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Family Hikes in Korea

This past week has been so busy and all the colors are starting to fall and fade. I was so excited to have some time this weekend and coming week to go explore and maybe do some hiking before it turns to winter. But, G came down with some sort of mild bug, so, were staying in. I'd go out on a lone adventure while the Babe stays with the kids, but being up all night with sick babies takes it out of you. All I want to do is read a book and enjoy the mountain outside my window.

I've been saving trails and hikes on my social media and KAKAO folders, readying myself for the long weekends we have this month. We love hiking all year round. Well, actually G and I aren’t particularly fond of hiking in the summer here because it’s so blasted hot. But we have to get outside somehow!

Between looking at hikes online and staying in, I've been daydreaming about where we will go next And planning some hikes for this winter hiking season. Then I started looking at where we've been and realized we've done some great hikes here in SoKo! Not super hard ones. There was ONE that was pretty difficult. It was 95% uphill and I was carrying A. Not to mention it was hot and humid since we hiked a lot this summer. Even though that was the case, though, my four year old did just fine (with a healthy dose of snacks and breaks). So I'd definitely say it's family friendly.

Here's a run down of some of my favorite hikes and our experiences with them:

Elephant Rock:

This was one of my favorite destination hikes. Which was actually kind of fun. Because if you're not hiking to get to a temple or a peak, I feel like there aren't a ton of destination hikes here in Korea. Which is hard, because we can't take the kids on a hard hike (which, by the way, I have so many saved that I want to go on so badly but they aren't kid friendly) and I feel like many of those hikes tend to be more difficult.

The first part of this hike was soooooo not appealing. When we pulled up we were both kind of curious how this was all going to go. But the GPS said the trail marker was just around the corner of a random café. So, we parked, sunscreen-ed (it was late July and SO HOT), packed our things and meandered over to the trail head.

It's in an industrial area, so there are factories EVERYWHERE. The hike up to the top of the small peak was not very appealing. There were so many mosquitos (yes, I know, being summer in Korea and on the beach will do that), everything to our right was behind an industrial fence and overgrown, not to mention the factory spewing pollutants and not so delicious smells coming from its contents. Then we peaked the top and WOW the view was gorgeous.

We started hiking down the other side and I felt more like I was in the jungle somewhere. The industrial sounds faded until I couldn't hear them anymore and despite feeling like you’re hiking in a sauna (it was 100 degrees and so so humid), I started to enjoy myself. It was a quick hike. Only about 45 minutes one way with our two kids. Then we turned the corner and in through the trees and ferns I could see the ocean and we came out into the sun on a rocky beach and the blue water sparkling in greeting. It was so beautiful.

We explored for a few minutes and then took a red staircase to the other side of the actual rock of "Elephant Rock" where we could see the rock formation better and had better views of the cliffs, sea life hanging out in the tides and could hear the barges off in the distance.

We sat on a big ol' rock in the middle of all the other rocks and ate lunch all together while trying not to sweat too much into our food. The kids didn't seem to mind, though. They were enjoyed the scenery and taking a break from hiking in the heat.

There is a cave here we've heard people explore around in, but we didn't take much time to find it as we had a couple hour drive home. The kids were also getting cranky and we were so so hot (how many times have I mentioned this? Sorry, not sorry.) So, we packed our lunch, explored around the rocks and cliffs for a little while and watched a photographer take pictures of the rock formations and the waves.

This is definitely one of our favorite hikes in SoKo that we've done so far. I'd suggest going in the spring or fall. The summer was hot and there is no shade on the beach. Closed toe shoes and hydration definitely recommended.

After we said goodbye to the beach and the quiet, we hiked up over the ridge to see the factories in all their glory. It's amazing to see immediately the contrast between man-made and nature-made. Not that human kind doesn't make amazing and beautiful things! But, nature sure does know how to do everything in a beautiful way.

Once back near the car we stopped at a cute little cafe for some fresh watermelon juice, smoothies and circulated air. The ladies who ran the cafe were so kind and gave the kids free juice because they could see how hot and tired we all were. I'd love to go back here maybe once more before we leave. Maybe this time we will go in the spring. This hike only took us about 1.5 hours round trip with the kiddos - minus the time spent exploring the beach.

Doksan Castle and Fortress Wall:

For all my Osan Air Base peeps, this one is close to home and has awesome views of Osan and Dongtan areas. It was recommended to The Babe and had been on our list for a while. We needed something low key and decided to make a go of it. I explored on my KAKAO app to find a parking lot on the map that I could get us to a trail head. Finding one at random, we headed out not exactly sure what to expect.

The parking area was easy to find and was just above some sort of "food street" in Osan that I'd really like to go back and explore later. The beginning of the trail was promising and actually quite pretty in all its green growth and tree roots.

