Hallasan is a volcano located on Jeju island. At 1,947m, it is the highest mountain in South Korea. Want to hike? Great, this guide will tell you everything you need to know about hiking Hallasan, also known as Halla mountain.
Hallasan is located right in the middle of the island, with Jeju city on the northern side, and Seogwipo in the south. The difficulty is average, the elevation shouldn’t be a problem and most of the trail is actually a man-made path consisting of wooden stairs. You don’t need to be a fitness freak to access the summit, but a minimum preparation is required.
The day we went hiking Hallasan, there was the three of us and our Couchsurfing host. We enjoy hiking, and the ascent took place only a few weeks after hiking Yushan, the highest mountain in Taiwan at almost 4,000 meters for another incredible experience.
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Hiking Hallasan Mountain: The Complete Guide
By the time we hiked the Hallasan mountain in 2018, no permit was required. However, things have changed, and since 2020 every hiker need to apply for a permit. This article will share with you everything you need to know about this permit.
How to get the permit to hike Hallasan?
There’s only one website where you can apply for this Hallasan permit by yourself. That’s the official website made by the Hallasan National Park management office, available in Korean, English, Japanese and Chinese (simplified).
The process to apply for a permit is pretty straightforward although the translation is not always flawless and you can still find lines written in Korean. You should be able to navigate through this process, but if not, feel free to send us message by commenting on this post and we’ll help you.
Step 1: Access the website and click on reserve
Access the official website through this link.
You’ll land on this page. As you can notice, some stuff are still in Korean. It doesn’t really matter the options you choose here since you’ll be able to modify it later. Just click on “reserve (view reservation)”.
Step 2: Receive a code on your email address
After clicking on reserve, you’ll get to the login page. Since I assume most foreigners reading through this guide don’t use Kakao (the Korean Google combined with Whatsapp), just focus on the non-member verification. You can scroll through four options for your email address, choose the latest written in Korean if it’s a non gmail address.
Step 3: Enter the code and fill your information
After logging in, you’ll be able to fill the information regarding your hike, such as which trail you’ll use (Seongpanak or Gwaneumsa), the date and even your starting time. After submitting these info, you’ll need to fill personal information about yourself and other hikers of your group within three days. After completing the last form, you should soon get an email confirming that the permit was granted.
Note: You can only make a reservation for up to 4 hikers
How much does the permit cost?
The permit is totally free. You shouldn’t have to pay anything to apply or to get the permit to hike Hallasan.
What’s the maximum capacity?
The Hallasan National Park can accept up to 400 hikers starting between 5 and 8am per day on the Gwaneusma trail, and 800 hikers starting between 5 and 8am on the Seongpanak trail. You can also find opening spots between 8am and 1pm, although the quantity of spots are much more limited, since the National Park is trying to deter hikers from starting too late.
Information on how to hike Hallasan
There are two trails going to the summit, the first, Gwaneumsa trail, starting on the northern side of the mountain and the other one, Seongpanak trail, starting on the east side.
There are three additional trails going near the summit, named Yeongsil, Eorimok and Donnaeko, but you can’t access the summit with those, only to the crater. Note that these trails don’t require any permit.
All these trails are opened all year round. The mountain is likely to be covered by snow in the winter, if this is the case you might need special equipment to get up there (crampons).
Koreans love hiking, and Jeju island is a very popular destination. If the weather is good, there will be plenty of other hikers. Try to go during the weekdays to beat the crowd.
You can’t camp in the Hallasan National Park, except at the free Gwaneumsa Campground (more information below).
You don’t need a guide to attempt hiking Hallasan, trails are well-marked with numerous signs along the way.
When can you make a reservation?
You can’t book too long in advance: You can only make a reservation until the end of the next month. For instance, if we are the 1st of May, you can only book for the 1st of May until the 30th of June. And if we are the 21st of May, you can only book for 21st of May until the 30th of June.
Opening and closing hours
Start early, although trails are opened every day, they are still subject to opening hours. Basically, you need to pass the checkpoints before 1pm in the summer, 12.30pm in spring and fall, and noon in the winter.
Seongpanak : There are two checkpoints, the trail entrance and the Azalea Field Control Center checkpoint.
Gwaneumsa : There are also two checkpoints, the trail entrance and Samgakbong shelter.
You can’t start too early hiking Hallasan, because trails open between 5 and 6am. They will also urge you to go down the top after a certain time, so you can’t chill indefinitely up there.
