Jeju Island South Korea

Hallasan Mountain: The Ultimate Guide to Hiking South Korea’s Tallest Mountain

Hallasan: The Ultimate Guide to Hiking South Korea's Tallest Mountain

Jeju Island, South Korea offers a myriad of natural wonders and activities to keep travelers busy for years, such as spotting the beautiful Korean cherry blossom trees, picking some Jeju tangerinesclimbing Sunrise Peak, frolicking through green tea fields, getting a stellar view of Mt. Sanbangsan from Sagye or laying out on some of the local Jeju beaches or even a magnificent Hidden Beach. At the top of this list you will find Hallasan, or Halla Mountainthe volcano that formed Jeju Island as it erupted, securing its status firmly as a major symbol of Jeju Island. In fact, a local saying in Jeju states that “Jeju Island is Hallasan; and Hallasan is Jeju.” Hallasan stands as South Korea’s highest mountain at 6,398 feet (1,950 meters), and many Koreans venture to the peak to enjoy the beautiful seasonal view.  Visible from almost everywhere on the island during clear weather, Hallasan dominates Jeju Island’s scenery.

 

Here’s our Ultimate Guide to Climbing Hallasan, the Tallest Mountain in South Korea!

View of Jeju Island from Hallasan Mountain

Hallasan Basics: The Trails

Two trails lead to Hallasan’s summit: Seongpanak and Gwaneumsa. These trails finish at Hallasan’s crater, known as Baengnokdam, which is home to a beautiful lake (until it freezes over in winter). A popular way to climb the mountain is to climb up Seongpanak and then down Gwaneumsa. The Seongpanak trail is not as steep as the Gwaneumsa trail, making it an easier choice for climbing up. The Gwaneumsa trail, on the other hand, is reckoned to have better scenery, so hikers consider the views on the way down as a reward for summiting the mountain. Keep in mind that the Gwaneumsa trail has no public transportation, so be prepared to take a cab. Additionally, the Gwaneumsa trail is often closed.

The Seongpanak trail is 9.6 kilometers (~6 miles) one way, making a round-trip distance of 19.2 km (11.9 miles). This length is nothing to scoff at, even though it’s not Himalaya-scale climbing! The trail is supposed to take 4-5 hours each way, so you can plan on the entire excursion taking at least 8 hours (less if you’re super fit, more if you take lots of breaks).

Rocky Path at Halla Mountain

Hallasan Hiking Cutoff Times

When climbing Hallasan, keep in mind the very important cutoff times on the trail. The park authorities don’t want anyone climbing down the mountain in the dark, so there are times that hikers must be past certain points on the trail.


Spring/Fall: At 12:30, no one is allowed to start hiking.  Pass the Jindallaebat Shelter by 12:30. Be off the summit by 2:00 PM.

Summer: 1:00 PM at the trailhead. Pass the Jindallaebat Shelter by 1:00 PM. Be off the summit by 2:30 PM.

Winter: 12:00 at the trailhead. Pass the Jindallaebat Shelter by 12:00. Be off the summit by 1:30 PM.


The Jindallaebat shelter lies 7.4 km from the start, and you can count on it taking around 3 hours to get there. You shouldn’t start the trail later than 9 AM. Realistically, 8 AM is a better time to start, if you don’t want to feel rushed on the way up. It takes about an hour and a half to get from Jindallaebat to the summit, so keep that in mind. You don’t want to leave Jindallaebat right at 12:30, only to arrive at the summit at 1:59 and get shooed off immediately!

If you feel worried about the time, have no fear! There are dozens of signs showing your progress up the trail. They show how far you have hiked (in distance and time), and how much more trail remains.


The Secret to Cheap Flights

What to Bring to Hallasan Mountain for Each Season

Want to climb Hallasan? Here are some tips about what you should bring and what you need to know.

