Taking the Seongpanak trail to the Hallasan peak
The Seongpanak trail is one of two hiking trails that takes you to the peak of the Mt Hallasan volcano. It’s the less scenic, but less strenuous of the two routes and is a fan favourite for those who want to reach Korea’s highest summit, without much thigh burn.
This trail starts in the east of the National Park and is easily accessible from Seogwipo – although you can also get there from Jeju City if you choose to stay there.
The whole way up the mountain you’ll endure a range of terrains from flat boardwalks, rocky forest paths and wooden staircases – all that gradually bring you up a mountain with amazing views across Jeju Island.
Jeju Island is Korea’s hotspot tropical tourist destination and most southern island in the country and it’s home to an active (but dormant) volcano that hasn’t erupted in over 5000 years. Many visitors to the volcano will go up one trail and down the other which allows you to enjoy more than one route.
Since Korea is such a mountainous country, many Koreans love to hike and most of the trails are extremely well-maintained. So, while visiting Jeju Island you should definitely take the time to hike up Halla Mountain as it’s the biggest hike you can do – it should be on everyone’s bucket list for their Korean trip.
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|Country:||South Korea (Republic of Korea)|
|Currency:||South Korean Won / KRW|
|Do you need a visa to visit as tourists?||Check here|
Length of the trail (to the summit):
9.6 km / 5.9 miles
Time to complete:
4-5 hours to the summit
During my working holiday visa in Korea, I made sure to complete lots of different hikes around the country and another one of my favourites was the Jirisan (Cheongwangbong Peak) which is the highest on the mainland.
If you’d like to experience living in Korea for 1 year too, check out my post on how to apply for the H1 working holiday here. I can help you get set up as an expat too!
Spending some time on Jeju Island? Check out these posts:
- Jeongbang Waterfall on Jeju Island: What can you expect?
- Cherry blossoms in Jeju City – where can you find them?
Apply for trail permits
In order to hike to the summit of Mt.Hallasan, you will need to apply for the appropriate hiking permits to access the park. Each person planning on completing the Seongpanak trail (Or Gwanseuma trail) needs to apply for their own Hallasan independent permit.
If you are hoping to hike during the spring or summer months on a weekend, it is advisable to book as early as possible. This is because there are only 400 people allowed on the two trails on any given day so as to protect the mountain.
The permits are completely free, and you can get them from the official site.
Applying for park permits is relatively straightforward. You must choose the trail you want along with the day and start time. You must also include your personal information such as name, date of birth, nationality and contact number.
If you need to cancel before the hike date, you must ensure you do so. Otherwise, if you are booked and do not check in on the day of your hike, you will be banned from rebooking yourself onto the trail again for a few months. This is to deter people from taking hiking slots and not using them.
How to get to the Seongpanak Trail
Trailhead Location: Seongpanak Parking Lot ( 제주 제주시 516로 1865 )
The Seongpanak trail starts in the east of the National Park and travels up to the Hallasan summit. Due to the location of the trailhead being a little farther away from Jeju City, many visitors to this trail choose to get accommodation in the Seogwipo area instead.
If you have a licence and IDP (International driving permit), I recommend getting a rental car as this gives you the most flexibility or independent travel to the trailhead. You can rent a car here.
If driving yourself is not an option, then you’ll be pleased to know that taking a taxi to the trailhead is affordable too. From the main Seogwipo City area to the trailhead a taxi should cost no more than 18,000 won / £10.80 one way and the journey around 30 minutes.
If you need to order a taxi you can download Kakao T. This is just one of the useful apps to help you navigate Korea.
What to Expect on the Seongpanak Trail
The easiest way for me to explain what you can expect is by splitting the trail into a few different sections based on difficulty. This is the easiest trail of the two that reach the Mt Hallasan summit however it is not very scenic until you reach the peak.
Section 1 – Yellow path, Easy to Moderate difficulty
When you arrive at the trailhead entrance you will need to show your QR code or prebooked hiking slot to the ticket agent in order to proceed. You should find this in your emails.
For quick access to your ticket, you can take a screenshot of the email confirmation before your hike.
Most of the trail from the Seongpanak car park entrance along the yellow part of the route is relatively flat. The terrain changes from extremely rocky with jagged rocks sticking out of the ground, to a nice and flat boardwalk trail. What’s great about this part of the hiking route is that the incline is not very steep at all so all athletic abilities will find it manageable.
This entire section of the trail is under tree cover inside the forest so you will likely be in the shade for the whole time. After 3.5 km from the trailhead, you will reach the Sokbat Shelter, the first of two main rest stops along the journey. At the shelter, you will find a restroom, a seating area and a first aid kit if one is needed.
Section 2 – Red Path, Moderate Difficulty
The second part of the trail takes you through a short (1.5 km) but slightly steeper incline. You will go past the Saraoreum Entrance and the Azalea Field Shelter. If you visit in April or May like I did, you will see the azaleas in bright pink bloom around the shelter which is a great addition to the trail and really makes you appreciate the spring season.
After the shelter, you will find more uneven terrain although some of the rocks are much larger and flatter than those on the flatter incline parts of the trail. You’ll also be out of the forest by this point so you will be spending most of the second half of the trail from here to the peak in the open, so this is the best time to start wearing a hat for sun protection.
The terrain changes drastically during this mid-section of the trail between the rocky ground and the brand-new boardwalk.
Towards the end of this section, you will start to notice the incline increase and will begin to start seeing gaps in the trees for the first glimpse of good views.
