the cardinal points, Sukjeongmun is the smallest. Primarily constructed to comply with geomantic principles, it’s mountain-top location meant it didn’t see much traffic. Nevertheless, from its perch on the slopes of Bugaksan, a great view of northern Seoul can be had.

From Seoul Fortress (서울성곽)

While hiking Seoul Fortress, every 200 meters or so you’re bound to see a young man patrolling the area. Friendly but hardly chatty, their presence reminds you that this area just north of the presidential house and less than two hours from the border with North Korea, remains a highly sensitive area as it was centuries ago. With that in mind, photos are, for the most part, restricted, but the views from on high are definitely worth the trek, even if you can’t keep a momento.

From Seoul Fortress (서울성곽)

After reaching Bugaksan’s 342 meter peak, it’s time to wind your way back down. As the trail becomes increasingly steep, you’ll thank me for taking you on the westward route. After the precipitous descent, the stately secondary gate of Changuimun (창의문) signals your arrival in the peaceful hamlet of Buam-dong (부암동) , and just in time for lunch!.

For your information…

Most sections are open 24 hours. However, the section between Waryong Park and Changuimun’s hours vary. Closed Mondays.Free02-1220
Jongno-gu Jongno 6(yuk)-ga 69The Mt. Bugaksan section of the Seoul Fortress can be accessed via Anguk Station on Seoul Metro Line 3 (exit #2). Immediately outside the exit is a bus stop. Take bus #02 to the Sungkyunkwan University rear


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14 September 2010 10:39

Tweets that mention Discovering Korea – Hiking Seoul Fortress —

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Homestaykorea, Matt Kelley. Matt Kelley said: New video blog post: Hiking Seoul Fortress [...]

17 September 2010 13:45

And on the travel and culture front… | The Marmot's Hole

[...] Matt of Discovering Korea hikes Seoul’s Mt. Bugaksan. [...]

1 October 2010 10:24

Weekly Snapshots | 9.17.10 « Hermit Hideaways

[...] is featured in Burn Magazine’s online edition. Awesome shot that. ♦ Matt takes us on a tour of Seoul Fortress. ♦ Need an escape from city madness? Head to the Han River for a coffee. ♦ Tigers & [...]

3 November 2010 17:27

Discovering Korea – All Destinations

[...] Hiking Seoul Fortress [...]

21 August 2011 19:29

Architecture: Dongdaemun Plaza by Zaha Hadid – Experientell

[...] In the History Museum you can admire artifacts that were found during excavations under the old sports stadium. The Event Hall is a multi-purpose space, currently hosting a media based exhibition about the Fortress Wall of Seoul. [...]

5 February 2012 01:45

Hiking Bugaksan in downtown Seoul « susanrene's blog

[...] I went to Bugaksan for the second time in a [...]

21 February 2012 23:53

Hyehwamun «

[...] hiking excursion. Not having properly researched our adventure, we assumed the vast web of Seoul fortress walls all connected. Knowing that there was a gate near our home, we figured we could pick it up there [...]

9 July 2012 01:21

Carol Thornton

Hi Matt
I am on a long journey to get to Korea. :) I am planning in 2 to 3 years to spend 3 months hiking Korea and doing home stays as well as seeing cultural events, and the history of Korea.
I would love to some day be able to take people on trips to see the country and experience its great history.
Any advice on websites or history would be great.
Thanks and be healthy and happy
Carol :)

4 December 2012 00:07


night or in the early morning is you often get a cncahe to meet like-minded folk. While I was at Namhansanseong the night before, some guys shooting up there likened it to fishing you spend most of your time waiting and

2 February 2013 23:46


this is a great page! wanted to do this, but didn’t have enough information. this looks like something to do this weekend. do you recommend any more places to hike around seoul?

February 06 2013 07:04 am


Hi Jason,
There are tons of places to go hiking in Seoul! Most notably the mountains... My favorites are Dobongsan and Inwangsan. There's even little Ansan behind Ewha Woman's University that's an easy trek with a great view. I've heard great things about the relatively new Dulle-gil trails that are located around Bukhansan National Park. Happy hiking!
Best, Matt

24 May 2013 13:58


Hey man,

I DEFINITELY thank you for the information on where to start. If I would have started on the other side of the fortress and had to start with all the stairs, that would have killed me. Was even a pain going down on this side.

Thanks a lot

July 15 2013 02:55 am


Hey Chris,
Phew! I'm glad you caught that. Actually, I should probably highlight that recommendation...

Best, Matt

August 05 2013 11:56 am


I totally agree with Chris on this. The last part is pretty tough just coming down. Starting the climb with hundreds and hundreds of stairs wouldn't have been fun.
I saw a few out of shape guys beginning the climb as I was close to the end. I had to smile.I didn't envy them at all. I wondered if they knew what they had let themselves in for.

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