 

Spring, Summer, Fall

If you’re climbing in spring, summer, or fall, you should dress in layers. If it’s not cold, then you can always take off some layers, but if it turns out windy and chilly on the summit then you’ll be glad you brought layers.

Here are our recommendations for pants for climbing Hallasan on Jeju:

Make sure you bring a waterproof jacket or poncho, as it is often rainy on the mountain, and the weather can change quickly.  

For waterproof jackets, we like:

Wear comfortable hiking shoes, as your feet will definitely need the support. Whichever shoes you get, look for some durable soles that will shield your feet from the rocky trail.

For hiking shoes, suggest:

If you have a pair of hiking poles, such as these collapsible Alpine Summit Trekking Poles, they would be a definite asset as well for supporting you on the rocky trail. Of course you should bring water and snacks, even though snacks and drinks are available at the Jindallaebat shelter.

 

 

Winter

Bring everything you would bring for other times of the year, but also you’ll need a winter coat and warm pants as well as thermal leggings.

We recommend a pair of thermal underwear, and layering fleece jackets with a lightweight down jacket on top.

For thermal underwear: 

For our fleece recommendations:

For a lightweight down jacket:

You’ll also want wool socks, a hat, gloves, and perhaps some winter boots.

For wool socks:

For a hat:

For gloves:

For winter boots:

For a more detailed description of our recommendations for winter travel, check out our Essential Winter Travel Packing List

You might also want to get a pair of crampons to help your traction on the snow. You can buy them from many stores in Jeju-si, and they are available for rent at the bottom of the Seongpanak trail for a small fee.
Ravens at Halla Mountain

Our Hallasan Hike

As a foreigner living on Jeju Island, the choice to climb Hallasan feels less voluntary and more obligatory. You can’t spend a year or two on Jeju without at least attempting to climb the the island’s icon! We had been putting off climbing the mountain for months, but a recent visit by my mother gave us the push needed to get off our butts and CLIMB A MOUNTAIN!!

My mom and aunt were still tired from traveling from the U.S., as they’d only arrived on Jeju the day before. Due to this, we decided against a super-early start, and left from Jeju-si at around 8:30 AM. We drove to the Seongpanak trailhead and arrived just after 9 AM to find the parking lot entirely full, with people parked up and down the sides of the highway. So, we parked a 5-minute walk away from the parking lot.

9:14 AM: Beginning

We started down the Seongpanak trail at 9:14, and I immediately had one thought recurring in my mind: “Must. Get. Past. Jindallaebat Shelter. By. 12:30. GOGOGOGO.” In early April, spring still had not fully come to the mountain. Most of the trees appeared stark and barren, only in the early stages of blooming. The lack of foliage did make it easier to spot a couple small deer that were a stone’s throw off the trail, though.Hallasan trees of early spring in Jeju


The
Seongpanak trail starts off at a not-so-steep and rocky gradient. We continued up the well-maintained trail, passing crowds of brightly-attired hikers. Hiking in Korea is a popular pastime amongst the older and middle-aged generations, and it seems that every hiker on Hallasan Mountain wears the same exact style of active-wear.


Even rockier path at Hallasan Mountain
We’d expected the weather to be colder than it was, and dressed in layers. But as we made our way up the trail we had to peel them off, as we felt very warm in the scant shade of the bare trees. When hiking Hallasan Mountain in the winter or early spring, keep in mind that the trees won’t provide much protection from the sun.The trail goes through a seemingly endless and monotonous woodland until it reaches something different—a beautiful and dark pine forest. This pine forest offers a welcome change in the landscape, and provides cool shade from the heat of the sun. I hoped that the pine forest would remain our companion for the remainder of the trail, but it was sadly not so.

 

10:45 AM: Arrive at the Sokbat Shelter

Shortly after the forest, the trail arrives at the first shelter on Hallasan Mountain, the Sokbat shelter. This shelter has bathrooms and a building to rest in, but not much else. No food or water here.

