With just a few months left in Seoul, I wanted to find some good trail runs that I haven’t done yet. Surprisingly, I found basically no information on trail runs in Seoul. There’s already plenty of information out there about all the popular runs along the Han, around Namsan, and about the several other popular city runs (those new to Seoul wanting to find some of these city runs and run with good people should check out Runsploring Seoul).
Before I jump in, a word to the wise: If possible, start your trail run by 9:30 a.m. Hiking is a very popular activity with the older generation in Korea. Trails can get annoyingly crowded on any given day on any trail. Luckily, things in Korea don’t really get going until about 10 a.m., so I’ve found if you get out early enough you can sometimes find yourself alone on the trail.
For a city of 11 million people, Seoul actually boasts some pretty great trails. So, for any trail running junkies, here are my top 4 in Seoul.
4. Bukhansan National Park- Moderate/Difficult
Bukhansan National Park boasts a huge array or trails. I have always taken the Subway to Gupabal Station and then bus 704 to the mountain, but you can also start on the opposite side at Gireum Station. This is one of the most popular places to hike around Seoul, so go early or be prepared to spend your day walking in a line.
Most of the runs are extremely challenging and steep. Almost every trail leads to a summit, some require handrails to climb, and some are definitely too steep to run. Overall, the runs are not mellow enough to really hit a groove. However, if you can pack a lunch and a CamelBack, it can be a good all day hiking/running adventure due to the size of the park, and the views from the summits are amazing.
3. Namhansanseong (7-9 km round trip)- Short, but Moderate/Difficult
A bit of home neighborhood bias here. When I moved to my first apartment in Seoul, this was the closest mountain. Namhansanseong is in Southeast Seoul, and is best accessed from Macheon Station at the end of the purple line. From the station, it is about a half kilometer or so to the station. Go out exit 2 and run to the end of the road (toward the looming mountain). Turn right when it hits a dead end. When the road takes a hard left, continue straight into a narrow street or restaurants, vendors, and hiking shops.
There are a few routes up the mountain, and even a trail that branches off for some nice rollers at one point. My favorite way to go starts just past all the shops and restaurants you see before starting up the mountain. Stay to the left when that road branches, and just past the uphill, you will see a gap in the fence on the left.
Continue on the main trail, and when it splits, always stay to the left to avoid the extremely steep stuff and a lot of stairs, and then keep cruising up to the top. This is a short but intense run (maybe 5km of mostly uphill).
It’s very beautiful, not too crowded, and you’re rewarded with a cool fortress at the top, and there are always people selling snacks and makgeoli at the summit.
2. Seoul Trail- Starting from Yangjae Citizen’s Forest Station: 8-10 km Easy/Moderate
The Seoul Trail makes for the best running in Seoul. While you can summit some mountains across it, summits are not the main goal of this 157 km trail. This means it is less crowded, and the trails are easier to find a groove on than those that shoot straight to summits.
This part is a continuation from #1. If you’re feeling ambitious, you can try for both in one day, or more ambitious yet, add on Gwanaksan when you get to the end of this section.
This section can be accessed from Yangjae Citizen’s Forest Station. Go out exit 5 and cross the street into the Citizen’s Forest heading north. These blue and orange signs will direct you through the park.
When you come to the white shed at the end of the park, beware of the misleading sign. It appears to tell you to go down the ramp to your right. Save yourself the extra 10km I wandered on that stream. Do not go down that ramp. If you find yourself running along a stream after the park, stop, turn around, and go back up the ramp. Look left to see these orange ribbons hanging from the rails and trees. Continue to follow the orange ribbons through the city for about 1 km until you reach the trail.
From the trailhead it is easy to navigate. The trail is clearly marked throughout the run, and there are several branching off trails to explore if you’d like. Enjoy some great views of the city and some (usually) quiet trails before you reach the end at this box.
Follow the Seoul Trail signs down through the back streets and you’ll come out at a main road. Cross the street at the crosswalk on the left for the next section of the trail starting at Gwanaksan (again, signs and ribbons point the way), or go right to get to Sadang Station.
Biting into my second Melon Pop after an all-morning run ^^
1. Seoul Trail – Starting from Suseo Station: 10-14 km Moderate
Definitely my personal favorite. This trail was my refuge and home trail while I trained for the Seoul International Marathon. You can hit some summits on the way if you want, but following Seoul Trail contours the mountain and rolls through the hills. It is one of the few places in Seoul I have truly been alone. There are a ton of side trails and secret paths to explore (where I’ve spotted a deer and stumbled across a hidden temple), and it really isn’t too crowded, especially in winter and in the mornings. Best of all, the nice rolling path allows you to get into a steady groove while throwing in just a 3-4 monster hills to add some spice.
To get there, go to Suseo Station, exit 6. Walk straight for about 100 meters and you will see the trailhead on your right. Start with the big uphill that will make you question my claim that this is the best trail run in Seoul, and then enjoy when it levels off for a couple kilometers of smooth trails.
Stay on the main trail, and after about 10 minutes you’ll come to a junction where you can take on another huge hill straight in front of you that leads to Daemosan, or head off to the right for a slight downhill. This sign will point the way to Seoul trail.
These orange ribbons mean you’re still on Seoul Trail.
As I said, all of the trails around are worth exploring (the trail straight ahead can lead you to the summit of Daemosan), but here I’ll chronicle what happens if you branch to the right. You’ll start seeing blue and orange signs for Seoul Trail along the path. Stick on Seoul Trail, which is clearly the main path, and eventually you’ll hit this nice little Buddhist temple (about 5 km in).
Keep running straight past it, and when you pass the exercise equipment, head left up the hill. This will keep you on Seoul Trail, and give you an extra 5-7 km of beautiful trails to run. If you run an out and back, then you can go for about 2 hours, all on trails.
Eventually, you will hit this exit in some back alley. You can either turn around, or keep following the signs and ribbons for Seoul Trail for 2-3 km, which will bring you to Yangjae Citizen’s Forest Station and Run #2 on this list.