The path was short until you hit the stairs up to the wall. (Granted there are lots of trail break-offs and you can start from a handful of areas such as it is here in Korea.) You can immediately see the wall under the mountainside as it has kind of grown around its ruined structure.

Once on the wall we stopped to allow the kids a break and had a snack and took in the views. The views are 360 as you can go all around and they were (thankfully) mostly clear that day and so beautiful. It was interesting to look out over that view and realize this is our home. It may not be a forever type of belonging, but it was still there. Living in such a foreign place that was a strange feeling to realize.

The wall itself has a few points of interest like Aqueducts, gates and a large portion that is still intact somewhat that seems small in picture but was, in actuality, huge. This was was one of the key defenses for Seoul way back in the day. The history was interesting to read and made it fun to imagine soldiers and guards climbing this wall in defense of their home.

Along the wall we came upon a small temple and a caretaker who nodded at us as we eyed their beautiful place and passed by. We normally would stop and take it in. But it was seriously so small I felt if we stopped we would have interrupted the worship of those presently participating. So, we glanced, grabbed a photo and kept going.

We rounded the temple and came up into some tall trees near a pavilion to stop and have lunch. There were families there playing with their children and we enjoyed being in the shade and people-watching. Our way down, we took some detours to explore a little more and enjoy just being there together.

Goseongsan Mountain:

Honestly, Ive done a little bit of research and haven't found if this was really what the hike was called. We had been trying to explore the mountains in our area (aside from the ones we've done a MILLION TIMES) and every time we couldn't find a trail head once we got where the map said there should be one. We actually parked at Changjinsanjang (rest area) and took the trail through the back right of the restaurants near the fountains. This was one of the hardest hikes we've been on so far with the kids. Solely because it was rocky in some spots and almost all of it was uphill. Which, we were very impressed how well G did with his little legs.

Once at the top of the first peak, we stopped and had snacks and enjoyed the view. The air was so clear from the rain and the view of the farmland of Pyeongteak below was beautiful.

We would love to go back here and explore more trails in the future. Maybe even take that same trail and go further on. It was one of our absolute favorites and made it on this list for a reason. There are so many stairs though. Some of them are huge rocks and others are made of wood. It was a thigh and bun buster!

Once back down the trail, there are restrooms and places to eat that look pretty decent. I guess that's the perk of finding a trail in a rest area. Across the road there is a memorial for some of the liberators who were among the first in the area to fight back against the Japanese rule. It was mostly closed, but we wandered for a few moments and enjoyed seeing all the sculptures. There is a temple just around the bend that seemed very interesting as well, but we didn't have the time as the hike took most of our afternoon and we needed to get home for dinner and bedtime.

Degamsam and Teobongsan Peak Loop:

This is a frequented one for us because we like the fact that when you get a little over halfway in it’s quiet. You can’t see cars or buildings or hear construction or the highway. You look through the trees and see more trees or more mountain. It’s so beautiful!

The babe and I have hiked this on our own while the other stayed behind with the kids. We’ve also hiked this with the kids many times. We’ve taken the trails that shoot off this one. I feel like we’ve been all over this mountain but I know we haven’t And at some point I want to rectify that. If only life allowed the time and the means.

In the beginning it’s pretty level and then the hill comes to a head and you have a fairly steep decline to a bridge over the highway. G loves the bridge. It’s one of his favorite parts. Right after the bridge is an incline back up and then after that it gets more level with on and off inclines.

This trail is so easy. But not in a way that you don’t feel it. If you go to the first peak it’s around 4 miles round trip, which is about our max with the kiddos. There are a handful of forks you come to that give you the option of going right or left. One way is easier than the other and you can usually tell right off which one is which. This makes it nice if you want a challenge or to go easy. We let G pick most of the time.

The views from here are beautiful on a good air quality day. And the sounds of nature and wild animals as you get farther in are so calming. Weve only made it to the peak once with the kids, but it was so fun when we did! G was sooooo proud of himself. We bring snacks and good hydration and sit down every once in a while for a rest. Korea is really good about having places to rest on trails.

(Side note: This trail is also connected to Buraksan which is another fun trail. Buraksan also has a culture park with a field where you can play badminton or bring your dog or take a nap. It has bathrooms and an awesome semi-circle playground for the kiddos. You can also drive to Buraksan Culture Park. There are a number of trails all over this place.)

We didn’t realize how much of an opportunity for hiking would be waiting for us here in Korea. We are so thankful! When living in a high rise and dealing with city life you can feel pretty drained. These mountains have kept us alive and our bodies and minds healthy. There are a number of hikes we’ve been on and my list of hikes to still adventure on is long. Thankfully we still have plenty of time.

Happy hiking!


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