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The 10 Best South Korea National Parks You Need to Visit

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South Korea is famous for its modern cities, fashion, beauty, food, entertainment, and more. But this peninsular country also has an abundance of breathtakingly beautiful national parks.

Its parks are a mix of rocky regions, coastal territories, and historic sites. Together, they help preserve the country’s rich beauty, lush terrain, heritage, and culture. If you’re planning a trip to this gorgeous country, add any of these top 10 South Korea National Parks to your itinerary.

Tips for Hiking in Korea

Did you know that hiking in South Korea is considered a national sport? That’s right – with its stunning mountain ranges, beautiful forests, and abundant trails, it’s no surprise that South Koreans love to hit the trails and explore the great outdoors. With a variety of trails to choose from, ranging from easy strolls to challenging summits, there’s something for every kind of hiker in South Korea.

But, it’s important to know that some of the trails are quite rough. Hikers should always bring and wear proper equipment before hitting the trail in Korea, for example:

  • Comfortable and sturdy hiking boots or shoes
  • Sunscreen
  • Hat or visor to protect from the sun
  • Sunglasses
  • Water bottle
  • Trekking poles
  • First aid kit
  • Rain gear (especially during the rainy season)
  • Warm layers (depending on the weather and altitude of the hike)
  • For winter hikes: snow & ice traction cleats

Pack your bags and get ready to embark on the ultimate adventure, exploring the best hiking trails in South Korea on foot – and becoming part of the nation’s cherished tradition. Happy hiking!

South Korea National Parks You Need to Visit

Despite its modest size, South Korea boasts an impressive total of 22 national parks, showcasing the diverse natural wonders found within the national parks of South Korea. These destinations allow wildlife and outdoor enthusiasts to immerse themselves in the untamed and rugged beauty of the country.

Here are the 10 of the best national parks in South Korea that are absolutely worth a visit:

Map thanks to Wanderlog, a vacation planner app on iOS and Android

1. Bukhansan National Park

If you’re planning a trip to the country’s capital, visit Bukhansan National Park. It is the closest national park to the city, earning it the nickname “the lungs of Seoul.” Nestled in the country’s northeastern part, it covers a small area of 30.86 square miles.

With over five million visitors annually, this popular tourist attraction boasts beautiful hiking routes, streams, gorges, rugged granite summits, and lush forests. It is also home to more than 1,300 plant and animal species. Here, you may spot wild boar, water deer, chipmunks, squirrels, songbirds, woodpeckers, and more. I visited Bukhansan in the autumn season and it was challenging but so breathtaking.

Bukhansan National Park houses the 18th-century Bukhansanseong Fortress. The park also has a few old Buddhist temples that you can visit. Some temples have temple-stay programs that give you a chance to live among Buddhist monks and experience their humble lifestyle.

  • Location: Northern part of Seoul, South Korea, in the Bukhansan Mountain Range.
  • Highlights: 18th-century Bukhansanseong Fortress, temples & stunning view over Seoul
  • Recommended tours: Sunrise at Bukhansan Tour
Linda's Pick
Catching Sunrise on top of Bukhansan with Klook Catching Sunrise on top of Bukhansan with Klook
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  • This is the only sunrise hiking program in Korea.
  • You can have time to communicate with people who like mountains at the mountain camp for 1 night and 2 days.
  • You can enjoy the indoor climbing adventure of Yak Dome as a bonus.


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2. Seoraksan National Park

This national park is one of the most spectacular South Korea National Parks. Visitors flock to it in droves to explore its stunning mountain ranges and picturesque landscapes. It is also highly popular in the fall due to its colorful foliage.

Set in the country’s northeasternmost corner, the park also has cable cars and scenic hiking trails for experts and beginners. Its beautiful waterfalls and rock formations add to its beauty and allure.

3. Odaesan National Park

Designated as a national park in 1975, Odaesan Mountain houses the country’s biggest natural forest where you’ll find a plethora of flora and fauna. Its verdant forests are home to boars, woodpeckers, turtledoves, different species of fish and insects, royal azaleas, and yew trees.

The park also includes gently rolling slopes, rich soil, and other natural resources, making it a delight for outdoor enthusiasts.