The trail starts to take on a steeper and rougher nature after passing the Sokbat shelter, leading less and less on well-maintained smooth footpaths, and more and more on uneven volcanic rocks. The combination of steepness plus rockiness can become quickly taxing, and you may find yourself taking frequent rest stops.

Past the Sokbat shelter, the views down to the rest of the island open up. On a clear day, hikers can enjoy views down to the brilliantly blue sea and rich green farmlands of Jeju. Not so for us! The weather had been sunny when we started the hike, but later in the day, the sky became hazier and cloudier. With Jeju’s unpredictable weather, this often happens, and mutes views more than they may otherwise be. Nevertheless, looking down on the island during rest stops helps keep minds off aching feet.

View from the top of Hallasan Mountain

Running low on water, we didn’t feel worried because there is supposed to be a spring between the Sokbat shelter and the Jindallaebat shelter where bottles can be refilled. However, when we passed the location of the spring, we didn’t see any sign of it! It must have been too early in the season to be running. Thus, we rationed our water until we got to the Jindallaebat shelter.

Greenery coming to the mountain in early spring

 

11:30 AM: The Fork to the Sara Oreum Trail


Early Spring on HallasanThe entrance to the Sara Oreum trail forks off from the main Hallasan trail and can be found about halfway between the two shelters (Sokbat and Jindallaebat).
Oreums are small volcanic cones that can be found all around Jeju Island. The trail to Sara Oreum takes only 15 minutes each way, but we had no time for it that day. If you have the time, it will be well worth your effort. Topped with a beautiful lake-filled crater, we hear the views from Sara Oreum of Jeju Island and Hallasan can’t be beat.

 

11:55 AM: Arrive at the Jindallaebat Shelter

Reaching the Jindallaebat shelter shortly before noon, we felt relieved that we had made it with over half an hour to spare! The shelter has snacks (instant ramen and chocolate cakes) and drinks (water, Pocari Sweat, and coffee) affordably for sale. Taking a long-awaited break, we enjoyed our Pocari Sweats and rolls that we had brought with us.

Climbing Halla Mountain, Jeju Island in Early Spring

12: 15 PM: The Final (Steep) Leg

The final leg of the trail begins after the Jindallaebat shelter. This final portion between Jindallaebat and Baengnokdam, Hallasan’s summit, is only 2.3 km in length, but it’s also the steepest section of the trail. This section is estimated to take one and a half hours, so we still felt pressure to keep our pace as steady as we could.

In late spring/early summer (June), the area around Jindallaebat is covered in vividly purple azalea blossoms. Jindallae means “azalea” in Korean. In early April, when we went, it still looked like winter, but without any snow.Steps to the peak of the mountain

Our feet had long started to ache and drag as we trudged up the rocky trail. Luckily, this final section of the trail has numerous wooden walkways that replace the difficult, uneven rocks. Walking up the stairs on wooden pathways is much easier on the feet than rocks!

Halla Mountain Peak, South Korea

Hallasan’s summit finally peeks out from the last portion of the trail. Having the goal of the trek in the field of vision encourages perseverance onward and upward. The views, muted as they were that day, really open up from on high, and much of the eastern and southern parts of the island can be viewed.

A few relatively exposed sections of the upper trail have ropes to make sure that hikers don’t tumble off the mountain. Have no fear! This isn’t true mountain climbing—the ropes just help to keep your balance.

 

1:30 PM: Arrive at the Summit!

We finally reached the summit at shortly after 1:30 PM—over four hours after departing. A decent-sized crowd milled about, though late in the hiking day it was. A large flock of ravens make Hallasan’s peak their home, who make for great spontaneous photography. Many places to sit down and rest while enjoying a well-earned snack can be found—or a drink of soju or makgeolli (Korean rice wine) if you’re feeling like a true ajosshi. Convenience store-bought kimbap rolls had never tasted better!