Section 3 – Green, Easy path
After reaching the final stretch of the Seongpanak trail to the Hallasan peak, you’ll find a few small staircases with long, wooden paths that all look relatively new. As you climb up this easy (but somewhat steep) final ascent to the crater, you’ll find many more boardwalks which make the climb straightforward with the flat ground so you no longer have to scramble over rocks.
That is until you reach the final 10 minutes to the peak where you will see the picture below which is just lots of rocks you need to physically climb over in order to get to the rest area at the top of Mt. Hallasan. You’ll be able to see some amazing views on a clear day that shows you the cities below the mountain on Jeju Island.
During the final stretch of the Seongpanak trail, you’ll breathe a sigh of relief that you’ve almost made it to the summit. You’ll likely notice a lot of people by the time you get to the peak and it will be obvious when you’ve made it.
Reaching the Mt Hallasan Summit
When you complete the Seongpanak trail on Mt Hallasan you’ll be able to say you’ve reached the biggest peak in all of Korea. That’s a pretty great thing to be able to brag about. You’ll find the summit shelter that looks like a dome and lots of wooden platforms that people can sit on and take a rest. Depending on the time you reach the summit too, you’ll likely see a lot of people there.
When I visited the summit I ended up waiting for about 1 hour in line to take a photo with the summit rock. Of course, if you don’t care about this photo opportunity then you wouldn’t need to wait. However, there was absolutely no way that I was going to hike for that long and not get a photo to prove I made it – so I was happy to wait.
Be prepared to wait for a long time if you want a photo with the summit rock.
As you come in from the Seongpanak trail on Hallasan, you will follow the boardwalk straight ahead and will see the dome shelter on your left. The crater with the famous lake is right at the top of the summit straight ahead of where you came in. The summit stone is just before the crater lake but everything is very easy to find.
You can sit down and relax for a water and snack break before either turning around to go back down the way you came or turning right to go down the Gwaneumsa trail. Be aware that the Gwaenumsa trail is significantly steeper than the Seongpanak route so it can be dangerous if it has been raining. Take care if you go down that way.
Amenities along the Seongpanak Trail
At this first shelter along the route, you’ll find benches to sit on, a small hut for you to go inside and get some shade and there is also a first aid kit and public toilets for use. This is the last place to use the bathroom until you reach the Jindallaebat Shelter in a few hours so make sure you use this time accordingly.
Saraoreum Entrance / Azalea Shelter
This is a small rest area without a public restroom but there are places to sit down and relax while enjoying the azaleas (if you visit during the spring months). For the rest of the year, these pink blossoms will be regular green leaves that blend in with the surrounding forest.
This is the final large shelter before you reach the Hallasan peak so this is your last opportunity to use the restrooms before you either head back down the Seongpanak trail or go down the other way. You’ll find this to be the largest of the shelters along this path and there are medical facilities here along with a first aid kit for those that may need it.
This is the shelter that has a large sign near it explaining the final admission times. Similar to the other trail, you must pass this shelter before 1 pm in order to successfully reach the summit. Anyone that gets to this shelter after 1 pm on the way up the trail, will be turned away without reaching the summit.
Make sure to plan your ascent accordingly to make sure you don’t get turned around before the summit. The earlier you start, the better so you are not rushed.
Different Ways to Complete the Hallasan Peak Hike
There are three main ways to complete the Mt Hallasan hike to the crater and peak. This means you can easily enjoy hiking in this area on more than one occasion, and you’ll have a different experience each time.
- Up Seongpanak and down Gwaneumsa
- Up Gwaneumsa and down Seongpanak
- Up and down Seongpanak
- Up and down Gwaneumsa
By going up and down the same trail both ways, you will know what to expect as you would have already completed it once on the way up already.
If you choose to go up the Seongpanak trail on Hallasan you’ll get a very gradual incline and your thighs will probably thank you. However, one downside of taking this route up is that you will miss a lot of the great views that are found along the Gwaneumsa trail. If you want to see all there is to see, I would definitely advise doing both routes if you’re physically able.
If you are of a higher fitness ability I’d recommend doing the Gwaneumsa trail on the way up and the Seongpanak trail on the way down. If you are likely to struggle with the steep incline and what feels like a million stairs, then going in reverse might be a better option to enjoy everything, but take the way up much easier.
Want to experience some more hikes in Korea? Check these ones in Busan out below:
- Jangsan Mountain, Busan’s popular city hike
- Geumjeongsan Mountain, Hiking the highest peak in Busan
- Exploring viewpoints on the Hwangnyeongsan Mountain hike
- Enjoying the Igidae Coastal Walk in Busan
- Bongnaesan Mountain: A short hike with great views
Day Hiking Essentials
|Day Hike Essentials||Why?|
|Appropriate footwear & socks||Less likely to injure yourself & more comfortable|
|Portable battery pack & wire||To charge your electronic devices|
|Water (0.5L per hour roughly)||To keep yourself hydrated throughout the hike|
|Food||Preferably lightweight but healthy snacks|
|Trail Directions||Phone/GPS device, compass or paper map|
|Mobile OR satellite phone||Helpful in emergencies to call for help|
|Clothing layers||To put on or remove based on changes in weather|
|Hat||To prevent sunstroke or keep warm|
|Sunglasses||To see better without squinting all-day|
|First aid kit||To solve minor injuries along the way|
|Multi-tool||Multiple uses for multiple problems|
|Illumination||Torch or phone light to navigate in the dark|