  • Location: Gangwon-do province, in the northeast region of South Korea
  • Highlights: The park is known for its beautiful forests, waterfalls, and temples, as well as its abundant wildlife.

4. Sobaeksan National Park Samga

Designated as South Korea’s 18th national park in 1987, this vibrant park gets its name from the 1,400-meter-high Sobaeksan Mountain. It’s home to more than 3,000 wildlife species as well as royal azaleas and yew trees.

With wildflowers in the spring and snowy vistas in the winter, this park boasts other attractions such as peaks, ancient temples, waterfalls, streams, and the Sobaeksan Optical Astronomy Observatory. It also has the Birobong Peak which is blanketed with snow for half the year, earning it the moniker “the Alps of Korea.”

  • Location: Gyeongsangbuk-do and Chungcheongbuk-do provinces, in the central region of South Korea
  • Highlights: Beautiful mountain ranges, dense forests, and several important temples, including Buseoksa Temple and Yeongjuam Hermitage
  • Recommended tours: Sobaeksan National Park Hiking Tour from Seoul

5. Sognisan National Park

This is one of South Korea’s national parks I have multiple times and love every time I visit. The park boasts a variety of beautiful landscapes, including rolling hills, towering peaks, and crystal-clear streams, making it a popular destination for hiking and outdoor enthusiasts.

Visitors can explore numerous hiking trails that wind through lush forests, climb to the summit of Mount Songnisan for breathtaking views, or visit historic Buddhist temples and cultural sites that are scattered throughout the park. Whether you’re seeking adventure or tranquility, Songnisan National Park is a must-see destination that offers something for everyone.

6. Gyeongju National Park

You might be familiar with the city of Gyeongju but did you also know that the city is South Korea’s only historical national parks? Gyeongju was the Korean Silla Dynasty’s capital from 57 BC to 935 AD. So, you can expect to see ancient Korean structures while visiting. The Daereungwon Tomb Complex, Anapji royal pond garden and the Bulguksa temple are some of the park’s most magnificent sites. It’s one of my favorite cities to visit!

You can also explore the Seokguram cave temple, Buddhist pagodas, and statues, as well as historic and cultural trails that feature rock-carved Buddhas.

Check out my detailed Gyeongju National Park guide here.

7. Jirisan National Park

Jirisan National Park is South Korea’s biggest and oldest national park. It is especially popular among hikers. It encompasses a vast area of 182 square miles and covers three of the country’s nine provinces, including Jeollanamdo, Gyeongsangnamdo, and Jeollabukdo.

Thrill-seekers flock here for its exhilarating and scenic peaks, valleys, and 18 trails. It also showcases a rich diversity of plants and wildlife. Look out for the endangered Asiatic black bear, elk, and trees like Korean winter hazel, millennium pine, and cherry.

The whole area around Jirisan is one of my favorite places in all of Korea, especially the tea producing area of Hadong. If you can, plan your visit in the spring and you can make a stop by the Hwagae Cherry Blossom Road!

  • Location: Gyeongsangnam-do and Jeollanam-do provinces, in the southeast region of South Korea
  • Highlights: The park is home to the highest mountain in mainland South Korea, Jirisan, as well as beautiful forests, waterfalls, temples, and even tea fields.
  • Recommended place to stay: Kensington Resort Jirisan Hadong
Tea Plantation in Hadong, Korea
Tea Plantation in Hadong, Korea

8. Naejangsan National Park

Naejangsan National Park is the seventh smallest national park in South Korea, covering an area of 31 square miles. Located in the country’s southeastern area, it is known for its striking fall foliage that surrounds Mount Naejangsan. It is also popular during the spring when the beautiful colors of cherry and azalea blossoms are on full display.

There are also many temples scattered across the park offering visitors a taste of traditional Korean culture.

9. Mudeungsan National Park

Mudeungsan was recently designated a national park in 2012. Nestled in the country’s southern region, Mudeungsan National Park, or the Mudeungsan UNESCO Global Geopark, is home to Mount Mudeung. This volcanic mountain was created around 87 millennia ago.