South Korean Hikers Eating and Drinking Soju

The weather at the summit can be quite windy and cold year-round, and I felt the need to put on my jacket for the first time all day. Though the weather was cloudy, Hallasan’s crater and its lake were visible—fantastic! Enjoy the view, and take tons of pictures to prove you made it.

Baengnokdam Crater at the top of Hallasan Mountain

We had been at the top for about 15 minutes when an announcement in Korean told everyone it was time to leave. We noticed that no one was making their way down the Gwaneumsa trail, and realized that it was in fact closed. 

Flying on the highest point of South Korea with the birds // #Jeju #Korea

A post shared by L A U R E N + B E N 🌏TRAVELERS (@televisionofnomads) on

 

2:00 PM: The Descent

Starting back down the trail, we felt elated that our trek was halfway done. But, going down a trail often feels harder on the body than climbing up does. It can be much tougher on your knees and feet, especially after long hours of hiking. However, enjoying the expansive views down Hallasan Mountain when coming down is a breeze—you can see for miles just past your feet. 


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3:30 PM: Passing the Jindallaebat Shelter

We descended the mountain at a slower pace than our ascent, as there was no cutoff time that we had to meet.  Passing the Jindallaebat shelter, the staff didn’t let us in to get more water as they were closing shop for the day, to our utter disappointment. We had hoped to replenish our supply one more time. Beware of this if you are coming down from the mountain at this time.


Making our way down Hallasan Mountain, the crowds had long since gone. It felt like we had the mountain to ourselves for much of the way. We were so tired at the time that we didn’t fully appreciate how nice the peace and quiet of the empty mountain was. Looking back on it now, I appreciate it more—we had South Korea’s highest mountain to ourselves!

 

It had become very difficult to maneuver over the uneven and rough rocky path down, but we had to keep going. It was almost dark as we made our way down the final stretches of Hallasan Mountain. We really didn’t want to be walking down in darkness, so we pushed ourselves to keep going. We saw an older Korean couple fighting about how tired they were and how much longer there was to go —then a quick phone call later, and a strapping young man came running up the mountain to carry away the woman on his back!

 

6: 55 PM: Finished!

We finally made it back to the parking lot as the sun set behind us. It was just before 7–it had, in our foot-dragging, taken us 5 hours to descend the mountain. We enjoyed one last look at the setting sun over the shoulder of the mountain, and then trudged to the car. Victory!

Sunset after hiking Hallasan Mountain in South Korea

 

How to Get to the Seongpanak Trail

From Jeju-si: From Jeju-si Intercity Bus Terminal, take the 781 or 781-1 bus. The earliest bus leaves at 6:00 AM, and the buses leave every 10-15 minutes from the terminal. Get off at the Seongpanak 성판 stop, about a 35-minute ride.

Birds on Hallasan Mountain on Jeju Island
From Seogwipo: From Seogwipo Intercity Bus Terminal, take the 782, 782-1, or 782-2 bus. The buses from Seogwipo seem to start later than in Jeju-si, at 7:15 AM. They also leave every 10-15 minutes. Get off at Seongpanak 성판악 stop, about a 35-minute ride.

To get back to either Jeju-si or Seogwipo, simply wait at the bus stop on the opposite side of the road that you got off on.  If you’re going to Jeju-si, the bus stop says Jeju-si제주시. If you’re going to Seogwipo, it says Seogwipo서귀포 . Just make sure you’re on the right side!

Crater Lake at the top of Halla Mountain
 

Hallasan Hiking Essential Tips

  • An early start will help you avoid feeling rushed to beat trail cutoff times. Start as early as you feel comfortable with!
  • If possible, hike up one trail and come down the other. You’ll be happy to have a change of scenery!
  • Don’t forget to protect yourself from the sun—the sun can feel very harsh at higher altitudes.
  • Drink plenty of water, even if you don’t feel very hot.
  • Wear comfortable and supportive hiking shoes!
  • Bring layers! The weather on Jeju Island and Hallasan can change very quickly. You’d hate to be caught without a rain jacket if a downpour starts.
  • If you finish at Gwaneumsa, there’s no public transportation available. It is quite a walk (50 minutes) from the Gwaneumsa Trailhead to a bus stop, so the best option is to take a cab, either back to Seongpanak or to wherever your final destination for the day may be.  Cabs should be plentiful at Gwaneumsa, because the cab drivers know there isn’t any bus.
  • The Gwaneumsa trail is often closed, and to our knowledge is closed at this time (July 2016).

