Click here for Part 1 and Part 2. — Ed

At the higher elevations, climbers with proper gear and conditioning have some great choices for their Halla Mountain adventure. Given the relative difficulty and length of these trails, though, there are strict departure times for ascending and descending each trail, and they change with the season, so it’s very important to consult the park’s Web site for the latest times.

Seongpanak (성판악)

This is the longest of the Halla trails, a 9.6-kilometer journey one-way that starts from the Seongpanak Visitor Center. From there hikers can summit in about four and half hours.

The trail’s slope is described as “gentle, but with steep sections.” It is mostly wooded and at 1,800 meters there is a large colony of Korean firs, so there’s comfortable shade and more of a chance hikers will get to see some wildlife.

Seongpanak is popular all year round. Many make use of the side trail to Sara Oreum, about 40-minutes from the main trail. There is also an observatory and crater lake which is a break from all the foot traffic on the main trail.

Gwaneumsa (관음사)

The second Halla Mountain trail to the summit is an 8.7-kilometer trip one-way. It takes about 5 hours to reach the top. On the park’s Web site it’s described as “very steep from Yongjin Valley to the summit,” and beginners are advised to watch their energy levels closely since it is known as the roughest and toughest of the trails. But at the same time, you can enjoy magnificent views of the deep valleys and mountain features that make Halla unique.

Some describe it as an exhausting but exhilarating final few kilometers.

At the base of the trail is a large campground and this the only place on the mountain where cooking is permitted. The site can accommodate up to 1,000 people. Fees are very reasonable, at 4,500 won per day for up to nine people in a group, and 6,000 won for 10 people or more. There are shower facilities as well.

One big caveat, however, is that there are no buses which run to Gwaneumsa Trail, so you’ll have to arrange your own transportation.

Photo by Todd Thacker

Photo by Todd Thacker

 

Eorimok (어리목)

This trail starts from the Visitor Center and ends at the south cliff beltway (known as Nambyeokbungijeom 남벽분기점). It covers a total of 6.8 kilometers one-way and this takes about three hours.

The area around Sajebi Hill is described as “steep and requiring a moderate amount of physical stamina.” There is also an hour or so of walking through a forest of oak trees.

This trail also reaches the beautiful Witsae (윗세) Oreum and its shelter at about 1,700m.

The Eorimok entrance to the park has bus access and plenty of parking, and as a result it is the most hiked of the trails.

But even if it is a busy route, park officials urge caution due to frequent weather changes like sudden fog, making it a trail which is easy to get lost on.

Yeongsil Trail (영실)

This is a 5.8-kilometer, two and a half hour hike up to the south cliff beltway and also includes Witsae Oreum. On this trail there a great view of rock formation called the “500 Generals” and an alpine meadow at Seonjakjiwat (선작지왓).

With the exception of Yeongsil Crater Ridge which is described as “steep,” most of the trail is even and easy to hike. It’s also been designated one of the “Ten Most Beautiful Scenic Views of Jeju.”

And finally… Donnaeko (돈내코)

This is a hike which starts on the southside of Halla Mountain at the Information Center there. It was closed for 15 years, in keeping with the park’s nature preservation policy and reopened in 2009.

Donnaeko is a 7-kilometer course which takes about three and a half hours one-way. It passes by a lot of different types of vegetation, as well as some of the best views of lava caves, ropy lava structures and even lava domes.

There is also an extra 2.1-kilometer trail if hikers on Donnaeko would like to visit Witsae Oreum. That trail starts at the south cliff beltway.

Donnaeko is also the trail to take for spectacular southern views while heading on up the mountain. Many people say it is the best trail to observe a truly pristine environment and the natural behavior of the wildlife.

Responsible hiking

In 2013, some 1.2 million visitors hiked Mt. Halla. To help keep the mountain as pristine and protected as possible, a number of important measures must be taken. This includes a prohibition on hiking at night, as well as camping and cooking on the mountain. Again, there is only one area at Gwaneumsa campground where cooking and camping are permitted.

The park’s nature preservation policy started in 1994. Select trails are shut down for a time to help the area recover. At the moment, part of the Eorimok Trail from Witsae Oreum to the summit is currently off limits.

In addition, entry and exit hours of mountain trails change by route and by season. So it’s very important to double check these times at the Web address www.hallasan.go.kr before heading up.

Climber etiquette

There’s nothing more infuriating than seeing rubbish tossed along an otherwise pristine bit of nature. So clearly hikers should take all their trash back with them out of the park. And better yet, if you see some trash, please pick it up.

Another important conservation principle is that hikers take nothing out of the park besides photographs and memories.

Smoking and pets are also prohibited in the park.

Staying safe

– Dress appropriately

– Carry extra clothing, food, water, batteries for your phone

– Have a first aid kit and know how to use it

– Use only designated trails

– Don’t climb at night

– Monitor the weather conditions closely

– If you do come across some kind of emergency or accident, be aware of the nearest trail location sign. These are about 250 meters apart along all the trails. If you call the Hallasan National Park Office or 119, they’ll need that number to quickly find where you are.

Click here for Part 1 and Part 2. This a reworked article, written by the author, which first appeared on KCTV English News. — Ed.

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Photo by Todd Thacker