The northern trail, Gwaneumsa, is shorter, it’s about 8.7 kilometers to the top, but it is steeper, more difficult to get to by public transport and starts from a lower elevation than the second trail. It is the closest to access from Jeju city, which is perfect if you have your own vehicle. The other positive point is that it’s much less popular than the other trail, so if you think that quietness is important while hiking Hallasan, it’s probably the best option. Last but not least for budget travelers, there’s a campground at the entrance of the trail where you can stay overnight free of charge.
The starting elevation is 620 meters and the peak is at 1950 meters.
The Samgakbong shelter is located at 1500-meter-high, 6 km away from the trail entrance. You need to pass this checkpoint before 1pm in the summer and noon in the winter, otherwise you won’t be able to ascend.
Officially you need 5 hours to get to the summit, depending on your fitness you could need less than half of this estimation.
Spring water can be found at one point on the trail.
It used to be free, but now the campsite charges 3000 won a night (slightly more than 2€ or US$). There’s also a small shower fee. It’s located right next to the entrance of the trail, very handy to start the hike early the next morning. It’s pretty basic but there are toilets nearby. You can also cook if you wish. There’s a restaurant close by and that’s pretty much it, so better get your own food before.
How to get to the Gwaneumsa trail’s start?
Take the intercity bus (20 min.) to Seogwipo (5.16 Road) from Jeju Intercity Bus Terminal
Get off at Jeju University and take the Intercity Bus 475 (Route 1117, 5 minutes).
Get off at the entrance of the Gwaneumsa Trail, and you can see Gwaneumsa campsite.
Hitchhiking is doable, especially during the weekends. The parking lot was full of cars. You can park there for a small fee.
When we were there, some taxis were waiting to bring back hikers to the city. The fare should be around 10000 – 15000 won (about 10 €) to the nearby Jeju City.
The Seongpanak trail is insanely popular, and during our hike it felt too crowded. It is the longest trail at 9.6 km, but it is also much more gentle than the previous one.
The Hallasan National Park recommends four hours and a half to get to the top.
The Azalea field is 7.3 km past the entrance point. You need to pass the shelter before 1pm in the summer, and noon in the winter.
How to get to the Seongpanak trail’s start?
Take the intercity bus to Seogwipo (516 road) from Jeju Intercity Bus Terminal (40 minutes)
Get off at the entrance and walk about 2 minutes to Seongpanak Trail.
Where to sleep before hiking Hallasan?
As the options to sleep close to the trail are rather limited – I can only think at the Gwaneumsa campground – you’ll need to find a place to stay without being too far from the trail’s entrance.
The best option is certainly to sleep in Jeju city, as there are numerous options for any budget while being well connected with the Hallasan National Park. You could also sleep in Seogwipo, on the island’s southern side. It could be a good option, especially if you have your own mean of transportation.
One quick look at the map is better than a thousand words.
Sleeping close to a trail’s entrance
Now that you know where are the two trails’ entrances, you can make your own research using another map, this time with your sleeping options.
As you can notice, there are not many hotels near the start of the hike. I’d recommend the 3-star Amber Resort or 4-star Hotel Nanta Jeju, two options with solid reviews just a few kilometers away from the Gwaneumsa trail entrance. You could also consider the Jeju Best Hill, slightly further east, for a nature stay.
Sleeping in Jeju city
If you sleep in Jeju city, a great idea could be to stay as close as possible to the bus terminal. You definitely need to keep some energy to hike the country’s highest island, instead of running around in the early morning to find your bus on the other side of the city.
Sleeping in Seogwipo
Seogwipo is the least common option, but why not? Maybe you have rented a car, so you don’t have to stay in Jeju like most tourists do! Well if you sleep in Seogwipo, you might want to start to hike the Seongpanak trail, as it is located closer to the city than the the other trail. Options are scarcer than in Jeju, but you’ll still have more than enough options to sleep.
Tips for hiking Hallasan
- You can use one trail to go up and get down through the other one, as both are connected at the summit.
- Bring your food and water, there’s no shop on the trails and places to get water are limited.
- Jeju is famous for its wind. It might be cold up there so you’d better come equipped.
- Don’t forget sunscreen. Although most of both trails are under the shades, when you get closer to the top there won’t be any trees.
- There are a few toilets along the trails.
- Before hiking Hallasan, check the weather on the official Korean weather site.
And you? Have you managed to get to the summit? Enjoy your time hiking Hallasan, and feel free to share your experience with us!