Hiking in South Korea

As an international hiking destination, South Korea has been a bit overlooked. This is mainly due to the lack of English information available to foreign hikers and climbers, but also a product of Korea's often underdeveloped foreign tourist industry. Most of the national parks in Korea have simple English maps or brochures, but the practical information is limited and takes a backseat to the nation's sometimes tiresome habit of boasting and exaggerating about everything it has to offer. This turns a lot of Westerners off, which is unfortunate, because Korea does have much to offer the motivated hiker. It's an extremely rugged country overall, with small to medium-sized mountains covering 75% of the nation's land area.

Though small in area, the Korean national parks are diverse and beautiful. There are a total of 20 national parks in Korea (including 16 mountain parks), making up an impressive 3.7% of Korea's total land area. The mountain parks are scattered throughout the peninsula, with Seoraksan the farthest north and Wolchulsan the farthest south. Mountain ranges are often the basis of provincial boundaries, and consequently 7 of the 16 parks lie on the borderlines of the provinces and can be accessed from multiple directions. Jirisan, the largest and oldest of the national parks, is found at the nexus of three provinces - South Gyeongsang, South Jeolla, and North Jeolla - and offers the most serious hiking in the country.