Ansan Mountain. Mountain in Seoul, South Korea

Ansan Mountain

Mountain in Seoul, South Korea

Ansan, Seoul, Korea: August 2012 Photo © Michael Sean Gallagher

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Ansan Mountain

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As one of Seoul’s smallest mountains, Ansan Mountain is a great local spot and starting point for hikers looking to start hitting heights. Compared to most of the other peaks in Seoul, Ansan Mountain is a relatively short and safe trek. It’s only a one or two-hour trip to the peak which offers a view of neighboring mountains to the North, Northeast, and Southeast.

There are many ways to get to the Ansan mountain trails, but the easiest start is through Yonsei University (Wikipedia Article). Built into the side of Ansan Mountain, Yonsei University is one of Seoul’s oldest surviving universities. It’s a gentle slope from the entrance of the university to the upper altitudes where the buildings are fine examples of European-influenced brickwork covered in impressive walls of ivy. Once past the university, the mountain is lined with multiple trails to give plenty of choices for hikers to make their own adventure.

The Peak

At nearly 984 feet above sea level, there is an old smoke beacon leftover from the Joseon (Wikipedia Article) Dynasty. For hundreds of years, an outpost housed soldiers whose sole duty was to warn the capital of impending attacks. The beacon is just one of many found near palatial structures and other mountains including Namsan at the foot of N. Seoul Tower. From the smoke beacon, three other mountains in Seoul are clearly visible on most days and the view is amazing even on foggy days.

The peak itself is actually a few meters west of the smoke beacon but few hikers bother making the journey. There isn’t much of a view and the entire site is shrouded in trees. There are several trails that lead to the peak and the smoke beacon from all sides of the mountain. Of course, making the trek up to the peak and/or the smoke beacon is another problem entirely.

The Trails and Terrain

Like the other mountains in Seoul, Ansan Mountain has too many trails to count. There are five general courses that most hikers follow, ranging from beginner levels with gentle terrain to more difficult trails which will require hiking boots to traverse over hard rock and slippery slopes. The easier trails can be traversed in sneakers or tennis shoes but don't expect them to be clean afterwards.

The most popular trail is a walking trail which takes people on a 4.3 miles hike around the mountain. This particular trail never reaches the peak but it does offer some great sights and walks through scenic forests. Thankfully, the trail itself is easily distinguishable and clearly marked so making the trek in sneakers, or without hiking shoes in general, is easy.

Be warned, this is the most popular trail on the mountain so it may not offer the solitude that most hikers escape to the mountains in search of. But, it does offer the occasional run-in with tanned elderly men in their late 70s with six-packs and muscles to rival most men half their age.

For the most part, the mountain paths are simple but clear-cut dirt paths through forests and brushes. Approaching the peak from the east or the northern slopes does take hikers over rocks and harder terrain but there are trails that head around the more difficult portions for casual hikers.

The main entrance for hikers to the mountain is located on the western side of the mountain. There, visitors can pick up maps and plan out their trails to the peak. Regardless of where you enter from, there are plenty of “You Are Here”-styled maps scattered throughout the mountain. These maps list out all the features of the mountain including tennis courts, badminton courts, exercise facilities, and the all-important mountain springs where anyone can refill their water bottles. Each of the springs are tested on a quarterly basis and any that don’t pass inspection have a sign with the word “부적합함” in large, red letters. This means that the spring did not adhere to specifications and should be avoided by hikers.

The Mountain at Night

When the weather gets warmer and before the rainy season hits, Ansan Mountain is a friendly spot for night hikers and photographers. The peak offers some amazing views of Seoul at night, including a full view of a fully lit Namsan tower.

Before heading out for a moonlit trek, make sure to take a map with you along with a flashlight. Most of the trails will be unlit and the thick canopy makes for a few tricky sections for hikers approaching the peak through trails on the eastern and northern sides.

Hiking in Korea

The hiking culture in South Korea is all at once very casual and serious. It’s common to see locals dressed in the brightest and latest hiking gear with walking sticks and backpacks filed with water bottles. At the same time it’s common to see groups of hikers picnicking and playing badminton in parties of five or more anywhere between the base of the mountain and the peak.

Regardless of which mountain you’re looking to scale, it’s a generally accepted rule that you should come prepared. That usually means wearing clothes that will protect you from the elements, shoes that will offer traction on the ground, and enough water and food to last the journey up and the journey down. In other words, prepare to get stares and judging looks if you're hiking wearing simple sneakers and jeans.

Getting There

The mountain’s eastern slopes can be accessed through the back alleys near Muakjae Station (Line No. 3) exit no. 3. Just head out of the exit and take any of the streets to the right. These alleys don’t offer a clear-cut entry to the mountain but hikers inevitably find themselves in the forest if they walk up far enough.

An easier path to the mountain is through Hongje Station (line no. 3) exit no. 3. Take the first right out of the station exit and walk past the elementary school on the right. At the next wishbone junction, take the road to the left and the mountain trail should start right ahead.
For anyone new to the hiking trails of Seoul or South Korea, Ansan Mountain presents a gently point of entry for beginners. The trails are varied enough to present a challenge to moderate hikers and the view from the top is definitely worth the effort.

Finally, Yonsei University offers an entry point for the mountain through the southern tip and the western slope. This also gives visitors the opportunity to walk through the campus and take in the combination of classical European architecture, traditional Korean architecture, and modern designs.

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Author: bludreamers. Last updated: May 21, 2015

Pictures of Ansan Mountain

Ingwangsan from Ansan - Ansan Mountain
Ingwangsan from Ansan - Ansan Mountain. Photo by Julio Martínez

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