Seoul Trail #1: Surak Bulamsan Course

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November 28th 2015
Published: December 16th 2015
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The Seoul Trail or Dulle-gil (서울 둘레길) is a 157 kilometre trail that loops around the city of Seoul. The eight trails were connected late last year, to form the Seoul Trail. I think some of trails existed individually under different names before. I have previously a few parts of the trail on purpose and by accident. There isn't a whole lot of information about the trail in English, only a couple of blogs, and one is basically a cut and paste of the original website. In the summer, a friend picked me up a map and stamp book from City Hall in Seoul. I think you can get them somewhere near Dobongsan, too, but I'm not 100% sure. Anyway, now it was time to dig them out and crack on with my mission to complete the whole trail in order.

The first course, the Surak Bulamsan Course, starts at Dobongsan Station and ends at Hwarangdae Station 14.3 kilometres away. The estimated walking time is 6 hours and thirty minutes and it is classed as a high level trail. I came out of exit two to be greeted by snow. It was snowing, only lightly luckily. I had a quick look in the other part of the station, there aren't any convenience stores in the station, so I was out of luck on the breakfast front. I went under the bridge and crossed the road to enter the Iris Garden. The first stamp box is located at the entrance to the garden to the right. Yay, first stamp claimed! I walked through the Iris Garden quickly, there wasn't any flowers to see. I think you have to really be there in the summer. I then walked out of the garden, following the trail signs. The midway point Danggogae Station was 7.4 kilometres away.

First I walked along the road and then down to a stream, which was filled with long reeds. There were also lots of new apartment buildings around. This part of Seoul has definitely been gentrified. After passing through the apartments, the trail heads up into the woods. There are small orange pieces of cloth hanging on the trees, every now and again, these are trail markers for the Seoul Trail, so I kept my eyes open for them. It wasn't too tough and the uphill part wasn't too steep. I was worried that it might be slippery, but it wasn't, although I did nearly slip over on the bridge as it was a bit icy there. The trail goes around the base of Suraksan, a mountain I have hiked before. I followed the trail around the base of the mountain. This part of the trail is really nice, i'm glad that I have hiked it before in better weather, as the view wasn't too good today, you couldn't see much at all. On a good day, however, there are some gorgeous views of the many mountains of Seoul. You can see Bukhansan's many peaks, including Dobongsan. There are a few viewing platforms along the way so you can rest and take in the sights.

While the views across weren't so good, the views up were slightly better. Suraksan has large slabs of stones going up its slopes. I really like how dramatic it makes this small mountain look. I kept walking along the path and reached the point, where the trail forks, at Chaeseokjang Jeonmangdae. Trail One has two routes that meet in the same place. There is a longer steeper route, which is 4.3 kilometres and adds an extra couple of hours on to the time. Since I was feeling really hungry, I decided to skip the longer route and head down to Danggogae Station. The trail gave way into the city, and it was pretty steep. There was a tiny little temple there. There were also some small houses, that looked like shacks. This area is a complete contrast to by Dobongsan Station. It seemed a lot poorer and more run down. There were lots of old villa (three or four floor) style apartment building. I think the weather helped to make it seem like a bleaker place.

I walked past the edge of the park and came to the main road. The sign said to go right to follow the Seoul Trail, but I decided to take a break. I was starving, so I went off in search of some food. I turned left towards Danggogae Station and looked for somewhere to get some food. There were a few small restaurants, but none of them looked open. I knew what I wanted, I wanted a Kimbap Cheongguk for a hot meal, but there wasn't one there. I cut through under the station and came out on the other side. I was still unsuccessful in finding a restaurant, but I saw the trail markers start up again. I decided to make the best of a bad job and looked for something to eat in the nearest convenience store. A bottle of energy drink and a triangle kimbap would have to keep me going. At least it had stopped snowing.

I crossed the road and followed the trail signs, I walked through another run-down looking neighbourhood and then the trail got back into the countryside. The second stampbox is located nearby, so I got my second stamp. This part of the trail was pretty easy, and I found the fabled entrance to Bulamsan mountain. I have tried on a couple of occasions and failed miserably to find the entrance to Bulamsan. Now, I know how to get there, I will be back to conquer it! There was a gorgeous view of Bulamsan. I was annoyed with myself, as I thought, 'Oh, I'll get a better photograph further round.' But I never got to view the mountain from the same angle again. Here the trail got a little confusing. A section was covered in barbed wire, so there was no chance of heading that way, so I followed the other couple of people that were about. I kept going straight and up a little as opposed to going down.

I walked through the woods, the trail was nice and pretty easy. One part was really steep, there were a lot of stairs going up. I needed to stop for a breather on that part. The last section of the trail was a little strange. I could hear noises like a machine was blasting away the earth. I read online that there is a shooting range, so maybe the sound was that. I couldn't really make out what the views were meant to be of. I think there are some royal tombs and a country club near by. I passed an army base. It looked quite small and a bit neglected but I think maybe some soldiers lived there. A couple of hundred metres passed the army base, there was a really random kind of gate. It looked like it should have had a big roller shutter attached to it, I don't know if the gate was open or the shutter bit had been removed, but it just looked a bit bizarre. The road continued straight and there was also a fork off to the right. There were no trail markers about, so I decided to keep going straight. Luckily, that was the right move. Soon, the trail came to an end. There was a wall covered in murals, which made a pretty end point.

From the end of the trail, it is about another kilometre to Hwarangdae Station. It was a bit of a shock to come out from the end of the trail onto a busy main road. Had I really just been hiking through the countryside? It was about a fifteen minute walk to the subway station and I came across the stamp box to get my last stamp for course one. I could have also got my stamp for the start of the second course, but I was good and resisted temptation. The subway station was just across the road, so I headed in there. There is an Ediya coffee, so I warmed up with an americano and a cookie. I finished the hike a bit before 2pm, so it took me about 5 hours, not too shabby!

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