30 May 2012

Seoul Fortress Wall of Bugaksan

This was my first time hiking in Korea. I always admire Korean mountains from a far, but never actually climbed it (if you don't consider walking up to Namsan Tower for 20 minutes is a hiking :P). I will start with the easiest one first, until later I will (hopefully have a chance to) hike in Seoraksan or Hallasan.

Bugaksan is a mountain located on the back side of Gyeongbokgung and Cheongwadae (Blue House: president's house), and one of the mountains that passed by Seoggwak Pass or Seoul Fortress Wall, along with Inwangsan, Namsan and Naksan. So, it is special because you can walk the trail with the ancient Fortress Wall, and you can see the amazing view of Gyeongbokgung, Gwanghwamun and Namsan Tower.

Seoul Fortress Wall was constructed during King Taejo's ruling period, after he built Gyeongbokgung and Jongmyo, and had been always maintained by the kings after him. This wall surrounds the capital area, Jongmyo, and all royal palaces: Gyeongbokgung, Changdeokgung, Changgyeonggung, Deoksugung, Gyeonghuigung. It has 4 main large gates (Sadaemun) located in the north, south, east and west: Sukjeongmun, Sungnyemun (also called Namdaemun), Heunginjimun (also called Dongdaemun), Donuimun. Between them, 4 small gates (Sasomun) are situated: Changuimun, Souimun, Gwanghuimun, Hyehwamun.

Now, even though some of the walls are missing, but the gates are still there. We can walk circling Fortress Wall, passing all 4 mountains and all 8 gates.

Today, I only walked through Bugaksan, between Malbawi Information Center and Changuimun Information Center. This section (yellow mark on the map below) required an identification card and many security guards, because it is located near Cheongwadae. So make sure you bring your passport or alien registration card. We have to fill up a form, give it to the staff by showing our identity card, then we get a pass to go inside the trail. Picture taking is only allowed in designated areas, but there is no clear sign where is allowed and where is not. I was once warned by the guard when I took a picture in some random place.

One of interesting places to see in this trail is Incident Pine Tree. This is the site where Lee Su Geun went on 1-Day Jongno Trip in 1N2D!
On January 21, 1968, a group of 30 commandos led by Kim Sinjo of the North Korea's 124 Unit sneaked into Seoul to ravage the Blue House (Cheongwadae) before confronting Korean defence forces which led to a fierce combat. The pine tree standing here still keeps a trace of the combat and is called the January 21st Pine.

This trail in Bugaksan will pass 2 gates: Sukjeongmun (one of the large gates) and Changuimun (one of the small gates). There are 3 possible courses:
Course 1: Malbawi Information Center - Sukjeongmun Gate - Baegakmaru - Changuimun Information Center - Changuimun Gate (2.3 km)
Course 2: Sukjeongmun Information Center - Sukjeongmun Gate - Baegakmaru - Changuimun Information Center - Changuimun Gate (2.2 km)
Course 3: Changuimun Gate - Changuimun Information Center - Baegakmaru - Sukjeongmun Gate - Malbawi Information Center (2.3 km)

All the courses will take approximately 2 hours to finish. I took the first course, and I was glad to take that. Because apparently, the trail between Baegakmaru and Changuimun is really steep. In Course 1 and 2, the trail is going from Baegakmaru down to Changuimun. While Course 3 will go from Changuimun up to Baegakmaru with steep stairs, it is more tiring.

From Changuimun, you can continue to walk around the peaceful neighborhood Buam-dong :)

How to get to Malbawi Information Center
Anguk Station (Seoul Subway Line No. 3) Exit 2. From Anguk Station, take bus #02 to Sungkyunkwan University rear gate. Walk to Waryong Park, you can see already the piece of Fortress Wall from there. Follow the wall, it leads you to Malbawi Information Center.


  1. where is the place that i can take the bus?
    is it near exit no 2?
    how much the cost that i must to pay?

    1. Hi Vika. The bus stop is located just outside Exit 2 Anguk Station. Last time the cost was 900 Won if you pay by t-money card, or 1000 Won if you pay by cash. I think the bus fare in Seoul has increased now, but it would not be too far from those prices.

    2. I just came back, the bus is 850 Won only.

  2. Hi,

    i am thinking of going during winter. Do you think that is a feasible idea? Thank you

    1. *very late reply, I guess you went there already xD*
      Bugaksan is quite easy to hike (compare to other mountains in Korea), you can do it also during winter :)

  3. Would you say it's steeper to start from Buamdong, or from Anguk? Or is it about the same each way? We're looking to do this next month when we are briefly in Seoul, and we could either start from our hotel and end up in Buamdong, or start in Buamdong and head back to our hotel (I'm leaning towards the former - it makes more sense).

    1. Hi Jenna, it's steeper from Buamdong. I agree with you, I guess it's better to start from Anguk (is your hotel near Anguk), and finish in Buamdong like I did :)

  4. Hi,
    I just came back from there. It is very interesting place to hike, there were a lot of soldiers wearing a sport uniform surrounding at the mountain. If you rest at a wrong place, someone would be "greeting" to you immediately. At first, I took photo, and then one of soldier came over to me and checked my camera and meanwhile asked me to delete it. Finally we found some regulations at the form, but we did’nt pay attention to them.

  5. Great hike! Thanks for the detailed summary Rika. Just got back from doing the Malbawi -> Changuimun route earlier today. It's worth noting that the Sukjeongmun is closed for construction presently. Signage by the gate said it'll be open again after Jan 13, 2018.

    1. Hi there, I see that Sukjeongmun is closed for now. Can we still hike Malbawi-Changuimun? Only the gate is closed so we can't venture up it? Thank you!