The park boasts five massive volcanic colonnades, dinosaur footprints and trackways, and other points of interest. Natural caves, block streams, steep cliff lines, and picturesque waterfalls are scattered throughout the area.

  • Location: in the city of Gwangju and the province of Jeollanam-do, South Korea
  • Highlights: Several famous temples including Yaksasa, Jeungsimsa, and Wonhyosa & the gradual slope is great for beginners!

10. Hallasan National Park

Hallasan is South Korea’s southernmost national park and a popular attraction on Jeju Island, especially in the winter. As the country’s highest peak, its imposing figure looks especially magnificent in the snow. Its glittering white slopes and the snow-covered endangered Korean fir trees present a striking, Insta-worthy scene.

Notably, Hallasan is also a shield volcano that came into being through millennia of volcanic eruptions that continued until the 11th century. Hundreds of parasitic cones surround the main peak which houses the crater lake Baengnokdam. You can reach it by hiking through the Seongpanak Trail.

Hallasan has six other stunning trails that range in length from 1.5 km to more than 9 km.

If you are looking for more tips for your trip, check out my Jeju roadtrip itinerary!

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Hop on the back of a horse and ride to the top of Nasiri Oreum, a parasitic cone, to see breathtaking panoramic views of some of the most famous landmarks on Jeju Island such as Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak (Sunrise Peak) and Hallasan Mountain.

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What Other Activities Can You Do When Visiting South Korea?

Here are other activities you can indulge in while visiting this beautiful country:

Hiking

The national parks we mentioned have some beautiful hiking trails for all skill levels. The country offers the best conditions for hiking from June to August. So, plan a visit during these months if you’d like to explore its trails.

Golf

The world’s third-largest market for golf, South Korea has a staggering 117 public and private 18-hole golf courses. It also offers night golfing owing to the sheer demand for the sport in the country.

Diving

Like hiking, diving in South Korea is best enjoyed in the summer from June to August. You can go scuba diving along the east coast’s southern part and near Jeju Island.

Ice Skating

If you’re visiting the country in the winter, ice skating is an exciting and fun way to enjoy the outdoors and cold weather. South Korea has many ice skating rinks that offer scenic views.

Birdwatching

Birdwatching is a popular activity in the country. It has diverse birdwatching sites and many guided tours that allow you to watch hundreds of endemic and migrant birds.

Visit Korea’s National Parks!

South Korea National Parks are a fantastic way to explore the country’s natural beauty and wildlife while getting away from the hustle and bustle of daily life. Plan a trip to one or all of them and enjoy a vast array of spectacular views and experiences.If you enjoyed reading this article, explore other Asian destinations here.

Recommended Travel Guides for Korea

If you want to learn more about South Korea and have a handy travel guide in your pocket, check out these three options below:

DK Eyewitness Top 10 Seoul

This Top 10 Seoul guide is a great pocket guide that breaks down the best of Seoul into helpful lists of ten – from selected highlights to the best museums and galleries, and the most authentic restaurants, tearooms, bars, shops, and markets. I personally helped update the most recent version of this guide. Buy this book.

Lonely Planet Korea

You really can’t go wrong with a lonely planet guide in your hand luggage! I’m a huge fan of Lonely Planet and own this guide myself. What I love is the brand-new pull-out, passport-size ‘Just Landed’ card with wi-fi, ATM and transport info – all you need for a smooth journey from airport to hotel! Buy this book.

South Korea: The Solo Girl’s Travel Guide

Calling all my solo female travel ladies out there – this guide is amazing! Part of the #1 Travel Guidebook Series for Women (and couples), this take on South Korea will help you avoid the scams, creeps, and tourist traps and skip ahead to the cities and adventures that are worth your time (and money)! Buy this book.

Linda's Pick
I earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
04/20/2023 05:57 am GMT
Best Guide Covering All Of Korea
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04/20/2023 06:02 am GMT
Best for Solo Female Travelers
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02/17/2024 08:09 pm GMT

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Linda

Linda has been living in Asia since 2012 and loves sharing her travel and life experiences on her website. She currently works remotely in Online Marketing and also teaches various English classes in South Korea.

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