 

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Hallasan: The Ultimate Guide to Hiking South Korea's Tallest Mountain on Jeju Island, South Korea

 

 


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13 Comments

  • Reply
    Candy
    July 19, 2016 at 8:57 am

    Fascinating!

    • Reply
      Benjamin Juster
      July 19, 2016 at 9:53 am

      Thanks, Candy! The mountain looks drastically different based on season, with beautiful scenery in the spring, fall and winter (we seemed to be right in between spring in winter, unfortunately), so we’ll have to return and capture some more shots!

  • Reply
    Beata
    July 19, 2016 at 1:30 pm

    So much great information! Thank you!

    • Reply
      Benjamin Juster
      July 20, 2016 at 9:32 pm

      Glad to hear it, Beata! Let us know if you ever end up climbing Hallasan!

  • Reply
    Donald Welch
    July 24, 2016 at 9:04 am

    Really fantastic post, tons of information. I love the layout of this and specificity you give to everything, it reads like an entry from a guide book!

    • Reply
      Benjamin Juster
      August 11, 2016 at 6:44 pm

      Thanks, Donald! We know there was a lot of information we couldn’t find about Hallasan before we decided to climb it, so we wanted to make sure we could share what we learned with others!

  • Reply
    Janetria
    August 10, 2016 at 12:11 pm

    Great and detailed information! So hyped up for my trip now. I’m planning to hike up the Gwaneumsa Trail and down Seongpanak trail, is there any ways for me to get information of the opening/closure of Gwaneumsa Trail?

    • Reply
      Benjamin Juster
      August 11, 2016 at 6:48 pm

      Not to our knowledge, but we’ve heard it won’t open until next year. Apparently they’re cleaning up rubble. We did, however, meet a Westerner who hopped the sign and went down the Gwaneumsa Trail anyway without trouble, but I can’t say I’ll be doing the same next time we go!

  • Reply
    12 things to do on Jeju Island | Live, Travel, Teach
    October 30, 2016 at 8:02 pm

    […] We didn’t make it to Hallasan this trip but I hear its an absolutely amazing view at the top of this volcano.  Hallasan is South Korea’s highest peak eclipsing Jirisan by about 35 meters at 1950 meters tall.  Since I didn’t get to see it you should check out fellow blogger, Television of Nomad’s Ultimate guide to Hallasan! […]

  • Reply
    Television of Nomads
    December 19, 2016 at 8:30 pm

    […] Television of Nomads […]

  • Reply
    A Five Day Jeju Itinerary | Eternal Expat
    February 9, 2017 at 2:56 am

    […] that famous peak we’d seen photos of all year. If you want to climb Mt. Halla, check out Lauren and Ben’s Guide to hiking the mountain, bring plenty of warm layers, and be prepared for an 8-10 hour up and down […]

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    Top Five Jeju Must Dos | INSPIRED BY MAPS
    March 29, 2017 at 2:01 pm

    […] you go don’t forget to check out Television Of Nomads Ultimate Guide to Climbing Hallasan Mountain. They cover everything from trails, cutoff times, what gear to bring and seasonal tips! What more […]

  • Reply
    Kelly
    August 15, 2017 at 2:28 am

    Wow quite a walk !
    We are planning to climb up also but on the shortest trail as we won’t have enough time not physical preparation. Do you know if there is a closing time for the Eoseungsaengak trail ?
    Thanks !

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