Nov 12

The Realities of Hiking in Korea

Hiking in Korea

Last weekend I was surprised to find myself hiking 20km up a mountain. I mean, I knew that I would be hiking; what was casually omitted by the friend who planned it was the length of the trail and the severity of the incline. Not that knowing in advance would have changed anything. I still would have agreed to go, but perhaps I could have mentally prepared myself to hike 10 kilometers up 1000 meters (that’s 6 miles and 3000 feet for my fellow Americans) in one day and back down it the next.


Nevertheless, three of my friends and I can now say we conquered Jirisan, which turns out to be mainland Korea’s tallest mountain. That’s one for the grandkids.


If you haven’t noticed by my recent posts, I’ve been on a bit of a hiking binge lately. The weather is about to turn me into a shivering hermit so I’ve been trying to squeeze the last bit of hiking I can out of this country before I depart in a few months. And by spending nearly every weekend on a mountain recently, I have come to understand the norms, for better or worse, of hiking in Korea.

 Hiking in Korea

Hiking in Korea

Hiking in KoreaThere Will Be People

so, so many people. hiking is Korea’s favorite past time (after drinking, I think)


They Will Travel in Packs

droves. hoards. large tour groups arriving on buses. entire corporations on their company outing.


They Will All Wear the Unofficial Hiking Uniform

every. single. one.  except for the occasional girl wearing a mini skirt and heels.


They Will Carry Ski Poles

and they will ask you incredulously why you don’t have any


They Will Crowd You and Mow You Down

personal space, what? move over or be shoved off the cliff


They Will Drink

they don’t stop for snacks, they stop for makkeoli rice wine


They Will Litter

they litter in the streets, why should the mountains be any different? (eye roll)


They Will Play Obnoxious Traditional Music From Speakers As They Walk

because apparently the mountains are not the place you go for peace and quiet


They Will Greet You

they will say hello, like normal. but if you’re foreign, they might also stop and say, “wow, you’re so beautiful, let me shake your hand!” (that happened) or they’ll shout, “Russia!” (meaning they think you’re probably a prostitute) or (in Korean), “Wow, look at the foreigners” followed by pointing and laughing


They Will Eat Huge Meals on the Side of the Trail

and you will feel a little jealous


They Will Not Hike Very Far

the ticket to hiking success: hike farther than the Koreans are willing to, which usually isn’t all that far. then, finally, take a deep breath and enjoy the serenity.

Hiking in Korea

but all in all…

It Will Be Beautiful

and the lovely sights will make you forget about how everything else makes you want to punch an ajumma 


Hiking in Korea Hiking in Korea

Hiking in KoreaHiking in Korea


Check out my other hiking-ish posts for more pretty pictures of Korea’s mountains and a few ridiculous stories:

Fall Colors and Lunch in a Cloud at Seoraksan
A Road Trip to e Remote Land: Goheung Island
Goeje and Namhae Islands

  • My friend, who is in Korea currently, just wrote a post about the exact same thing. Between the two of you I definitely got a good laugh. I think the hiking outfits are my favorite part.

    • KaleenasKaleidoscope

      Haha that’s funny that she wrote about it too, it really is quite the experience! Yes, they all wear the outfits, in fact they tend to wear hiking gear as their daily apparel, too. It’s like a right of passage to anyone over age 50 to wear hiking gear in their daily lives, because you never know when you might get the inkling to run off and climb a mountain 😉

      • Hey it is good zombie preparedness too. Zombies attack and you’re already set to head into the mountains and hide. They’re just way more prepared for any eventuality in their daily lives than we are.